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The Lesson from Tucker Carlson’s Month: Do Not Apologize to the Outrage Mobs

AP Photo/Richard Drew

 As Tucker Carlson is positioned as the avatar replacement of Trump he shows us how to deal with the social mobs.

There has clearly been an organized message agreed upon in the media that Fox News host Tucker Carlson needs to be positioned as the new conservative figurehead who needs to become the outrage target. With the departure of President Trump, many of the news networks have seen plunging popularity. Adding to the ratings erosion is the fact Joe Biden has shown both incompetence and controversies from which audiences need to be distracted.

Enter the Tucker Outrage.

For the past couple of weeks a number of controversies from a number of sources have made Carlson the focus of intense media blowback. That each one of these controversies is rooted in topics which a patently asinine is the tell. The Dr. Seuss offenses were basically the launch of this fusillade against the Fox News host, and it carried plenty of idiocy. The media figures lashed out, calling it a ridiculous fixation by him — while they would not stop commenting on it themselves. (Philip Bump gave 2 lengthy columns and 10 tweets describing how ridiculous the obsession was.)

Next Tucker was scolded for bringing up the social media Karen-scolding done by New York Times digital writer Taylor Lorenz. She provoked a media firestorm of outrage because Tucker attacked her — by posting her picture and using her name. Then came Carlson’s criticisms about the military having a fixation on female uniforms for pregnant soldiers. This led to days of his getting pushback from a series of official accounts from branch offices. Then John Oliver put Tucker in his sights on his HBO show Sunday evening, over farcical claims of white supremacy.

Carlson took in all of this personal effrontery and he did what is proper in this age of outrage culture and social hysterics — he laughed off the accusations. Then he went back to the well. Instead of issuing a compulsory apology — the usual behavior when the outrage mobs arrive — Tucker returned to the airwaves the following days and reiterated his points, to the frustration of his critics. This is the reason why it was the correct play for Carlson; the mobs are never satisfied regardless of what your reaction is in these examples.

When Taylor Lorenz took to Twitter to declare she was under attack from Carlson she laid out her case in the most bizarre fashion. She acted as if he had doxxed her for speaking her name out loud on the air and displaying her face on his on-screen graphic; Tucker used the Times’ photo that appears at the bottom of every one of her pieces. Then the New York Times itself responded to his segment, claiming their reporter had been ‘attacked’. He responded to the ginned-up outrage by covering her the next night, repeating her name more often, and then dropping the boom on the Times, noting how the paper had once described his home address to send protestors to his front door.

When CNN thought they had nailed Tucker as a Qanon-loving conspiracy theorist, taking his words out of context to make him cower, he returned immediately the next night to lay out how desperate they were to hit him that they resorted to their own conspiracy to do so. He baited them perfectly and they swallowed the hook so effectively it was embedded in their colons.

Even as the military reactions rolled in he did not waver. Instead, he used his next show to illustrate the defense complex of the country was not targeting an enemy, but a citizen of the United States. As the press was fist-pumping over the tweets from official accounts there was blowback from the public, and some of the offices pulled back and were contrite over the dispute.

The key to all of this is if you stand up for your position you may, or you may not mollify those attacking you. But as we saw at the same time of these Tucker controversies, if you cower and apologize you definitely will not be looked at favorably by those demanding the apology. A surprising number of examples flared up the past couple of weeks, with the weakened mewling responses leading not to satisfied accusers but to the apologists becoming pariahs.

The banjo player from Mumford and Sons was targeted for saying he liked a book by activist Andy Ngo. In a tweet Winston Marshall said of Ngo, ‘’You’re a brave man’’. He then acted out in a manner opposite of bravery himself. Because some hothouse daisies on Twitter barked at him Marshall rushed off a rapid apology to the world, regarding his ‘’blindspots’’. He has taken a leave of absence from the band.

Sharon Osbourne from the CBS daytime show ‘’The Talk’’ lent verbal support to her friend, British gabber Piers Morgan, who had just had his own talk show controversy. Without saying anything racially connected Osbourne’s co-host accused her of racial insensitivity. She apologized for her non-offense, and in response the show’s producers announced a hiatus. 

Actress Stacey Dash, for reasons unclear, came out and did a blanket disavowal of her conservative positions she held over the years. I did not hear a single conservative voice rise up and express disdain for her becoming a turncoat. One other thing I did not see — anyone on the left or in the media who embraced her warmly for this transformation. Instead most reactions were like Tiffany Cross of MSNBC, and her panel, who made it clear that Dash was not welcome to sit at their table.

This displays the issue with the forceful appeasement commanded onto those with manufactured accusations. Most of the time it does not lead to forgiveness. The usual response is that you are looked at as admitting guilt, then deserving of being ostracized. When it comes to these cancel brigades the word ‘’redemption’’ is not in their vernacular. Those who take a knee and bow to the outrage only make it easier for their accusers to then take your scalp.

Tucker displays the best kind of reaction; when these hectoring hordes confront you the best response is to choose not to participate. This is because the call for unity is never a goal, it is an accusation. You need to comport to their views, then you are dispatched as damaged goods as they applaud their conquest. Tucker shows us that by refusing their demands you anger those who will remain angry if you apologize. Maintaining your position means you maintain your dignity, and you lose nothing — unlike if you hand over that which the scolds require.