A man apparently shot 13 people, killing 10 of them, at a grocery store in Buffalo. He live-streamed it (of course). And he left what appears to be a white supremacist manifesto that discusses the Great Replacement conspiracy theory, popularized by Fox News star Tucker Carlson.
On Twitter, people made the connection. Many demanded that Carlson be taken off the air. But we all know that won’t happen, right? I wrote to a friend:
“All that will happen is that Carlson will air a segment in which he notes that his name was never mentioned and that the true outrage is that liberals are attacking him. And it will be over.”
Well, within an hour, I saw this:
The 180 page "manifesto" left by the shooter shows zero "Tucker" "Tucker Carlson," or "Carlson" mentions. The document is sick, and the shooter claims to be an authoritarian leftist.— Jessica O’Donnell (@heckyessica) May 14, 2022
On one level, she’s right: there is no way to know if the shooter got the idea from Tucker Carlson. In fact, my guess would be that he didn’t.
But that’s not how information spreads. Information comes via an ecosystem. I fully absorbed the popular ideas of postmodernism by the age of 12 without ever having read any philosophers or even heard anyone talk about it explicitly.
This is one of the big reasons why we need to signal, as a community, that the ideas of fascism are wrong. All the happy talk about the “free market of ideas” is the road to social collapse. (Of course, I know that all the big proponents of the “free market of ideas” are the first to want to silence any ideas they don’t personally like.)
This is why Tucker Carlson should have been taken off television long ago. He spreads fascist propaganda. We don’t need 10 people to die to know that is harmful.
But our media industry requires that Tucker Carlson be holding a good deal more than a smoking gun. They require something to the effect of “Patriots should murder people of color in order to protect our race!” They will be fine with, “Well, you can’t prove he got the idea from me!”
The bigger problem is that we live in a country where a large part of the population believes fascism is good. For many years now, I’ve felt like I was living in a bad production of Rhinoceros.