The Internet That Tucker Carlson Built

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There is, Droogan says, an implicit violence in the theory, particularly when it’s filtered through a US perspective. American mainstream media, and Fox in particular, gives platforms to people who use conspiracist terminology—including references to “elites” and “globalists” and nods to the “great reset,” like those made by Vlaardingerbroek—in a way that rarely happens on broadcast television in Europe or Australia.

“Terms like ‘race war,’ concepts like accelerationism—to go out there and create societal crises or to exaggerate them to intensify them to create some kind of culminating, purifying violence against all these threats to white identity—these really come out of the American psyche and popular culture,” Droogan says. 

It’s impossible to draw a direct line between content on Tucker Carlson Tonight and political events inside or outside the US. But his place within the information ecosystem means he’s been, at the very least, a passive participant in some startling coincidences.

In June 2022, Carlson interviewed Jair Bolsonaro, then the right-wing president of Brazil, who spent the months running up to the country’s elections in October trying to sow doubt about the validity of the vote. 

“During the interview, [Carlson] was speaking the same language as the far-right in Brazil,” says Bruna Santos, a researcher and activist with the Coalizão Direitos na Rede in Brazil. Santos says Carlson’s focus on anti-communism, skepticism about the Covid pandemic, and concern around “anti-white racism” resonated deeply with Brazil’s far-right. “The external approval coming from the US,” says Santos, reinforces and validates the views of the far-right in the country.

Eduardo Bolsonaro, Jair Bolsonaro’s son, often featured clips from Carlson’s show on his popular YouTube channel, where he has over 1 million subscribers, with translations and subtitles in Portuguese. These clips, as well as others from Carlson’s show, would then circulate amongst the country’s far-right groups, appearing in Telegram channels and WhatsApp groups.

In the lead-up to the Brazilian elections, says Santos, short clips from Carlson’s show were being shared in these groups. “A lot of Carlson’s criticisms of [US President Joe] Biden, or what Biden represents, would be redirected into something that could help Bolsonaro,” says Santos. “And a lot of this comes from YouTube and social media networks, and that’s generally where the conversation starts.”

Then, on January 8, 2023, Bolsonaro supporters tried to storm the presidential palace in Brasilia, after the right-wing populist lost an election runoff to his leftwing opponent, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Bolsonaro isn’t the only authoritarian that Carlson has boosted. He’s been a vocal advocate for Viktor Orban, Hungary’s president, who has railed against LGBTQ rights and migration, and who routinely accuses the American financier and bête noire of the far right, George Soros, of interfering in the country’s politics.

“[Carlson] is a celebrated figure in authoritarian countries he championed on his show,” says Matt Gertz, senior researcher at Media Matters for America, a media watchdog group. “He received a glowing reception from Orban, and his Ukraine coverage was touted and promoted by Russian propagandists.”

Carlson has echoed Russian talking points on Ukraine and criticized the US government for supporting the government in Kyiv. Several researchers told WIRED that Fox, and in particular Carlson, have been useful tools for Russia, amplifying narratives about the dangers of liberalism and the impending collapse of Western civilization. When news of his firing broke, Kremlin propagandist Vladimir Solovyov offered Carlson a job.

Yesterday, Vlaardingerbroek posted a picture on Twitter of herself with an arm around Carlson. “Tucker is the best of the best in the industry. He tells the truth like no one else does, in a way no one else can. I stand with him 100%,” she wrote, before retweeting the right-wing conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich, who claimed that Carlson’s firing meant that “the evil ones will try to win and remove him from history, and commence another Armenian-style genocide against all of us.” 

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