The dangerous media pyromaniacs

Can't start a fire without a spark

Bad-faith arguments—in politics, in media, in science, wherever— are nothing new, but at a time when the country is a tinderbox, it doesn’t help that the people who influence millions are pyromaniacs. 

Last night, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, returned to the airwaves after taking a week off, perhaps giving some daylight between him and his former head writer, Blake Neff, who was outed as littering racist diatribes across the internet. 

You might think that the TV personality would spend a few minutes addressing the issue, beyond his perfunctory performance last week. Or even vigorously denying the lawsuit that was filed yesterday alleging that a colleague of his, Ed Henry, sexually assaulted and raped a staffer, and how Carlson, Sean Hannity and Howard Kurtz were also named in the suit for sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

But that is not the Tucker Carlson brand. 

Instead, on last night’s show, Carlson levied a claim against the New York Times that in an upcoming (read: not yet published) story, a reporter was going to reveal Carlson’s home address.  

“They hate my politics. They want this show off the air. If one of my children gets hurt because of a story they wrote, they won’t consider it collateral damage. They know it’s the whole point of the exercise: to inflict pain on our family, to terrorize us, to control what we say. That’s the kind of people they are.”

The New York Times denies this.

Carlson’s logic, on a normal day, has more twists in it than a Simone Biles triple double. Last night, his mental gymnastics were on full display. As soon as he trashed the New York Times for doing a thing, guess what? He did the same thing. He “doxed” the New York Times reporter, a freelancer named Murray Carpenter. 

“How would Murray Carpenter and his photographer, Tristan Spinski, feel if we told you where they live, if we put pictures of their homes on the air? What if we published the home address of every one of the soulless, robot editors at the New York Times, who assigned and managed this incitement of violence against my family?"

Fox News viewers answered his question, finding Carpenter’s address and phone number and posting them on Twitter, thus fulfilling the bad-faith argument. Tucker Carlson, pyro. 

It’s not hard to see Carlson’s defensiveness as a strategy: deflect and change the topic. Instead of discussing serious allegations, Tucker just ... makes one up.

In a statement, Fox News denied the gender discrimination and sexual harassment allegations:

“Based on the findings of a comprehensive independent investigation conducted by an outside law firm, including interviews with numerous eyewitnesses, we have determined that all of Cathy Areu’s claims against FOX News, including its management as well as its hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity & Howard Kurtz and its contributor Gianno Caldwell, are false, patently frivolous and utterly devoid of any merit.

“We take all claims of harassment, misconduct and retaliation seriously, promptly investigating them and taking immediate action as needed — in this case, the appropriate action based on our investigation is to defend vigorously against these baseless allegations. Ms. Areu and Jennifer Eckhart can pursue their claims against Ed Henry directly with him, as FOX News already took swift action as soon as it learned of Ms. Eckhart’s claims on June 25 and Mr. Henry is no longer employed by the network.“

The network’s audience is fanatical, supporting the bad behaviors the network’s stars exhibit. 

Fox News has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars over the years for its TV personalities accused of sexual harassment and assault, as well as racial and gender bias. 

But it also raises the questions of advertising. Time and time again, we talk about “brand safety.” The strongest proof that “brand safety” is bullshit: advertisers continue to spend tons of money on the network, year after year, knowing precisely the damage Fox News has done. 

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Talking Heads, “Burning Down the House”

Some interesting links:

  • Unilever Pressured Asian Influencers To Promote Its Skin Whiteners. They Fought Back. (BuzzFeed)

  • The Next Phase of the Retail Apocalypse: Stores Reborn as E-Commerce Warehouses (WSJ)

  • How Sarah Cooper Trumped Donald Trump—Without Saying a Word (Vanity Fair)

  • Google to Ban More Ads from Sites Promoting Virus Conspiracies (Bloomberg)

  • Sure, Chris Wallace did a tough Trump interview. But it’s a fig leaf for Fox’s usual sycophancy. (Washington Post)

  • Laughing at Quibi is way more fun than watching Quibi (Wired)

  • Your Ancestors Knew Death in Ways You Never Will (NYT)