The Meaning of Tucker Carlson by Naomi Wolf

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The whole world is commenting on and speculating about the abrupt departure of former Fox commentator Tucker Carlson from that network.

Addressing the current moment is not my intent. I have no idea what the “inside story” is on the events related to Fox’s or Carlson’s decisions. Mr. Carlson is wisely being deliberative regarding his physical presence and his messaging, and by next week the news cycle will have no doubt shifted in relation to this sudden exile, or self-exile; so there is little point in adding my own theories to the events of the present. 

I suspect, however, that the stern, mafioso-like public warnings of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and others to the Murdochs, that they were making a mistake in tolerating Carlson’s airing of the first set of previously unseen January 6 videos, and that those who passed on the footage were playing a “treacherous game,” was a factor in at least some upheaval on the part of Fox’s leadership. I recognize a political threat of retribution when I hear one:

What I want to do now is note, for the record, almost elegiacally, how important Mr. Carlson’s voice has been, in the evaluation of at least this dyed-in-the-wool old-school capital “L” Liberal.

Mr. Carlson and I spent most of our careers not in alignment on anything; for decades, our places were adversarial on the public chess board. He had assumed that I was the caricature of a shrieking, irrational left-wing feminist—a view for which he has had the good grace publicly to apologize—and I, for my part, was ready to accept that he must be the boorish, sexist, racist, homophobic frat boy that the progressive news outlets I read, relentlessly insisted that he was. I almost never watched his show, so my preconceptions could flourish uncorrected.

That said, I did find it odd that everyone around me in the “liberal elite” media hated him so violently—the way they hated President Trump; but that when I pressed for concrete reasons why, they could not provide them. When my liberal friends and loved ones would roll their eyes and spit out “Tucker Carlson,” as if that name itself was epithet enough, I would often pester: “What? Why? What did he actually say?” I never got a good answer. So even in the depth of the Left’s vilification of him—even as I was still on the Left myself—I was keeping, faintly, an open mind.

Maybe this is because, in a limited way, I recognize where he comes from. We both come from some similar places. We both were raised in California in the 1970s (though I am six years older), a California that was very diverse and yet largely peaceful and hopeful, compared to the present; with reasonable newspapers and decent public education. It was a state drenched with sunshine and optimism; bright with discussion and with sensible plans for the future. California was the most meritocratic state in the Union, at that time. In spite of specific upheavals—the LGBTQ movement gaining force in the Bay Area, the women’s movement was fighting for access to reproductive rights, immigrant workers agitating for better conditions—we had no reason to believe that people of different races or political viewpoints or genders could not get along, or at least discuss their differences; we certainly would have found it racist to assume that immigrants or people of color could not succeed entirely on their own merits.

The University of California system, unbroken at that time, an excellent nearly-free education, was almost majority nonwhite—selective, prestigious public high schools like the one I attended were majority nonwhite—so it was ridiculous to presume that people of color or immigrants could not thrive in our existing, even if imperfect, meritocracies. They were succeeding all around us.

We both were sent from this early relaxed, hopeful formative background to the hothouses of rigorous, rigid, East Coast privilege—he to a prep school and then to Trinity College, I to Yale (and then Oxford). Maybe we both brought our West Coast skepticism of East Coast (and European) global elites’ nonsense and pretentiousness along with us.

I was also never completely persuaded of his being the purported embodiment of pure evil, because I still had an impressionistic memory of him being around in the DC of the 1990s, in a time before such extreme caricatures as today’s keep both “sides” at daggers drawn.

In the late 1990s, we shared a social milieu; though we were not friends, we were out and about in parallel circles in Washington, at a time in which his stint at the Weekly Standard and other conservative publications mirrored, fairly peaceably, compared with the present, my then-husband’s and my alliances with the New Republic and other left-wing publications.

Social life was a Venn diagram in DC at that time, for pundits of all ages on both the left and the right. We all, in certain circles, dropped in to the same cocktail parties in Georgetown, huddled in the same bars in Dupont Circle, and enjoyed late-night feasts at the same hole-in-the-wall Ethiopian restaurants in Adams Morgan. Transpartisanship added frisson to social encounters, and partisanship was not yet the deadly tribalism it would later become. Sally Quinn, wife of the former executive editor of the Washington Post, the hostess who in the 1990s reigned supreme, would titillate the Clinton administration guests, at her gatherings in an antiques-filled, low-lit front room in Georgetown, with selective helpings of saucy Republican luminaries also present. The tension between commentators or apparatchiks from different “teams” made the conversation sparkle, and, to the high-spirited interlocutors of the two different parties, it made that third glass of Pinot Grigio pleasurably dangerous. It was a time when left and right could fence over Ms. Quinn’s old-school appetizers (never fish, not even cheese, and always candles, for the perfect party, as she later explained. “[Quinn] was giving a short history of the decline of Washington Establishment socializing, which she has long blamed for much of the entrenched partisan hostility that now dominates American politics. … Back then, she said, there was an easy, bipartisan commingling of ‘permanent Washington’ and elected officeholders.”).

These adversaries by day would also inform one another by evening, while sparring at her events; they would make surprising, off-the-record alliances, and engage in productive off-the-record horse-trading. This behind-the-scenes, informal back and forth, was good for the country, and that was one reason that patriotic hostesses such as Ms. Quinn, I believe, facilitated it.

Even brash newer hostesses—and at that time, the buzzy Arianna Huffington, equally glamorous, but arriving, with a flourish, from elsewhere, was one—had studied this art. She thus also assembled around herself, in her own salons, glittering representatives of both parties, so that nothing would bedarling, as she would say, boring.

The CNN show Crossfire, with its two civilized antagonists, was the allegory of the time. James Carville and Mary Matalin, with their sexy oppositional-ness, were the iconic couple of the moment. Point and counterpoint were still avidly followed then; direct, civil, well-informed debate was still considered valuable, illuminating, and a fascinating sport.

I remember of DC in the 1990s as being what Mr. Carlson probably also remembers: a time and place for a young, ambitious intellectual, or a young, brash, public figure (as we both then were), in which a sincerity of inquiry, a seriousness of interrogation, and a regard for the verifiable truth were all taken for granted as being what journalists and commentators were supposed to pursue.

Whatever “side” we were on, we journalists and commentators all took pride in that mission. Truth existed. We would hunt it down, by God, and make our case for it.

Journalists were supposed to challenge the State, and not take press releases from Presidents or White House spokespeople—or corporations for that matter—as Diktats. Arguments had to marshal evidence and to play fair.

We assumed that this need that our profession was supposed to fulfill—for serious public inquiry, intense public debate—was the great indispensable thing in a Republic; we assumed that this basic underpinning of our roles as journalists would be seen by our society, our nation, as being valuable, forever; that the ethics of journalists and commentators in America would last forever; that these ethics would outlive us, as they had outlived President Jefferson.

So I was not hugely surprised that in about March and April of 2021, when I was a Fellow at AIER in Great Barrington (home of the Great Barrington Declaration), and as I had started to raise questions about side effects women were experiencing with the mRNA vaccine—as well as raising questions about why our First and Fourth Amendment rights were being upended, why we were all being held under emergency law, why kids were being masked with little scientific evidence to support this abusive practice, and why pregnant women were being told the injections were safe when there was no data to back that claim up that I could find—that Mr. Carlson’s booker reached out to me.

I appeared a few times on his show, to air my concerns.

Right away the left-wing “watchdog” Media Matters—run by someone who had been a former acquaintance, even a friend, of ours in DC, the former conservative who had turned Democrat, David Brock—went after me aggressively, with a systematic character assassination on Twitter and on the Media Matters website, engineered by CNN reporter Matt Gertz—a “journalist” who was actually funded to track and attack guests on Fox News: “Fox Keeps Hosting Pandemic Conspiracy Theorist Naomi Wolf.”

In his hit piece, Mr. Gertz singled out the fact that I was warning about women who had received the mRNA vaccine having menstrual problems, and the fact that even women near vaccinated women were having menstrual problems. (This “shedding” via inhalation is confirmed in the Pfizer documents.)

Gertz described multiple independent reports of menstrual problems from women as “purported reports”—a misogynist thing to do, mocking women’s eyewitness descriptions of their own symptoms, and one with a long history in medicine’s and Pharma’s crimes against women—and he shamefully singled out the (accurate) tweet of mine, that we now know via a lawsuit, that the White House, the CDC, DHS, Twitter, and Facebook had illegally colluded to target and smear.

So given the specificity of this one (accurate, important) tweet among thousands of mine, Matt Gertz may well have been acting as a henchman for these unlawfully colluding interests, to the eternal damage of what should have been his ethics as a journalist:

This hit piece, calling me a “conspiracy theorist,” did a great deal to set the stage and provide the talking points for my later deplatforming at the hands of the White House working with Twitter and the CDC, and the subsequent reputational attack that spanned the globe and led to my wholesale ouster from legacy media and my former community on the Left.

(It also consigned millions of women to damaged menses and infertility, by helping to silence this emerging discussion. Maternal deaths are up 40 percent now, due to compromises of women’s fertility post-mRNA injection. A million babies are missing in Europe. Great work, Mr. Gertz, Mr. Brock. You will take those harms, that you inflicted upon women and babies, to your graves.)

But having appeared on Mr. Carlson’s show, to raise these and other real concerns, I also was peppered ceaselessly with nasty comments from my own “side.” Why? Because I had talked to Tucker Carlson. That was literally how they phrased my “crime.”

This was the first real confrontation I had with the unreason and the cultlike thinking that were engulfing my “team.” I kept receiving messages, emails, DMs, and direct confrontations by phone, with friends and loved ones and even family members.

How can you talk to Tucker Carlson??

I noted with concern that they did not say that I was wrong, or that my assertions were baseless, or even that his assertions were baseless.

They did not address the crimes against women and babies I was uncovering, and sharing with the assistance of Mr. Carlson’s platform—crimes about which all the men and women on the Left, who were supposed to be such feminists and advocates for women’s rights, were silent.

My soon-to-be-former friends and colleagues simply reiterated again and again, as if it were self-evident, that I had discredited myself in some nameless but completely understood and permanent and unforgivable way, by talking to Tucker Carlson.

(The only other major platform that was open to hearing what I was finding, was, of course, Steve Bannon’s WarRoom. I started to appear also on WarRoom, leading to another wave of appalled DMs and emails from my friends and loved ones, who by now were actively and rapidly distancing themselves from me. “How can you talk to Steve Bannon?”)

So I had to face the alarming evidence that the Left now saw anyone “talking to” the opposition, as being magically, publicly, permanently contaminated and contaminating, in some weird anthropological way, and as now being utterly invalidated, and that they believed all of this in some pre-rational, Stone Age sort of belief matrix.

They were treating me as though by my talking to Mr. Carlson and Mr. Bannon, no matter about what—no matter that the issues and evidence that I brought to these platforms and to these interlocutors were both true and important—I was burning my I-am-a-good-person membership club card, in some kind of public ritual of immolation, and that thus I would have to be exiled far from the progressive community and shamed away entirely from the warming of progressive campfires. “Unclean! Unclean!”

Here is Mr. Ben Dixon, from the left, asserting that I must be not a feminist because I am “talking to Tucker Carlson” who “100 per cent is an anti-feminist.” He assails “this BS from Naomi Wolf and Tucker Carlson”—“BS”—in which I warned that we were heading into an un-American two-tier discrimination society based on vaccination status.

Did that actually happen, as I warned? It did:

We were attacked—I was attacked—for discussing things that came true.

Did this happen, below? Was this true? We predicted in 2021 that authoritarian leaders would not relinquish emergency powers. It is now 2023, so: Yes.

Should the Left have supported instead of mocked such a discussion? Even most of them must realize by now that the answer is: Yes.

The reaction, though, of horror, from everyone I knew, at my crime of “talking to Tucker Carlson,” horrified me (as I often say, I will talk to anyone about the Constitution). The dismay of the Left in reaction to my “talking to Tucker Carlson” horrified me because talking to people with whom I don’t agree is one of the main ways I have ever learned anything, or, I believe, that anyone has ever learned anything. And it horrified me also because I would have gladly brought my urgently important, indeed life-saving information, to CNN and MSNBC, as usual—to all these self-proclaimed “feminists”—but they were having none of it.

Above all it horrified me because the Left thus had departed from the post-Enlightenment metric of “Is it true?” to return to a pre-rational metric of “Is this within our tribe and according to our rituals and our cult?”

And that I knew from my study of history how disastrously that kind of thinking ends.

Well, by this time my husband was watching Mr. Carlson’s show. I observed myself experiencing waves of prejudice and of squirming anxiety as I also began to watch his show. To my distress, I found that many of his monologues made sense to me.

They were not unreasonable, by and large, and they were not hate-filled; to the contrary.

I had been told that he was racist. And indeed I recoiled at his signature giggle as he mocked the epithet: “Racist!” But as I actually forced myself to listen, sitting in my discomfort and programmed aversion, observing the reactions in myself (as the Buddhists urge one to do), I realized—he was not in fact a racist.

Mr. Carlson was usually calling attention to the way identity politics was destroying our former ideal—shared by most of us California kids and teenagers in the 1970s—that we all were Americans first of all, deserving of equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. I realized as I listened that his stories about immigration were not anti-immigrant, as I had been told; but rather that he was calling attention to the security and social welfare threats to the nation posed by massive, unrestricted, unlawful immigration over an open Southern border, a view shared by many legal immigrants.

I learned that he was not actually transphobic, as I had been told; but rather that he shone a light on the way that minors were being targeted by schools and the pharmaceutical industry, to undergo radical gender surgery before they were of age to make adult decisions.

While I often still disagreed with him, I found that his reasoning was transparent—a rare thing these days—and that always he returned to that old-fashioned, common-sense basis for his conclusions: “This is simply true.” More often than not, he had a point.

I was also noticing that as I scanned Twitter for what I saw as more and more evidence of flaws in the “narrative” about COVID and “lockdowns” that we were all being fed in the first half of 2020, and as I forwarded or posted these links showing primary-source evidence of fraud in the PCR tests, a lack of transparent datasets in the COVID dashboards, testimony from an OSHA expert about harms to children from masks, problems with the New York Times’ assertions about restaurant- and school-based infections and “asymptomatic spread,” and so on—evidence that I would later publish in my 2021 book The Bodies of Others: COVID-19, The New Authoritarians and the War Against the Human—that there was absolute silence now from my entire formerly robust and responsive network of legacy/progressive-media producers, editors, journalists, and bookers.

Silence from the US TV networks. Silence from the Washington Post. From the Guardian. Silence from NPR. Silence from the BBC, the Sunday Times of London, the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, my reliable former outlets. Even silence from other overseas news outlets. All of these had, until 2020, been happy to respond to what I sent, to commission my writing, or to book me to appear to speak about the links I had forwarded or posted to their producers or editors.

But Eldad Yaron, Mr. Carlson’s excellent producer, pretty much alone of the major outlets’ producers, did respond to the links I sent, even inviting more.

So I was in the head-spinning position of realizing that these two men, Carlson and Bannon, both unwavering conservatives, both of whom I had been told represented Evil Incarnate, were the possessors of the only major platforms interested in the hard and fast evidence of the greatest crime in history and of the direct threat to our Republic, of which I was warning; and that every other news outlet, all on the liberal side, indeed around the world, was rushing headlong into the sea of lies, and gladly sailing upon it under a wind of falsehood and prevarication. So only they, along with a smattering of other smaller independent media, were able to bring their audiences a true picture of the appalling threats faced by their viewers and our Republic.

Back to Mr. Carlson in the present, and why I appreciate him and hope his voice reappears on the national and global stage more assertively than before.

I don’t know him personally—we have only met once, as far as I know—when my husband Brian O’Shea and I visited Carlson’s homey, Americana-crowded studio in a tiny town in rural Maine.

But underneath all of what may be our policy differences, this is in my view why so many people have seen his reporting during the last three years as absolutely critical to our survival—and why so many Democrats and independents, including myself, whether secretly or not, watch and appreciate him as well:

Carlson queries current madness from the same old-fashioned, deeply American premises that shaped me, and that shaped the last three remaining true Liberals, as well.

He seems to be refusing to let go of an America that actually holds journalists to the practice of journalism. I share that outrage and that nostalgia. Many do. He seems to insist on not forgetting the America that saw everyone as equal based on “the content of their character.” I, many, share this pained memory of national unity around race even as we acknowledge that our nation’s racial history has had plenty of tragedy. He won’t let go of the memory of an America in which children were safe at school and parents decided what happened to their children. I, many, share this baseline value and are terrified that it is under attack. And he insists on patriotism, in a time of relentless propaganda and the bribery of elites that urges us all to drop national identities, cultures, borders, and even allegiances.

This last quality especially makes him dangerous, as our nation is led entirely now by elite-captured traitors to our country.

All of these resonances are deeply nostalgic—but they are also what must be saved and protected as memories and as part of our core belief system, if we are ever to regain our Republic—and our decency—in the future.

So—Mr. Carlson—thank you for caring about women and babies, in your being among the first, along with Mr. Bannon, to give me a platform to raise a life-saving alarm about threats to both. Thank you for your dogged nostalgia about a nation that is racially optimistic. Thanks for being willing to talk to those with whom you do not agree. Thanks for not giving up on religious liberty or the First Amendment. Thank you for insisting that truth matters.

And thank you for not giving up on the best core ideals of this nation.

We did not used to call the aggregate of all of those ideals, “conspiracy theories.”

We used to call them, America.

Originally published on the author’s Substack

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