Tucker Carlson created a stink bomb, but MSNBC weaponized it – Washington Examiner

Please, everybody, can we call a time out, and tamp down the rhetoric? Stop accusing the “other side” of being the moral equivalent of Osama bin Laden or Pol Pot? Please?

The latest, sickening escalation of rhetoric came Thursday night in an exchange between MSNBC host Chris Hayes and political science professor Jason Johnson.

Let’s set this up carefully. Hayes and Johnson were talking about Fox News opinion host Tucker Carlson, who two nights earlier had gone on a riff about how the threat of “white supremacy” is a “hoax” and “not a real problem in America.” As I noted the next day, Carlson’s remarks were way off-base, both functionally and morally. It was even more disappointing when Carlson used some verbal jujitsu to double down the next evening.

If Hayes and Johnson wanted to counter Carlson’s arguments, or criticize his tone, insensitivity, or irresponsibility, that would have been fine. Nobody expects political debates to be fought with feathers.

Instead, Hayes and especially Johnson said things far more irresponsible than Carlson’s own ill-chosen remarks. Hayes was bad enough when, in response to Johnson, he said Carlson, supposedly like President Trump, “spews hate and racist fear mongering … night after night after night.” Worse than that, though, were Johnson’s words to which Hayes was responding.

Johnson said that Carlson has “been playing a Forever 21 Klansman for like four or five years now … This is someone who basically supports terrorism. This is someone who is disingenuous. If you’re talking about this white nationalist rhetoric, you can’t be a white nationalist, you can’t support white nationalist rhetoric without supporting terrorism. It can’t be accomplished without it. I think [Carlson] should be framed in that way.”


Hayes and Johnson were suggesting that Fox News should consider taking Carlson off the air. But if anybody deserves a long time out from the airwaves, it’s Johnson. How does anybody with even a modicum of personal decency or reasoned perspective say such things about a competing opinion-monger? To downplay the prevalence or danger of something (white nationalism) is at a great distance from deliberately supporting it, and at an even greater distance from “supporting terrorism.”

Even allowing for a degree of exaggeration for effect (“Forever 21 Klansman” is itself a Carlson-esque sort of wordplay), this exchange in toto is a vicious smear. Hayes’ accusations alone, unless backed by concrete examples of supposedly “spew[ing] hate and racist fear mongering,” hideously besmirch Carlson’s character.

Isn’t it enough just to say that Carlson is wrong, that white supremacy is a greater threat than he’s admitting — without accusing him of supporting murder?

If one’s goal is to criticize someone’s rhetoric, it is generally not a good idea to nuclearize your own rhetoric. And if your point is that careless rhetoric catalyzes madmen into mass murder, isn’t it even more important to lower the volume rather than to raise the wattage to frenzied new heights?


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