How Tucker Carlson Is Mainstreaming Blatant White Supremacy
Due to the nature of certain content in this article, some sources have been left anonymous in order to avoid spreading further hate or expose individual identities.
In order to fully understand the normalization of white supremacy, a distinction needs to be made between the terms “supremacy” and “nationalism”. White supremacy is a general belief that the white race is superior to all others. White nationalism is akin to white supremacy, but includes a sense of identity through belonging somewhere. In other words, not only are whites superior but whites are entitled to a country “built by and for white people”. In this case, that country is the United States of America. Regarding the people this article focuses on, the terms are interchangeable.
For decades, politics in America have been egging on the return of overt public racism. There was a measurable response to the election of Barack Obama, highlighting the disturbing truth that many Americans were uncomfortable with a minority in the Oval Office. His presence created a fear within the white supremacist movement: Obama’s election meant whites were losing power and being “replaced.” Meanwhile, the “birther conspiracy” plagued Obama nonstop, with many voters spending eight years believing their president was not a U.S. citizen. During that time, Black Lives Matter was born, and in response, Blue Lives Matter. This radically increased racial tension, leading many to feel obligated to choose a side.
Upon entering the White House, Donald Trump provided the opportunity for those who had disapproved of a Black president to more loudly embrace their racist beliefs. It didn’t hurt that Trump also regularly criticized him both online and in person. Trump’s election to presidency was an affirmation and comfort for supremacists and nationalists who had not yet felt enabled to fully speak up. Trump stoked the fears and resentment that had grown under Obama, was fomented in the Republican Party since the Southern Strategy began in the 1960s, and deeply rooted in America’s origianl sin of slavery. David Duke, infamous neo-Nazi and former Klu Klux Klan leader, has endorsed Trump multiple times. Following his victory, Duke said, “That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back…”
In more recent years, specific white supremacist groups and ideologies have begun appearing more openly online and in the media. Some even gather outside in public, explicitly encouraging hate. Despite these dangerous messages, supremacists are managing to step away from the fringe, finding ways to permeate society by means of others’ words or their own actions.
One way white supremacy is becoming normalized is through the voice of outspoken right-wing personalities. Chief among these is Tucker Carlson, Fox News’ most popular show host. Tucker Carlson Tonight is currently the most-watched cable news show nationwide, attracting on average more than three million viewers per night. Carlson has often sympathized with nationalist and supremacist ideals on his show, but in general enough terms to never be explicitly ascribed to the movement. But that has changed, as he’s now explicitly echoing remarks made in white supremacist terrorist manifestos. Carlson has said that “[Democrats’] political success doesn’t depend on good policies, but on demographic replacement” and “The Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate.”
This rhetoric was exacerbated following the recent release of the U.S. 2020 Census, which revealed that the White population had declined since 2010, while other populations have increased. Days after the data was made public, Carlson said, “Democrats are intentionally accelerating demographic change for political advantage.”
Just last week, Carlson accused President Biden of welcoming immigrants in order to “reduce the political power of people whose ancestors lived here” and replace “legacy Americans” with people from developing countries. This is a direct citation to the white supremacist Great Replacement theory. Carlson even called Biden’s words “the language of eugenics.”
Tucker Carlson outright calls Biden’s immigration policy a “great replacement” likens it to “eugenics.” pic.twitter.com/K228CnNK1H
— nikki mccann ramírez (@NikkiMcR) September 23, 2021
Each statement sounds eerily akin to those of two racially-motivated terrorists: Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 people in Christchurch, and Patrick Crusius, who killed 23 in El Paso. Before his massacre targeting Latinos, Crusius posted on the message board 8chan that he was “simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement.” Similarly, Tarrant, who also used 8chan, wrote, “This is ethnic replacement. This is cultural replacement. This is racial replacement.” Carlson has repeatedly echoed these sentiments verbatim. The Anti-Defamation League recently called on Fox News to fire Tucker Carlson, and not for the first time.
Additionally, Carlson has also made light of or dismissed the mere existence of white supremacy within the U.S. In 2017, he said that one murderer didn’t display “the behavior of a coherent white supremacist.” About a month later, he said that he didn’t even know the meaning of “white nationalist,” minimizing their presence. Ironically, his claims that American Nazis are purely on the fringes have helped to solidify his reputation as someone sympathetic to their cause.
It is one thing to hear Tucker Carlson support issues that favor white supremacists. It is an entirely different thing to hear supremacists supporting him. Within their own Telegram channels, white nationalists and neo-Nazis have voiced their approval for Carlson, putting him in high regard and encouraging others to listen to him. “I am impressed Tucker Carlson is letting his audience know…great replacement is real,” one white power activist wrote, “and that the non-whites are gloating over our perceived demise.” A user from a separate neo-Nazi channel said, “He has touched on issues such as demographic replacement and anti-white hatred. Someone like that, speaking out for white interests will be catapulted to the top of the populist movement.”
David Duke himself has praised Carlson, going so far as to endorse him for vice president alongside Donald Trump. Before he was banned from the platform, Duke took to Twitter, saying that Carlson “would whip those Republican cucks in line and make them defend…the heritage of the American people!” Ironically, Carlson used Duke as an example of extreme racism in June. Nonetheless, he has made some of the exact same arguments as Duke on multiple occasions.
Here is Fox News host Tucker Carlson making the same argument as KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. pic.twitter.com/hN5V9UKn5v
— All In with Chris Hayes (@allinwithchris) September 25, 2021
Meanwhile, the alt-tech platform Gab hosts a Tucker Carlson fan page riddled with antisemitic and racist posts. It partially targets itself at “groypers,” alt-right trolls and white nationalists, thus explaining the hateful content. The group has well over eight thousand members. Similar to Carlson, CEO Andrew Torba claimed in an email to Gab users that “hate speech does not exist.” The platform’s relaxed rules on monitoring content have clearly enabled this group to flourish. Carlson featured Torba on his show in September 2017, where they both condemned Apple and Google for banning Gab from their app stores.
Beyond Carlson and individual voices, white supremacy groups themselves are stepping out into the public eye–at least somewhat. Patriot Front, an organization that first started recruiting in 2017, has been making public appearances and demonstrations for years. Based originally in Texas, Patriot Front was founded by vehement white nationalist Thomas Rousseau as a splinter of Vanguard America. Vanguard America was infamous for its open involvement in the Unite the Right rally that took place in Charlottesville, VA. The group dissolved soon after due to infighting, leaving room for Patriot Front to take its place.
On November 3, 2017, just months after the Charlottesville riots, a group of about thirty Patriot Front members traveled to the University of Texas and gathered around a statue of George Washington. Rousseau spoke under torchlight, in similar fashion to that of the Unite the Right march. The next day, they arrived at Monkeywrench Books, a bookstore in Austin, alongside members of other white nationalist circles as well.
Public demonstrations are a seminal aspect of Patriot Front, which presents itself as an activist group first and foremost. This is a crucial example for understanding today’s larger white supremacy movement. For those who are truly involved in widening their influence and growing numbers, normalization means being accepted into the mainstream. The general strategy for dissuading people from immediately turning away is to present white supremacists and their ideals as reasonable and, ironic as it may seem, entirely approachable.
Unite the Right and other spiteful, toxic protests are an easy way to rile up angry racists, but it doesn’t recruit the people true supremacists are trying to attract right now. Activism in the form of typical gatherings or demonstrations is more appealing, so that’s how Patriot Front goes about its mission.
A glance at Telegram can prove how intent white supremacists are at steering potential members into their fold. Beyond general discussions on the importance of spreading the pro-white message, certain attention-grabbing strategies appear to have grown in popularity. In particular, that of slipping propaganda alongside videos that targeted people will frequently watch.
One stark example of this was a message saying supremacist content “would go great hidden behind some Tucker Carlson and young conservative videos.” The user urged fellow members to avoid creating echo chambers, ensuring the supremacist message “is constantly being exposed to the white youth.” Another channel contained a white nationalist inspirational speech with the caption: “How many people are going to upload this on youtube under the guise of ‘army recruitment’ or ‘military motivation’[?]”
They have also achieved their goal of posting supremacist content on YouTube. As of today, Patriot Front has released two episodes of its ongoing docuseries that follows white supremacist groups and their activities. The first covers a large meetup of Patriot Front members. Throughout the day they recite mantras, listen to seminars, train for combat, eat together, and give testimonies. Herein lies the strategy: emphasize the “camp” experience and sense of brotherhood tying these men together. They tell stories of how joining Patriot Front saved them from drugs and restored broken relationships. Many describe the togetherness dynamic as bettering their lives on the whole.
The importance of intentionality and involvement is repeated again and again. “The revolutionary cannot sit still,” says one of the older members. “The revolutionary needs to do something. We want the guys who are going to be active.” Similarly, another says, “If we call ourselves nationalists we are looking for struggle, for our national cause. If you don’t embrace it you are not a nationalist.”
The second episode of the docuseries covers Patriot Front’s march in Philadelphia on July 3, 2021. It celebrates the success of organization and structure that many white supremacist groups simply never achieve. In order to be activists, they must act as one. In the first episode they can be seen practicing this. In the march itself, they put their training into action. They stay together in one long line, bearing U.S. flags and wearing identical uniforms, repeating “Reclaim America!” as they march down to Independence Hall.
A heavy theme throughout is Patriot Front’s “historic” approach to activism. They compare their protests to the public dissidence of America’s first revolutionaries. Many people at the time were unmoved or even opposed to such actions, something Patriot Front compares to the outcry against their own revolution. This false “patriotic” theme hearkens back to the group’s nationalist agenda.
Another thing that stands out within the episode is a distinct emphasis on the discipline and nonviolence of the march. Outside of defending each other with plastic shields, members display little aggression, despite numerous physical and verbal attacks from others. At one point, law enforcement arrives, but they eventually let the group go without any arrests. Philadelphia police confirmed this, also saying the march was “peaceful with no incidents,” though video and anecdotal evidence disputes this. The episode includes an interview with Thomas Rousseau where he recounts these events after the fact. Rousseau claims that the march was relatively uneventful “because of [our] exemplary restraint and professional conduct.”
Patriot Front’s intention is clear: cultivate a narrative that makes white nationalists appear official and reasonable. Everything in this docuseries paints a false picture of a dignified group of patriots, not a mass of frothing racists. The surface appearance is a dangerous and unfortunately convincing recruitment weapon. Indeed, that’s exactly how it’s being presented as it spreads through Telegram supremacist channels. Similar to the comments mentioned above, users encourage each other to share the episodes with outsiders, actively promoting Patriot Front and its ideals.
Tucker Carlson and Patriot Front are some of the clearest examples of white supremacy stepping out of the political and societal shadows, but it’s important to remember that the growth process is, for the most part, slow-moving. Something this extreme doesn’t become normalized overnight. However, if left dismissed or underestimated, white supremacy will continue to expand and its extreme nature will continue to be minimized.
This article is brought to you by the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). Through their research, CARR intends to lead discussions on the development of radical right extremism around the world. Rantt has been partnered with CARR for 3 years. We’ve published over 150 articles from CARR’s network of PhDs, historians, professors, and experts analyzing extremism and combating disinformation.