Tucker Carlson is trying to have things both ways with QAnon. He won't outright say he supports the movement, but last night he stridently defended people's right to believe in the conspiracy theory.
For the uninitiated, QAnon believes that a secret cabal of Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic Democratic pedophiles are running a global child sex-trafficking ring, and plotting against former U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been fighting the cabal.
Tucker's defense of those who believe in the ultra-fringe conspiracy was a response to a bill proposed by Democratic Representative Stephanie Murphy of Florida. The proposed legislation would prevent QAnon believers from gaining a government security clearance.
"If any Americans participated in the Capitol attack, or if they subscribe to these dangerous anti-government views of QAnon, then they have no business being entrusted with our nation's secrets," she said.
Makes sense, right? The failed plot to overthrow the U.S. government earlier this month was led by a group that was lousy with QAnon believers. The U.S. shouldn't be handing over its secrets to people who have professed views that are aggressively anti-government.
So Carlson stepped up to defend the right of Americans who believe in crackpot anti-government theories to have the rare privilege of accessing sensitive national intelligence information.
Tucker Carlson defends Qanon https://t.co/knIh32J39S— Andrew Lawrence (@Andrew Lawrence)1611623611.0
"Listen as the geniuses explain how the single biggest threat to this country isn't Chinese hegemony, or even the coming hyperinflation, pretty much a certainty now, which was 100 percent caused by elite mismanagement of our economy," Carlson said after showing a series of news clips on QAnon.
"But no, let's not talk about that," Carlson continued. "The real threat is a forbidden idea. It's something called QAnon."
"We're watching a profound change taking place in American society that's happening very fast," Carlson said. "The stakes could not be higher. There is a clear line between democracy and tyranny, between self-government and dictatorship, and here's what that line is: That line is your conscience. They cannot cross that."
"But no democratic government can ever tell you what to think. Your mind belongs to you. It is yours and yours alone," he said. "Once politicians attempt to control what you believe, they are no longer politicians, they are by definition dictators. And if they succeed in controlling what you believe, you are no longer a citizen. You are not a free man. You are a slave."
Here, Carlson trots out a classic defense of personal liberty — the government can't tell you what to think — while applying it to QAnon believers.
Of course, the government can't tell you what to think. That's not the issue under dispute. The bill was to prevent people with conspiratorial anti-government beliefs from having access to sensitive information.
Carlson's argument forgets the fact that the government has a long history of denying people access to sensitive information because of their beliefs and associations. People are routinely denied access for having questionable political associations and questionable allegiance to the country.
Supporting an uprising to overthrow that government should indicate that you lack some allegiance.
People are also denied security clearances for having a mental or personality disorder. Ascribing to disproven, debunked outlandish conspiracies is a solid indicator of a potential issue.
So Tucker is making the argument that people who have chosen to suspend their ability to think critically or never developed the skill in the first place, should have access to sensitive information. How many American lives would that endanger?
Using the same argument, Carlson could make the point that people with extreme left-wing views should be allowed to have access to national security secrets as well. Does he believe that those who support Antifa, anti-Israel groups, or left-wing anarchists should have access to sensitive information, too?
Should NASA hire astronauts who believe in the Flat-earth conspiracy?
Carlson is obviously smarter than the argument he's making. So why is he going out of his way to stand up for QAnon believers? Could it be that a recent poll found a significant portion of his audience supports the movement?
A study published in Newsweek found that 41% of Republicans say that QAnon theories are good for the country, with 32% saying they are somewhat good, and 9% saying very good.
There are also rumors swirling in the GOP that Carlson will make a bid for the presidency in 2024. Being that the most extreme elements of any party are most likely to vote in a primary, courting the QAnon crowd could help Carlson's potential candidacy.
Carlson could also be attempting to keep fringe members of the right from leaving Fox News for its competitors, OAN or Newsmax.
Regardless, Carlson's segment was a way of giving QAnon a tip of that hat without having to completely align with them.
The sad thing for America is that this drive-by show of support further legitimizes a movement that is not just ridiculous, but dangerous. It sends a signal to the movement that people in the highest places of media power support them and that their thoughts are valid.
We've already seen what validating people with extremist views can do. Why is Carlson playing with fire?
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