Recently I debated Ed Morrissey on his podcast about Tucker Carlson’s firing and the erstwhile host’s proper place in conservative media lore.

This discourse occurred mere hours before Carlson, in his first utterance since being dismissed by Fox News, tweeted out a video arguing that he now realizes how “unbelievably stupid most of the debates you see on television are.”

Did Carlson ever comprehend this during his long career across multiple networks? The disingenuous statement came roughly 48 hours after Fox axed him. His lack of respect for the intelligence of his viewers remains troubling.

Carlson went on to claim that “the undeniably big topics, the ones that will define our future, get virtually no discussion at all. War, civil liberties, emerging science, demographic change, corporate power, natural resources—when did you hear a legitimate debate about any of those issues? It’s been a long time. Debates like that are not permitted in American media. Both political parties and their donors have reached a consensus on what benefits them, and they actively collude to shut down any conversation about it.”

Tucker Carlson is not Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Matt Gaetz, or Bernie Sanders; he is sagacious. He is also insincere — as I noted to Morrissey — and is obfuscating again with this populist boilerplate.


Emotional manipulation has always been a comfort to those consumed with grievance and persecution complexes. If the “powerful” is keeping you down for profit, simply blame your worries on them. Never mind that Carlson’s net worth likely sits in the eight figures, and his career is indebted to “corporate power.”

Nonetheless, he is correct that we lack legitimate debate about crucial issues today. But his rationale is backward.
We don’t live in a “one-party state,” as Carlson and his acolytes claim. We live in tribal bubbles, and yes, media corporations like the ones Carlson took gobs of money from do cater to the tastes of bubble-dwelling viewers who seek performative politics over substance. Want a substantive debate? Read a Substack, turn on any of the stellar podcasts out there, or visit a think tank event. Don’t visit a college campus or watch primetime cable news.

We are notoriously tribal in our political affiliations and too often eschew good-faith debate. Americans who are deeply entrenched in the issues that Carlson lists probably are the least apt to be open-minded. Think about how vacuous Democrats treat discussions of climate or LGBT issues. Those who disagree with them are evil, not just wrong, and they believe you must eliminate faux evil.

A recent Pew Poll found that nearly two-thirds of Democrats stopped talking to someone because of something they said, while nearly half of Republicans had done the same.

According to the same poll, “The closer people follow political and election news, the more likely they are to say they have stopped talking to someone about it.”

In other words, the most voracious news consumers detest good-faith debate. They want Tucker Carlson Tonight and probably enjoyed his recent video message.

His complaint about a one-party state appeals to those who enjoy election conspiracies and believe some “establishment” is playing them for suckers. Carlson, son of a corporate titan and U.S. ambassador, stoked this paranoia every evening, as do many cable news hosts, left and right.

So Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson is back in the wilderness once again — splitting time between mansions in Florida and Maine — grasping for relevance. Like Don Lemon, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, Keith Olbermann, and noxious left-wing hacks, Carlson doesn’t really want debate; like the fringe progressive populists, he wants to lash out from his bubble.


Ari Kaufman is a correspondent for several U.S. newspapers and magazines from Minnesota and Ohio to Tennessee and Virginia. He taught school and served as a military historian before beginning his journalism career. He is the author of three books and a frequent guest on radio programs, and contributes to Israel National News and here at The Lid.