The Racist Demagoguery of Tucker Carlson and Trump has a Fascist Lineage
Replacement Theory from Mussolini to Jan. 6
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In this new Friday Lucid feature, I analyze some of the most important news of the last week as it pertains to threats to democracy, authoritarian dynamics, and more. These posts give historical context for contemporary events, or flag developments I think will be important in the future.
Some of you may have tuned in to the 11th Hour, and did not find me there. They decided not to do the segment. Instead, I was on two other MSNBC shows that evening, one of them prompting this essay.
The other night on MSNBC, I told Ari Melber that Tucker Carlson was a “Fascist demagogue who contributes to political violence in America.” I don’t use the Fascist label lightly, but I believe it is warranted here.
We were discussing the May 13 actions of an 18-year-old extremist who drove to a supermarket in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo and shot over a dozen people. He had planned his mass murder meticulously, amassing a small arsenal and writing a 180-page manifesto that espouses the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory. This is the idea that Jews and other elites plot to import non-Whites into Western countries to displace and disempower Whites.
Now espoused by US Republicans and their far-right allies around the world, replacement ideologies influence GOP discussions and policies on race, immigration, family, and heritage. “We should have more people from Norway,” former president Donald Trump had argued in 2018, not “shithole countries” like Haiti, El Salvador, and “Africa.”
In the version Tucker Carlson propagates insistently on Fox News (400 times since 2016, according to a New York Times investigation), Democrats, allied with Jews and other liberal elites, want to re-engineer the population to ensure electoral victories, too.
The Buffalo shooter self-identifies as a Fascist, and replacement theory has a Fascist pedigree that way predates neo-Nazis shouting “Jews will not replace us” while marching in Charlottesville in 2017. Long before Hitler came to power, Il Duce warned of a racial emergency, contrasting fertile African and Asian populations with Europeans who risked extinction. "The entire White race, the Western race, could be submerged by other races of color that multiply with a rhythm unknown to our own,” he wrote in 1927.
Wherever they surface, the power of replacement narratives lies in their ability to evoke primal fears of annihilation and extinction. Their purpose is to create a survivalist, “it’s us or them” mentality. When embraced by lone-wolf extremists like the Buffalo shooter, they inspire one-off terrorist actions meant to kill as many non-Whites and non-Christians as possible.
Replacement theories also play on more generalized anxieties about being controlled, whether by Jews who manipulate everything behind the scenes, or, in the QAnon version, by a cabal of Jews, liberals, and Blacks out to destroy everyone and everything. The image of George Soros as a puppet master that appeared in an ad run by Kim Crockett, GOP candidate for Minnesota secretary of state, continues this tradition.
The outcome of replacement theories, when disseminated on a mass scale, differs in each case. In the hands of Fascists Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, such narratives inspired policies of mass persecution, leading to the Holocaust.
In 2021, a strongman who saw his power slipping away from him used them to fuel rage in followers to stage a coup in his name. The propaganda film shown at the Jan. 6 rally which preceded the assault on the Capitol flashed images of the Hollywood sign, the UN, and Jewish Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wearing kente cloth. There was no mention of Soros, but the message came through: unless immediate action was taken, a clique of international elites, who propagate non-Christian and non-White interests, would jeopardize America’s survival.
Lest there be uncertainty about the Fascist heritage of such associations, here is a cartoon that appeared in the late 1930s in The Defense of the Race, a regime publication premised on the existential threat non-Whites presented to “civilization.” Above the “Anti-Racists of the World, Unite,” caption that played on a Communist slogan, Harlem Blacks stand with a Jew. Instead of kente cloth, the Jew wears a grass skirt along with the trappings of formal wear.
There is a direct line from this Fascist depiction of the danger of Black-Jewish solidarity to the images Trump’s supporters saw on Jan. 6 right before they stormed the Capitol.
This lineage is why Carlson, a master propagandist, is so dangerous. He disseminates ideas that inspire not only isolated mass shooters, but also broad-based movements of grassroots racist violence that are supported by political elites, as Jan. 6 shows.
From Fascism onward, replacement theories have brought ruin and tragedy to societies. Will it be America’s turn?
Il Duce reference: Benito Mussolini, preface to Riccardo Korherr, Regresso delle nascite: Morte dei popoli (Rome, 1928).