The new right’s losses just keep racking up. On Monday, the populist movement’s chief media mouthpiece, Tucker Carlson, lost his perch at Fox News. Whether you attribute his ouster to Fox’s $787.5 million Dominion settlement or to a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former Fox producer, Carlson was ultimately done in by his commitment to the new right’s fantastical and paranoid worldview. It’s proved once again to be a loser.
You can look at Carlson’s firing as an extension of the losses suffered by assorted MAGA candidates in last year’s midterm elections. Like them, he preached incredible falsehoods, adopted obnoxious attitudes, climbed out on a shaky limb, and finally fell to the ground. He might have ridden a longer, more profitable wave than last year’s losers, but, like them, he crashed just the same. They were rejected by the voting public. Carlson was cast aside by Rupert Murdoch.
Murdoch had a few reasons to choose from. He had reportedly grown sick of Carlson’s claims about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Carlson used his show to advance the theory that it was some sort of inside job involving the FBI. And Abby Grossberg, a producer fired from Carlson’s show, filed a discrimination suit against the network and said in deposition that she had been forced into conspiracy mongering. Fox denies the claim. But according to the Los Angeles Times, “Carlson’s exit is related” to the case. Then, of course, there’s the monster settlement with Dominion.
The point is, the new right compels its adherents to say and do untenable things. At first, this seems like a good deal. The new right loudmouth enjoys the vast freedom of rejecting norms. Carlson not only peddled conspiracy theories about Jan. 6. He made false claims about Karen McDougal, who said she had an affair with Donald Trump. He aired pro-Russian disinformation about the war in Ukraine. He said immigrants would make the United States “dirtier.” And he walked none of it back because outrageousness earns you attention and money. So maybe you start to think it’s a free-for-all.
But then, those pesky norms reassert themselves. It turns out, if you’re running for Congress, you can’t hold rallies for Jan. 6 rioters and expect voters to accept it. If you’re the head of a news network, the law says that your broadcasters can’t in fact spread damaging lies without consequence. And if you’re a loose-cannon broadcaster, the beacon for all other loose cannons, your put-upon boss decides you’re the first to go.
Here’s the case the new right likes to make for itself: Unlike the polite and passive conservatives who came before them, they’ll take the fight to the radical left and shut down the woke circus. Unlike the old right, they’re truth tellers who are unafraid to say what needs saying. And unlike mere creatures of the establishment who only call themselves conservative, they’ll put wins on the board for everyday Americans.
And none of it comports with reality. The radical left wasn’t nearly this successful or pervasive—or this radical—back in the days of “Zombie Reaganism.” The MAGA crowd barks and bleats and makes not a dent in the institutionalization of leftist social doctrine. Whatever salutary changes we’ve seen have come as legacy gifts from institutions of the old right (such as the Federalist Society) or from ordinary citizens who’ve been stunned into action by the excesses of wokeness (such as parents who reject indoctrination in the classroom). And non-woke liberals have done a hell of a job persuading their own to reject radicalism. Not only does the new right fail to speak the truth; its lies get exposed publicly and punished heavily. And everyday Americans at the voting booth don’t see new right candidates as their champions, but rather as vulgar clowns.
But where the new right has succeeded is in building a successful entertainment wing, feeding adherents a diet of a grievance, conspiracy, and snark while the ship sinks. Tucker Carlson was the number-one entertainer. With him gone, the movement may be on the verge of blowing its one achievement.