Six Degrees of Tucker Carlson, a Washington parlor game now played online by journalists, tasks players with linking the Fox News talker to very bad things.
The rules allow for tenuous connections — nonexistent ones, even. They call for proving to the standards of someone with a preexisting hatred for Tucker Carlson that an association between him and some loathsome person, or causation between the TV host’s words and the bad guy’s actions, exists. Those playing usually meet that threshold.
It went by Six Degrees of Rush Limbaugh and Six Degrees of Glenn Beck in the past. So, though the new name may not sound familiar, the game’s rules and objectives surely do.
Nobody claimed that Payton Gendron prepared to cohost a new Fox News show alongside Carlson. But portrayals of the racist spree-killer as acting on an idea called “Great Replacement Theory” allegedly central to Carlson’s program (yet blurry or unknown to those who actually watch it) spread wide in the media before the names of those gunned down in that Buffalo supermarket did.
“Carlson is not directing his audience to commit murder,” New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait concedes. “But he is spreading an ideology that lends itself naturally to murderous tendencies and has accordingly spawned a violent wing.”
At the Daily Beast, Danielle Moodie describes the killer as “armed with the mainstreamed philosophies of the neo-fascist Republican Party.”
“The great replacement theory is here to stay,” Alex Shephard writes at the New Republic. “It’s practically a plank in the GOP platform.”
In a Rolling Stone article titled “The Buffalo Shooter Isn’t a ‘Lone Wolf.’ He’s a Mainstream Republican,” Talia Lavin labeled “an obsession with racial composition and white fertility” as “the driving engine of Republican politics.” Lavin, who made her journalistic reputation four years ago by falsely claiming that a disabled ICE agent sported a Nazi tattoo, wrote, “The Republican Party caters chiefly now to those who claim that to be born the wrong color is an act of genocide, and act with appropriate fervor.”
The gunman, who attended high school for a full week following a return from the COVID closure wearing a hazmat suit resembling those donned by E.T.’s government kidnappers, looks far from a “mainstream” anything, let alone Republican. He describes himself in his manifesto, which obsesses over race and guns, as an “ethno-nationalist eco-fascist national socialist” and on the “mild-moderate authoritarian left” (just as so many in the Tucker Carlson Tonight audience do?). (READ MORE from Daniel J. Flynn: What the Murderer’s Manifesto Really Said (and Didn’t Say))
Those on the not-so-mild-or-moderate authoritarian left omit the manifesto’s lengthy passages promoting environmentalism and criticizing capitalism or its attack on Fox News through an inclusion of a meme that stamped the Star of David on pictures of its hosts. Instead, they conflate mainstream criticism of illegal immigration shared by more than 100 million Americans with a lone extremist’s attack targeting native-born African Americans.
See how Six Degrees of Tucker Carlson works? Since the host discusses the cynical calculation, openly admitted to by some progressives, to support open borders to nudge the electorate leftward, that means an 18-year-old nutter who targeted native-born blacks took his marching orders from Tucker Carlson.
The politicization of multiple-victim public shootings, like the spree killings themselves, exudes a déjà vu quality.
In 2018, the Washington Post played Six Degrees of Donald Trump.
“Culpability is a tricky thing,” Julia Ioffe conceded at the Washington Post following the 2018 murders of 11 at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, “and politicians, especially of the demagogic variety, know this very well. Unless they go as far as organized, documented, state-implemented slaughter, they don’t give specific directions. They don’t have to. They simply set the tone. In the end, someone else does the dirty work, and they never have to lift a finger — let alone stain it with blood.” Ioffe concluded that our “definition of culpability is too narrow” and found President Trump, characterized by the murderer as a “globalist” and a puppet of the Jews, culpable.
In 2011, journalists played Six Degrees of Sarah Palin.
When Jared Lee Loughner killed six people and severely wounded, among others, Gabby Giffords, wide swaths of the media fixated on a map released almost a year earlier by a Sarah Palin’s political action committee featuring targets on 20 congressional districts, including the one Giffords represented. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman conjured up “a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc. and the violence I fear we’re going to see in the months and years ahead. But violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate.” The Los Angeles Times initially headlined an analysis “Loughner’s ramblings appear rooted in far right.”
The vacant-eyed Loughner appeared more far out than far Right. His mugshot, eyebrows missing (like Bob Geldof’s “Pink” in The Wall) along with his mind, looked like the picture of insanity. It turned out that Loughner registered as an independent. “As I knew him he was left wing, quite liberal. & oddly obsessed with the 2012 prophecy,” a former classmate, Caitie Parker, tweeted. “I haven’t seen him since ’07 though. He became very reclusive.” Loughner listed The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf as favorite books and, according to some friends, George W. Bush profoundly upset him. His ultimate act of political expression took place during the Tea Party wave of 2010: he abstained from voting. His message-board rantings fixated not on politics but the inability to land a girlfriend and keep a job.
This game predates Trivial Pursuit and even Boggle. And the rules permit its progressive players to link horrible crimes to conservatives when fellow leftists commit them.
A communist murdering the president of the United States in 1963 proved really inconvenient to people who had spent the previous decade insisting that the Communist Party was just another political organization and not a criminal outfit. So, they immediately launched conspiracy theories that noted the presence of the John Birch Society, powerful oil men, and other nefarious, right-wing types in Dallas who really killed John Kennedy. A communist did not assassinate the president; the conservatives he hated did.
Journalists played the game in 1978 when Jim Jones, a self-described atheist-communist who willed his money to the Soviet Union and distributed Bibles among his followers to use as toilet paper, orchestrated the deaths of more than 900 people in Guyana. The Associated Press described Peoples Temple as “religious zealots,” and CBS News anchorman Walter Cronkite called Jones “a power-hungry fascist.” The New York Times reported, “Mr. Jones had preached a blend of fundamentalist Christianity and social activism.” Do fundamentalist Christians celebrate December 25 as “Revolution Day” as they did at Jonestown?
“He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster,” Friedrich Nietzsche taught us. “And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into you.”
Crazy is contagious. The media covering madness caught it.