We all know it by now, and we have all been horrified by it. Horrified by his evident racism, and by the fact that Carlson, as a representative of modern conservatism, is as bloodthirsty as this. However, it is even more chilling if you think about a single word in his message that makes it even worse than you have likely imagined so far. Can you spot the word?
A couple of weeks ago, I was watching video of people fighting on the street in Washington. A group of Trump guys surrounded an Antifa kid and started pounding the living shit out of him. It was three against one, at least. Jumping a guy like that is dishonorable obviously. It’s not how white men fight. Yet suddenly I found myself rooting for the mob against the man, hoping they’d hit him harder, kill him. I really wanted them to hurt the kid. I could taste it. Then somewhere deep in my brain, an alarm went off: this isn’t good for me. I’m becoming something I don’t want to be. The Antifa creep is a human being. Much as I despise what he says and does, much as I’m sure I’d hate him personally if I knew him, I shouldn’t gloat over his suffering. I should be bothered by it. I should remember that somewhere somebody probably loves this kid, and would be crushed if he was killed. If I don’t care about those things, if I reduce people to their politics, how am I better than he is?
This things that disturbs me most is one word that I believe has been mostly overlooked:
That’s the key word, after all. That’s what made the kid in the video worthy of being beaten and even killed, as far as Carlson was concerned.
But what does it actually mean? In order to correctly judge what Carlson meant, it is necessary to step back and understand the term as Carlson himself defines it.
“Antifa” simply means “Anti-Fascist.” But Antifa is not an organization. There are no members’ lists, no meetings, no headquarters, no budget, no donors.
It can mean anyone who claims to be “Antifa,” anyone who makes flags or dresses in black and invokes the name. At the most concrete, it might refer to people who take typically non-violent action in protest of fascism. While there was a single homicide committed by a self-identified anti-fascist in 2020, that’s the only such case in 25 years (as opposed to a few dozen murders by right-wingers nearly every single year).
But that’s not what Tucker Carlson was referring to, because conservatives like Carlson reject that definition of “Antifa,” as it is too limited. That’s of no use when you are trying to instill fear in millions.
More generally, “Antifa,” as I noted earlier, simply means anyone who opposes fascism. However, that is also not what Carlson refers to, as this would include a large number of moderates and conservatives, not to mention pretty much every WWII veteran.
No, to Tucker Carlson, “Antifa” refers to nothing less than any particular liberal. Or, perhaps more accurately, any particular liberal who makes protest in public.
Remember, to conservatives, no such thing as a “peaceful liberal protester” exists. All liberal protesters, especially BLM, are terrorists thugs. Every single liberal protest is intended as an orgy of violence in which entire cities are burned to the ground.
It’s a handy way to vilify the opposition—if you’re a liberal and you protest, then you’re a terrorist.
Now, come back to Carlson’s writing:
A group of Trump guys surrounded an Antifa kid and started pounding the living shit out of him.
So, who were the “Trump guys” beating up?
Now that we have worked out what “Antifa” means to Carlson, the answer is a young liberal protester. That was his crime, that was his sin. He was a liberal, and he took to the streets in protest. That now warrants a beating, and possibly death.
Not that this is shocking. Right-wingers have been advocating violence against liberal protesters for some time. Remember when Trump told his angry crowd of supporters at a rally to “knock the crap out of” liberal protesters? He even promised to pay the legal fees of anyone who did his bidding.
After a liberal protester, Heather Heyer, was run over and killed by a white supremacist terrorist, republicans in Oklahoma and Iowa passed laws to legally protect people who run over protesters, with many other red states considering similar bills. This is unmistakably a direct threat to liberal protesters, an open encouragement to injure and kill liberals on the street.
So to Tucker Carlson and like-minded republicans, the simple act of liberals protestering merits a death sentence.
Yet suddenly I found myself rooting for the mob against the man, hoping they’d hit him harder, kill him. I really wanted them to hurt the kid. I could taste it.
Why? Because the “kid” was a liberal and was exercising his freedom of speech. That was the totality of his crime. That drives conservatives to such heights of offense and outrage that they can literally taste their thirst for violence, to the extent of murder.
And that’s what really chills me about all of this.
It is that Carlson and potentially tens of millions of others right-wingers are now at the point where they feel that liberals should be killed in the street for simply speaking their minds.