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Tucker Carlson Is Trying To Convince His Audience “There’s No Such Thing as Hate Speech”

Tucker Carlson makes a mocking face on his Fox News show above a chyron reading "Media: republicans must stop attacking Pelosi"

On his show Tuesday night, Tucker Carlson took on the issue of hate speech, making the bizarre choice to tell his audience of more than 3 million viewers that it straight-up does not exist.

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“What is hate speech by the way?” Tucker said, asking one of his trademark plainly googleable bad-faith questions. “All of a sudden, everyone in the media has, sort of without explaining why, agreed that there’s this thing called hate speech that’s real, and probably actionable. They can find a billion dollars judgment against you if you commit hate speech. But just to remind everyone watching, there’s no such thing as hate speech.”

He continued: “Hate speech is speech people hate, usually the people in power. The truth is, all speech, except speech that encourages people to eminent illegal action, like, ‘Go shoot that guy.’ Short of that, there’s no hate speech. All of it’s allowed under the United States Constitution, which is our final hope.”

There’s so much to unpack here. What Carlson is doing is conflating legal standards for hate speech (which don’t really exist in the U.S.) with all other standards, down to the baseline for being considered a decent human being. (Specific communities and businesses might also have rules against hate speech but that’s not a legal or constitutional issue.)

Carlson starts off talking about the media, and then immediately switches to a generic “they,” claiming “they” can fine you a billion dollars for “hate speech.” If it’s not clear, what he’s alluding to there is the series of rulings made against InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Jones, obviously, was not fined a billion dollars by the media. And he also wasn’t convicted of hate speech. Despite what Carlson says, there are a few different forms of speech that are illegal, including defamation, which is what Jones has been convicted of in numerous courts across the country.

It’s also important that this segment is about the right-wing media’s reaction to the violent assault of Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. That reaction has been called out by much of the mainstream media, as well as some Democratic politicians, for being incredibly vile. Fox News hosts and GOP politicians have spun wild conspiracy theories, cracked jokes online and at rallies, and managed to blame everyone from Nancy Pelosi to Joe Biden for the attack.

It’s not illegal for Donald Trump Jr. to tweet disgusting jokes mocking the assault on an 82-year-old man or for Fox News hosts to give credence to baseless conspiracy theories, but those things are absolutely worth calling out for being subhuman behavior. And it’s that public call-out that Carlson is trying to twist into some sort of legal attack on conservative Americans and the U.S. Constitution.

He, of course, knows the difference. Unfortunately, plenty of his most gullible, grievance-hungry viewers will not.

(image: screencap)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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