Conspiracies and Climate Denial – Carlson Takes Fox Audience Down the Worm Hole

August 19, 2022

Report from respected tech writer Charlie Warzel notes that for some years now, Fox New’s Tucker Carlson has been cribbing strategies from conspiracy monger, Climate and Sandy Hook Shooting denier, Alex Jones.
During these years, Carlson has, on a parallel track, decided that leading his viewers farther down the conspiracy rabbit hole is a good way to draw eyeballs.
Jone’s twisted insights brought him a massive audience and huge sales of quack remedies and survival foods for increasingly paranoid audiences. Similarly, Carlson has focused on conspiracy theories about climate science and renewable energy, as well as, until recently, a creepy devotion to Vladimir Putin.


Charlie Warzel, a former technology writer for the New York Times and Buzzfeed, joined the Bulwark Podcast on Tuesday and was asked by host Charlie Sykes to explain the relationship between Fox News’s top-rated host Tucker Carlson and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

“So Jones has just gone from an absolutely absurd figure who should, in a rational, you know, completely fictitious Earth 2.0 be a pariah to being a role model, even for Tucker Carlson. What is the relationship between Tucker Carlson and Alex Jones?” Sykes asked Warzel about halfway through the podcast.

“Yeah, it’s I mean, and there’s a lot we don’t know that may actually be revealed from the messages in his phone, which have been turned over to certain committees,” Warzel began, noting that during Jones’s recent defamation trial, where he was found liable for some $49 million in damages, his text messages were inadvertently handed over to the plaintiff’s lawyer.

Those text messages were then requested by the House Jan. 6 committee, in which Jones has been a central figure.

“Carlson and the raving Infowars ranter trade text messages on a daily basis, according to two people familiar with their relationship,” the Daily Beast reportedlast week, adding, “If made public, these sources said, the text messages would be ‘highly embarrassing’ for Carlson.”

Warzel went on to describe a source of his who worked at Jones’s conspiracy theory show, InfoWars, and noted that the source, name Josh, once told him about a visit by Carlson.

“And he, during that time, told me sort of out of the blue that, you know, one time in, I want to say it was 2016, I might have that wrong, it’s in my notes, Tucker visited the InfoWars offices in Austin, Texas, and kind of palled around for the day with Jones,” Warzel said.

“And Jones was showing him 911 videos trying to get him to, you know, to come around to the 911 conspiracy theory. But as it was described to me, it was this sort of, kind of friendly, collegial time. And, well, Josh, the former Infowars employee, isn’t sure whether, you know, Tucker was there to like, pick up, you know, tips and tricks about how to do his job. It’s very clear that he sees Alex as some kind of contemporary,” he continued,

“Right. Like he might not say that, but it’s very clear that, you know, they’re in the same general business,” Warzel continued, adding:

And so, you know, what Josh told me is he sees bits of Alex in what Tucker does, and he sees it increasingly, which I think is important, that there’s more and more being cribbed from that playbook.

And the thing that I pointed out was Alex is popular, or Alex gets his popularity to crossover sometimes to the mainstream when he’s outlandish.

Right. So it’s almost like this Trojan Horse for some of the ideas. You know, Alex Jones’s most famous clip is he’s yelling about chemicals in the water that are turning frogs gay. Right. And he’s screaming about it. And it’s it was for a very long time on the Internet, this viral clip, because it’s ridiculous. But at the heart of it is a conspiracy theory

Cutting edge psychology has identified the mechanisms that draw and hold audiences, especially among those emotionally vulnerable, or just pummeled by the rapid pace of change in the age of climate and covid. The rise of preposterous conspiracy theories among heavy internet users tracks with the documented impacts of media on brain chemistry.

Scammers like Jones, and now, Carlson, have been clever enough to capture this effect as a marketing strategy – but the effects on democracy, and the nation’s mental health, have been major, and destructive.

NBC News:

Moreover, the internet platforms through which most QAnon followers consume content are deliberately structured to sustain user engagement and foster a kind of addiction. In fact, these online QAnon experiences seem to engage the same brain structures responsible for addiction, as solving the “puzzles” revealed by conspiracy theories may prompt pleasure-driving dopamine hits.

After mainstream platforms booted many QAnon followers, other even more addictive platforms filled the void. These channels are echo chambers, so hooked people only see information that confirms what they already believe, pulling them further down the proverbial rabbit hole of conspiracy theories.

Crucially, just like drug hits, QAnon offers a quick “fix” for feelings of loneliness, fear and anger that those in pain want to alleviate. Individuals who seek out online communities often do so because they feel isolated and lonely. It’s no surprise that QAnon’s following grew immenselyduring Covid-19 lockdowns, when people were limited to socializing online, and QAnon chatrooms in particular offered a chance to vent frustration and outrage. Yet research shows the more time people spend on social media, the more isolated and lonely they feel, repeating an endless loop of trying — and failing — to fulfill social needs.

Because, like a drug of addiction, QAnon content doesn’t actually take the underlying pain away, bigger “highs” are needed to distract from the root causes of despair. Consumers of QAnon content thus experience cravings­­ for new and exciting conspiracies, such as former President Donald Trump’s prophesied return to the White House.

QAnon shares one last parallel with addictive drugs: There is a small but powerful group of individuals who benefit financially and politically from amplifying, spreading and legitimizing QAnon’s conspiracy theories. In the case of drugs, there are also powerful groups with vested interests — the major pharmaceutical companies that presided over a crushing opioid epidemicamong some of the very same communities addicted to QAnon now and dealers pushing illicit drugs on the streets.

Below, before Sandy Hook, Alex Jones honed his craft on climate denial.


4 Responses to “Conspiracies and Climate Denial – Carlson Takes Fox Audience Down the Worm Hole”

  1. jimbills Says:

    Something completely different, and truly remarkable, out of the art world (no idea where to post this, but had to share):

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    A note about cattle “mutilations”:
    When stock animals die in the field, scavengers of all sizes move in. It should be no surprise after a little bit of thought that they go after the parts that are easiest to access first: Eyes, tongue and anus. If a city slicker* comes across the carcass before something big cuts through the hide, the animal looks pretty whole except for some noticeably mutilated parts.

    *Includes suburbanites or really, really stupid rural folk.

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