In the US, everybody can exercise free speech. People get to say what they want to say, but where do we draw the line? On today’s podcast, Bill Stierle and Tom take a look at Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s statement about the recent Kenosha, Wisconsin shooting that stunned a lot of people both on the left and the right. Carlson appeared to have justified taking up arms in Kenosha. Throwing more fuel to the fire, he also cast a cloud over the authorities and the police by saying they don’t have the protests under control. Join this important discussion about truth, free speech, and free action as Bill and Tom discuss how we, as Americans, can support law and order and justice in a way that aligns with peace, harmony, and cooperation.
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Free Action From Truth And Free Speech
I want to acknowledge for all our audiences out there that we set up in our last episode that we were going to talk about some messages that stuck and didn’t stick from the democratic convention. We’re going to have to get back to that subject because as often happens between recordings, so much volatile things have been happening that demand our attention. What we’re going to talk about is related to the police shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin. We’re not going to talk about the incident itself right now. It’s not that it isn’t getting talked about everywhere because it is. We’re going to talk a little bit about one of your talking head host nemesis or something on Fox News.
It seems like a nemesis, but that’s not the reality. The reality is that he has the same set of needs that I do. The way he pursues his is regrettably, tragically at the expense of others or even at the expense of truth. Everybody in the US gets free speech. At this moment, you get to say what you want to say. That allows you and I to have a show and hopefully, other powers or other people don’t necessarily say, “I don’t like these two people. A, I am going to prevent them from speaking or B, I’m going to not allow them to express their opinion.” Other talking heads, different people on the news that they are granted a larger platform to meet their need for expression and their ideas get to be heard of.
Other people get to rally behind those messages and some advertisers like that. When an advertiser likes something, even if it’s junkie, they don’t matter. The advertisers are interested in the eyeballs and interested in, “There’s a bunch of people following this person so we are going to pay attention and we’re going to do that.” There’s little consequence to the advertiser other than somebody might boycott them for a time. They then can come back around and dip back in six months later and start back in and do something a little bit softer or whatever, do a counter PR campaign and stuff to make themselves look good. With all that said, let’s talk about the challenge of communication with human beings that say things that are a little bit more tragic than we would like.
We’re talking about Fox News’ host Tucker Carlson. He shocked a lot of people on the left and the right with a statement about the Kenosha police shooting. It wasn’t the shooting itself, but some of the aftermath of that and the protest that comes after that and people taking justice or the law and order into their own hands. We now know that there was a seventeen-year-old from neighboring Illinois, twenty miles away from Kenosha who crossed state lines with an AR-15 assault-style rifle and was trying to exercise law and order as probably he saw it or some sort of street justice. He ended up shooting and killing some people tragically. Tucker Carlson said on his show, “How shocked are we that seventeen-year-old with rifles decided they had to maintain order when no one else could?” That’s the first little quote. There’s so much troubling about that. First of all, he’s disrespecting the police who are supposed to be providing law and order. Usually, the conservatives are very much aligned with the police.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how truthful is that sentence?
I think it’s got to be a 1 or 2.
Somebody sees the writing on TV and they’re in a different state and they say to themselves, “Maybe I can go up there and help because you’re not pretty good with this rifle.” To that person and that person’s mind, how true do they think it?
The seventeen-year-old who went up there thought it was probably a 9 or 10.
For Tucker Carlson’s audience, how truthful is that statement?
It’s probably somewhere like a 7 or an 8.Free speech doesn't give you the right to free action. Click To Tweet
That viewer is saying, “I am seeing violence on the TV. My safekeeping brain says violence is happening all the time. Protests are happening all the time. This violence is all in the environment.” Their brain cannot distinguish between one scoop of ice cream and a large container of ice cream of trauma to slip it to the other side. They can’t help their brain to see its larger. The hard part about this and the thing that’s upsetting is that for the last 30 years in the movie industry, action-adventure, violent films, people getting shot, people being disposable on film, how many deaths in the first scene of a James Bond movie? It’s 17 or 27. The body count in this film is 47. People have died in this film, but all of those lives are not valuable because they’re in disagreement with the hero. Tucker Carlson is saying, “We need a hero.”
Tucker Carlson said in the same show, “The authorities stood back and watched Kenosha burn” over the last few nights and asked, “Are we surprised that looting and arson accelerated to murder?” He’s throwing more fuel on this fire, casting that the authorities, which I’m sure he’s referring to the Mayor, the Governor of Wisconsin, who’s a democrat who he’s not a fan of, but also casting that cloud over the police and the authorities saying that they don’t have it under control. He’s saying to people like the seventeen-year-old, “You need to do something about it. Somebody has to do something about it.”
Instead of this person enrolling in the Army or the Marines or the police department, they do the shortcut. They need a hero. They might say to themselves, “I’ve watched all the Avenger movies and here’s the way weapons and things like this are used. I have a weapon so I can be a hero. I can take action. I have permission to do that. I have permission from this broadcaster. In the past, if I want to cherry-pick here, I have permission from the president. Don’t worry about it. If anything happens to you, I’d have a lot of money. I’ll bail you out.” He said that in one of his rallies. People would say, “He was joking then.”
The difference of somebody that is joking from a stage of a comedy shop versus somebody that is standing in a place of authority giving the same message. The overall context of the truth is different. You can’t say a certain thing. I like free speech, like the rest of the folks, but what happens and what’s happening with very important concepts, freedom of speech and truth, they are being turned into an ocean where an individual human being is being plucked in and has to tread water. Our sea of information is making us tread water on freedom. It’s making us tread water on truth. Tom, I don’t know about you but I’m exhausted about being in the middle of this media barrage.
I’m thoroughly exhausted with it too but the scary part is it isn’t stopping at free speech though. Free speech is turning into action and free speech doesn’t give you the right to free action. Does it?
No. I’m glad you made that connection because a big part of these communication tools that we teach is free actions. You got to know where you’re going to swim. Are you going to swim further out to the ocean of isolation and isolationism or are you going to swim to the shore of morality, trust, and mutual respect? That’s where solid ground is. There is no solid ground with globalizing phrases. In Tucker’s first statement, that phrase, is it a global sentence. That all of the violence that’s taking place it’s as if it’s everywhere. Instead of saying, “A cop reacted by shooting someone and people are tired of that action of an African-American.” This is the thing that the rest of the cities in the United States got to watch out for is stop shooting people. Specifically, African-Americans would be nice. If the person is armed and facing you and going to shoot you, then that’s a self-defense piece. That’s called the protective use of force.
If that had happened, there would not be this outrage because clearly, the police would have been defending himself in plain obvious terms. We don’t know all the circumstances of the incident. There are videos and there’s a lot there that doesn’t look good for the police.
This is good. The idea that we don’t know. You and I both watched the video of the officer in Atlanta. It was clear, wasn’t it?
The guy was running away. They were fighting and the guy did take the taser. You got to be careful of we don’t know all the things because that is creating the experience of the doubt instead of the experience of amplifying reality. Shooting a person in the back is not an act of self-defense Tom. Would you allow us to put emphasis on that truth? On a scale of 1 to 10, how true it is?
That’s a 9 or 10.
If the person got shot in the front, then that might bring it maybe down to a little bit like a 7 or a 6. If there was a weapon, then it would be clear. When we say the sentence, we don’t know all the facts. What we’re doing is populating the environment with doubt to our brain and the brain of the audience. You’ll notice that whether it’s on either the left or the right because we’re trying to stay out of the narrative of being biased to say, “You guys are just this.”
Instead of going like, “No, we’re trying to get our brains back into a place of observation. What are we observing?” This means this a little bit more than this other thing and that is what the idea of purchasing truth is about. It’s moving our minds to an observational state and not giving too much weight to the subjective space. All of a sudden, your brain oriented, “I feel much better now.” I’m going to say that I do know enough.
To be clear, I did already believe that the officer’s shooting was wrong and was not justified. I’m not trying to justify what is said here so much. I just want to let everybody understand that I was saying we don’t know everything that that officer was thinking at the moment.
I appreciate that because there might have been other thoughts. Let’s speculate about that. Let’s do his truth now, the victim’s truth. I feel the scales of justice are starting to show back up here. His truth is he’s been trained that this is the way that you’re supposed to act. Now, we’re in big trouble. He’s been trained to, “Huh?” He’s been trained to know and then all of a sudden, it’s like, “He hasn’t been trained to do that.” Your mind started doing what everybody’s brain does. The easiest thing to say right now is, “Dude, get it off your back right now.” It’s interesting that our brain is trained to believe something to jump on and try to formulate as much truth based on what we know.
When we do that, we’re trying to populate a place called mutual understanding. I’m not sure if our brains are working correctly to say, “I want to have compassion and empathy for the police officer and the job they do. The things that they go through as well as the training and non-training that they get about how to deal with small, medium, and large violent situations because they get training on all levels.” Usually, they get a little bit more training on the things that are larger violence than they do on the things that are lower violence. Doesn’t that make sense that they might need some training in lower violence situations?
There might be all kinds of training to deescalate conflict early and they’re not trained for that. At least not as much as they should be.
Let’s stick the landing here. First off, thank you so much for taking the audience and stepping into the micro landmine that you did or quicksand that you did. Because I want to formulate and many people want to formulate the same thing. One of the things that have been delightful about you and I work in together, like the way we’re doing it is that I’ll step into the belief bias and do my best to catch myself on it.
You’ll step into a belief bias and do your best to catch on it. Both of us can call each other on, “Bill, I think you might be missing something over here.” “Thank you so much for that extra piece of evidence over there.” They said it this way. This is the way that that was being translated. In communication, we’ve got to do a better job of seeing the circumstances as well as not let it affect life and death. Deescalate and work better as a community.Individualism is winning over community; it's isolating us. Click To Tweet
Work better in collaboration and cooperation with each other. Be able to train and embrace and things like that. Be careful of these people that they would be given the role of somebody that’s an advocate for a point of view and then they treat it like they’re the broadcaster on a superhero movie talking about the aliens invading and what the Avengers are going to do to defeat these aliens. That’s what some news media has turned into. You and I can go back and go to several different movies and find the clip where a news person or a TV personality is talking about, “The aliens are doing this. We need help with this.”
All of a sudden, “Look at the superhero coming to save the day.” It’s like he’s doing a script from a fake movie and trying to incite a superhero. Who’s the superhero going to be? Who’s the law and order superhero? Trump? The Republicans? The Democrats? When you cast one party as being strong and the other party as being weak, you’re missing the point of one party is overreacting and the other party is trying to create stability without too much collateral. That’s not weak. That’s called governance. Everybody can’t get their needs met all the time. This is where it becomes unsettling. It’s a hard conversation.
Tucker Carlson has amplified this hard conversation and stepped into his own landmine or quicksand. It’s drawing lots of criticism from all sides and a couple of interests are, a person named Blake Hounshell, who’s the editorial director for the politics website Politico said, “Vigilante justice was always one of my greatest worries about the present moment.” Here we have a prominent TV host, a man who had the president’s ear, excusing it and rationalizing it. That’s pointed.
I think he makes a good point there and then there’s one other person, a conservative reporter from The Washington Post named Max Boot. He said, “He is inciting violence and abetting terrorism.” Another person Nikole Hannah-Jones from The New York Times. She’s a New York Times magazine reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize once said that Tucker Carlson just justified the murder of the seventeen-year-old going up there and exercising his own version of law and order.
This is one of the greatest. I’d like to recognize you a little bit here about finding those specific pieces because those specific pieces have weight and gravity to them in reference to the outcome of this type of narrative. By pulling those things forward, it pushes back. Tucker Carlson says one thing on one side and these three messages come back on the other side. The only problem is that neither of those people are turning and moving forward and having something helpful. Let’s go ahead and work on the two quotes that you gave. Let’s rewrite them gently so that they’ll work.
It’ll sound like this, “Are Americans going to stand for the protection of life and the meeting of safety or are Americans whether it’s media, politicians, news anchors, news writers, or newspaper writers, are we going to start talking about America that is collaborative, cooperative and works to create peace instead of one that fan the flames of violence? Are we going to be that America where freedom of speech becomes the ability to have freedom to act violently towards another? Is that the America we would like?” It’s an opening narrative to get the reader to say, “I agree with that point but I need something to do differently than the way I’m thinking and acting right now. I need something different.”
I agree that we do need somebody different. That’s I think what’s missing in a lot of this action we’re seeing of not only the action going on the streets but the reporting going on. It amplifies the sensational aspect of shock.
It amplifies the shocking part of it.
It doesn’t bring about any restoration, does it?
No. I’m glad we’re sticking on the restoration part is that a writer, a newscaster has got to start talking about restoration in the follow-up sentence and what restoration is going to look like. Here’s the way Tucker could have said the same thing in a way that did not increase the violence. Out of Tucker Carlson’s mouth, it might sounded like this. “The need for peace needs to be met. Law and order is a better way to go. Adding more violence into a situation is not how we want to act as Americans. We want to act as Americans to support law and order and justice in a way that’s in alignment with peace, harmony, and cooperation and not make a tragic situation worse.” That gets Tucker Carlson the higher ground.
That’s good but he’s not going to get as much attention for that, which I think is part of his point is as a Fox News host in prime time, he’s trying to get eyeballs.
All of a sudden, you’re into a different discussion which is how capitalism influences, marketplace influences, eyeballs influence what the person says. There have been many people that famously quoted, “I am not interested in the truth. If the voter doesn’t believe the truth. I’m interested in the voter and what the voter believes. If the voter believes something false, then I’m going to tell them something false so that they’ll vote for me. I am not going to fight the voter’s belief structure.” If you think about that, that is not a better angel’s narrative. That’s a, “I’m taking the person where they are to get their votes so that I can get in.” Regrettably, that quote has been modified from something that Newt Gingrich said to a reporter, “I am not interested in the truth. I’m not interested in changing that voter into truth. I’m interested in getting the voter to vote for me.”
In Tucker Carlson’s case, he’s interested in getting more people to watch him and for the capitalist reasons you mentioned. There’s something else I think going on there because Tucker Carlson is equating free speech with free action in a way that’s scary and that is a false equivalence. He runs his mouth off saying whatever he wants and often he gets away with it until a sponsor or multiple sponsors say, “I’m no longer advertising on your show because what you’re saying is over a line, I’m not willing to be associated with.”
How do we get ethics and morality to show up when all of a sudden there’s this pot of gold sitting over here? You took us down that road again. It’s a good road though, but it’s a place that we could pick up Tom, which is important here. This is a wonderful road that you opened up. There’s a pot of gold over here. All you have to do is say, and do things in alignment with that pot of gold, because that pot of gold allows your audiences to show up.
It’s not called the Tucker Carlson subjective experience. It’s not Tucker Carlson’s I get to say what I want to piss people off-hour. It’s not talking about that. I’m this is the Tucker Carlson opinion hour. I’m going to make things that are partially true into things that are 100% true by the way I speak about them. We talked about the Overton window on several different episodes and it reminds me of that at this moment. His job is to move the field of view so that the other side has to stretch into this alternate reality of violence.
That’s sad and disheartening
There’s a lot of different places for us to land here, but having community takeover and compassion takeover, then it’s like, “What is this community doing? What are these police officers doing? How is this community go to get them into the place of restoration?” That’s what media and that’s what the government needs to talk about. This community. What community? That community. Where? Wisconsin. That city. That’s what they need to do. The community needs to rally in that city. We don’t need any help from Illinois. Thank you so much. Stay home, go to target practice. Don’t come here. That community needs to heal by itself. Portland needs to heal by itself.
That community needs to come into restoration about that yet people are mad and they want to be treated in a way that’s healthy. Let’s take a look at truth and community about how we’re having some trouble with truth and community. That might be something that I can imagine that we can go on there because I don’t know about you but I think individualism is winning over the community. It’s isolating us. COVID is also a supporting that process of all of us stuck in a home and being individualized but you and I are trying to try to restore community with all the people that read to this show.
That makes a lot of sense. We’ve got to get to a place of community restoration and community support. That’s what’s largely missing here. It’s too much and it’s interesting because we’re supposedly in more of this 40-year we cycle than a me cycle. All of this vigilante justice is more me than we. There’s so much to talk about.
I appreciate this. Thanks for hanging out here with me in this space and setting all this up because we’ve been having a great time being able to take complex issues and to communicate with them a little bit more in the center of where it needs to be communicated, the place of observation, without judgment in the best way we can.
Also, to prevent the truth from being purchased heavily which is what’s happening. Thanks, Bill. I appreciate it.
Likewise. Thanks, Tom.
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