On Tuesday, former Fox News host Tucker Carlson announced that he would be sharing his political views on Twitter—just like the rest of us idiots.
Carlson, who was let go by Fox News a few weeks ago, said he would relaunch his show “soon” on the social media website now run by Elon Musk. It has been reported that he’s violating his noncompete clause to do so, at a cost of $25 million. That’s a hefty fee to tweet. (Carlson also has a blue check, but it’s not clear whether he’s paying Musk’s monthly fee for it.) Axios reported Tucker’s lawyers will argue his contract was breached.
Personally—just between this journalist and a guy who talks at the camera about journalists—I’d have kept the $25 million. In my experience, Twitter consists mostly of other journalists and anime avatars yelling at you about Marvel movies they think are cinema (read: 17-year-olds). It’s not a fun, or interesting, crowd.
It is also not terribly user-friendly for Tucker’s usual demographic: old people. Unless there’s a New Deal–style program to teach the elderly to use the app, I don’t think his show will do as well as it did on Fox. Plus, he’s no longer vying for TV numbers, where a few million is great. Instead, he’s competing against a guy with more than 100 million subscribers whose thing is very nicely bribing people.
Tucker is, as his platform demands, framing his move as a battle for speech. In a front-facing video with an odd aspect ratio, he says Twitter is the “only” big platform that still allows full expression. This is part of a larger dissertation on the gaze of the journalist. There’s not much to it:
We’re back. pic.twitter.com/sG5t9gr60O
— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) May 9, 2023
Tucker sort of fiddles around with lowercasing and capitalizing the word “Truth”—squeezing and stress testing it like an undergraduate wading his way, poorly, through Richard Rorty. I found this relatable. But also, you’re supposed to grow out of it. Every decent journalist knows there are shades and difficulties in conveying the facts. (Janet Malcolm said it stronger, and better, in the New Yorker decades ago.) The fact (sorry) is that most journalists try to say true things. It’s hard.
And I guess the other rule is that you try not to sell out or suck up to powerful people. Maybe consider that, too.