Tucker Carlson Playing With Fire

Fox News is playing a deadly game with its viewers, and death is winningMay 06, 2021 10:06am EDT by Mark Sumner, Daily Kos Staff

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The United States has enough COVID-19 vaccine to cover every person in the nation—and then some. In every state, pharmacies and clinics are offering shots on a walk-in basis, no appointment necessary. States and localities are offering everything from free beer to a $100 cash payment for those ready to take a jab. Even so, just 57% of adults have been vaccinated, and even as the availability of vaccine has been increasing, the rate of vaccination has been steadily decreasing.

The reason is simple enough: Nearly half of all Republicans refuse to be vaccinated. The reason behind this reason is equally clear: a steady stream of conspiracy theories and false information designed to make the vaccine seem either ineffective or downright dangerous. And no one, on any sort of media, may be more responsible for fueling vaccine aversion than Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.null

Carlson seems to be feeling out the edges of the First Amendment each day, testing, probing, and practically daring anyone to do anything about it. In a way, Carlson is conducting an experiment, or  challenge, like a diver plunging ever deeper into the sea without an oxygen tank. Only Carlson isn’t putting his own life at risk, or even his career—the Fox lawyers are surely standing by with stacks of paper and suitcases of money. 

No. It’s everyone else’s life that Carlson is endangering. And on Wednesday evening, he plunged to new depths.

On his Wednesday program, Carlson again used his platform to push a variety of half truths and full bore lies concerning the vaccines. That included a statement that “3,362 people have died after getting the COVID vaccine in the United States.” He then extends this to “almost four thousand” after speculating over another 300-odd deaths not originally included. Carlson then helpfully breaks this down to “30 people a day” and then claims that the “actual number is almost certainly higher than that, perhaps vastly higher.”

Of course, over 146 million people in the United States have gotten at least one shot, and over 106 million have been fully vaccinated. That last number includes more than 38 million people over the age of 65. In the United States, an average of 2.9 million people die each year—a mortality rate of 869.7deaths per 100,000 people. Given that number, 1,269,762 people who have received the vaccine would be expected to die within a year of that vaccination for reasons that have nothing to do with the vaccine. So the number of vaccine recipients dying each day really should be “vastly higher” than 30. It should be more like 3,480. Because people die. 

Conversely, if only 30 vaccine recipients are actually dying each day … then everyone should really hurry to get the vaccine, because it’s clearly a better medication than the fountain of youth mixed with the philosopher’s stone.

If Carlson left his statement there, it would be simply incredibly deceptive. In fact, Carlson would be engaged in a massive version of the kind of distortion that some of those trying to downplay the pandemic have claimed was going on in death reports. But Carlson didn’t stop there.

After referencing an unconnected paper on the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)—the apparent source of Carlson’s deceptive statistics—Carlson shows that, having been utterly disingenuous in one direction, he can pivot into being just as misleading in another. After popping off his “30 deaths a day” value, Carlson suggests that VAERS catches only 1% of vaccine events. Then … “So what is the real number of people who have been killed or injured by the vaccine? Well, we don’t know that number, nobody does, and we’re not going to speculate about it on this show.”

In a way, it’s a masterclass in stepping around the landmines of truth. Carlson never directly says that the vaccine is causing thousands of deaths a day. He just does everything he possibly can to plant that impression in the minds of his viewers.

There’s no doubt that Tucker Carlson is having a blast. He’s scripting up statements that scare the crap out of people, and doing it in a way that is designed to leave him an easy retreat if a lawsuit or angry prosecutor should happen his way. This is a game he’s playing, one that’s utterly dependent on the broad protections of the First Amendment and the cushy depth of Fox’s legal team. Carlson knows exactly what he can say and walk away sneering.

Unfortunately, other people are not walking away. In a nation where 100% of adults could be vaccinated and COVID-19 could genuinely be brought under control, over 46,000 people tested positive on Wednesday and 740 died—on top of the 3,400 who would have died normally. That’s the cost of the fun Carlson is having.

But somehow, that probably only makes him happier.

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