X Close

Tucker Carlson is wasted on Twitter

Carlson's Fox viewership ranged from grandmothers to groypers. Credit: Getty

May 10, 2023 - 6:15pm

Until last week, the frisson of watching Tucker Carlson Tonight came from knowing that millions of families were gathered around doing exactly the same thing. His charm, humour and willingness to cock a snook at establishment shibboleths had a rare cross-generational cut-through. But this opportunity to appeal to Appalachian grandmothers as much as twenty-something New Yorkers is now a thing of the past. Carlson is taking his show to Twitter, a decision he announced in a video posted on the platform, and in doing so risks losing the magic that made it great.

The reason for the move was reportedly Fox’s failure to protect First Amendment rights to free speech. But what is the use of freedom if your audience becomes restricted to existing freedom fighters? Elon Musk has appointed himself as the philosopher king of the anti-woke, and within his Twitter sphere Carlson will be mainly preaching to the converted. Anyone who hasn’t self-exiled to Mastodon and subscribes to his show will surely be on side already.

Of Twitter’s users, 83% are under the age of 50, while only a quarter of Americans have an account at all. By leaving the small screen, Carlson is abandoning millions who still consider the medium of television high-tech. No longer will average Americans catch Tucker rolling on the screens of dentists and diners. Fox has successfully robbed him of his ambient power, the pervasiveness that secured him a spot at the centre of US culture.

Carlson’s great skill lay in taking terminally online discourse and translating it for normal people without an anonymous account and doomscrolling addiction. Who else with his kind of mainstream platform would include segments on “testicle-tanning” and feature as guests pseudonymous shitposters? Now that he’s swimming in Twitter’s waters, it is unlikely that the show will have the same bite. Carlson’s trademark impish style relied on positioning himself as an outsider inside the machine or, sometimes simultaneously, as the acceptable face of dangerous ideas. Instead of teetering on the tightrope of prestige anti-establishment thinking, the tribes feel fixed; and it is Elon and Tucker versus the mainstream. 

When Joe Rogan left YouTube for a $200m deal at Spotify, something about his show changed. Video podcasting, a genre Rogan had practically invented, was relegated to a sidebar on Spotify. There were new barriers to listening, no chance for his audience to comment, all while controversial episodes started to disappear by executive order. On the free speech front, he was less at the mercy of the YouTube strike system, but also far trickier to stumble across for the politically homeless. 

Ultimately, Rogan had only moved from one alternative media platform to another. Emigrating from television to Twitter might break the best thing about Tucker Carlson’s show: the joyful danger of thriving where you’re not supposed to be.


is UnHerd’s Senior Producer and Presenter for UnHerd TV.

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

20 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago

This is presented as if Carlson just made a bad decision. Until he’s released from exclusivity in his Fox contract, he actually has little choice. Fox doesn’t just want him off their network, they want him silenced and not competing with them. Once the litigation with Fox plays out, assuming he gets what he wants, he will be free to return to television. This move also reduces Fox’s leverage – now he at least has an outlet for his work while they litigate.

T Bone
T Bone
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

Agree that this allows him to leverage Foxweiser but I think he’s probably done with Network TV. He’s already been fired from every Cable Network. I can’t see him going to Newsmax where the market reach is minimal. Newsmax isn’t even carried in a lot of places. NewsNation actually isn’t that bad but I can’t see him sharing a network with Cuomo.

Twitter seems like a pretty low risk move. He can always do the Solo thing somewhere else.

T Bone
T Bone
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

Agree that this allows him to leverage Foxweiser but I think he’s probably done with Network TV. He’s already been fired from every Cable Network. I can’t see him going to Newsmax where the market reach is minimal. Newsmax isn’t even carried in a lot of places. NewsNation actually isn’t that bad but I can’t see him sharing a network with Cuomo.

Twitter seems like a pretty low risk move. He can always do the Solo thing somewhere else.

Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago

This is presented as if Carlson just made a bad decision. Until he’s released from exclusivity in his Fox contract, he actually has little choice. Fox doesn’t just want him off their network, they want him silenced and not competing with them. Once the litigation with Fox plays out, assuming he gets what he wants, he will be free to return to television. This move also reduces Fox’s leverage – now he at least has an outlet for his work while they litigate.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
1 year ago

It’s unclear to me that there is a place for him on cable TV. He has been red-pilled, and once that happens, it is impossible to be true to yourself by keeping quiet. Once you see it, you want everybody to see it because you realise how close we are to totalitarianism. He’s not going to go back to confining himself to woke-baiting for the entertainment of Fox’s audience.
I think he’ll get around 10 million viewers once the initial fuss dies down, about 3* his cable audience. You’re right that he’ll be preaching to the converted. Maybe it was also the converted who tuned in on cable?
It’s not clear to me that Mark Steyn’s show, which I catch some episodes of (do watch his interview with RFK Jr a couple of days ago), is thriving on his own website. I used to watch it regularly on GB News. I think Mark should move to Twitter to improve his viewership too.
Why? Because having muddled through a shaky start, Musk has big plans for Twitter as a platform, and I’m pretty sure he will succeed in implementing them.
I still watch and listen to Rogan on Spotify. YouTube would censor his stuff. I don’t know whether he will consider moving to Twitter too.
It is dangerous for us in the UK, because I suspect Twitter will eventually be blocked here. Musk announced today that encrypted DMs are coming very soon now, so he is going straight up against our censorship bill.

T Bone
T Bone
1 year ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

Agree with the majority here. But I would qualify your comment about being “close to totalitarianism.” I think we’re already there. This is by far the most totalizing movement in History. Never has the Global Means of Production and Knowledge been seized at this scale. The institutions are gone. The only good news is the Hivemind Governance structure is riddled with contradictions it can’t resolve.

At some point it’s just going to collapse like the Berlin Wall on a grander scale. When that day will be, nobody knows but it will happen. The more localities and Republics that can function outside the Coerced Economy the more obvious it will be who is intentionally dismantling the rest of western society. My guess is the Left will figure out pretty soon that this isn’t the inclusive, sustainable future it envisioned.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
1 year ago
Reply to  T Bone

After I wrote it I reread it and realised I could have put that better. I didn’t want to edit it though.
I agree; we are there already. I have seen a few hopeful signs that the Left are starting to understand that all this is not just about evil capitalists.
The optimal route to quickly bringing down the Berlin Wall, as you put it, will involve ditching our mobile tracking device, biometric ID confirmation and soon-to-be QR code passport for day-to-day existence. I’m prepared to do it, but I’m not optimistic about many others doing so. I’m not trying to stigmatise the young because the fact is that they have grown up with them. What I have just written is incomprehensible to them; not going to happen.

leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
1 year ago
Reply to  T Bone

I agree to a large extent but we’re not facing (yet) the physical discomfort of even East Germany circa 1970 (see “The Same Sky,” btw, a terrified German miniseries on Walter Presents), let alone Stalin’s USSR.

But, in terms of violence, I believe we’re beginning to see more selective punishment for manufactured crimes, including self-defense (see man just sentenced to 25 yrs in Texas, of all places, for justifiable homicide IMO for shooting an armed Antifa man w/ mob surrounding and climbing on his car threatening to pull him out and beat him). Or standing at the wrong protest where the temporary orange off-the-grass cones have been removed (see J-6) where literally violent & thieving protestors at “correct” ones go free.

I will say, as a “3rd generation anti-racist,” as John McWhorter would say, that in America at least Black people lived under a form of this regime for a few centuries, so this govt sponsored and directed stochastic terrorism isn’t entirely new in the US, but we had mercifully moved past it by 1980 or thereabouts and we’re now seeing a deliberate reversal and targeting of anyone who rises in a meritocracy, particularly Asians.

What’s uniquely terrifying, in this new variation, to me at least, is the panopticon-like self-imposed surveillance, combined w/ public surveillance plus the ease of putting it anywhere–and, that AI-generated surveillance digitization data collection & analytics have a broader totalitarian reach than everyday KGB surveillance could ever have. It’s low cost and high return.

We’re not at the point where devices like that new “hate law” in Ireland are enforced and your cloud-based diaries & private emails are analyzed for thought crime–and worse, that 1 in 10 are picked up and left to rot in solitary or worse, in prison max, including women stuck with male cross-dressing predators in SuperMax. But it won’t be hard to implement.

Last edited 1 year ago by leculdesac suburbia
T Bone
T Bone
1 year ago

The Dystopian Tech surveillance state is real and we’re looking at something well beyond the dialectic of 1984 and Brave New World. Side note- Who knew Karl Marx would be the greatest catalyst for Monopoly Capitalism in human history!

But I look at it like this, at the end of the day Human Nature is the same. They can try to implement Transhumanism that turns the population into compliant bots but the Tech they created poses an equal risk to them and they know it.

People that believe in Machiavelian Ends Justify the Means Ideologies are always at risk of getting burned by their own creation. They don’t inspire others and once their usefulness is called into question they’ll be taken down by the same movement they created for personal gain. There’s no such thing as Technocratic Loyalty…only obedience and the obedience only goes as far as quality of life that can be produced. A society where everyone is depressed and on mind-altering anti-depressants is due to break down.

I tend to believe even MOST tyrannical authoritarians don’t actually want to suppress liberty. They just believe they have Absolute Knowledge (Gnosis) and are uniquely positioned to save humanity and can’t understand why others don’t see it, because they lack empathy more than most (despite the virtue signaling) about Love and Compassion.

The ESG movement thinks it can create Productive Socialism or State Capitalism but every state that opts out foils “holistic integration” into the Universal Oneness. The future is likely Opt-In and every Opt-Out even at the local level scrambles the data collection mechanism they need to fully implement the vision.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
1 year ago
Reply to  T Bone

Good post. I think we are of similar mind on this.
As RFK Jr says, “Nobody ever complied their way out of tyranny.”

T Bone
T Bone
1 year ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

I don’t agree with RFK on the welfare state but almost everything else he says is spot on. Would have no problem crossing partisan lines for that guy. I tend to think our next great President is going to have to come out of the Democratic Party since 40% of the population simply will not vote Republican under any circumstances.

T Bone
T Bone
1 year ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

I don’t agree with RFK on the welfare state but almost everything else he says is spot on. Would have no problem crossing partisan lines for that guy. I tend to think our next great President is going to have to come out of the Democratic Party since 40% of the population simply will not vote Republican under any circumstances.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
1 year ago
Reply to  T Bone

Good post. I think we are of similar mind on this.
As RFK Jr says, “Nobody ever complied their way out of tyranny.”

T Bone
T Bone
1 year ago

The Dystopian Tech surveillance state is real and we’re looking at something well beyond the dialectic of 1984 and Brave New World. Side note- Who knew Karl Marx would be the greatest catalyst for Monopoly Capitalism in human history!

But I look at it like this, at the end of the day Human Nature is the same. They can try to implement Transhumanism that turns the population into compliant bots but the Tech they created poses an equal risk to them and they know it.

People that believe in Machiavelian Ends Justify the Means Ideologies are always at risk of getting burned by their own creation. They don’t inspire others and once their usefulness is called into question they’ll be taken down by the same movement they created for personal gain. There’s no such thing as Technocratic Loyalty…only obedience and the obedience only goes as far as quality of life that can be produced. A society where everyone is depressed and on mind-altering anti-depressants is due to break down.

I tend to believe even MOST tyrannical authoritarians don’t actually want to suppress liberty. They just believe they have Absolute Knowledge (Gnosis) and are uniquely positioned to save humanity and can’t understand why others don’t see it, because they lack empathy more than most (despite the virtue signaling) about Love and Compassion.

The ESG movement thinks it can create Productive Socialism or State Capitalism but every state that opts out foils “holistic integration” into the Universal Oneness. The future is likely Opt-In and every Opt-Out even at the local level scrambles the data collection mechanism they need to fully implement the vision.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago
Reply to  T Bone

The left has two main problems, the first of which is their blindness to the embarrassing fact that they are no longer changing peoples’ minds. Quite the opposite, in fact. So they have a perception problem. They aren’t perceived anymore as a solution to anything. The second problem is their total lack of practical skills. They theorize and plan mightily, yet every stab at putting their ideas into action results in comical backfires and embarrassing, mortifying failure. Hence, their obsessive emphasis on controlling information. Old-school communists, being mostly working-class, brutally enforced their rules. Today’s lefties are just a bunch of lace curtains trying to hide their complete lack of practical political talent.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
1 year ago
Reply to  T Bone

After I wrote it I reread it and realised I could have put that better. I didn’t want to edit it though.
I agree; we are there already. I have seen a few hopeful signs that the Left are starting to understand that all this is not just about evil capitalists.
The optimal route to quickly bringing down the Berlin Wall, as you put it, will involve ditching our mobile tracking device, biometric ID confirmation and soon-to-be QR code passport for day-to-day existence. I’m prepared to do it, but I’m not optimistic about many others doing so. I’m not trying to stigmatise the young because the fact is that they have grown up with them. What I have just written is incomprehensible to them; not going to happen.

leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
1 year ago
Reply to  T Bone

I agree to a large extent but we’re not facing (yet) the physical discomfort of even East Germany circa 1970 (see “The Same Sky,” btw, a terrified German miniseries on Walter Presents), let alone Stalin’s USSR.

But, in terms of violence, I believe we’re beginning to see more selective punishment for manufactured crimes, including self-defense (see man just sentenced to 25 yrs in Texas, of all places, for justifiable homicide IMO for shooting an armed Antifa man w/ mob surrounding and climbing on his car threatening to pull him out and beat him). Or standing at the wrong protest where the temporary orange off-the-grass cones have been removed (see J-6) where literally violent & thieving protestors at “correct” ones go free.

I will say, as a “3rd generation anti-racist,” as John McWhorter would say, that in America at least Black people lived under a form of this regime for a few centuries, so this govt sponsored and directed stochastic terrorism isn’t entirely new in the US, but we had mercifully moved past it by 1980 or thereabouts and we’re now seeing a deliberate reversal and targeting of anyone who rises in a meritocracy, particularly Asians.

What’s uniquely terrifying, in this new variation, to me at least, is the panopticon-like self-imposed surveillance, combined w/ public surveillance plus the ease of putting it anywhere–and, that AI-generated surveillance digitization data collection & analytics have a broader totalitarian reach than everyday KGB surveillance could ever have. It’s low cost and high return.

We’re not at the point where devices like that new “hate law” in Ireland are enforced and your cloud-based diaries & private emails are analyzed for thought crime–and worse, that 1 in 10 are picked up and left to rot in solitary or worse, in prison max, including women stuck with male cross-dressing predators in SuperMax. But it won’t be hard to implement.

Last edited 1 year ago by leculdesac suburbia
UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago
Reply to  T Bone

The left has two main problems, the first of which is their blindness to the embarrassing fact that they are no longer changing peoples’ minds. Quite the opposite, in fact. So they have a perception problem. They aren’t perceived anymore as a solution to anything. The second problem is their total lack of practical skills. They theorize and plan mightily, yet every stab at putting their ideas into action results in comical backfires and embarrassing, mortifying failure. Hence, their obsessive emphasis on controlling information. Old-school communists, being mostly working-class, brutally enforced their rules. Today’s lefties are just a bunch of lace curtains trying to hide their complete lack of practical political talent.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

I can see why you say that TC has been red pilled.
I saw a clip of him speaking where it as clear that he found it difficult to understand how he had blithely bought in to and repeated establishment lines which he should have challenging

T Bone
T Bone
1 year ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

Agree with the majority here. But I would qualify your comment about being “close to totalitarianism.” I think we’re already there. This is by far the most totalizing movement in History. Never has the Global Means of Production and Knowledge been seized at this scale. The institutions are gone. The only good news is the Hivemind Governance structure is riddled with contradictions it can’t resolve.

At some point it’s just going to collapse like the Berlin Wall on a grander scale. When that day will be, nobody knows but it will happen. The more localities and Republics that can function outside the Coerced Economy the more obvious it will be who is intentionally dismantling the rest of western society. My guess is the Left will figure out pretty soon that this isn’t the inclusive, sustainable future it envisioned.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

I can see why you say that TC has been red pilled.
I saw a clip of him speaking where it as clear that he found it difficult to understand how he had blithely bought in to and repeated establishment lines which he should have challenging

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
1 year ago

It’s unclear to me that there is a place for him on cable TV. He has been red-pilled, and once that happens, it is impossible to be true to yourself by keeping quiet. Once you see it, you want everybody to see it because you realise how close we are to totalitarianism. He’s not going to go back to confining himself to woke-baiting for the entertainment of Fox’s audience.
I think he’ll get around 10 million viewers once the initial fuss dies down, about 3* his cable audience. You’re right that he’ll be preaching to the converted. Maybe it was also the converted who tuned in on cable?
It’s not clear to me that Mark Steyn’s show, which I catch some episodes of (do watch his interview with RFK Jr a couple of days ago), is thriving on his own website. I used to watch it regularly on GB News. I think Mark should move to Twitter to improve his viewership too.
Why? Because having muddled through a shaky start, Musk has big plans for Twitter as a platform, and I’m pretty sure he will succeed in implementing them.
I still watch and listen to Rogan on Spotify. YouTube would censor his stuff. I don’t know whether he will consider moving to Twitter too.
It is dangerous for us in the UK, because I suspect Twitter will eventually be blocked here. Musk announced today that encrypted DMs are coming very soon now, so he is going straight up against our censorship bill.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago

No…. The MSM dinosaurs are dying off, the nimble and fast rodents of Odessy, Rumble, spottily, Twitter, and many more, and with a groomed for no strikes Youtube episode, the independent sourcing of news is growing exponentially. He will turn up on all these sources, and grow even bigger. Many headed hydra-esk.ï»ż

Titanic booted him, put his luggage back on the dock and sailed off…. But better ships are being built daily. Many smaller and faster and independent ones – which will last into the future…

Till deep fake basically makes all information Babble……

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Or at least that is the hope of Fancy Bear and the Pawn Storm.

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Or at least that is the hope of Fancy Bear and the Pawn Storm.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago

No…. The MSM dinosaurs are dying off, the nimble and fast rodents of Odessy, Rumble, spottily, Twitter, and many more, and with a groomed for no strikes Youtube episode, the independent sourcing of news is growing exponentially. He will turn up on all these sources, and grow even bigger. Many headed hydra-esk.ï»ż

Titanic booted him, put his luggage back on the dock and sailed off…. But better ships are being built daily. Many smaller and faster and independent ones – which will last into the future…

Till deep fake basically makes all information Babble……

Jasmine Birtles
Jasmine Birtles
1 year ago

I don’t think that Fox viewers can be described as a cross section of society. Frankly I think that Carlson has a greater potential to be watched by a diverse audience than he did at Fox. I have many friends in the States who wouldn’t dream of watching a second of Fox but they might (holding their noses) take a peak at something on Twitter.

Jasmine Birtles
Jasmine Birtles
1 year ago

I don’t think that Fox viewers can be described as a cross section of society. Frankly I think that Carlson has a greater potential to be watched by a diverse audience than he did at Fox. I have many friends in the States who wouldn’t dream of watching a second of Fox but they might (holding their noses) take a peak at something on Twitter.

leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
1 year ago

Beautifully written, but Fox ousted Tucker, not the other way around.

Don’t underestimate the ability of those “Appalachian grandmas” (and suburban ones) to start Twitter accounts. Twitter is just AOL Chat circa 2001 and those grandmas’ grandkids will be more than happy to help Grandma set up an online account on her laptop, which has a screen much more conducive to use than an itty-bitty mobile app. Musk may have found a way to finally de-couple the cable-watchers from mainstream cable news once and for all, and if so, he’s done yet another wonderful service for contemporary humanity.

Last edited 1 year ago by leculdesac suburbia
Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago

On Twitter I see people saying they have helped seniors use their phones. tablets and laptops to get Tucker’s feeds. Some even pick up on others once they learn how. I’m 83 and built my first computer back in the late 70’s and was on-line since.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago

On Twitter I see people saying they have helped seniors use their phones. tablets and laptops to get Tucker’s feeds. Some even pick up on others once they learn how. I’m 83 and built my first computer back in the late 70’s and was on-line since.

leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
1 year ago

Beautifully written, but Fox ousted Tucker, not the other way around.

Don’t underestimate the ability of those “Appalachian grandmas” (and suburban ones) to start Twitter accounts. Twitter is just AOL Chat circa 2001 and those grandmas’ grandkids will be more than happy to help Grandma set up an online account on her laptop, which has a screen much more conducive to use than an itty-bitty mobile app. Musk may have found a way to finally de-couple the cable-watchers from mainstream cable news once and for all, and if so, he’s done yet another wonderful service for contemporary humanity.

Last edited 1 year ago by leculdesac suburbia
N T
N T
1 year ago

In the US, he was on Fox News. That’s pay TV, and pay TV has declining subscribers. The audience was already constrained.
Going to Twitter, since he was yanked off-the-air (the author seems to be suggesting that the move to Twitter was Carlson’s choice) is a double-power move. Fox cannot control his podcast, and he undercuts them by going rogue to an audience that does not have to pay for the content.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  N T

Fox News is on YouTube

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  N T

Fox News is on YouTube

N T
N T
1 year ago

In the US, he was on Fox News. That’s pay TV, and pay TV has declining subscribers. The audience was already constrained.
Going to Twitter, since he was yanked off-the-air (the author seems to be suggesting that the move to Twitter was Carlson’s choice) is a double-power move. Fox cannot control his podcast, and he undercuts them by going rogue to an audience that does not have to pay for the content.

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
1 year ago

How’s this Tucker’s fault though?

He had no choice!

Last edited 1 year ago by Fran Martinez
Nathan Ngumi
Nathan Ngumi
1 year ago

Great reflection…
Only time will tell whether Tucker Carlson will remain a right-wing renegade or become part of the establishment he rails against.
There is a trade-off: Twitter will give him a much wider audience (Fox is American, Twitter is international) and also more opportunities to experiment (regular video posts of the show, Twitter Spaces for interaction with fan base and live streams, etc.); but will this compensate for the loss of older American viewers who do not use social media?