by Simon Cottee
Friday, 11
November 2022
Spotted
13:00

Is Tucker Carlson a “stochastic terrorist”?

There's a fashionable new term in town, and it isn't helpful
by Simon Cottee
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused Tucker Carlson of ‘stochastic terrorism’

‘Stochastic terrorism’ has become a fashionable term in recent months. I first came across it in May after a midwit terrorism scholar used the expression in relation to the racially-motivated rampage shooting in Buffalo, New York, an attack which killed ten people. 

As far as I could decipher, “stochastic terrorism” is a specific form of incitement whereby the inciter — the “stochastic terrorist” — uses coded language to provoke others into committing acts of terrorism (i.e. violence against civilians for political purposes). 


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The academic also claimed that the Buffalo massacre, along with several other recent far-Right attacks, was an example of stochastic terrorism, because it was “clearly motivated by the rhetoric of the Tucker Carlsons of the world”. This was a reference to Carlson’s theory that U.S. liberals “are trying to replace the current electorate with new, more obedient voters from the Third World”. The tweet thread went on: “With a wink and a nod, he dehumanises and demonises the big, scary ‘other’ and justifies hurting them”

Somehow, this paper-thin idea has spread: on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused Fox News’ Carlson of being a stochastic terrorist. “I can tell you 110%,” she said in a radio interview, “one of the largest sources of death threats that I get is Tucker Carlson…Every time that dude puts my name in his mouth — the next day — I mean, this is like what stochastic terrorism is.”  

Readers will by now have cottoned on to the idea that the stochastic terrorist is not your typical, run-of-the-mill terrorist. For a start, he doesn’t actually commit any acts of terrorism. He doesn’t explicitly call for acts of terrorism. Nor does he even openly justify acts of terrorism. He’s far too sly for that, you see. Indeed, it’s all intricately nuanced: he winks, he nods, he implies. He’s a sort of master puppeteer, commanding his followers to carry out his indirect but monstrous directives. In a very deep, theological sense, he is actually the apotheosis of the satanic figure in the closing chapter of the Quran: the mischievous “tempter who whispers in the hearts of men”, inspiring vice “with flowery discourses by way of deception”.  

Stochastic terrorism is less a coherent concept than a rhetorical hammer to traduce political opponents and justify coercive social control measures against them, especially censorship. At the moment, it is progressives who are wielding this instrument to delegitimise anyone who doesn’t subscribe to elite-progressive pieties. But not so long ago it was the far-Right who brandished it, subjecting conservative Muslims to the same hermeneutics of suspicion that progressives currently direct at conservatives. 

Indeed, in the 9/11 era there was a whole Right-leaning discourse on how some Muslims were practising taqiyyah — the art of concealing one’s faith, or lying, in defence of Islam. The Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan was often accused of trying to hide his reactionary views; he was “slippery” and “double-faced”. Carlson has become a secular version of this, although I don’t remember anyone calling Ramadan a stochastic terrorist.  

This is all part of a broader political realignment, where, as Ross Douthat has recently pointed out, “conservatives and progressives have traded attitudes and impulses”. One striking aspect of this is how progressives have jettisoned their earlier sceptical wisdom about the perils of the national security state and wholeheartedly embraced the demonising, state-sanctioned rhetoric of danger, terrorism and extremism.  

For Carlson’s progressive critics, it clearly doesn’t matter that he has never called for or tried to justify acts of murderous violence. What instead matters is that Carlson, and others who share similar views, be silenced. The concept of stochastic terrorism is designed to do just that because it allows political partisans to throw the darkest shade at their enemies without ever having to back it up with actual evidence. This must be resisted.

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Jim R
Jim R
2 months ago

I wonder how many death threats Carlson gets every time Cortez puts his name in her mouth? Never mind that – these are not the droids you are looking for.

Zurie Masteema
Zurie Masteema
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim R

You do know that all you’re saying is that Carlson is guilty, but so is Cortez…right? That’s what “whataboutism” does. It’s not a defense or an argument, it’s just a desperate attempt to divert attention away from something you don’t want to talk about.
That said, I would be extremely interested to know how many death threats Carlson gets – if any – after being name-dropped by AOC. Cortez doesn’t really traffic in violent rhetoric and/or symbolism, such as running campaign ads in which she’s brandishing guns and using coded language to talk about killing Christo-fascists Republicans. She doesn’t have to resort to violence because she can still sway public opinion with intellectual debate. You don’t have to use violence if you have popular policies.

Philip Moseman
Philip Moseman
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim R

Stochastic means the terrorism is not directed toward a specific individual. It comes out of romanticizing or implying such violence is good, thereby increasing its liklihood. Breeding a violent culture by saying it indirectly, along the lines of, in a healthy society fathers could have prevented pedophilia by beating those teachers’ brains out, or back in my day we would have put these protesters in body bags.

Last edited 1 month ago by Philip Moseman
Nolan Barry
Nolan Barry
2 months ago

By the same logic, accusing someone of being a “stochastic terrorist” is stochastic terrorism.

Last edited 2 months ago by Nolan Barry
Philip Moseman
Philip Moseman
1 month ago
Reply to  Nolan Barry

If that criticism produces a strong potential for violence, then yes.

James Sullivan
James Sullivan
2 months ago

Someone taught AOC a new word.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
2 months ago
Reply to  James Sullivan

If a “stochastic terrorist” is somebody who is not a terrorist at all, is AOC a stochastic intellectual?

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
2 months ago
Reply to  James Sullivan

…AOC? That’ll be Alexandria Occasional Cortex?

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
2 months ago

Thanks for the tip. I have added this describer to my ever increasing Negative Projection Glossary.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 months ago

This is a logical consequence of the postmodernist view that objective reality doesn’t exist, instead our words (the way we describe reality) just create a shared illusion of the world.
That’s the philosophical basis for this, which is really just an extension of the argument “words are violence” that animated college campuses 10 years ago.

If you really believe that our words alter reality, then policing speech becomes not only permissible but absolutely necessary. It’s like the movie The Abyss; one stray thought magnified over FoxNews and Twitter and you’ve got Nemo’s Giant Squid devouring your society.

Last edited 2 months ago by Brian Villanueva
Adam Bacon
Adam Bacon
2 months ago

Tucker Carlson coherently questions and undermines the Democratic progressive narrative, without incitement to violence.

Others may occasionally choose to promote these viewpoints by violent means, but this neither undermines the viewpoint, or holds him responsible for any violent actions.

Richard Millard
Richard Millard
2 months ago
Reply to  Adam Bacon

He is also completely relaxed about those who commit violence in line with his brand of intolerance – regardless of the definition anyone might give to his heartless business model.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
2 months ago

You makee the big joke, yes?

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
2 months ago

….What, relaxed about “violence” the same way the MSM and the Democrats have been about the BLM and Antifa actual violence?
Get in touch with reality Richard!

Philip Moseman
Philip Moseman
1 month ago
Reply to  Bernard Hill

How about mentioning Tucker Carlson in your defense of Tucker Carlson? Perhaps there was something he did that is relevant here.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 months ago

Why ‘stochastic’? A technical term which doesn’t appear to relate to what’s being described.

Last edited 2 months ago by Andrew D
Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

It’s the arrogation by social “scientists” of terms from hard science in order to increase the prestige of their fields.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 months ago
Reply to  Erik Hildinger

Yes, I do notice that the social “sciences” do this. It is just a form of scientism i.e. appealing to scientific theories or using scientific terms totally out of context and applying them to inappropriate fields in order that your theory can be given some gravitas.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
2 months ago

Yes, it’s the sort of behaviour exposed in the Sokal Hoax, as related in Sokal & Bricmont’s book “Intellectual Impostures”.

Julie Lynn
Julie Lynn
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

It’s a term from mathematics, usually relating to randomness in some way. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stochastic

Last edited 2 months ago by Julie Lynn
Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
2 months ago
Reply to  Julie Lynn

A stochastic differential equation is still a differential equation… but it seems like a stochastic terrorist is not a terrorist at all. So yes, an abuse of language, but a very clumsy one at that.

Iwan Hughes
Iwan Hughes
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

 ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less. ‘

Philip Moseman
Philip Moseman
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Stochastic is related to statistic probability. A stochastic equation, in short, has a random variable. Stochastic terrorism is stochastic in the way that it conjures political violence, indirectly. Stoking the flames, if you will.

Last edited 1 month ago by Philip Moseman
Russell Sharpe
Russell Sharpe
27 days ago
Reply to  Philip Moseman

So the term ‘stochastic terrorism’ signifies rhetorical attacks on one’s political opponents which inflame passions and conceivably increase the probability that someone somewhere will resort to violence? As Chuck Schumer did when he said ¨I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price”? Or as Joe Biden did when he describe his opponents as ¨semifascist¨?
It may be stochastic – as all political activity is stochastic, and probably all activity of any kind is stochastic in this trivial sense in that it affects the probabilities of future events – but it’s certainly not terrorism. It wouldn’t even count as incitement to terrorism if the First Amendment means anything at all.

Positive Trends
Positive Trends
2 months ago

i appreciate the balance suggested, “… At the moment, it is progressives who are wielding this instrument to delegitimise anyone who doesn’t subscribe to elite-progressive pieties. But not so long ago it was the far-Right who brandished it…”. imo there is a vast majority of moderate, open handed civilians that are simply too busy creating, producing and living an amazing 1st world life to bother. Unfortunately, technology is empowering and mobilizing the minority extremes. Until the boring, but demographically robust, middle starts to engage and drown out the raucous few this will continue. i hope we stand up – before the few justify a world in which we can’t

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
2 months ago

“Dog whistle” is a term commonly used in the UK. “People on the right use racist dog whistles” they say.
I’m sure that sometimes, maybe, this happens but it seems to me that you could suggest such a thing about most statements

Aldo Maccione
Aldo Maccione
2 months ago

Sounds a lot like anybody who disagrees with AOC is a stochastic terrorist.

Philip Moseman
Philip Moseman
1 month ago
Reply to  Aldo Maccione

Does she call everyone who disagrees with her a stochastic terrorist and did she use the term because Tucker Carlson disagreed with her?

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
2 months ago

….stochastic not. Sarcastic yes, and good at it.

Bob Maginnis
Bob Maginnis
2 months ago

Carlson apparently took lessons from Goebbels https://www.azquotes.com/author/5626-Joseph_Goebbels

Bob Maginnis
Bob Maginnis
2 months ago

Tucker Feb 8 2022: He isn’t saying kill people, just giving them justification to kill with this lie: “So with equity in mind, the White House plans to continue allowing as much fentanyl as possible to come into this country through Mexico.”

T M
T M
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob Maginnis

Seems effectively correct to me. What is incorrect about this claim? That the administration didn’t affirmatively “plan” for this result? It remains an obvious consequence of the open border policy,

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
2 months ago
Reply to  T M

What open border policy is this? Can you please point out where the administration has implemented an open border policy?
Or are you simply spewing Carlson’s racist, toxic bile?

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
2 months ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

You may as well look at a ragman, whose clothes are rags and patches, and say: “Tell me what’s wrong with his clothing!” There’s so much to tell that the mind boggles to find a starting point. How about demonized border patrol mounted officers using reins to keep illegal migrants back (“whipping migrants” they said). How about stopping construction of a border wall with associated infrastructure, and leaving millions of valuable materials to rust on the desert floor. How about stating, in dozens of ways and to dozens of networks, that “no human is illegal”. How about revoking the “remain in Mexico” policy. How about shipping migrants to dozens of states and cities throughout the country on midnight flights? Gosh, I could go on and on for a long, long time, but I won’t. You get the point. Maybe.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
2 months ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

There was a point in that screed of far right disinformation and lies?

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
2 months ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

“Policy” is what you actually do Graeme, not just what you say.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
2 months ago
Reply to  Bernard Hill

So you can point to no “open border policy”?
Good, glad we got that cleared up!

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
2 months ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

….the Democrat Administration says it doesn’t have an open border policy. But its inaction as well as its actions, say otherwise. Just look at the staggering numbers come across the Southern border, and the refusal to actually enforce existing laws about illegal entry, and continue the previous administrations practical steps to erect physical barriers. If that’s not a ‘stated’ border policy, or a wanted scenario, then it sure is evidence of utter incompetence.

Philip Moseman
Philip Moseman
1 month ago
Reply to  Bernard Hill

I strongly advise you to look at the numbers. When you do, you’ll need to convince yourself those numbers are a hoax.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
2 months ago

Carlson’s only purpose on the gruesome Fox network is to justify acts of murderous violence.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
2 months ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

Wow! What an intelligent, reasoned, carefully-constructed argument! I feel wiser for having read it. We need more of your sort in this world! Not.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
2 months ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

You are very welcome and I am certain that reading my comments will absolutely increase your wisdom from its current subterranean levels!