Video from Fox host Tucker Carlson drove threats online, analysts find
Tucker Carlson‘s portrayal of the deadly Jan. 6 attack as a largely peaceful event on his prime-time Fox News show set off a dangerous new wave of social media chatter that includes death threats against Capitol police officers and Democratic leaders, according to experts who monitor extremism and a report from Advance Democracy shared exclusively with USA TODAY.
The segment that aired last week downplayed the violence at the Capitol two years ago, falsely recasting the Washington mob that breached the Capitol as an “orderly and meek” gathering of “sightseers.”
Carlson’s claims, which accompanied clips of Capitol security footage, drew an angry reaction from right-wing users who fired off threats on Elon Musk’s Twitter and in pro-Trump forums directed at politicians who have made public inquiries into the violence, especially the congressional Jan. 6 committee
Those threats came in far greater numbers than before the broadcast, according to the Advance Democracy report.
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On Twitter, posts relating to Jan. 6 using violent rhetoric increased fivefold from the previous week, the report shows.
The outpouring of violence concerns extremism experts, who said Carlson and Fox News are playing with fire by spreading disinformation that could inspire violence against the targets of their coverage.
“If there were an attack right now on one of the groups or individuals that was mentioned in Tucker’s report — one of the dumping grounds for his ire — I would not be surprised at all,” said Megan Squire, deputy director for data analytics at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “I mean, that’s basically what we’re expecting right now.”
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Threats posted online
On pro-Trump forum Patriots.win, which played a central role in the planning of Jan. 6, users called for violence, with one commenting: “SOLUTION HAS NEVER CHANGED.” He added: “GALLOWS. FOR ALL OF THEM.”
Incendiary comments spread on other social media platforms such as Gab, Getter, 4chan and Trump’s own Truth Social, according to the Advance Democracy report. Violent threats included calls to lynch Jan. 6 Committee members and Democratic lawmakers such as “hang them high” and “hang ’em all.”
“God does not sleep,” a Gettr user wrote. “Every one of them in the January 6 committee will have to pay for what they did.”
Streaming platforms Rumble and TikTok were also rife with incendiary talk including false claims that Jan. 6 was a so-called false flag operation. (In such a case, conspiracy theorists allege, a destructive event is actually faked to pin blame on the opposite side.)
Users called for mass arrests and charges of treason against Jan. 6 Committee members, Advance Democracy found.
“Nuremberg 2.0 for the Commies and their propagandists,” one Rumble user wrote. “If not a single person is arrested for the immense corruption then there are no more peaceful solutions,” another wrote.
One TikTok commenter threatened mainstream media outlets: “It’s time to burn these media outlets to the ground.”
Squire said Advance Democracy’s findings mirror what she and her team at SPLC are seeing on social media in the wake of Carlson’s reports.
Jared Holt, a senior researcher at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and an expert on domestic extremism, said he also noted a significant uptick in violent and hateful rhetoric online after the Carlson piece aired.
Holt said a quick analysis showed Carlson’s name, and referenced to the Jan. 6 riot increased 15-fold in the days after the segment. He said the coverage is a deliberate attempt to distort the truth and convince Fox News watchers the insurrection was not as serious as it was.
“Disagreements are at the heart of politics,” Holt said. “The political process is about resolving those disagreements. But if one party of that conversation is attempting to erase what, objectively, was an attack on the democratic process itself — it’s just appalling.”
Fox News did not respond to a request for comment.
Fox News is ‘promoting dangerous false narratives for ratings’
Daniel Jones, president of nonprofit research organization Advance Democracy, accused Fox News of “promoting dangerous false narratives for ratings.”
Carlson’s show last week was the highest-rated program on cable TV, reeling in nearly 3.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen.
“Fox News is knowingly misleading its viewers again by cherry-picking footage to suggest the events of Jan. 6th were largely non-violent. Fox News personality Tucker Carlson is telling his viewers that they have been misled,” Jones told USA TODAY. “Our research found that these comments have directly led to violent threats being made against the January 6th Committee members, federal judges and others.”
Carlson’s report was unscrupulous by the standards of any journalist, said Kelly McBride, chair of the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics & Leadership at the Poynter Institute.
“It is unethical and immoral to lie to people, period. And when you have as large of a platform as Fox News does, that lie causes a lot of harm,” McBride said. “It is antithetical to journalism.”
But what Carlson does should not be considered journalism, McBride said. As recent revelations from the Dominion Voting Machines defamation lawsuit against Fox News have shown, Carlson and many of his colleagues at Fox are engaged in a deeply cynical disinformation effort, she said.
“There’s no way you can look at his [Carlson’s] Jan. 6 special and conclude that he has any interest in doing journalism,” McBride said.
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Tucker Carlson aired Jan. 6 claims using Capitol security footage
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy gave Carlson exclusive access to Capitol security footage from Jan. 6.
Carlson, who has spread conspiracy theories about the Jan. 6 attack, opened the broadcast with the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Trump and was “a grave betrayal of American democracy.”
He showed clips of rioters in the Capitol not engaged in violent activities. The released footage “demolishes the claim” that an insurrection occurred, Carlson said.
House GOP leaders promoted the “Tucker Carlson Tonight” segment. On Tuesday, the House Republican Conference tweeted: “MUST WATCH” and four siren emojis.
Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger condemned the segment as “offensive and misleading.”
Republicans split in reaction to Tucker Carlson segment
The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, criticized Fox News for depicting the Jan. 6 attack “in a way that’s completely at variance with what our chief law enforcement official here at the Capitol thinks.” Senator Mitt Romney of Utah said Carlson’s broadcast was “dangerous and disgusting.”
The Biden administration criticized Carlson for his “false depiction of the unprecedented, violent attack on our Constitution and the rule of law — which cost police officers their lives.”
“We also agree with what Fox News’s own attorneys and executives have now repeatedly stressed in multiple courts of law: that Tucker Carlson is not credible,” deputy White House press secretary Andrew J. Bates said in a statement.
Bates was referring to the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit filed against Fox News by Dominion Voting Systems.
In a deposition released Tuesday, David Clark, who oversaw Fox News’s weekend programming, said he did not consider Carlson’s program a credible source of news.
According to court documents, Carlson admitted that the voter fraud claims were false.
Myanmar military dissolves Suu Kyi’s NLD party: State media
Party of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi among 40 political parties dissolved after failing to meet registration deadline, according to state television.
Myanmar’s military-controlled election commission has announced that the National League for Democracy Party (NLD) would be dissolved for failing to re-register under a new electoral law, according to state television.
The NLD led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was among 40 political parties dissolved on Tuesday after they failed to meet the ruling military’s registration deadline for an election, according to state television.
In a nightly news bulletin, Myawaddy TV announced the NLD among those who had not signed up to the election and were therefore automatically disbanded. The NLD has said it would not contest what it calls an illegitimate election.
The army carried out a coup in February 2021 after the NLD won the November 2020 parliamentary elections and subsequently jailed its leader Suu Kyi.
Suu Kyi, 77, is serving prison sentences totaling 33 years after being convicted in a series of politically tainted prosecutions brought by the military. Her supporters say the charges were contrived to keep her from actively taking part in politics.
The party won a landslide victory in the 2020 general election, but less than three months later, the army kept Suu Kyi and all the elected lawmakers from taking their seats in parliament.
The army said justified the coup saying there was a massive poll fraud, though independent election observers did not find any major irregularities.
Some critics of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who led the takeover and is now Myanmar’s top leader, believe he acted because the vote thwarted his own political ambitions.
No date has been set for the new polls. They had been expected by the end of July, according to the army’s own plans.
But in February, the military announced an unexpected six-month extension of its state of emergency, delaying the possible legal date for holding an election.
It said security could not be assured. The military does not control large swaths of the country, where it faces widespread armed resistance to its rule.
Gautam Adani acquires 49% in Quintillion Business Media for Rs 48 crore
Billionaire Gautam Adani’s AMG Media Networks has acquired about a 49 per cent stake in Raghav Bahl-curated digital business news platform Quintillion Business Media Pvt Ltd for about Rs 48 crore.
In a stock exchange filing, Adani Enterprises Ltd said its subsidiary AMG Media Networks Ltd has completed the acquisition which was originally announced in May last year.
The transaction was completed on March 27 for “Rs 47.84 crore”, it said.
Quintillion Business Media runs the news platform Bloomberg Quint, now called BQ Prime.
Adani group had set up AMG Media Networks for its foray into businesses of “publishing, advertising, broadcasting, distribution of content over different types of media networks”.
In May last year, it had signed a shareholders’ agreement with Quintillion Media Ltd (QML) and QBML.
In September 2021, it hired veteran journalist Sanjay Pugalia to lead its media company Adani Media Ventures.
Twitter source code partially leaked online, court filing says
GitHub removed code shared without permission after request by social media giant, court filing says.
Twitter’s source code has partially leaked online, according to a legal filing by the social media giant.
Twitter asked GitHub, an online software development platform, to remove the code after it was posted online without permission earlier this month, the legal document filed in the US state of California showed on Sunday.
GitHub complied with Twitter’s request to remove the code after the social media company on March 24 issued a subpoena to identify a user known as “FreeSpeechEnthusiast”, according to the filing with the US District Court of the Northern District of California. San Francisco-based Twitter noted in the filing that the postings infringe on the platform’s intellectual property rights.
The filing was first reported by The New York Times.
The leak of the code is the latest hiccup at the social media giant since its purchase by Elon Musk, whose tenure has been marked by mass layoffs, outages, sweeping changes to content moderation and heated debate about the proper balance between free speech and online safety.
Musk, who bought Twitter for $44bn last October, said recently that Twitter would open the source code used to recommend tweets on March 31. Musk, who also runs Tesla and several other companies, said the platform’s algorithm was overly complex and predicted people would find “many silly things” once the code was made public. It is not clear if the leaked source relates to the code used to recommend tweets.
“Providing code transparency will be incredibly embarrassing at first, but it should lead to rapid improvement in recommendation quality,” he wrote on Twitter. “Most importantly, we hope to earn your trust.”
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