Living Our Values: FTSOY and Tucker Carlson

When I was a teenager, I, like so many of my cohort, had a copy of the church’s 1990 pamphlet For the Strength of Youth. The pamphlet has a section entitled “Media: Movies, Television, Radio, Videocassettes, Books, and Magazines.” It said, among other things:

Our Heavenly Father has counseled us as Latter-day Saints to “seek after anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” . . . . Whatever you read, listen to, or watch makes an impression on you. Public entertainment and the media can provide you with much positive experience. They can uplift and inspire you, teach you good and moral principles, and bring you closer to the beauty this world offers. But they can also make what is wrong and evil look normal, exciting, and acceptable.

***

Don’t attend or participate in any form of entertainment . . . that is vulgar, immoral, inappropriate, suggestive, or pornographic in any way. . . . Don’t be afraid to walk out of a movie, turn off a television set, or change a radio station if what’s being presented does not meet your Heavenly Father’s standards. And do not read books or magazines or look at pictures that are pornographic or that present immorality as acceptable.

While the pamphlet has changed over the last three decades, the current iteration has similar things to say about media:

You live in a day of marvelous technologies that give you easy access to a wide variety of media, including the Internet, mobile devices, video games, television, movies, music, books, and magazines. The information and entertainment provided through these media can increase your ability to learn, communicate, and become a force for good in the world. However, some information and entertainment can lead you away from righteous living. Choose wisely when using media, because whatever you read, listen to, or look at has an effect on you. Select only media that uplifts you.

Satan uses media to deceive you by making what is wrong and evil look normal, humorous, or exciting. He tries to mislead you into thinking that breaking God’s commandments is acceptable and has no negative consequences for you or others. Do not attend, view, or participate in anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in anything that presents immorality or violence as acceptable. Have the courage to walk out of a movie, change your music, or turn off a computer, television, or mobile device if what you see or hear drives away the Spirit.

Yesterday, a white supremacist murdered ten people and injured three others in a domestic terrorist attack in Buffalo, NY. Eleven of the victims were Black; the murderer deliberately drove to Buffalo because he wanted to murder Black people.

And why did he want to murder Black people? In part, because his self-radicalization involved the so-called “great replacement theory,” a racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

One that has been adopted and promoted–with zeal and regularity–by Tucker Carlson on his popular Fox News show. In fact, for at least the last five years, Carlson has been falling over himself to promote and normalize white supremacy.

And yes, Carlson isn’t legally liable for the murderer’s actions. But

Our church has a checkered past when it comes to race. But over the last couple decades, leaders have not minced words: racism is incompatible with the priesthood. We are to lead out in abandoning both prejudiced actions and attitudes.

Carlson’s repeated and emphatic promotion of white nationalism is precisely the thing my For the Strength of Youth warned me about: he makes what is wrong and evil look normal, acceptable, and perhaps exciting. It is vulgar, immoral, and it drives the Spirit away. There is no way to square the promotion of white nationalism with Paul’s call for pursuing the praiseworthy.

It takes courage to walk away from immorality. Even alone in our own homes, it is hard to acknowledge the evils of something that hits our buttons, that confirms our priors, something that tells us that we’re fine and it’s the world around us that is bad.

But make no mistake: even if it didn’t correspond to murder and terrorism, Tucker Carlson’s show, with its promotion of racist ideology, would not meet the church’s express standards for choosing media.

And, just to anticipate one possible response: while I have no idea how much of his show Carlson devotes to white supremacy, the New Era of my teenage years tells me it doesn’t really matter:

White supremacy is evil. It is incompatible with the church’s teachings and beliefs. And the church has consistently recommended that we abandon our consumption of media that tries to call evil good. But that’s all the church can do–after that, it’s up to us.

Photo by Ajeet Mestry on Unsplash

Comments

  1. Amen and Amen.

  2. Until we can admit that racism exists in the scriptures and that individuals in the scriptures (even the heroes) were at times racist and that church leaders have been racist, it will be difficult for some people to separate out their religion from some forms of racism/white supremacy.

  3. Firing 50 rounds and killing ten is a crime, a mass murder, and from what I understand about the circumstances makes a good case for adding penalties for a hate crime. I believe there is an ongoing debate whether ‘hate crime” needs a special category and enhanced penalties. This would be a good test case..

    I don’t know Tucker Carlson or his work, although I’ve seen a face enough to think I could pick him out of a line-up. That’s not a self-righteous statement. Just a fact. I gather I can count it a blessing. Given the way you describe him, “hate crime” is particularly relevant because he may not be technically complicit in murder but it sounds like he is complicit in hate.

    For all that, I really dislike making a fundamentally correct argument in an opportunistic way, citing simplistic absolutes out of the FSOY pamphlet. I could write a book about that section! {hyperbole}. And I’m afraid others who are similarly troubled by the FSOY pamphlet will be distracted from the main argument. Instead of reprinting the infamous fly in the sundae meme, for present purposes, based on all the information in the OP, I would put it this way:
    If you know Tucker Carlson well enough to know what he’s saying and how it fits into the 2022 media world, that sounds like education. But if you make a diet of Tucker Carlson, if you follow him enough to count in his ratings or to think he’s saying something worth listening to, stop it.

  4. Chris, I tend to agree, and have no intention of making simplistic or opportunistic arguments.

    That said, I think there is something fundamentally important about FTSOY’s assertion that we should be cautious about consuming media that encourages an immoral worldview. And that’s a complicated question; portraying evil is different from encouraging evil.

    But wherever that line falls, I have no hesitation in saying that promoting racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories is promoting and normalizing evil. And I have no hesitation in saying that, in the case of anti-Semitism and racism, no amount of good makes up for the evil in it.

    So I’m again not at all hesitant to say that, based on the standards we taught youth in the 1990s (and probably the ones we teach them today), we should be just as quick to turn of Carlson as we are to turn off movies with sex and songs with obscene lyrics. Carlson’s show, as has been reported, clearly counters church standards.

    But equally clearly, pointing that out is all that I or the church can do. After that, a loyal viewer is left with Paul’s pricks to either follow or kick against.

  5. C. Keen says:

    Agreed. Turn off Tucker Carlson and anyone else who trades in cheap outrage and divisiveness.

  6. Geoff - Aus says:

    Aren’t Tucker Carlson and fox news standard fare for trumpers, and are there less trumpers in the church now than at the lat election?

  7. I’m in the buffalo stake. A few months ago the youth had a special lesson with the bishopric that identified cohabitation and homosexuality as two of three of the biggest threats to the family. Not hate. Not our failure to truly love one another.

    Today less than 15 min from the heinous scene nothing was said. Not a word, not even in the prayer I heard. We have a lot of trump fans who are anti “political correctness” (unless of course it is the name of the church) and others that don’t want to stir up “contention” by bringing anything up. So while I hope that the ward that encompasses the neighborhood where the shooting occurred, here nothing. And on a day when there was a call for churches to unite for the victims and to overcome hate.

    We haven’t done the work in our country and much less our church to confront race. We make excuses for past actions, beliefs and present day comments rather that call it what it is. I hear stereotypes about drug ridden dangerous neighborhoods where people lack initiative to be self-sufficient and we spend our time teaching self sufficiency instead of turning solving the problems of poverty. And we certainly can’t say anything that might make others feel uncomfortable. There is so much anxiety about whether kids are taught evil things at school (never mind that my kids are taught better moral reasoning in their secular school often than at church, and that their school within 10 minutes had a phone tree to check on students, past students, staff that live in that neighborhood and have sent out beautiful and sincere emails of unity and introspection.)

    Yet among the victims was a lifelong civil rights activist, a woman that was a staple volunteer for over 25 years at a local soup kitchen, a deacon loading up groceries for a parishioner that couldn’t get to the store otherwise-something he did regularly, and a retired police officer that tried to protect others. My heart is broken and I admit to being frustrated and angry that our church too often wishes to point the finger outward than to feel the least bit uncomfortable with what we condone. Human nature or not our church should be the first not the last place to stand up.

  8. The sentiment implied by that MormonAd (and FTSOY) was used by my YM and Seminary teachers to tell us that we shouldn’t even watch PG-13 movies. Unfortunately, your deployment of the MormonAd (and FTSOY) is just as specious. We all agree that the Buffalo shooting spree was a heinous act, but trying to pin the blame on a politician or pundit is just lazy, dishonest, and irresponsible.

    https://greenwald.substack.com/p/the-demented-and-selective-game-of?s=r

  9. This is the culture now. Not just church culture – American culture. We are swimming in it. When Jesus comes back, he is going to be PISSED.

  10. M@, you’ll have to forgive me if I see citing Greenwald as a point against your assertion. But more fundamentally, notwithstanding the fact that it has been deployed in clearly erroneous ways, the FTSOY framework is a valuable framework in evaluating our media consumption. Does the media we consume call good evil or evil good? Carlson—and anybody else who advocates racist and/or anti-Semitic ideas—clearly fails that very simple test. And if we’re uncomfortable with, say, movies that involve sex (and, as a culture we are), we should be at least as uncomfortable with entertainment that promotes and includes racism.

    There are, of course, nuances. Media that mentions racism isn’t the same as media that advocates racism; media that depicts racism isn’t necessarily the same as media that advocates racism.

    Carlson clearly falls on the advocates side of things. And no, like Akiva says, he clearly doesn’t bear legal culpability for the shooting. But by promoting and mainstreaming the evil ideas that inspired the murderer, he just as clearly shares in the moral culpability.

  11. So, in the name of consistency you, also agree that while Rachel Maddow and Bernie Sanders aren’t legally culpable for the 2017 Congressional baseball shooting, they are morally culpable?

    —-

    In the article (which I suspect you didn’t fully read), Greenwald says that
    1. The Buffalo shooter self-identified in his manifesto as a political leftist and proclaims his hate for conservatism
    2. There is no evidence that the Buffalo shooter ever watched Carlson
    3. The Buffalo shooter’s manifesto doesn’t cite Carlson as an inspiration (but does cite many other mass murderers as inspirations)
    4. Carlson isn’t racist, he’s just against illegal immigration (in other words he thinks Americans of all races will benefit from an orderly and limited immigration system)

    I don’t know whether #4 is true since I don’t personally watch Carlson (or Maddow) because I’ve sampled a little of each and I think they’re both sensationalist bloviators who make the political climate in our country worse.

    But if #4 is true, then it seems you received your opinion of Carlson from some other source instead of by watching him yourself. Perhaps they’re lying to you. That would mean that the MormonAd (and FTSOY) would dictate that you need to stop consuming the media that tells you that Carlson is a racist and that accuses the political right of being responsible for the racist, white supremacist, murderous actions of a leftist.

  12. it's a series of tubes says:

    M@, how dare you dig deeper and recite facts that contradict the numerous assumptions in the OP! That could derail the convenient outrage machine!

    Sam, you were so quick to dunk here, but it appears you just ended up dunking on yourself.

  13. M@, I didn’t read any of it. That said, Greenwald’s assertions are some combination of untrue, disingenuous, and missing anything that resembles the point. To be clear, nobody is saying that the racist murderer watched Carlson and decided to do a racist murder. What people (including me) are saying is that Carlson has mainstreamed racist ideologies. Like I said, he has no legal culpability. But to spread and normalize racism creates moral culpability.

    And tubes, I’m not sure I follow—I dunked on myself by saying that church media standards militate against listening to purveyors of racist ideology?

  14. Loursat says:

    Condemning the killings is only lip service if we don’t also criticize the underlying social trends that led to them. Tucker Carlson is one of those underlying things. I have listened to Tucker Carlson. He is a racist. In the article linked by M@, Greenwald is wrong when he claims that Carlson is not a racist. Anyone who has the stomach for it can verify this by watching Carlson’s show.

    The point here is not whether a particular thing that Carlson said directly influenced the killer to go on his murder spree. The point is that of all the voices currently in the mainstream of the American media—the voices with the greatest reach—Tucker Carlson is doing more than anyone else to normalize racist ideas. It’s not as if Carlson’s “conservative” racist messages are somehow walled off from the eyes and ears of “leftist” racists. No matter where racists happen to be on the political spectrum, they take courage from seeing racism promoted in the media.

    Sam is correct that we should identify and shun racist messages wherever we find them. It’s appropriate to point out who the loudest, most privileged racist happens to be right now, and to question those who would give him a pass because he is speaking from a wealthy, influential platform.

  15. el oso, I deleted your comment because it was trafficking in precisely the racist stereotypes and misinformation I’m condemning in this post. You’re welcome to comment, but I won’t allow the very kinds of things I’m decrying to be put forward as fact.

  16. Amen

  17. Shy Saint says:

    @ M@

    I am BEGGING you to read this NYT analysis of mass murders and the political climate in the US. It’s a compendium of recent articles and research.

    https://messaging-custom-newsletters.nytimes.com/template/oakv2?campaign_id=9&emc=edit_nn_20220517&instance_id=61553&nl=the-morning&productCode=NN&regi_id=118935560&segment_id=92459&te=1&uri=nyt%3A%2F%2Fnewsletter%2F095cc587-8474-5c7c-834e-f5a99763488e&user_id=09255381ab6c37f0666351f82c2da557

    Their conclusion is that domestic right wingers are at least twice as dangerous to the domestic security as Islamic extremists. They document this conclusion from numerous responsible sources over and over. The inescapable fact is that the right wing and the media and political agents who side with them either by promoting them or excusing them are allowing this kind of hatred to break out in bloody and traumatic tragedy. And yet a large segment of America makes the willful choice to escape the facts because they’re bolstered in their delusion by people like Carlson, Fox and OAN.

    These murders that wound all of our souls along with the actual victims will happen again and again until we face the realities of what’s going on. And people — even decent people — who ignore it or deny it are going to have to come to terms with their own complicity.

  18. “The media’s the most powerful entity on Earth. They have the power to make the innocent look guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the mind of the masses.” –Malcolm X

  19. BHodges says:

    M@ Matt: In the article (which I suspect you didn’t fully read), Greenwald says that
    1. The Buffalo shooter self-identified in his manifesto as a political leftist and proclaims his hate for conservatism

    The terrorist is an 18 year old who seems to have no solid idea what the political spectrum consists of. That’s not unusual. He said he was right-wing “depending on the definition” and left-wing “depending on the definition.” Rather than proclaiming hate for conservativism he discussed *things he dislikes about about* conservatism *as he understands it.* He refers to 4chan and dailystormer as important sites of his radicalization. Leftist?

    2. There is no evidence that the Buffalo shooter ever watched Carlson

    Not that you know of. The replacement theory he embraced has been mainstreamed by Carlson, though. This is indisputable. The evidence is clear and exhaustive.

    3. The Buffalo shooter’s manifesto doesn’t cite Carlson as an inspiration (but does cite many other mass murderers as inspirations)

    Carlson hasn’t taken up arms in a terrorist attack, so that’s no surprise. His mainstreaming of white nationalism replacement theory further bolsters the credibility of more extreme iterations of it. “Even Tucker Carlson sees what’s happening, even if he has to launder it a bit for the masses” is the attitude.

    4. Carlson isn’t racist, he’s just against illegal immigration (in other words he thinks Americans of all races will benefit from an orderly and limited immigration system)

    I don’t know whether #4 is true since I don’t personally watch Carlson (or Maddow) because I’ve sampled a little of each and I think they’re both sensationalist bloviators who make the political climate in our country worse.

    But if #4 is true, then it seems you received your opinion of Carlson from some other source instead of by watching him yourself. Perhaps they’re lying to you. That would mean that the MormonAd (and FTSOY) would dictate that you need to stop consuming the media that tells you that Carlson is a racist and that accuses the political right of being responsible for the racist, white supremacist, murderous actions of a leftist.

    He’s one of the most influential spokespersons for racism in the current media environment. This was exhaustibly documented in the recent NYT report. It can’t be dismissed by waving your hand.

  20. The arguments that the rhetoric has no basis is frustrating. (There are sections of the manifesto that are hauntingly similar even in wording to sections of carlsons show). Even if this guy didn’t watch Carlson and even if Carlson is modifying themes that originate elsewhere, bringing it into the mainstream media instead on on 4chan means that you lose the important checks on the way to radicalism. When those ideas are reinforced by our friends and neighbors, even in a diluted form, it is easier to go one step further than another step toward radicalization, especially when those ideas are paired with the powerful emotions of fear and anger. Even if you believe that immigration reform is needed, it is not ok to stoke fear of others that are different from us.

    When was the last time anyone dismissed an Islamic extremist terrorist attack as “just the act of a mentally ill individual “ or “not at all related to the rhetoric of extremist groups”. Quite the contrary. In fact if a person is Muslim the assumption is extremist terrorism and I’ve heard more than one Mormon state that the Islam religion is inherently violent and dangerous. We must fight against both impulses – to react with hate against an entire group (eg all conservatives are evil) and to dismiss such violence as a one off event.

    The causes of extremism are complex but rhetoric and normalization of racist views are absolutely part of it. It makes sense to do everything we can to live in a better society and that means checking ourselves.

    My kids have been working through things at school and home (we live in buffalo but not impacted other than community trauma). They go to a very diverse school, socioeconomically, racially and political ideology. What is interesting is to hear them work through with friends the concept of justice, something they’ve studied extensively over the past two years. They see the impulse in hurt and anger wanting to remove all justice and go with hate. But they also see the need to catch themselves and acknowledge that it is most important to understand the factors so we can move forward as a country together.

  21. Truckers Atlas says:

    Sam, I love your posts and the argumentative style of your comments. I know you are in academia, but did you ever previously consider work a trial lawyer? Would have been cool, perhaps.

  22. I avoid watching those shows that encourage deviciveness (or reallyany shows), just like a I generally stay off BCC and the comment section.

    I wonder if you’d write a similar article about some lefty pundit who is exacerbating problems in this nation. Otherwise it’s just picking a target, polarizing it, and connecting it with your ideological enemies.

    If you think you’re outside this culture, you’re so very wrong. This post shows you’re not only knee deep in it, but locked in the cave, chained to the ground arguing over shadows on the wall.

  23. Trucker Atlas, thanks! I’m afraid I never did think about litigating; I have great respect for litigators, but lack those skills!

    sute, if there were a lefty pundit who was exacerbating racism (and had a big enough reach that I was aware of that person—to be clear, I have no doubt that such a person exists, but I am not aware of them), I absolutely would call them out. My point isn’t particularly Tucker; he’s just a huge embodiment of the problem. My point is, when we decide that racism is entertaining, we engage in behavior discouraged by church teachings. And that’s whether the racism entertainer is from our tribe or not.

  24. sute,
    I want to point something out about your comment. “Exacerbation” is often in the eye of the beholder. A close family member once told me that “Obama had done more to set back race relations in this country than anyone else.” I still have no idea what they were talking about.

    That said, is it morally wrong to point out that what someone is doing is harmful, whether or not it aligns their politics? If a killer for the Khmer Rouge told you that smoking was bad for your lungs, would their identity affect the truth of the message? It would, of course, affect the usefulness (why trust that guy?), but the act itself in isolation wouldn’t be wrong (just everything else he did). So, whether or not you think we are just shills for the libs (or American democracy in general), is there some inherent moral problem with pointing out the similarities of Carlson’s (and Fox News’s) rhetoric and the apparent reasoning of the killer?

  25. M@

    Appreciate you bringing facts to the discussion.

    Glad that places like NYT and BCC still have comments to bring these insights.

  26. I say this as someone who agrees wholeheartedly with Sam’s OP and who hasn’t ever watched Carlson’s show, but I read a summary of his defense on the Fox News website, and I think he has a point. A large part of his defense was simply citing several democrats and columnists spouting some version of “the great replacement theory” and gleefully predicting the downfall of republicans in general, and straight-white-male republicans specifically.

    I understand that using a fact (increasing number of minorities) to gleefully predict the downfall of republicans is not the same thing as stoking racist fear of said minorities. But it shouldn’t be surprising that predicting someone’s downfall might also contribute to a fear of, and fight against, said downfall.

  27. RobL. The Civil war was not caused by Harper’s Ferry. A few quotes showing “glee” does not excuse years of spouting white supremacy. That’s unfounded fear looking for something to hide behind.

  28. I relate with the political cartoon Elon Musk shared (Re how the woke have veered more and more so to an illiberal extreme, leaving those of us more-so traditionally liberal somewhat to these activists’ and thinkers’ “right”. Anyway, for what it’s worth (I’m sure not much), I supported LESS- restrictions on immigration to the US even from back in the days, not much more than a decade ago, when the labor movement, in general, as well as Bernie Sanders — who I’ve voted for — in particular, were still essentially ANTI-immigration (a marvel, how quick memories fade!) And, yes, I DID sense such concerns then of these fellow leftists smacked of xenophobia. Still, I would agree with Greenwald that those such as the OP ought to document precisely WHERE there’ve found a “racial hierarchy in Carlson’s view of American citizenship” before ascribing to it the unnuanced “racist” catch-all

  29. E.g., my fellow LDS Democrat, the US Senator Harry Reid was at one time, instead, an immigration hawk who opposed the Reagan administration’s own amnesty for illegal immigrants.

    But, then, Bernie had said to ABC News in only **2015**: “Absolutely, we need a path to citizenship for undocumented workers. We need to take people out of the shadows. What my concern then was — and remains — is these guest worker programs. Where you have folks in high-tech jobs getting fired, while the corporations are bringing people FROM RUSSIA AND OTHER COUNTRIES INTO THE U.S. TO **REPLACE** AMERICAN WORKERS and drive wages down.”

    (So, maybe it’s true that my views on immigration did then (do now?) mirror those of the Koch Brothers, of all things [in that during this last presidential campaign of Bernie’s, he’d once termed the concept of absolutely open borders a [libertarian] “Koch Brothers proposal”].)

  30. One more comment. I propose a Constitutional amendment enabling any state to grant eligibility for its so-called “state” citizenship to all of its residents, otherwise “documented” or not. A compact among such states could allow travel between them ha ha upon a train, bus, or other conveyance, et cetera, whilst traversing through states not in this compact (who’d our current regime, no matter which party’s in power, of pretended legal immigration enforcement).

  31. “… *retain our current regime …”

  32. Kaigh_ell, I’m not entirely sure how to respond. Because you’re (probably) right that Tucker doesn’t say, “We shouldn’t let people of color into the country because they might replace us.” But not explicitly saying “people of color” doesn’t remove the stink of racism, just like saying “Soros” instead of “Jews” doesn’t make an anti-Semitic assertion somehow not anti-Semitic. Yes, Carlson isn’t promoting some kind of classic Platonic replacement theory. But he’s mainstreaming replacement theory. (And, while I am no fan of Sanders, your comparison there is inapt at best.)

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