by Jessica Wildfire

For the last year, I didn’t take Tucker Carlson seriously. I ignored him. Then he told his viewers — millions of angry, aggressive orks— to harass me and my daughter for wearing a mask. He wants them to call the police on us and have her taken away from me.

My daughter starts preschool soon. We chose a school with stringent policies on masking and vaccines. There was a moment this month when I felt halfway relaxed, even hopeful about the future. After more than a year in isolation, she’s going to interact with other kids again.

Tucker Carlson ruined it.

He’s put my family’s future in jeopardy, just like every person who’s digging in their heels on vaccines and masks.

Now I feel a looming sense of doom.

Thanks to men like this, I’ll spend this next year waiting for a phone call that some lunatic Fox News addict harassed my 3-year-old on a playground. I’ll be waiting to hear there was an “incident” where someone exposed her or a teacher to a mutated version of the coronavirus.

I’m not going to get my life back after all.

Millions like me won’t get a break from the hell of quarantine parenthood, even if their kids return to school, because Tucker Carlson needed to run his mouth on national television. He needed attention, to keep his ratings up, to keep raking in millions, and he doesn’t even believe half of what he’s saying. Fox News will keep him on air because he’s good for business. Let’s be clear. What Tucker Carlson did wasn’t just selfish or stupid.

It was an act of terror.

Tucker Carlson called millions of loving parents child abusers.

There’s no ignoring Tucker Carlson, not anymore.

Not only did he tell his viewers to harass me for wearing a mask “outside,” he told them to call social services on me if they see my child wearing one. He told them to report me for child abuse. He called masks “repulsive,” and described them as a threat to democracy.

I live in a red state.

Here, people listen to him. The local news runs stories asking me to feel sympathy and show support for anyone who was fired for refusing to get vaccinated. That’s what I deal with.

If Tucker Carlson thinks making a child wear a mask in public is abuse, then I can only imagine what he thinks about parents who’ve kept our toddlers home for a year because they’re too young to understand anything about this pandemic. He would probably strip us of custody altogether and have us committed to an institution.

Maybe Tucker Carlson doesn’t believe this, but people actually take him seriously. Some people even do what he says. In a worst case scenario now, I could lose custody of my daughter — simply for trying to protect her life. Even if I didn’t, we would both be subjected to endless encounters with non-maskers and anti-vaxxers. We would have hearings and court dates and lawyers, not to mention periods of separation.

Think it couldn’t happen?

Years ago, we watched horrified as border agents ripped children out of the arms of their parents and locked them in cages, sometimes without food or water. Some of those children never saw their parents again. Some of them died alone without family. Even if we empathized, we knew we’d never fully understand that kind of loss. We could only imagine it as a kind of twisted nightmare. Well, it feels real now. Tucker Carlson has accomplished something no airhead with a microphone could.

He’s instilled terror in me.

He’s proud.

Tucker Carlson knows exactly what he did.

There’s no speculating about what happens next. Someone out there is going to take a liberal interpretation of Tucker Carlson’s words. They’re not going to hear “outside.” They’re going to feel emboldened to harass parents and children wearing masks anywhere.

It’s already happening in some places, where groups of anti-maskers are gathering outside schools and shoving leaflets in kids’ hands.

Anyway, let’s define “outside.”

If you’re like me, you put your mask on in the parking lot before you head toward the entrance of a store. Maybe you put it on in your car before you climb out. You don’t take it off the minute you walk back “outside.” Maybe you keep your mask on until you reach your car. Maybe you’ve gotten so used to wearing your mask, you just wear it when you’re running errands period, regardless of whether you’re “inside” or “outside.”

Anyone who actually wears a mask on a regular basis understand this. Tucker Carlson doesn’t wear a mask. So he doesn’t understand shit about what life is really like during a pandemic.

Tucker Carlson also knows his viewers won’t make these nuanced distinctions. They’re not exactly calm and considerate. They don’t listen to him for his careful discussion and analysis of trends and events. His viewers turn to him for one reason — permission to get angry.

He gives it.

Tucker Carlson acts like a terrorist.

A woman from Iowa is currently standing trial for attempted murder. She tried to run over two Hispanic children with her car. She admits she was targeting them because of their ethnicity.

She wanted to kill them.

These are the kind of people who watch Tucker Carlson.

Until recently, it was hard to hate liberals on sight unless they had a different skin color or haircut. Now they have an identifier.

It’s masks.

Wearing a mask shouldn’t say a lot about your political views, but it does now because people like Tucker Carlson are making it so.

Here’s his logic:

Mask = liberal = enemy.

That’s terrorism, even if it’s hard to believe. Our own federal agencies use the term stochastic terrorism to classify violence that doesn’t follow conventions. It’s not organized or predictable. It doesn’t follow a coherent set of beliefs or ideologies. There’s no single group or cell.

It’s chaotic and random.

Let’s put it in simple terms: Stochastic terrorism doesn’t sound like a big deal until you really think about it. It’s just ordinary dirt bags spitting on healthcare workers and making death threats while they try to save lives. It’s just hateful QAnon believers spreading a virus whose lethality increases every time it mutates, knowing it will kill people but choosing to believe it’s all a hoax, to relieve their conscience. It’s just repressed evangelicals walking into spas and shooting Asian women or blowing up vans on Christmas morning “without any traceable motive.”

Angry voices like Tucker Carlson encourage all of this. They know by now what happens when they use phrases like “trial by combat” or “you have to show strength.” They know what their fist pumps and angry rants do to their followers and fan base. Their words keep their viewers in a constant state of agitation, and then they encourage them to go off and start confrontations with anyone that bothers them.

Now he’s sending them after me and my daughter. I’m terrified. And that’s the whole point of terrorism.

It works.

This is how terror operates.

Despite all our talk about terrorism, Americans don’t seem to know how it actually looks. They’ve seen too many movies.

Terrorism isn’t crowds running from bombs or suspicious-looking powders. That’s a theatrical version that sells popcorn. Real terrorism can be quiet, and hard to call out. It’s acts of severe violence when you least expect them, followed by a litany of threats too vague and indirect for people to take seriously, unless they’re targeting you. It’s the impact on your daily life, like whether you choose to leave the house after an influential media personality tells people to accost and verbally assault you.

It’s not a building blowing up.

It’s all the thousands of tense interactions we’ll be having over the oncoming weeks as we stand in checkout lines. It’s all the dirty looks we’ll give each other. It’s not macro violence.

It’s micro.

That’s Tucker Carlson’s goal, and that’s the thing tearing this country apart. Real terrorism isn’t some guy in a turban waiving an AK-47 in the middle of a desert. That’s what Americans have been taught, because it distracts us from the more tangible threat of our own homegrown, domestic terrorists — the white supremacists and neo-fascists down the block.

Real terrorism can be someone on prime time television demanding the state take your children away.

That’s what happened the other night. A white man who claims to love America told millions of other Americans they had a moral duty to take my child from me, for trying to keep her safe.

Now I’m scared.

Tucker Carlson will get people killed.

There’s no comfort in dismissing Tucker Carlson and those like him as “just some nut job,” because there’s dozens if not hundreds of police officers and local officials who agree with him and can manipulate the system to make it happen. Even if they couldn’t make it stick, they could separate families. They could put children in facilities and expose them to the very thing we’ve given up so much trying to protect them from.

Now I live in fear. My child could die. Tucker Carlson will have killed her. Even if that doesn’t happen, he wants us to be afraid it could — unless we start doing what he says, and abandon masks.

That’s terrorism.

That’s forcing people to comply with your politics, out of fear that something could happen to you if you don’t.

Tucker Carlson crossed a line. He didn’t just express his own opinion. Like his kind always do, he advocated for other people to have their rights taken away and their families torn apart. It’s not easy these days, but he did it. Tucker Carlson is the most hateful man in America.


NOTE: Ceremonial figure ASH BLOWER MASK used in indigenous healing ceremonies for the sick. Blowing ashes over the ill person was believed to heal them.

So be it, let’s all blow some ash Tucker’s way!

art by T. BLEN PARKER.


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