The outrage over civility in politics is always one that is laced with hypocrisy. This week’s viral video is no different. Known as the “Montana Man”, resident Dan Bailey is recorded confronting Fox News host Tucker Carlson while shopping. In the video, which has been shared widely online, viewers can hear Bailey call Carlson, “the worst human being known to mankind.”
Carlson has used his time slot on Fox News to continually spread misinformation about the virus and the vaccination. The host has made outrageous claims about COVID-19, casting doubt on the vaccine and even claiming that Dr. Fauci created the virus himself. Dr. Fauci has dismissed his false claims throughout the year, saying Carlson is spreading a “crazy conspiracy theory” to his viewers.
Harassment or accountability?
While harassment shouldn’t be condoned, Carlson is a public figure who makes a living from creating false outrage. His abysmal rhetoric and false information have hurt Americans just like the Montana Man claimed. Millions of viewers have listened to him spout disinformation about the vaccine killing thousands of people while also claiming that vaccinations are essentially useless.
A Fox News spokesperson made a statement about Bailey’s confrontation, labeling the behavior as “inexcusable.” The statement continued by saying, “No public figure should be accosted regardless of their political persuasion or beliefs simply due to the intolerance of another point of view.”
However, Fox News has not followed its own guidance. In the past, Carlson has called on his millions of viewers to harass others. Not just public figures either, but everyday Americans. Back in April, Carlson told his viewers to confront those who are wearing masks in public. Carlson told his audience, “So next time you see someone in a mask on the sidewalk or on the bike path, do not hesitate. Ask politely but firmly…” He continued by telling his viewers, “Your response when you see children wearing masks as they play should be no different from your response to seeing someone beat a kid in Wal-Mart. Call the police immediately. Contact child protective services.”
If a public figure sends their millions of viewers after everyday Americans following the guidance of scientists, then that public figure should be ready for the backlash. Not to mention, “Montana Man” Bailey even followed Carlson’s advice by confronting him “politely but firmly.”
Fake outrage and civility
This is why the fake outrage and clutching of pearls from conservatives are so infuriating. While propagandists and paid mouthpieces harm America with false claims and purposeful disinformation, everyday Americans like the Montana Man must deal with the consequences. For example, a recent poll shows that Fox News viewers are less likely to get the vaccine. This hurts the United State’s chances for an 80-90% vaccination rate and herd immunity.
Meanwhile, Republicans have made outraged statements like the Fox News spokesperson. Calling for “civility” in politics, some conservatives have painted Bailey as a “liberal lunatic” with no respect for boundaries. Instead of addressing the harm Carlson causes, they are focusing on the cheap talking points that help their political party. Putting party over country, “outraged” critics of Bailey would rather focus on false civility in politics than addressing real harm.
Conservatives seem to be more concerned about the optics of this situation than the root cause. They are trying to hide their own accountability behind a blanket of civility, prioritizing a fake air of sensibility over facing the people they have hurt. Until people can prioritize truth and harm reduction over their political party, the United States will continue to be a country divided.