So, if a girlfriend says to her boyfriend, “I know you went home with Tiffany after her shift on Thursday night, and you had sex with her in her living room three times,” and then the boyfriend starts screaming and waving his arms around and shouting, “Oh right! You think I just go around having sex with everyone all the time! You’re so crazy!” Then, in fact, that boyfriend went home with Tiffany after her shift on Thursday night, and he had sex with her in her living room three times. Compare this possible response: “I was with Brian on Thursday night, hanging out at the gas station and listening to Yo La Tengo on our headphones, and I haven’t seen Tiffany since that thing at the dog park.” Right?
Now, without revisiting details, Tucker Carlson made three claims when he aired January 6 footage on his Fox News program Monday night:
1) The Viking-horned Jacob Chansley, who was charged with “violent entry” to the Capitol, and who was later depicted as having fought his way through the building to storm the Senate chambers, in fact walked the hall calmly in the company of police officers who didn’t try to stop him, and who in fact tried to open doors for him.
2) Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who was depicted by the January 6 committee as a coward who ran, alone, from the mob, in fact, followed police directions and left an area with many other legislators.
3) Officer Brian Sicknick, who has repeatedly been depicted as an officer who was murdered by violent insurrectionists in the Capitol on January 6, can be seen walking around unharmed in the Capitol after he is supposed to have been killed.
Also, Carlson explicitly said that some people were violent at the Capitol on January 6.
So watch what the political class is saying about Carlson’s broadcast:
Republican Senator Thom Tillis reacts to Tucker Carlson releasing never before seen J6 footage:
"I think it's bullsh*t."
Welcome to the DC Uniparty. pic.twitter.com/jenVBLeYxH
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) March 7, 2023
Thom Tillis isn’t responding to Carlson’s narrow, specific fact claims; he’s responding to his cartoon version, steamrolling details and flattening the thing he’s supposedly talking about.
George W. Bush was especially fond of this maneuver, but most politicians use it all the time: “Some say,” they say, and then say something that no one is saying, and then pretend to respond to it. “Some say we should let the terrorists win, but Americans know that’s an irresponsible view.”
If you respond to your critics by not responding to your critics but instead respond by inventing their position so you can attack your own rhetorical creation, you can’t respond to your critics.
So ask yourself one thing: In all the post-broadcast ranting about the Tucker Carlson Menace — and let’s not kid ourselves, he may invade Poland at any moment — how many politicians and media figures have you heard specifically addressing Carlson’s three narrow fact claims about Chansley, Hawley, and Sicknick?
When someone makes specific claims, and the responses are not specific, the response is not a response. It’s chaff, and it’s meant to cloud the air.
How many times have we seen this maneuver? Q: You said the vaccines were 100 percent effective, and that everyone who gets them immediately becomes a dead end for the virus. Was that true? A: Ohh, I know that some people are anti-vaxxers who don’t believe in science, but I don’t have any patience for these conspiracy theories.
It’s topic-shifting, quite thinly disguised. Again: When someone makes specific claims, and the responses are not specific, the response is not a response.