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Tucker Carlson blames women and prescription drugs for the Highland Park shooting

Authorities haven't determine a motive for the shooting. But Carlson thinks it's about feminism and mental health counseling.
Photo composite: A close-up shot of Tucker Carlson alongside an image of people grieving at a candlelight vigil.
Not much is known about what motivated the suspect accused of the mass shooting in in Highland Park, Illinois, which killed 7 people.MSNBC / Getty Images

Local authorities say they have not yet determined what motivated the suspected mass shooter they say has confessed to killing seven people at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois. But Fox News host Tucker Carlson thinks he has the answer: women who scold men about their privilege — and also prescription drugs.

On his show Tuesday night, Carlson said the suspect “didn’t stand out” as worrisome to his community — disregarding reports that the suspect had attempted suicide and threatened in 2019 to kill his family — because “there's a lot of young men in America who suddenly look and act a lot like this guy.”

Carlson then went on a ludicrous rant about the common afflictions that plague “alienated young men” in America and drive some of them to the mental instability that he suggests can spark mass shootings. Some highlights from Carlson’s remarks:

  • “The authorities in their lives — mostly women — never stop lecturing them about their so-called privilege. ‘You're male! You're privileged.’”
  • “They're numbed by the endless psychotropic drugs that are handed out at every school in the country by crackpots posing as counselors.”
  • “They are high on government-endorsed weed.”

Carlson is not drawing from anything the suspect has written or said describing his views. Not much is known about the suspect, except that his online presence indicates he had a fascination with violence, that the aforementioned mental health episodes were reported to police and that, according to police, he is suspected of having some sort of affinity for the numbers 4 and 7 (the attack took place on the date “7/4”). No information released so far suggests the attack was ideological in an obvious way, police say, or motivated by race, religion or any other protected status. (Some photos of him at a Trump rally have circulated online, but experts say a handful of photos aren't enough to establish right-wing extremism as a motive.)

But, of course, none of this really mattered to Carlson, who is not looking to understand the particulars of this case but instead is looking to use anything as a springboard to advance his radically reactionary worldview. In this case, he wants to deflect attention from gun control debates and instead frame mass shootings as products of the emasculation of the American man. For Carlson, the issue is not the easy access an unstable young man had to a weapon of war, but … the feminist agenda and antidepressants.

Carlson’s implicit solutions to male alienation are key planks of his political agenda: reviving traditionalist masculinity and unbridled patriarchy, and cultivating distrust in American institutional life (in this case, the education and mental health infrastructure of the country).

Are there reasonable critiques to be made about the way our schools deal with teenage alienation and mental health problems? Of course. But Carlson has no interest in serious critique. Instead, just as he continues to do with his disinformation-packed conspiracy theories about Jan. 6, he delights in exploiting crises to encourage right-wing radicalism. First he prompts viewers to grow mistrustful and resentful of anything that resembles “the establishment.” Then he encourages a turn to strongman politics to fill the vacuum.

Carlson’s rant did not make sense. It did not need to. He does not need to provide evidence or try to connect the dots on how talk of male privilege encourages male violence or how in-school mental health counselors are hurting kids. He simply needs to validate his viewers’ instincts that feminism is going too far and that counselors are making boys weak by encouraging them to process their feelings.

Ultimately the end goal is most important: Carlson wants his followers to know that they are right to feel mad — perhaps uncontrollably so — in the face of social movements demanding equality and fairness. He wants them to foreclose any critical thinking about guns and violence — and instead find a way to blame the other side.