I analyzed Tucker Carlson's January 6th FBI conspiracy segment. It's a masterclass in how conspiracy theories work, a thread.
First, TC activates his audience members' "flight or fight" response. This is key because it activates the body's natural responses to fear--adrenalin & cortisol flood the brain, which "hijacks" the rational part of the brain, preventing critical thinking. healthline.com/health/stress/…
TC activated the f/f response by telling the story of a supposedly racially motivated shooting spree in which an African-American man targeted white men. He uses evocative language that puts his viewer in the place of the person shot, reaffirming they are in real danger.
But TC says that it's not the shooter's fault, it's actually a reasonable response to what political leaders have done: focus on race to divide us. This general principle in his lede allows him to segue into the real topic: the government "regime" punishing "political dissent."
He's activated his audience's flight/fight response, he has their attention, but not their reason, and now he deploys his conspiracy narrative. Remember what I've explained about why conspiracy is so powerful & effective: it is a "self-sealing" narrative. It can't be disproven.
If you deny the plot, the conspiracist accuses you of a cover-up, of trying to suppress the truth or free speech. If you deny the facts, the conspiracist says "they won't tell you the truth."
There is no fact or truth that can puncture the conspiracy theory, the logic of conspiracy covers it up.

TC starts with the Attorney General and interprets what he says for the audience with, essentially, the AG hates you, lies, offers no proof you've done anything wrong.
That's the general principle (the major premise), everything else are examples to provide an accumulation to support that major premise as the conclusion. Yes, it's circular.
OK, so the government hates you, how do we know? January 6th had nothing to do with race, but was about imprisoning anyone who opposes Joe Biden's government. Then he quotes PUTIN to prove this. 😱
He says, "honestly, those are fair questions"--aligning his audience with Putin. Then (remember, their flight/fight response is active) he asks if it's "ok to shoot an unarmed woman...no, it'll never be ok." Again, there is danger--you will be shot, they shot an unarmed woman!
This also activates their male/macho "protect our women" vibe while eliding the reason that she was shot (she was an active & imminent threat to elected officials).
This allows him to make an appeal to hypocrisy (tu quoque the dominant appeal of our broken public sphere that erodes trust): BLM & Antifa torched buildings & got away with it, he says! He's making a false comparison between threatening people & buildings.
His audience won't notice that error in reasoning, their amygdala has been hijacked. Remember, he has told his audience that they're in danger, there is a plot, the government are hypocrites.
From there he invokes a series of conspiracy questions about the plot: what, why, what could possibly be the reason, he asks. These questions activate the conspiracy frame.
What follows cannot be disproven because, of course, the conspiracy exists, aren't you in danger? Don't you feel scared? (you do! He's been hijacking your ability to reason and turning your body's natural responses against you)
All this tees up his FBI plot story, which is already proven by his major premise (they're trying to punish political dissent). He uses the language of conspiracy, makes coincidence appear to be a pattern, misrepresenting reality, using hedging words for plausible deniability.
"strangely" "potentially" "for example" "by the way" "almost certainly"

my favorite: "why not? You know why"

The chyron sums it up, "IT'S A TACTIC THE FBI HAS BEEN USING FOR YEARS."
TC sums up by comparing these tactics to the PATRIOT Act and how it violates civil liberties in the name of protecting the US from foreign terror threats. Now the government says that WE are the threats. They're going to PATRIOT Act US!
That should really worry you, TC says. They might even "round up" sitting members of Congress? The DULY ELECTED? Anyone who opposes the "regime" is a threat because they're punishing political dissent.

EVEN PUTIN ISN'T DOING THAT!
AND NO ONE NOTICED!!
And that friends is how TC wields conspiracy theory against his audience members. He hijacks their ability to think critically with fear appeals, then uses the language of conspiracy to tell them that they should be scared and they can trust no one but him to tell them the truth.
It's an old strategy, and one that Trump has also used very successfully. TC tells his audience that Jan 6 was about legitimate political dissent and any attempt to punish the insurrectionists amounts to totalitarianism, which should scare them. And it does.
And, if you want to see TC do this himself, here is the link to the video: foxnews.com/opinion/tucker…
I think it's really important that we all understand how this is done. It's so irresponsible to communicate in this way. It's effective, but unethical. Remember how it works when you try to talk to people who've been fooled by TC & his conspiracy theories and fear appeals.
Scientists think that we can actually get addicted to outrage, fear appeals, and other emotion-baiting language that sets our adrenalin and cortisol responses in motion. We seek it out, wondering "what should we be afraid of today?" And everyone has a form of PTSD.
I'm glad so many of y'all are finding this interesting. More thoughts:
1) "addiction" might be too strong of a word, as folks pointed out to me.
2) check your own fight/flight responses to media content; try not to spread content that elicits that response (it's hard, I know)
Also, I wrote this to prep for my @ReliableSources appearance for tomorrow. Tune in and I'll try to explain how this works in more/less detail.

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More from @jenmercieca

13 Jun
I wonder if Kool-Aid ever got pissed about Jim Jones.
It wasn’t even actual Kool-Aid. Surely someone has written a comms study about what to do when your brand is unfairly associated with a death cult? Image
So many of you knew that it wasn’t actually Kool-Aid! I wonder how the two brands got confused in the public imagination & lexicon?
Read 4 tweets
12 Jun
I'm writing about Trump and the fascist aesthetic today (this thread) and just realized that Trump got the meme from Modi who used it at least 6 months earlier and Netanyahu got it from Trump, using it just a few days after Trump. 🤔
ImageImage
Does anyone see a higher res version of the Netanyahu one? That one looks distorted, would love a better version if you see it!
Read 4 tweets
12 Jun
50 of the nation's first 64 years the President was a slaveholder.
28 of the nation's first 35 years the Speaker of the House was a slaveholder.
President Pro Tem of the Senate, almost always a slaveholder.
Majority of Cabinet members & Supreme Court Justices were slaveholders.
But only a small number of people actually owned slaves (4.9 percent of people in the slaveholding states owned slaves in 1860), so that small minority had an incredible oversampling of power over the government. politifact.com/factchecks/201…
But I guess don't teach that? I guess that isn't important. OK.
Read 10 tweets
10 Jun
I'm trying to figure out where "conservative email forwards" originate from so I went around to a bunch of conservative sites and registered with them yesterday to see what I kind of email I'd get.

Today I realized that I am an absolute idiot.
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I've never had so many emails concerned about my colon care, so many princes desperate to give me money, or so many sexxo sexy pills offered to me.
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9 Jun
For folks writing about CRT and education: education has always (always!) been political. Whether we're talking about who gets educated, the purpose of education, or the content or style of education. Every single bit of it is political, hence subject to being propaganda.
For example, yesterday we talked about the extension of the right to vote to white males--extending the right to vote caused a crisis in education. Reformers argued that if we were going to have universal white male suffrage, then we needed universal white male education.
When systems of public education were developed they were supported by arguments by conservatives like Daniel Webster who saw education as "a wise and liberal system of police" and radicals who argued that education was the path to equality.
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