Thread by Jennifer Mercieca
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.
Amygdala Hijack: What It Is, Why It Happens & How to Make It Stop Amygdala hijack happens when your brain reacts to psychological stress as if it’s physical danger and triggers your fight-or-flight response. It’s caused by a more primitive part of your brain called …
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.