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Opinion Tucker Carlson’s Starbucks hysteria

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris during a covid-19 briefing in Wilmington, Del., on Monday. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)

Unity is in the air. Following a typically divisive election season, President-elect Joe Biden said on Saturday, "With the campaign over, it’s time to put the anger and the harsh rhetoric behind us and come together as a nation. It’s time for America to unite. And to heal.”

For Tucker Carlson, it’s time to demonize. During his Friday night program on Fox News, Carlson delivered his usual slams against Biden and continued a long-running critique of the political tradition that the president-elect represents. President Trump and his followers, said Carlson, were the true liberals, because they believe in freedom. Not so this Biden bunch:

They don’t believe in dissent. You think one thing, I think another, that’s okay. No, that’s not them at all. They demand obedience. Diversity, which is to say legitimate differences between people, is the last thing they want. Diversity? It’s a cruel joke. They must mean it ironically. These people seek absolute sameness, total uniformity. You’re happy with your corner coffee shop. They want to make you drink Starbucks every day from now until forever, no matter how it tastes. That’s the future they promise: everyone doing the same thing.

“They” held the White House for eight years prior to the election of Trump. Yet “they” never released a Starbucks executive order.

People had some fun with Carlson’s swerve into coffee conspiracy.

Why was Carlson’s swipe so absurd? Because Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris have given him so little material. At the time that Carlson ranted about beverage goose-stepping, after all, the networks hadn’t even called the race for the Democratic ticket. (That call came Saturday morning, with CNN leading a decision-desk stampede that included Fox News. It remains to be seen whether Carlson acknowledges the work of his own network’s news division.)

Friday night, though, was just a warmup, as Fox News opinionators are gearing up to do what they’ve always done best: exaggerate, exploit and fabricate attacks against Democratic politicians. This strain of programming reached its preposterous apex during the Obama presidency, when Fox News commentators couldn’t abide the Democratic president’s occasional golf outings, his choice of mustards, his fist bumps, his pirate-photo joke or his tan suit. Benghazi, the Obama failure in which four U.S. personnel lost their lives during a terrorist attack on an underprotected U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya, received Watergate-level coverage on Fox News.

There’s no one more suited to command this sort of coverage than Carlson. Remember: During the Obama years, Carlson was far from the nightly prime-time force that he is now. Back then, he was floating around the network and hosting interminable sessions with “Fox & Friends Weekend.” Toward the end of the Trump presidency, he has roared, breaking audience records via hateful and groundless programming.

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As noted in this space previously, Carlson’s appeal includes a one-sided depiction of Democrats, a group of self-interested elites that hate the country that they seek to lead, in his view. One example of this came over the summer, when Carlson attempted to orchestrate a collective freakout over Black Lives Matter protests against police violence. At every turn, Carlson’s show privileged images of riots over peaceful protest, the better to scare his viewers. The rhetoric followed the same inspiration: “This may be a lot of things, this moment we are living through, but it is definitely not about Black lives,” said Carlson. “And remember that when they come for you, and at this rate, they will. Anyone who has ever been subjected to the rage of the mob knows the feeling. It’s like being swarmed by hornets. You cannot think clearly.”

Now, a lot of folks concluded that Carlson was saying that Black protesters will come for White people. But Fox News put out a clarification: “Tucker’s warning about ‘when they come for you’ was clearly referring to Democratic leaders and inner-city politicians.”

Oh, isn’t that swell, then! We’ve asked Fox News if it stands by the statement that Democrats will “come for you.”

With that clarification, Fox News announced that conspiratorial attacks on Democrats are perfectly fine: We will stand behind you. In September, Greg Gutfeld, a host on Fox News’s afternoon roundtable program “The Five,” predicted doom if Biden were to lose his bid for the presidency. “Because if Biden loses, I’m being told that there will be blood everywhere. There will be riots, there will be demonstrations. People like me will be targeted [because] we have to understand, we have to understand and predict these consequences in reality. I’m not joking,” said Gutfeld. “The Dems and the media have portrayed this election as good versus evil. It’s actually been said that way on this show, which means that if Trump wins . . . it’s almost required that the good take to the streets and punish the evil.”

So those are the fundamentals as Fox News’s opinion hosts approach the inauguration of Joe Biden: Anything goes. We won’t hazard any guesses at this point as to just how Carlson & Co. will articulate their attacks; as the Starbucks thing demonstrates, they’re too crazy to foresee. Chances are good, therefore, that their news-side colleagues will have no choice but to refute them, continuing a news-opinion food fight that took place during the Trump administration.

Don’t conclude, however, that the tensions will destroy Fox News. It’s too profitable for that.

Read more from Erik Wemple:

Four years too late, the TV establishment puts Trump on mute

Trump is losing. Can he take Lou Dobbs with him?

‘It’s a lot of fun’: CNN’s John King had a blast on election night

Kayleigh McEnany Watch: A ‘landslide’ is afoot!

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