"It's not how white men fight": Tucker Carlson and the death of Jordan Neely

On Tucker Carlson's deranged and twisted fantasies about "honorable" white men and their violence

By Chauncey DeVega

Senior Writer

Published May 5, 2023 8:35AM (EDT)

Tucker Carlson (Getty/Rich Polk)
Tucker Carlson (Getty/Rich Polk)

In the most recent chapter in the "Tucker Carlson -- Fox "News" Choose Your Own Adventure Story", the New York Times is reporting that he was unceremoniously fired by Fox because they feared that Carlson's "extremely" racist text messages would hurt their business:

A text message sent by Tucker Carlson that set off a panic at the highest levels of Fox on the eve of its billion-dollar defamation trial showed its most popular host sharing his private, inflammatory views about violence and race.

The discovery of the message contributed to a chain of events that ultimately led to Mr. Carlson's firing.

In the message, sent to one of his producers in the hours after violent Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Mr. Carlson described how he had recently watched a video of a group of men — Trump supporters, he said — violently attacking "an Antifa kid."

It was "three against one, at least," he wrote.

And then he expressed a sense of dismay that the attackers, like him, were white.

"Jumping a guy like that is dishonorable obviously," he wrote.

"It's not how white men fight," he said. But he said he found himself for a moment wanting the group to kill the person he had described as the Antifa kid.

As I wrote on Thursday, "Beyond sounding like something written in Madison Grant's eugenics tract 'The Passing of the Great Race,' Carlson's claims about white men and violence are objectively racist and white supremacist because he delusionally assumes, contrary to the mountains of historical and contemporary evidence to the contrary, the inherent honor and superiority and nobility of 'white men' as a specific group."

In all, Carlson's claims about white men and honor are objectively false and absurd.

From before the so-called Founding, white men have engaged in mob actions, pogroms and racial and ethnic cleansing campaigns against Black, brown and First Nations peoples across the Americas and what would later become the United States. As many historians and other experts have repeatedly shown, the freedom to engage in violence against non-white people with impunity is one of the defining features of how white masculinity has historically been constructed around the world.

White racial settler colonialism, white on Black chattel slavery, European and American imperialism, the Holocaust, and white supremacy as a global enterprise are acts of violence on a massive scale committed by white men and grand proof of how "white men fight."

The Ku Klux Klan is America's largest terrorist organization. The Klan and other white terrorist organizations and mob actions killed tens of thousands of Black people in America (and terrorized many millions more) from the end of the Civil War through to the middle of the twentieth century and the victories of the Civil Rights Movement and beyond. As the Equal Justice Initiative and other researchers have exhaustively documented, at least 6,500 Black men, Black women, and Black children were killed in spectacular lynchings and other acts of white supremacist violence in the United States from the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century.

The Jan. 6 coup attempt by Donald Trump's followers was an example of how Tucker Carlson's "white men fight" against multiracial democracy, pluralism, the common good, and law and order. The white men that Tucker Carlson admires as being somehow inherently honorable led and participated in and legitimated these acts of violence and many others. Moreover, these same white men and their spokespeople and defenders even described such anti-Black and anti-brown violence as "honorable" and doing the work of white civilization and Christianity. 

White women (and white children) also participated in and continue to be beneficiaries of America's (and the West's) past and present of widespread and systemic violence by "honorable" white men against non-whites and those deemed to some type of Other.

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And of course, the "honorable" white men that Carlson so admires have committed massive acts of violence against other white people.

Tucker Carlson and most other white people (and some lost black and brown people too) who are committed to white identity politics and neofascism do not even know the real history of white people and White America and Whiteness and how such identities were invented and made real. On this, James Baldwin wrote so brilliantly and cuttingly in his essay "On Being 'White' ... and Other Lies":

By deciding that they were white. By opting for safety instead of life. By persuading themselves that a Black child's life meant nothing compared with a white child's life. By abandoning their children to  the things white men could buy. By informing their children that Black women, Black men and Black children had no human integrity that those who call themselves white were bound to respect. And in this debasement and definition of Black people, they debased and defamed themselves.

And have brought humanity to the edge of oblivion: because they think they are white. Because they think they are white, they do not dare confront the ravage and the lie of their history. Because they think they are white, they cannot allow themselves to be tormented by the suspicion that all men are brothers. Because they think they are white, they are looking for, or bombing into existence, stable populations, cheerful natives and cheap labor. Because they think they are white, they believe, as even no child believes, in the dream of safety. Because they think they are white, however vociferous they may be and however multitudinous, they are as speechless as Lot's wife— looking backward, changed into a pillar of salt.

However-! White being, absolutely, a moral choice (for there are no white people), the crisis of leadership for those of us whose identity has been forged, or branded, as Black is nothing new. We—who were not Black before we got here either, who were defined as Black by the slave trade—have paid for the crisis of leadership in the white community for a very long time, and have resoundingly, even when we face the worst about ourselves, survived, and triumphed over it. If we had not survived and triumphed, there would not be a Black American alive.

Thus, the great rage and defensiveness and lashing out when the many lies of Whiteness are exposed as such.

The Republican fascist thought crime regime in places such as Texas and Florida (and across other parts of red state America and Trumplandia) and its campaign to erase, rewrite and literally whitewash America's history by banning books, firing teachers and other educators, silencing truth-tellers through violence and intimidation, and closing down schools and other programs that dare to teach the real complex, unsettling, and challenging history of America because such things "hurt white people's feelings," is, at its core, an attempt to protect and sustain such White fantasies and White delusions as Carlson's. 

The freedom to engage in violence against non-white people with impunity is one of the defining features of how white masculinity has historically been constructed around the world.

Tucker Carlson's deranged and twisted fantasies about "honorable" white men and their violence and what such self-soothing and narcissistic ego-justifying thoughts channel and manifest, is not something about the past, ghosts of America's history that are still being litigated and debated but that ultimately have no real impact on the present. Those ghosts and demons of white supremacy and white racism and white violence and the world that they created and recreate all the time are with us right now. These are matters of life and death.

On Monday afternoon on the New York City subway, a former Marine choked an unhoused Black man named Jordan Neely to death. The crowd watched as they recorded the killing on their phones. The medical examiner has ruled Neely's death a homicide. Some of the people in the crowd helped to hold the 30-year-old down while the former Marine killed him. It is being reported that no one intervened to stop the former Marine turned apparent vigilante. While he was questioned by police, he was then allowed to go home. As of the time of this writing, he has not been charged with a crime.

In a new essay at the Nation, Elie Mystal writes:

Having told you all that, do I even have to tell you the race of the assailant or the victim? Does anyone think there is a Black man alive in this country who could walk up to a nonviolent white person, in public, choke him to death in full view of other passengers and on video, and then just walk away after a brief chat with the police? Barack freaking Obama would not be allowed to walk away after choking a homeless white man to death on the subway. If you do think that he could, please step forward and claim your complimentary dunce cap, and infuse it with your own naivete.

The victim was Black; the assailant was white. The victim pretty much had to be Black to support the callous disregard for his life, and the assailant had to be white to secure the disregard of law enforcement. This is a story that could only happen in America, where white supremacy and anti-Blackness combine to make the violent murder of a human being on public transportation into the kind of thing white people can do and then go home. At some level, this could only happen on the New York City subway, one of the few places in the entire country where people from all different races, creeds, and classes are forced into close contact and required to behave with a modicum of civility and empathy toward their fellow citizens, if only until the next stop.

Jordan Neely's supposed "crime" was "being disruptive" and "hostile and erratic." It would appear that is now a capital offense.

Such a horrific outcome — and the descriptors that are used to justify it — is not new for Black people, where, whatever or despite their behavior, they have been punished with extreme force and lethal violence for the above "crimes" by Tucker Carlson's "honorable" white men.

By Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a senior politics writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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Commentary Democracy Crisis Dominion Fascism Fox News Jordan Neely Race Racism Tucker Carlson