“Why should we let it become Cuba? Why don’t we liberate it?” Tucker Carlson said on his show. “I’m serious.”

Carlson’s comments in February started a viral firestorm across the U.S. and Canada, which has been reignited after Fox News announced the release of a documentary based on the comments earlier this month. The preview of the documentary, titled O, Canada, seems to focus on the 2022 “Freedom Convoy” protests and the Trudeau government’s response, but the fate of the project may be up in the air in light of the breaking news that Carlson is out.

Many on the political left in the United States often frame Carlson as a fringe figure, and he certainly seems fringe when lining him up alongside other prime-time cable news hosts. Still, his now former show, Tucker Carlson Tonight, was the highest-rated cable news show in the United States. He averaged more than 2.5 million views a night and typically attracted around half a million viewers aged 25 to 54, the cherished demographic for advertisers, making the decision by Fox News to part ways unexpected.

While it’s likely the network’s recent $787-million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems over defamation claims regarding allegations of fraud in the 2020 presidential election that pushed the network to part ways with Carlson, controversies over his comments regarding Canada or his reporting of fake Ukrainian casualty figures may have also contributed to the decision to dump his show.

While many on the political left may celebrate the end of this era of Fox News, one must be careful what they wish for. Fox News, with its corporate structure of shareholders and advertisers, presented considerable guardrails for Carlson.

At the end of the day, even at Fox News, the business is about finding a balance between provocative content and keeping a large enough audience to attract advertisers.

If Carlson decides to venture online to build an independent following and be funded directly by his audience, he may not only be left without those guardrails moderating his rhetoric but also be encouraged to carve out a more and more radical audience — one that is willing to donate to his show or buy sponsored products. If even with those corporate considerations Carlson is willing to provoke international controversy with a call to “liberate Canada,” how far is he willing to go rhetorically working in a different business model that rewards radicalism over moderation? This makes getting Fox News-era Carlson that much more important to understand what we can presume to be a new iteration of the host.

More than just an exercise in crafting a viral clip, Carlson’s comments revealed how deniability and irony are key strategies of the broader right-wing movement. Unfortunately, in this country, the NDP’s failed attempt to pass a unanimous resolution in Parliament condemning his comments only served to heighten the absurdity of the affair, lending credibility to Carlson among conservatives on both sides of the border.

So why is he interested in Canadian politics at all? Beyond opposition to Justin Trudeau, connections between the Canadian political right and that in the U.S. have been growing since Donald Trump was elected. The animating energy of these movements is similar: opposition to immigration, fury surrounding the acceptance of transgender people and drag queens, claims about the spread of communism (usually confused with a critique of perceived authoritarianism), concerns with appearing “weak” in terms of national security, and fear-mongering about China’s growing importance on the international stage.

Controversies swirling around Tucker Carlson over his comments regarding Canada or his reporting of fake Ukrainian casualty figures may have also contributed to Fox's decision to dump his show, writes @jacksondtodd

While the politics of Canada’s neighbour to the south seems to flow northward, the relationship is not unidirectional; Canadian political players like Jordan Peterson, Gavin McInnes, and Rebel News have become critical components of the far-right sphere on both sides of the border. These connections only deepened the spectacle surrounding the trucker convoy, which conservatives in the U.S. already thought was largely in opposition to vaccine mandates, as well as the government’s response. When Carlson covered the event at the time, he said, “This is what the collapse of democracy looks like.”

A few days after his call to “liberate Canada,” the NDP pushed for a unanimous resolution to condemn the cable news host. If the controversy was already amusing for the U.S.-Canada right, it was now unbridled entertainment.

After the resolution failed, the NDP took to Twitter to accuse Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives of having “sided [with] Tucker Carlson and his attack on our democracy.” A major party attempting to use a performative measure to condemn a cable news host from another country and then using that measure’s failure to claim its political opponents are disloyal to the country appears insincere.

Beyond inflammatory cable news show hosts, nothing illustrates the power of irony in today’s politics quite like the political success of Trump. He embodies a performative insincerity that makes fully understanding him impossible for critics and fans, and when his political opponents take him seriously when he is at his most insincere, they look completely foolish. This occurred countless times throughout the Trump years. An illustrative example happened last August when Trump satirically endorsed the lawyer who helped impeach him (the first time) in a tight New York congressional race. Like the NDP, several of the “Trump-endorsed” candidates’ opponents took the bait, making them seem politically and digitally illiterate.

In light of Carlson’s departure from Fox News and the potential for an even more inflammatory Tucker, it’s important to emphasize irony's role in the far-right’s play for relevance.

He has already gone so far as to ponder an American invasion of Canada, so what would stop him from becoming even more provocative? Additionally, considering how Canada has largely escaped the conservative backlash that seems to be flowing through most western countries, it must be asked: If the strategic value of irony is not properly understood by Canadian leftists and liberals, what happens when a conservative figure adept in the art of insincerity rises to the national stage? It may seem far-fetched, but that’s the far-right’s greatest strength.

Jackson Todd is a graduate student at the New School for Social Research in New York. Originally from Shreveport, La., he studies the role that the political economy of urban and rural areas plays in shaping contemporary politics and social movements, with a particular interest in the Great Lakes region. His work has been featured in the Village Voice, Metropolitics, and the New York Daily News.

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Tucker Carlson a laissé parler plus des voix contre-geurre que le NO ou tous les autres informations.

Huh? ...in both languages.

As a retired teacher of English I'm a bit bemused by your reflections on irony and Tucker Carlson...
I've never listened to the man so that may be why I'm not getting it.........but offering to invade Canada to remove our socialist PM sounds more like hyperbole to me.......or if we extend the idea into an entire program....farce.
Likely we shouldn't over react...but if we countered by saying we were going to 'build a wall to prevent that invasion"........I wouldn't consider that irony. Satire maybe...satiric allusion might work also, since it is a reference to Trump's inane idea about the border with Mexico.

But irony??? That's a far subtler literary device than either Tucker.....or our own NDP, could manage in this situation.

I believe the irony the author is referring to can be illustrated by Trump fans who say "He tells it like it is" when he is lying fabulously. You should take a look at clips of Carlson on YouTube. You'll be shocked if not horrified. The dishonesty and skillful propaganda methods are hard to watch. It's like he was actually preparing his viewers to rise up and kill their neighbors at some point. That may sound over the top but that's how it went down in Rwanda.

Where re those 85,000 missing migrant children that Joe Biden gave to anyone who said they were a guardian?
Or do you even care? I mean, the're not your children right?