Did Tucker Carlson do eco-fascism? An investigation

Nazi or not Nazi? That is the question.

Welcome to HEATED, a newsletter for people who are pissed off about the climate crisis—written by me, Emily Atkin.

If you’ve been forwarded this email, you can sign up for your own subscription here:

HEATED is a community, and I love hearing from readers. If you have thoughts, questions, story ideas or tips, you can reach me at emily@heated.world.

Nazi or not Nazi?

That is the question.

On Monday night, with more than 2.8 million people watching, Fox News host Tucker Carlson said he really, truly cares about the environment. (Amazing!)

And because he really, truly cares about the environment, Carlson added, he doesn’t want a bunch of brown people coming into America, as they would “pollute” and “despoil” the country. (Oh wow! Ok!)

Carlson made these comments in a conversation with Justin Haskins, the editorial director for the right-wing climate denial group The Heartland Institute. The two were speaking about Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ recently-released immigration plan—which, among other things, says the Senator would allow at least 50,000 climate refugees into America during his first year in the White House.

(That part of Sanders’ plan is taken directly from Senate bill 2565, Senator Ed Markey’s bill “to establish a Global Climate Change Resilience Strategy, to authorize the admission of climate-displaced persons, and for other purposes.”)

Responding to scientific estimates that anywhere from 25 million to 1 billion people around the world will be displaced by climate change by 2050, Carlson asked Haskins: “Why would a climate migrant have the right to come to my country?”

Haskins responded by … well, you can just read it.

Haskins: I don't believe that anybody is actually suffering from man-caused climate change. But Bernie Sanders' proposal would have 50,000 [people] at minimum come to the United States from around the world who are suffering from climate change supposedly in just the first year, and over the course of his presidency hundreds of thousands of people, because supposedly this is good for climate justice or something along those lines. But the most bizarre part of this … is that they say human beings are causing climate change. If that's true, then why are we bringing from all over the world where they create CO2 emissions less per person, in places like Mexico and Guatamala, why are we bringing them to the United States where we produce CO2 emissions per person at a much higher rate?

Good point, Justin. Let them suffer so the rest of us can live!

Anyway, Carlson responded by proclaiming his personal love for the environment, accusing liberals of hating the environment, and speculating that immigrants would ruin the environment.

Carlson: Also, if you care about the environment—which I personally do in fact, emphatically care, and actually go outside once in a while unlike most people on the left—why would you want a crowded country? Isn't crowding your country the fastest way to despoil it, to pollute it, to make it, you know a place you wouldn't want to live?

Haskins: Yeah. Absolutely. 

Yeah. Yikes.

Is this eco-fascism?

Carlson has gotten in trouble over comments like this before.

As HuffPost noted yesterday, the Fox News host “faced fierce backlash and lost advertisers last year when he said immigrants are making America ‘dirtier’.” And he’s facing similar backlash this time around. Since Monday, people have decried his remarks as “flat-out white nationalism;” “awful and racist;” and “fascist,” among other things.

I thought all these things too when I watched the segment—which you can find in full HERE. But I also thought Carlson’s comments might be veering into even more insidious territory: eco-fascism.

I was first introduced to the term over the summer, after a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas left 22 people dead,and 24 others injured. At the time, Earther’s Brian Kahn reported that the shooter was motivated by a deranged form of environmentalism—one where he felt he needed to “get rid of enough people” to make the American lifestyle “more sustainable.”

“Horrific, disgusting, and absurd, this so-called ecofascist ideology uses legitimate environmental concerns to justify racist policies and, sometimes, mass murder,” Kahn wrote.

He continued:

This isn’t the first time right-wing or fascist figures have pulled from environmentalism to further their cause. Some thinkers within Hitler’s National Socialist party espoused the idea that “[o]nly through a re-integration of humanity into the whole of nature can our people be made stronger,” though the relationship of the Nazis and environment is a bit more complicated than that. Racists throughout U.S. history have often misappropriated population control tied to resource protection, an idea popularized in the 18th century by Thomas Malthus. His idea that food production couldn’t keep up with exponential population growth has been debunked since, well... here we are with 7 billion humans on Earth and enough food for everyone (if it were distributed equitably, that is). 

A right-wing figure pulling from environmentalism to further his cause? Using legitimate environmental concerns to justify racist policies? Sounds familiar, I thought—and fired off my above tweet about Carlson.

I was tempted to leave it at that. But on further reading, it appeared eco-fascism may be a bit more complicated. So I asked two academics who have studied the ideology extensively to weigh in on whether Carlson’s comments could be defined as such.

‘A conscious political move to win over environmentalists to the ecofascist cause.’

Kahn’s piece—which you should read in full if you get the chance—has a fascinating interview about the origins of eco-fascism with Betsy Hartmann, a professor emeritus at Hampshire College. So I reached out to her first.

While Hartmann did not directly call the arguments eco-fascist, she said both Carlson and Haskins were using language that came “right out of the John Tanton network’s playbook.”

“Tanton, recently deceased, set up a range of anti-immigrant organizations including the Federation for American Immigration Reform and Numbers USA, a favorite of Stephen Miller and Jeff Sessions,” Hartmann wrote. “In their environmental publications, Tanton-network groups often claim that migrants from poor countries should stay at home where their carbon footprint is smaller—supposedly if they come to the U.S., they will consume more and thus contribute more to global warming.”

More troubling, however, was what Hartmann called “the overcrowding argument”—that is, Carlson’s assertion that “‘we don’t want those masses of (black and brown) people despoiling our pristine (white) environments.’”

“This is a conscious political move to win over environmentalists to the eco-fascist cause,” she said.

I also asked Peter Staudenmaier, a professor of history at Marquette University, to weigh in. I was introduced to Staundenmaier’s work in this great New Republic piece about eco-fascism, which argues that the ideology “is fashionable again on the far right, thanks to a rise in global temperatures and anti-immigrant nationalism.”

Staudenmaier agreed that Carlson’s remarks were an extension of John Tanton’s ideology—but said he would not go so far to describe them as eco-fascism.

“That term, in my judgment, should be reserved for explicitly fascist invocations of environmentalism,” he said. “To my mind, the sort of thing peddled by Carlson and Haskins et al. these days falls short of that standard because it is not linked to a larger fascist politics. It would make more sense to see such claims as part of the broader field of right-wing ecological or reactionary ecological thought, where anti-immigrant resentments have long gone hand in hand with (real or imagined) environmental concerns.”

Staudenmaier added:

The disturbing elements in the exchange aren't really surprising, or perhaps even especially newsworthy; they are a standard part of contemporary right-wing ideology in US contexts. They fit well with related variants of white nationalism and the present conspicuously aggrieved form of hostility toward immigrant communities.

What might be more notable is the level of basic scientific ignorance involved in a number of their claims, even aside from the obvious forms of climate science denial. The notion that national borders will somehow magically stop atmospheric changes, for example, is nonsensical. There is no practical ecological significance to arbitrary historical phenomena like the US-Mexico border.

To summarize, according to the experts: Carlson’s comments were perhaps not directly eco-fascist; at the very least eco-fascist sympathizing; and scientifically ignorant.

Yeah I guess that’s not really newsworthy, is it.

Bernie campaign weighs in

Since Carlson’s segment was about Sanders’ climate refugee plan, I asked the Sanders campaign if they would like to weigh into the debate.

The campaign did not say if they thought Carlson was being an eco-fascist. But Josh Orton, Sanders’ policy director, did send over this statement:

Bernie believes that immigrants make our country and our society stronger. We must stand up to the xenophobic, racist rhetoric that will be used at every opportunity to divide us.

Bernie believes we must lead the world in the urgent fight against climate change, including investing $200 billion in the Green Climate Fund ensure that the developing world secures reliable electricity, reduces poverty and pollution-related fatalities, creates jobs, and improves living standards, all while reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

But climate change is already displacing people across the world, and Bernie believes we must live up to our ideals as a nation and welcome those forced from their homes.

You can read more about how climate change will displace people, and is already displacing people, HERE.

OK, that’s all for today—thank for reading HEATED!

If you liked this, please consider forwarding it to a friend. If you want to share today’s issue as a web page, click this button:


Questions? Comments? Tips? Send ‘em to emily@heated.world.

Suggestions for an action readers can/should take in response to something I’ve written in this newsletter? Send those to action@heated.world.

See you tomorrow!