In 2017, one of those weird and harmful trends swept across the nation: the Tide Pod Challenge, a fad where people – mostly teenagers who post on social media – put individual servings of squishy in Tide's. bite Laundry detergent.
As Snopes explains, the first videos of the "Challenge" dated back to 2012, and over the years, at various times, people had revived the idea that tide pods were edible, including an alleged tide pod pizza and a fake Gordon Ramsay review. But suddenly, towards the end of 2017, the idea seemed to be hugely popular, especially the idea of teenagers filming themselves biting into a pod until it sprayed the highly toxic liquid inside. In just a few months at the end of 2017, there were 200 cases of teenagers who at least partially swallowed detergent. In the first 11 days of 2018 alone, there were 40 more. About 10 deaths were the result.
Strange doesn't start with that, but here's the important part: every social media platform responded by removing every video related to the Tide Challenge and banning posters. These platforms then moved quickly to post warnings that the challenge was life-threatening. When the news of the challenge became common knowledge, all major media outlets responded by running programs warning of the practice and labeling the videos as unsafe. From CBS News to Good Morning America, the phenomenon has been studied, the dangers made clear, and those who spread the idea put to shame. The networks were not embarrassed to call those involved, including those under 18, and point out the dangers of encouraging them.
Now let's move on to another event that took place in 2017. At the time, Harley Branham, a manager for the local Dairy Queen in Fayette, Missouri, was charged with promoting the suicide of a 17-year-old employee. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Branham harassed the employee for three months, making fun of his weight, appearance, way of speaking and intelligence. In 2019, Branham confessed to being charged Third degree assault in the death of the youth and was sentenced to two years probation following a deal with the prosecutor.
Branham's case is not an isolated one. In 2014, Eighteen-year-old Conrad Roy got in his pickup truck, closed the doors, and ended his life on carbon monoxide asphyxiation. Months before that day, his girlfriend, Michelle Carter, had sent Roy messages asking him to kill himself. Sometime in the middle of his death, Roy Carter wrote that he had got out of the truck. "Come back inside," she wrote in response. He has. In 2017, Carter was convicted of negligent homicide. She was released in 2020 after spending a little over a year behind bars.
In May 2021 alone, over 18,000 Americans died from COVID-19. Of those who died, only about 150 were vaccinated. In the same month, more than 107,000 Americans were hospitalized for a serious illness related to COVID-19. Only 1% of these people were vaccinated.
It may be too much to directly indict Tucker Carlson over 18,000 cases later this month, but one thing is for sure: what Carlson does is much closer to the deeds of Branham or Carter than it is to the teens laughing at the Tide Pod- Challenge. The frozen food heir is fully aware of the consequences of his actions, he is fully aware of the falseness of his claims. He is fully to blame for the deaths of thousands of Americans.
This is not the case when a broadcaster repeats an erroneous assertion or leads someone with incomplete information. Carlson intentionally, frequently, and constantly provides disinformation to the public that causes real and permanent harm – including large-scale death.
There may not be a prosecutor in the country these days willing to indict Carlson for his implications – although frankly it should be. But if that is to be expected too much, then surely it should be a bare minimum that Carlson be treated with the kind of seriousness shown to a disorganized group of children who caused 0.1% as many deaths in eight years as Carlson and his ilk in a single month, a month that was the least fatal month in the entire pandemic.
Every single platform should feel obliged not only to deny Carlson, but also to highlight material that corrects his false claims. Every single newscast should feel obliged to proclaim this threat on a regular basis until it no longer exists. And every single sponsor who pays a dime for their program should be viewed as a co-conspirator of their actions.