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Tucker Carlson body language

There’s a lot going on in this video. In the first place, Tucker is a media man so he inhabits his media role almost entirely—and he’s definitely “on” here. This is the typical “Tucker act”—the Tucker you pay for, the Tucker you expect at your event.

The essential strut in the Tucker act is that he is a slightly bemused and confused Labrador Retriever. There’s a film called Marley and Me about an American man whose life is transformed by a Labrador Retriever he adopts—Tucker is that Labrador Retriever. You bring him into your home and into your heart every evening.

However, all is not well—“What’s wrong, Lassie? What's wrong, girl?”. Hence Tucker is a puzzled Labrador Retriever—his brow is furrowed. His intonation—his typical tone—is “Hey, what’s up with that?”. “You know, a lot of people these days say it’s okay for a man to say he’s a woman and use the women’s bathroom. But what's up with that? And what are the real-world consequences in our workplaces, in our communities, in our schools?”. Tucker typically starts off with an inquisitive “hey, what's up with that?” and then escalates to a sharper and more critical “hey, that’s just not right!”. It brings the viewer along with him, “Hey, he’s so reasonable—he’s just curious but now he’s angry. And I’m angry too!”.

He starts off with reference to Covid-19—and that is an anchor to develop a metaphorical view Tucker wants to expound about “truth” as the speech develops. When he gets to “one true thing and stick with it” he batons to hammer the point home—he wants you to remember “say one true thing and stick with it”. He literally hammers the point home (invisible nail and hammer). Then he does a little explosion with his hands, a little nuclear detonation—he wants to convey “all the true things” as opposed to “one true thing” (throughout the speech Tucker likes to move from the particular to the general—to give and take, to black and white; it’s his yin-yang rhythm). By moving to multiple truths that explode outwards, he’s setting us up for the next bit—the idea that the truth is like a chain reaction, it’s contagious (like Covid-19).

So the truth is contagious (but lying is as well, that’s Tucker’s yin-yang balance again; it’s a truism, really—some of X but, on the other hand, some of Y); so he wants you to know he’s an even-handed guy. He’s not a fanatic for “the truth”—he sees both sides (Labrador Retrievers aren’t fanatics, just good bois). Then we have almost a chef’s kiss to help people visualise “a second”—a really small unit of time (pinched fingers, like a grain of salt); he gives it emphasis with whole-body baton movement. Then he quickly switches to “being filled with it” and literally draws the truth into himself with his body. It’s a vaguely religious idea—you’ll be enthused by the truth, filled with the spirit of Christ (the logos).

Then he does a little “gee shucks” shrug to pull it back from religious themes and says, “I don’t want to get supernatural on you”. That’s because Tucker is just a Main Street, USA plain kinda guy (“I guess”)—he’s not some “religious nut”. He’s a reasonable straight-talking guy—he ain’t got nothin’ against religion and thinks it’s good for the kids to have values but he ain’t gonna tell you to accept “JEEEZZZUS” and rave and rant at you. No, sir. “Hey! He’s just like me! I’m a reasonable guy who thinks religion is okay but doesn’t want it to go too far too!” Indeed.

However, as humans often do, as he says he’s not going to do something he does it to you—“I don’t mean to be rude, but have you used your deodorant today?”. It has to be minimised, humans can’t accept it if you’re too into it—everyone, from Hitler to Biden, is just a reasonable guy (not “one of those nuts”).

Then we segue into “try it”—sharp, peremptory (almost a finger-click hand action, a magician’s finger-snap to make you try it *presto*—remember it’s an “everyday” thing, anyone can do this; it’s not exclusive, it’s not a mystery). We’ve actually switched from “puzzled Labrador” to “preacher” now—he’s just given you an instruction (that he’s couched as not an instruction, not a religious point—even though he’s talking about being “filled with a power” from “somewhere”, purely supernatural language).

The shift between “Labrador” and what I think is more “real Tucker” is very abrupt but it’s also seamless—the Labrador draws you in with benevolent concern and apparently neutral puzzlement and then *bam* “You need to be speaking the trruuuutttthhh, brother. It’ll heal you. The truth is spreadin’ up and down the nation, it’s infectious, it’s bigger than Covid—speak it, praise it!” It’s a flirtation—“I’m not getting supernatural but it’s a power that will enthuse you throughout your whole body and change your life.” “Why, Mr. Carlson, you make me feel all funny inside!”.

Then we have a karate chop hand baton "The. More. You. Tell. The. Truth. The. Stronger. You. Become." This generates applause—it probably resonates with the conservative audience, it’s not just a soppy preacher who says “tell the truth, Jesus weeps for you” this is a man who says “the more you tell the truth, the stronger you become” and he says it strongly. We agree. Then we have a slightly exasperated and quizzical explosion, “That’s completely real!”. He wants to draw back from his more supernatural statements to “common-sense just plain folks”. “Yeah, I can't disagree—nothing to do with being ‘filled with the power’, just state the facts; if we don’t, we can’t do anything. I can’t argue with you.”.

Indeed, in the next sentence he’s on to “it’s measurable”; so truth-telling, far from being supernatural or religious, can be measured just like a scientific experiment—although he then quickly moves to “in the way that you feel”, which is entirely subjective (I thought only woke people were into “feelings” and “being irrational”?). It creates the impression that what he says is objective and scientific when he’s talking about experience. To emphasise the point he draws his hand into his solar plexus area—“the heart”, “the stomach” (the solar plexus has esoteric religious associations, as it happens). Tucker speaks from the heart, from his guts—and it’s as objective as a scientific experiment.

Then there’s a pause to let that sink in, partly to gather his thoughts—and then we have “of course, the opposite is true”. So, again, per the Fox News slogan (Tucker’s long-time former employer), Tucker is “fair and balanced”—he gives concessions to both sides; he’s not some unreasonable fanatic, you see. Further, if you lie about something you become “weaker”—and yet Tucker is back to puzzled Labrador now. “We’ve all done this” (emphatic, questioning—“We all have, haven’t we?” [looking for implicit agreement])—we’re all guilty, we’ve all been there (Tucker understands—like a sympathetic uncle or old-timer at the bar, “We’ve all been there, sonny—there was this girl in the summer of 1917...”).

So if you lie (and everyone in the room Tucker addresses lies all the time) you can still be “with” Tucker—so he’s drawn you in, kept you with him. You’re not excluded from the “power of truth”—in case you were starting to worry that you are not, in fact, pure enough for the “church of Tucker” (even Tucker has made a few indiscretions, but he works on himself—he’s getting better, and you can get better too).

He gets emphatic about “lies weaken you”. He uses his right hand to literally clasp the lie and to convey the diminishment it causes—he demonstrates something becoming smaller, like a flame that is extinguished (by the lie). Then he beats with his whole body to hammer home the point. Then we have an aside “drug and alcohol use is the same way” (btw)—that’s just thrown in there like a casual “hey, whatever” (almost said behind your hand) but it’s actually a major claim “people are addicted to drugs and alcohol because they don’t tell the truth”. There are many people who would contest that (progressives, it’s not a scientific statement) and it’s also actually a profound point (but too profound to be put directly without making everyone de-energised and sombre).

Yet there’s quite a stern judgement on alcohol and drug use in there, the point being an aside to reduce the harshness of direct judgement on others—people who use these substances are “WEAK” and “AFRAID” (emphatic). Liars are, per the earlier statement, in prison—weak and helpless, whereas truth-tellers are strong; and people who use drugs and alcohol are also in prison, so we infer.

However, as we’ll see, this isn’t necessarily truth—people who tell the truth very often end up “in prison” themselves; to tell the truth does not necessarily make you strong—and may lead to a more profound social ostracism and its attendant weaknesses than drug and drink addiction (the narrative is Tucker’s story about what “the truth” is and what it does—it’s not necessarily reality). Indeed, Tucker wants us to think drink and drugs are to do with being shameful and weak—but have you seen a cocaine addict or someone on speed? They’re exultant and filled with power, not “weak” and “afraid”.

Then we’re back to Labrador—he furrows his brow as “he looks around”, and actually moves as if he’s literally looking around so that you too are “looking around”. He’s looking for the people who have paid a “heavy price for telling the truth” (obviously not easily visible, you have to look for them—are they in the audience, perhaps?). He’s *astonished*, wants us to be astonished, but actually nobody is astonished by this fact. Everyone knows you are punished if you tell the truth—it’s just you’re not allowed to admit it (to tell the truth about the ubiquitous lies). Then we have an arm wave to convey the truth-tellers being cast out and an emphatic “BUT THEY DO IT ANYWAY” (because they want to be strong, right? And, perhaps, it really is supernatural after all).

Then we have Tucker's admiration for these people—because he’s a modest guy, he doesn’t claim to do that himself (they’re “out there” remember—these truth-tellers—he’s looking for them). He talks about it but he doesn't do it. Indeed, he’s “paid to do it”—which is itself designed to convey honesty. Although he says he isn’t a truth-teller he does say he’s paid to watch the truth-tellers—you could say he’s looking for the truth (“Hey, I think Tucker might be a truth-teller himself really”). Humans reliably sneer each other with the accusation they’re “selfish” or “only interested in money”—Tucker just says he “does it for the money”, so he’s prepared to self-deprecate in a major way; he’ll own the typical insult straight up (we can trust him). Of course, Tucker doesn’t do what he does because he’s paid to—he does it because fulfills a psychological need in him; and to say “I do it for the money, obviously” is just a blind that implies to the audience that he’s just a very modest truth-teller.

Tucker’s father was actually an orphan who was shuttled between various homes before he settled down. I suspect Tucker’s “Labrador Retriever act” derives from his father, who probably feared abandonment (he also worked in the media—a profession that is fundamentally about being liked and cultivating a network). “If I’m an adorable Labrador, you’ll never leave me, right?”—nobody would hurt a Labrador Retriever, you can’t leave the golden puppy behind. Marley and Me—the orphan pup that changes lives.


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