Christian Smalls, the organizer who recently helped lead an effort to defeat Amazon in a remarkable David vs. Goliath unionization battle, appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show last week to promote his ongoing campaign to unionize Amazon warehouses. But some liberal critics said Smalls’ appearance gave Carlson undeserved credibility or betrayed naiveté about the dangers of the Fox host’s right-wing project.
A look at what was actually said during the segment, however, reveals that it was not Carlson who exploited Smalls. Instead, Smalls, the president of the Amazon Labor Union, deftly extracted more out of the exchange than his host. He made his case for unions and got Carlson to agree to the need for organized labor — without making a single concession to the right.
These days, it’s in vogue to boycott platforms to avoid appearing complicit with problematic or reactionary political projects. But the kind of mass movement Smalls wants to generate requires engaging with people across the political spectrum. While that process can be messy and raise some thorny dilemmas, it cannot be written off entirely. In this case, Smalls appeared on Carlson’s show and got millions of conservatives to hear favorable things about his campaign and about unions in general. Some of those conservatives may now be a bit more open to or at least less hostile to union efforts, which is a win for the left.
Much of this victory hinged on Smalls' clear talent for disciplined communication. Carlson began by asking Smalls, “Were you surprised that [Rep.] Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez … wasn’t standing with you at the barricades?” But Smalls didn't take the bait: