Let’s not waste time parsing words: Alex Jones is a loser.
I’m not prone to lazy ad hominem, but searching for a more nuanced descriptor is pointless.
Yes, it’s true that you could also call him a noted conspiracy theorist, successful radio host and self-described informal adviser to the President of the United States.
But someone who claims that the horrific murder of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school is a government hoax — ostensibly as a form of “performance art,” as his attorneys describe his shtick — should more plainly and deservedly be called a loser, pure and simple.
Clearly, there is consensus, which is why many people are outraged that, on this coming Sunday night, NBC and Megyn Kelly are giving him a broader, mainstream platform upon which to spew his foamy-mouthed nonsense, like the debunked theory that 9/11 was “an inside job” and that we’ve been creating “animal-human hybrids” for the last three decades.
But he is a loser with a large platform and level of influence already, thanks in no small part to an imprimatur from President Trump. And that is exactly why it is not only appropriate but imperative that his brand of nut-casery is exposed to more people, not fewer.
The reactions to news of the Kelly-Jones interview were predictable and understandable. Twitter was scathing, lambasting Kelly — whose last big interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin was decried as softball by many in media — for elevating a loon just to get eyeballs.
But it went farther than just social media outrage. JPMorgan Chase & Co demanded its advertisements be pulled not only from Kelly’s show, but from all NBC broadcasts until after the episode aired.
An annual event for the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, a group founded by family members of Sandy Hook shooting victims, said it will no longer have Kelly as its host, and has asked that she reconsider airing the interview.
And New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says the network should “pull the segment.”
For her part, Kelly insists the interview will be tough. “Many don’t know him; our job is 2 shine a light,” she tweeted. Her executive producer, Liz Cole, likewise defended the decision: “Judge it when you see it. Megyn does a strong interview. We’re not just giving him a platform.”
Critics of the decision will still likely push back that of course she must be tough on him — he’s a preposterous cartoon who repeatedly makes unsubstantiated claims; that’s no excuse to give him legitimacy.
Here’s the problem with that: We cannot pretend that kooks and fanatics like Jones don’t exist.
It’s a fool’s errand, consistent with the liberal notion that we can deal with offensive speech by containing it and isolating it from civilized society. We see the same fallacy in on-campus attempts to impose safe spaces and trigger-warnings.
As a general rule, the right answer to bad speech is more speech.
Alex Jones’ awful project wouldn’t evaporate into thin air simply if Megyn Kelly and others like her refused to interview him. To the contrary, he’d likely just continue to gain listeners and viewers, conveniently sidestepping the scrutiny he deserves and demands.
The fear among Jones’ detractors is that the more people who see him the more credible he becomes. But if he’s as big a nut-job as they believe him to be, this will only have the opposite effect.
A bigger, mainstream platform means a bigger, mainstream audience will most likely reject him as the unhinged conspiracy theorist that he is. Right?
For years, racist and bigoted provocateurs like Milo Yiannopoulos and Richard Spencer were ignored in hopes they would go away or for fear of giving them credibility. That only gave them the space to foment a base of support without much scrutiny. It came as a big surprise to many on the left and right that racism and bigotry like theirs still exists — in significant enough numbers — in 2016 America.
It didn’t have to.
I for one am hoping lots of people tune in to Kelly’s Alex Jones interview. If you believe sunlight is the best disinfectant, then offensive people with dangerous ideas and growing followings shouldn’t be suppressed and ignored — they should be exposed to as many people as possible for what they are.
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