Opinion |

Why the Outrage Over Alex Jones Only Empowers Him

The fury surrounding the interview with the conspiracy theorist tells us more about the current state of mind of U.S. liberals than it does about Jones himself.

Asher Schechter
Asher Schechter
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In this April 19, 2017, file photo, Alex Jones, a well-known Austin-based broadcaster and provocateur, arrives for a child custody trial in Austin, Texas.
Austin-based broadcaster and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Credit: Jay Janner / AP
Asher Schechter
Asher Schechter

The burgeoning mainstreamization of Megyn Kelly has hit a snag this week, after the former Fox News anchor announced that she would be airing an interview with Alex Jones, America’s top purveyor of cockamamie conspiracy theories, on her new NBC show.

The news was met with immediate backlash from (among others) enraged liberals, gun rights advocates, and parents of Sandy Hook victims who protested the fact that Jones — a Sandy Hook “truther”— would now be given a bigger platform from which to call the death of their children a hoax. Kelly has been widely condemned for her “unethical” decision to interview Jones, as she faces a possible revolt from her advertisers.

The uproar has obviously put a wrench in Kelly’s transition from Fox News standard-bearer that passionately defends the whiteness of Santa Claus to mainstream icon. Instead, she is now accused of “legitimizing” Jones and “amplifying” his lies. A growing number of influential voices have been calling on NBC to scrap the interview altogether, and there’s also an online petition currently being circulated to that effect. The interview is already billed a “disaster” before it even aired.

Kelly’s interview with Jones might very well be a disaster—the excerpts released so far have not been promising, to say the least. Nevertheless, the panicked drive to prevent Jones from appearing on TV is far more dangerous than anything Jones has ever done or said. It also plays right into Jones’ hands.

Don’t get me wrong: Alex Jones is awful. He is a snake oil salesman capitalizing on fear and ignorance. His shtick is both harmful and cruel. The conspiracy theories he traffics in are objectively insane. His rants reach millions, especially now that one of his biggest fans lives in the White House, and there are few things as revolting as the prospect of this bile reaching even more people.

Having said that, since when does an interview equal endorsement? Over the years, men far more dangerous and cunning than Alex Jones have been interviewed by American media outlets. Khomeini was interviewed by Mike Wallace. Osama Bin Laden was interviewed in 1997 by CNN. Vladimir Putin has been interviewed countless times — including by Kelly herself. None of the above was apparently dangerous enough to elicit widespread calls for censorship, yet Alex Jones — with his gay frogs phobia and his fixation with “human-animal hybrids” — did.

In a way, the outrage surrounding the Jones interview tells us more about the current state of mind of U.S. liberals than it does about Jones himself. Following the election of Donald Trump, many blamed the media for “creating” Trump by ostensibly giving him an unlimited platform simply because he was entertaining and therefore, to quote CBS Chairman Les Moonves, was “damn good” for business. What looks ridiculous and laughable today, the logic goes, might rise to power tomorrow if given a large enough stage on which to propagandize, and therefore Alex Jones must be seen as dangerous and treated accordingly. Trump too, after all, was seen as a nutty joke once, just like Jones. Now he has the nuclear launch codes and possibly the fate of the entire species in his hands.

While it is tempting to go with this logic — after all, who wants Alex Jones splayed across their TV screens? — it is complete nonsense. The president’s fondness for Jones’ particular brand of lunacy makes him a figure of public importance. Megyn Kelly is right when she says it is important to “shine a light” on his views. The American people deserve to see Jones exposed for what he is: a clown and a fraud.

In this May 5, 2016 file photo, Megyn Kelly poses for a portrait in New York. Credit: Victoria Will, AP

Sadly, though, it appears that Kelly isn’t about to do that, as the teasers released so far show her mildly chastising him as he completely ignores her questions. But that doesn’t mean the interview should be censored, if only because censoring it is exactly the outcome Alex Jones is openly hoping for.

The truth is, Alex Jones doesn’t want NBC to air this interview. On his show this week, he called on Kelly to scrap it. The reason is simple: Alex Jones is an agitator, and what agitators want is to agitate, not to be widely accepted. Jones makes his living by ranting against the “globalist” liberal media establishment that tries to ridicule and silence him because it is threatened by his “truth.” How would his army of paranoid followers view him if suddenly he appeared to be accepted by the same media establishment? Jones doesn’t want a platform. He wants to be denied one.

Which is exactly the reason that the increasing calls to scrap his interview with Megyn Kelly are so dangerous. The American left’s current obsession over who speaks at what campus, who gets a book deal or who gets interviewed on TV is dangerous for the very same reason: Figures like Jones, or Milo Yiannopoulos, or Richard Spencer are nothing without the air of danger. These people don’t go to speak at liberal strongholds like Berkeley or NBC because they want to change anyone’s mind. What they want is to encounter enough resistance so as to allow them to present themselves as free-speech martyrs “silenced” by corrupt hypocritical elites. It lends their paranoid nonsense about a repressive liberal “globalist” regime that is trying to bury the truth so much more credibility if they appear to be “persecuted.”

The truth is, the only way to defeat Alex Jones is to let him speak on TV and ask him questions. Being offered to simply speak your mind is the kiss of death for any subversive. Without the “evil globalist elites” trying to shut him up, the mystique is gone, and all that’s left is a red-faced white guy screaming about weaponized human-goat hybrids.

That is why as bad as it might be, Megyn Kelly’s interview with Alex Jones must air as planned. Will some people be offended to hear him call Sandy Hook a hoax? No doubt, particularly the families of the victims. Will some people believe him? Some might, sure, but most would see right through his lies, especially if he’s put under even reasonable pressure.

American democracy is strong enough to handle a stooge like Alex Jones. And if not, then there’s nothing Jones can say that’s scarier than that.

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