Most Americans got their first taste of Alex Jones’s brand of crazy last night on Piers Morgan Tonight, when the CNN host confronted this particular critic, who in turn called the CNN host “a hatchet man of the new world order,” raved that “1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms!” and warned of “foreigners” and “mega-banks” trying to disarm Americans as part of a master plan to institute “world tyranny.”
Unedited and in person, Jones comes off even more unhinged than on primetime or in his role as a conspiracy entrepreneur on his syndicated radio show and at InfoWars.com. Jones was booked by Morgan because he started a petition, much promoted on the Drudge Report, to have the British host deported.
But the real mystery is why this manifestly unstable personality manages to claim any role in civic debates at all. In a post-Piers video Jones posted to YouTube, he warned viewers about the possibility of his assassination at the hands of the NYPD under orders from Michael Bloomberg. He tells his listeners: “If something happens to us and we’re killed by crackheads, it was the NYPD or mafia.”
Below the video, which has the title “Armed Mafia Are Stalking Us: Post Piers Morgan Debate,” is a note:
“We just got off CNN and undercover cops are all over us. They have been on our ass all day but now they are stalking us! We need to put this on the record in case the [sic] set us up.”
Despite such ravings, Jones has kept his profile up with the help of a steady stream of traffic-pushing Drudge Report links—114 of them in a 12-month stretch ending last year, according to Aviva Shen of Think Progress, as the hysterical tone of Jones’s headlines and stories creates a mutually beneficial cycle of clicks.
But Drudge has no responsibilities beyond his self-selecting audience—and the real scrutiny should be directed at members of Congress like Sen. Rand Paul, his father former congressman Ron Paul, and current Reps Louie Gohmert, Alan Grayson, and Dennis Kucinich, who regularly appear on this 9/11 Truther’s radio show, giving him their imprimatur of respectability.
I wrote about Jones in Wingnuts, and it’s worth reprinting that section as a primer for the blissfully uninitiated:
Alex Jones’s syndicated radio show and his websites Prison Planet and Info Wars are a clearinghouse of conspiracy theories from 9/11 to the New World Order—and a home to unhinged Hatriots eager for “information” they can’t get elsewhere. A self-described paleo-conservative and “aggressive constitutionalist,” Jones is so far right he’s left, establishing himself at the vanguard of fright-wing politics.
The hotbox atmosphere Jones promotes seems to bring out the unhinged in the elected officials who come on with him.
“The answer to 1984 is 1776!” is a typical battle cry that endears him to the Hatriots. During the administration of George W. Bush, Jones eagerly advanced the idea that the Bush administration and bankers were behind the destruction of the World Trade Center (with companion DVDs for sale). Now that Obama is in office, a whole new cottage industry of hate has opened up: He’s selling semi-slick productions with titles like The Fall of the Republic and The Obama Deception, which are passed on like Grateful Dead bootlegs among the Hatriot underground. The pitch is always apocalypse, telling viewers “the last vestiges of our free republic are being swept away … the destiny of humanity is in our hands.” The common ground is opposition to the federal storm troopers he sees as trying to impose one-world government on the few remaining patriots left. When police in Pittsburgh engaged in modest riot-control measures at a 2009 G-20 summit, Jones was ready to climb the ramparts, referring to the police as “complete enemies of America … Our military’s been taken over … This is the end of our country … They’d love to kill 10,000 Americans …The republic is falling right now.”
The hotbox atmosphere Jones promotes seems to bring out the unhinged in the elected officials who come on with him. Texas Republican Gohmert chose his show to say: “This socialist health care ... is going to absolutely kill senior citizens. They’ll put them on lists and force them to die early.” Florida Democrat Grayson called an aide to Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke a “K-Street whore.”
Later in Jones’s YouTube clip, he goes on: “The way this will work is, oh see they’re here protesting gun grabs. Oh, some crack dealer shot him. And if you don’t know that Bloomberg’s total mafia, you’re not living on planet earth or reality … truth is stranger than fiction. I’ll just leave it at that.”
It’s all more than a little sad and strange, except that conspiracy entrepreneurs like Alex Jones make money off of fear and hate. He practices the politics of incitement for fun and profit. But these stories always end the same way, with the implosion of the would-be demagogue.
Jones is a man acting as character witness against himself, a rare moment of clarity that should serve as a cautionary tale to any of his willing dupes.