I don’t have anything against Piers Morgan. I don’t watch his show, but I didn’t really watch Larry King either. It’s just not my cup of tea. Actually, tea isn’t my cup of tea either, but I digress. Alex Jones DOES have a problem with Piers Morgan, or at least he seemed to in his recent interview on Morgan’s CNN show. I am no stranger to the psychotic New World Order ramblings of Mr. Jones. I’m embarrassed to say that in the fear and sadness that followed the tragedy of 9/11, I briefly entertained the possibility that the attacks were an “inside job,” as those who believe such conspiracies call it. I chalk this up to youthful ignorance (I was in my early 20s at the time) and my growing displeasure with the Bush administration. These ideas, however, are also hardly limited to the circle of followers Jones has been able to attract. This conspiratorial rhetoric is and has been common among those on the right-wing fringe, including right-wing militias and other anti-government groups, for quite some time. Jones just appears to be one of their loudest and most extreme talking heads. It was actually Alex Jones dipping a little too far into the far-fetched in one of his many “documentaries,” claiming that our most powerful citizens and several ex-presidents were part of a satanic cult, that finally shook me our of my paranoid, conspiratorial stupor. I suppose, for this reason, I owe him a certain degree of gratitude. Although I am certain he would not appreciate being acknowledged for such an accomplishment.
It is Jones who recently started a petition this past December in the “petitions” section of WhiteHouse.gov, which has accumulated over 100,000 signatures, to support the deportation of Piers Morgan. The petition was in response to Mr. Morgan’s public expression of support for more comprehensive gun control, following the most recent school shooting in Newtown, CT, which claimed the lives of twenty young children and six adults. This was just another in a long line of increasingly frequent mass-shootings at the hands of disturbed assailants. However, following this particular tragedy there seems to be increased momentum for action that gun-control advocates are trying to transform into legislative results. The NRA and right-wing gun enthusiasts, of course, are interested in pursuing ANY other solution than stricter gun laws.
The CEO of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, actually had the gall to claim publicly that the solution to tragedies like these shootings is more guns; just in the hands of the right people. How unusual it is that LaPierre would want to increase demand for a product, for which his group lobbies, rather than suggest better control of this product that would decrease the number of guns available to fall into the hands of dangerously deranged individuals. It is shocking that he would suggest better equipping the gunfight, rather than trying to prevent it. Many believe that these dangerously deranged individuals include Alex Jones and those who put stock in similar brands of government paranoia. These are people who truly believe that we are already living in or are on the verge of living in a police state in America. These are people who believe that the government is going to kick in their door at any moment to take their guns, their freedom and anything else they choose. These are people who believe that an Orwellian future is not a question of “if” but “when”. These are people who see the government as a faceless enemy waiting to strike, against whom they intend to fight back or go down shooting. It is hard to derive a better example of this belief than the manic behavior of Alex Jones during the Piers Morgan interview.
Though, as I said, I am not in a habit of watching Piers Morgan, I have to give him credit. I don’t know a lot of people who are the subject of a public attack that will invite the ringleader of the attack onto their television show for a discussion; not to mention remaining so calm as said guest goes off the deep end on national television. I know exactly why Jones accepted the offer. As he as shown in past, he will take any and every opportunity that comes his way to gain as much public attention as possible. I remember when his association with actor Charlie Sheen was news and he milked it for everything it was worth. Sheen was the subject of a handful of interviews for his public support of conspiratorial views about 9/11, a few of which also included Alex Jones. Jones took as much screen time as he could get and spoke so fast that he could barely be understood. He was being exposed to audiences of a size he rarely reaches, he knew it and he intended to make the most of it. This time, due to his petition, he was the focus of the interview and he decided to give a performance rather than rush. Rather than calmly explaining his points, he attacked Piers Morgan directly. It was Morgan that was trying to take his guns. He actually called his a “redcoat.” Then he really lost it. It is appearances like this, which feel like sales pitches to me, and the strategy he employs, which keeps his audience seeing only he and those who support his claims as the bearers of the facts, that makes me doubt that he believes what he is selling. Jones makes a lot of money selling the constant flow of media he puts out. Enough for many people to do what they had to in order to keep the checks coming. That is, admittedly, speculation, but it is sometimes difficult to decipher the difference between a devout believer and a skilled salesman.
Regardless of whether or not Jones believes his pitch, his followers certainly do. I call them followers because these are people who take the words of conservative pundits like Alex Jones, Glenn Beck and individuals even more to the political right as gospel. They believe we are perpetually headed for another American Revolution, American Civil War or both. These are many of the people in the Tea Party, who claim that their true focus is fiscal responsibility while carrying guns to demonstrations and ignorantly comparing Obama to Hitler. These are the ultra-conservative “militias” throughout our country who are preparing for full-scale war with the government and who, for some reason, almost always seem to simultaneously support racist and segregationist views. At a lower level, these are the people who believe in government “death panels” while insurance companies made it their business to find ways to deny coverage to paying customers to maximize profits. These are the people who rail against social welfare programs as tyranny on the taxpayer and then say “DON’T TOUCH MY MEDICARE!” This is Sharon Angle, talking about “second amendment remedies.” This is Craig T. Nelson, on Glenn Beck’s TV show, saying, “I’ve been on food stamps and welfare. Anybody help me out? No.”
These are the conservatives of our country who believe government is the problem and/or that government is out to get them. This is the segment of our population that constantly feels we are at the precipice of some great cliff, over which our freedom does not exist, and we are being pushed ever closer by those who want sensible government regulation. These are people who whole-heartedly believe that when the hell-fire they’ve imagined up finally rains down on their heads, it is their guns that will save them or allow them to at least go down in a blaze of glory. It is public individuals like Jones and Beck that envision themselves as modern-day George Washington counterparts. At least that is how they would like to be seen. So when Alex Jones goes on Piers Morgan and screams, “1776 will commence if you try to take our firearms!” he is at least an evangelist pushing a paranoid message and at worst a con man pushing a product. Either way, he is fostering a form a clinical paranoia that occasionally culminates in tragic mass-killings in America, like the Oklahoma City bombing.
Jones’ desperation to gain attention for his numerous conspiracies escalates in the Piers Morgan interview as he continuously interrupts his interviewer and rabidly moves from one unprovable accusation to another, trying to pack as much as he can into his time in a somewhat brighter spotlight. He uses a very specific formula where he throws a lot of information at the viewer very quickly and speaks as though it is the doubtless truth. He periodically stops to say, “this is proven” or “this is documented.” The truth is that he takes facts that are either just vague enough to exploit, that he can discredit to his viewers based on previously accepted conspiracies or that he has flat our invented and portrays them as fact. When he claims his information is proven, he is extending an invitation to check his facts that he knows the majority of his supporters will not accept, but instead use as proof in and of itself that he speaks the truth. “Why would he invite people to check his facts if they aren’t true?” they say to themselves. If one were to check his “facts,” they would find nothing but drastic distortions of the truth. Only those who espouse similar beliefs to Jones corroborate his claims, some of whom even attempt to represent themselves as legitimate news outlets. Additionally, anyone who fails to agree with Jones’ take on the facts is written off, by he and his supporters, as either naive or part of the conspiracy themselves. It is quite an airtight system, from which escape is difficult.
So what is the truth? The truth is that this is not 1776 and we do not live in colonial America. The truth is that despite the apparent desire of individuals like Alex Jones to be seen as revolutionaries, they are not. Finally, the truth is that I do not believe that the majority of gun owners agree with Mr. Jones. The truth is that the second amendment was written at a time when the guns we had were muskets that could fire one shot before a comparatively lengthly reloading process, not six shots in one second. I live in Arizona, a solidly conservative state. I am not a conservative and I do not own a gun. However, I have family members who do. People I love and respect. People who are responsible gun owners. They enjoy shooting and/or hunting and have for generations. I do not want to take their guns away or anyone else who supports responsible gun ownership. I feel that it is these responsible gun owners who should be leading the charge for more sensible gun control. They should, and I believe largely do, want to keep as many guns as possible out of the hands of those who should not have them. My belief is somewhat reinforced by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, both gun owners, who have recently started a political action committee focused on combating the influence of the gun lobby. It’s reinforced by the increasing outrage of responsible gun owners who recognize that the threat the far right fringe poses to their right to bear arms is greater than any other. Finally, the truth is that, as Alex Jones so eloquently illustrates with his crazed, desperate and outlandish behavior, it is not responsible gun owners who oppose sensible reform of the laws. It is the paranoid conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones.