One of the most powerful elements of Christian doctrine for me has been the notion that we are not allowed to give up on anybody.
Alex Jones tests my soul in that regard because he is so easily consignable to hell. Jones, who runs infowars.com, is a sower of lies. He pushed the idea that a Washington, D.C., pizza place housed a sex trafficking ring until some nut showed up with an assault weapon. He had to settle a lawsuit after accusing Chobani of hiring “migrant rapists” who spread tuberculosis. (The founder of the hugely popular yogurt brand was committed to helping immigrants and refugees.)
His most famous lie is his repeated claim that the Sandy Hook school murders were a “giant hoax” and an “inside job” that was “staged” using “blue screens, green screens” and actors.
The subtext of Jones’s Sandy Hook lie is that a mass shooting incident was staged by the government to create sympathy for gun control. Lately, Jones has seen bad things happen to him – he lost custody of his kids. But, also, Jones and Donald Trump share a mutual admiration connected to their fondness for the lie that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, which probably explains why the Trump White House has granted (temporary) press credentials to one of Jones’ “reporters.”
So Jones has tried to refashion himself into a guy who likes to explore all sides of a question and who occasionally – just for the sake of argument – will say something like: “I’ve looked at it and undoubtedly there’s a cover-up, there’s actors, they’re manipulating, they’ve been caught lying, and they were pre-planning before it and rolled out with it.” (Which Jones said, on camera, about Sandy Hook.)
Enter Megyn Kelly. Kelly is launching a new show on NBC, and one of her early “gets” is Jones, whose interview with her is scheduled to run tonight. A lot of people don’t like this idea, and some of them are parents of kids who died at Sandy Hook. I get that, and lord knows I sympathize. Jones has helped launch a movement that engages in active persecution of the parents, who get attacked as liars and government pawns.
They and others ask: Why normalize this horrible person who has already done so much damage?
But it’s too late. Jones is not normal, but he’s normalized. Lenny Pozner, father of Noah, one of the kids murdered at Sandy Hook, was at that time a regular listener to Alex Jones, who’s also a radio host. These crackpot, toxic ideas have not obediently sat in some dank, fetid corner of the information universe. They have seeped into the minds of people you know, often people who are curious and skeptical about official versions of things.
Keeping this body of lies chained up in the attic like some homicidal lunatic aunt doesn’t work. I began to see that back in the early 1990s when I went to work in talk radio at a station that also broadcast Rush Limbaugh. Back in those days Limbaugh would, for example, bring up the idea that the Clinton family had White House counsel Vince Foster murdered.
The mainstream media never fact-checked Limbaugh or reported on his claims because that would be like sending their restaurant critic to review a garbage dumpster. I used to think, “if some portion of his 17-million-listener audience thinks Foster was murdered, that’s something journalism needs to deal with.”
Same with Jones. In a preview clip, we see Kelly doing that. She pounds Jones with his Sandy Hook lie. He’s so desperate to change the subject, he brings up government-funded human-animal hybrids. Can we talk about that instead? Duck-billed Platyhumans? Please?
You can’t kill these lies. Jones’s site is still shopping Obama birther nonsense in 2017. Last year Trump called Foster’s death “fishy.” You can’t kill these lies, but you have to fight them out in the open. Lenny Pozner has been saying the same thing.
So you go, Megyn.
Colin McEnroe is a columnist for the Hartford Courant.
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