Megyn Kelly, a humble journalist just like you and me, has come into some criticism for booking our nation’s eminent conspiracy theorist Alex Jones as an interview subject. But as the saying goes, the road to making enormous piles of money is not paved with good intentions. It is paved with the cynical assumption that any drooling television audience is too dumb to care what they watch and that the wider journalistic community will support what you do as long as it’s marketed as a brave, credible, truth-seeking mission that only a reporter with the biggest set of metaphorical balls could handle — and with a firm grace that still has some sex appeal. ;)
The announcement of the Jones interview, to be aired Sunday night, was followed by considerable outcry, which makes sense as Jones is an insanely huge piece of shit whose lies are so odious that he lost a free-speech case to a yogurt company. Despite the irrefutable fact that Jones is a putrefying sack of garbage stuffed in a human-skin suit, certain news outlets (BuzzFeed, it’s always BuzzFeed, but probably also most of the New York Times believes this as well) have defended the Kelly interview. Here’s BuzzFeed, in an article posted last night titled “The Case for Interviewing Alex Jones”:
“Like it or not, Alex Jones is an architect of our current political moment, and as such, the mainstream media shouldn’t try to shield its audience from him or pretend he doesn’t exist — it should interrogate him.”
So, several things going on here. Let’s start with the one that annoys me the most, which is something I like to call “The Bret Stephens Fallacy” (AKA the “B.S. Fallacy”): That we should “interrogate” ideas and persons who offend and/or challenge us to understand them. This is a nice, kumbaya-type little impulse but it falls apart completely when we acknowledge that many of the most prominent people who offend or challenge us (the “us” here typically being the the liberal elite, of which the mainstream media is a part) are unquestionably wrong and their ideas are based on lies. Do we really need to challenge our views on climate change when climate change is a widely documented fact? Seems silly! And yet this type of thing jauntily masquerades as “intellectual thought” on our nation’s vaunted op-ed pages.
Alex Jones is an insanely huge piece of shit whose lies are so odious that he lost a free-speech case to a yogurt company.
There’s also the hypocritical flipside to the B.S. Fallacy. If the right to publicly express lies and misrepresentations is challenged — in my observations, this usually happens when a middle-aged white man’s right to “free speech” is pushed back upon even the tiniest bit — the challengers are decried as identity-politics-loving snowflakes who would be better off back in their gender-neutral safe-space dorm at Wesleyan, or some shit. Those most in favor of the interrogation of others usually cannot stand being interrogated themselves. Funny how that works.
But back to BuzzFeed. Alex Jones might have a rabid following (it seems probable, at this point, that his audience is mostly composed of Russian dummy accounts on 4-Chan, teenagers, and anti-government West Texans; BuzzFeed isn’t able to specify who they are), but to call him “an architect of our current political movement” feels like quite a reach (although that description probably gives Jones a raging boner, so, good job BuzzFeed). This is not to deny that Jones has influence — he obviously has enough to prompt one of his followers to bring a gun to a random pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C. and inspire a subsequent Law & Order SVU episode — but his influence cannot be quantified or specified in any useful sense, and in the absence of that specification certain media outlets tend to consider it in a vacuum where it is the only thing that matters, and its prevalence becomes exaggerated. In the world where Alex Jones is an architect of the current political movement, it’s inconvenient to recall that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, or that Fox News is tanking in the ratings, or that Trump has yet to achieve a single thing in office besides frightening immigrants and the LGBTQ community and making it impossible to have a normal conversation in which his Twitter is not mentioned.
If NBC — which is very much hoping that Megyn Kelly, whom the network is paying north of $15 million per year, will make it the best and most popular network in the country (a very Trumpian goal, indeed!) — had chosen for some respectful, clear-headed reason not to interview Jones, they wouldn’t be “shielding” their audience from him or “pretending he doesn’t exist” — they would simply… not be interviewing him. The idea that news outlets protect their readers or viewers is very quaint and somewhat laughable; I feel nothing but disrespected when I read the news these days and not just because someone set my homepage to Vox.com. Further, sending Megyn Kelly, one of our nation’s most self-serving media figures, to interview Alex Jones is not exactly an exercise in intellectual debate — it doesn't bode well that a cheeky selfie of the journalist with the man whose feet she promises to hold to the coals has emerged — nor is giving a mass-murder denier a prime-time platform to espouse his scurrilous views.
BuzzFeed says that to ignore the “seriousness of the far-right’s information war, in the hope that it goes away, isn’t just naive, it’s dangerous.” But perhaps a more potent act of naiveté is entertaining the notion that the seemingly amorphous alt-right and its associated fascists merit mainstream interrogation. In either case, if BuzzFeed is correct in asserting the robustness and legitimacy of Jones’s following, those hoping for a hard-hitting interview tomorrow night should take heed: Megyn Kelly needs Alex Jones way more than Alex Jones needs Megyn Kelly.
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