November 16, 2018

Trump, Alex Jones and Recognizing Hate

The blog I had planned for today is on hold given this breaking story that relates to several topics I have “>sources reported on an internet radio broadcast by Alex Jones, who is listened to by millions of people on the web. As I wrote in an early September “>The New Yorker wrote of Jones' rise to prominence,

Jones's amazing reputation arises mainly from his high-volume insistence that national tragedies such as the September 11th terror attacks, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Sandy Hook elementary-school shooting, and the Boston Marathon bombing were all inside jobs, “false flag” ops secretly perpetrated by the government to increase its tyrannical power (and, in some cases, seize guns). Jones believes that no one was actually hurt at Sandy Hook-those were actors-and that the Apollo 11 moon-landing footage was faked. [Emphasis added]

Any politician with an ounce of sophistication, let alone a candidate for the presidency of the United States who has countless staffers and researchers available to vet press engagements, would steer clear of anyone with Jones’ record and reputation. But last year, Trump appeared on Jones' radio program the day of the San Bernardino shootings.

Jones introduced Trump and proudly asserted that that 90% of his audience were supporters. Trump responded, “Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.”

Whether Jones’ listeners are 100% Trump supporters or 5% Trump supporters is irrelevant—Jones is the kind of toxic personality that exists on the fringes of our political system—he deserves to remain there. Jones and his ilk crave legitimacy and acceptance. They are true believers who fantasize that if only they could reach a larger audience they could convince listeners of the correctness of their theories and of the conspiratorial dangers lurking under every rock. The former head of Breitbart, Steve Bannon, who heads the Trump campaign, exhibits similar tendencies—-“we have the truth, if only we can get it out—the masses will follow.”

Trump’s appearance elevated Jones and his nuttiness. Anyone with even a cursory sense of history ought to have known that conspiracy advocates like Jones are, inevitably, going to advance anti-Semitic and racist theories; conspiracies tinged with populism and hucksterism invariably end up in anti-Semitism and racism—it’s a packaged deal.

Until yesterday, it appears that Jones masked the virulent, un-distilled anti-Semitism that lurked just beneath his shtick. But yesterday Jones let ‘er rip; his bigotry was on full “>reported),

‘Cause let me tell you, the Emanuels are mafia. And you know I was thinking, they’re always trying to claim that if I talk about world government and corruption I’m anti-Semitic, there’s mafias of all different stripes and groups but since you want to talk about it, the Emanuels are Jewish mafia. So there you go. But, I mean it’s not that Jews are bad, it’s just they are the head of the Jewish mafia in the United States. They run Uber, they run the health care, they’re going to scam you, they’re going to hurt you.

And then they got weirdos that they’re allied with like George Soros who’s a literal Nazi collaborator, and then you’ve got Madeleine Albright who’s a Nazi collaborator, her dad was, rounding up Jews, I mean it’s like, if being against Jews that are weirdo Nazi collaborators and gangsters makes me anti-Semitic then fine. I’m not against Jews, but at a certain point, when you people call you out, I’ve been called out in hundreds of newspapers in the last month, as being anti-Semitic, because I talk about a global, corporate, combine. [Emphasis added]

Trump’s association with Jones is unpardonable. He might not have known of his deep seated anti-Semitism but his vile conspiracy notions were a hint at what lay beneath. If he didn’t know about Jones’ proclivities, he should have—-or his staff is guilty of malpractice—or he knew and didn't care. In the latter case, he would be indifferent, maybe even sympathetic, to the bottom dwellers of the political world—a warning light to anyone who cares about civility and our future.

Mr. Trump has a serious problem with bigotry and extremism—he apparently can’t discern the difference between politically acceptable discourse and the conspiratorial ravings that are the hallmarks of hate.

His temporizing with Jones and his type is a glimpse into a personality that either doesn’t quite get the dynamics and the forces at play in a diverse, challenging and fraught political scene or one that doesn’t care and will deal with anyone if it advances his agenda.

Either explanation is deeply troubling.