In the time before centralized mass media, a whole host of traveling cons and medicine-show mountebanks could pull wool and push potions. During the era of centralized mass media, it was occasionally possible to work the masses in a big way, but mostly gatekeepers batted down these lies. In our age of decentralized communications, which began with President Reagan signing away the Fairness Doctrine and became fully entrenched with cable news and the Internet, the sideshow, now residing in the center ring, has never fooled more people who should know better.
One of the Barnums of this bizarre moment is right-wing radio talker Alex Jones, a compulsive eater and apeshit peddler of strange conspiracy theories that usually have an anti-government or bigoted bent. He is the kind of kook who would have been calling into late-night radio shows about UFOs in decades past, only to be hung up on by annoyed hosts. Today his strange fake-news impulses have provided him with a direct line to a White House led by a President who would have been laughed off the campaign trail in any reasonably decent and enlightened age.
All of this has been enabled by a new form of hyper-democracy that resists checks and balances, in which every idea is equal true or not. It’s a scary moment in which anything–anything–is possible.
From Veit Medick’s great Spiegel profile of Jones, a Texas-sized F.O.T. (Friend of Trump):
Jones is stunned that not all Americans share his panicked view of the “jihadists.” Indeed, he believes the threat is so great that it would be best not to allow anyone at all to enter the United States anymore.
“Please forget the Statue of Liberty,” Jones says during a break. “It’s a symbol of propaganda. We should stop worshipping it and bending down to every Third World population that shows up with TB and leprosy.”
‘Foot Soldiers in the Trump Revolution’
Jones now plans to open an office in Washington. He says might hire 10 people to report on the White House, almost like a traditional media organization. He will be getting help from Roger Stone, a radical adviser to the president, who wrote a book in which he described former President Bill Clinton as a serial rapist without providing any proof. Under a deal reached between the two men, Stone began hosting the Alex Jones show for one hour a week a short time ago. “Elitists may laugh at his politics,” Stone says, but “Alex Jones is reaching millions of people, and they are the foot soldiers in the Trump revolution.”
It’s afternoon, and Jones is walking through the studio, his adrenaline level high and his blood sugar low. He needs to get something to eat. Platters of BBQ – chicken, beef and sausages – are set out on a table in the conference room. “Good barbecue,” says Jones. “You tasted it already?”
He piles up food onto a plastic plate, and then he suddenly takes off his shirt without explanation. With his bare torso, he sits there and shovels meat into his mouth, a caricature of manliness, but also a show of power to the reporter sitting in front of him. He can do as he pleases.
Then Jones gets up and holds out a sausage. “Wanna suck?” he asks.•