I’ve been a father now for all of three months, and like all parents have found it both absolutely exhilarating and hugely demanding in terms of tolerance and patience. My love for my daughter grows exponentially every day and if anyone deliberately hurt her I’d probably try to kill them, although obviously I don’t think that such personal vengeance should be the basis of a legal system. I’m not a prick.
Someone who clearly is a prick, and an asshole, and a c*nt, is the US radio hate preacher Alex Jones. How do I know this? Well, I’m judging him on his words and actions, and as a parent I’m now in a position to see how damaging they must be. In Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012 a 20-year-old man murdered twenty children and then shot himself in the head. This led to renewed calls for gun control, which provoked a malicious internet conspiracy theory among those who don’t mind the odd school shooting (shucks, they might even do one themselves one day!) that the massacre was a ‘false flag’. Jones picked up on this and told his gullible and resentful disciples, primed as they are on a heady cocktail of skunk and misinformation, that not just the terrorist attack but also the children themselves were fake, (‘child actors’) and directed them to harrass the families of the dead children (because they’re ‘actors’ too, right?).
Is someone who thinks other people’s kids don’t exist a fit person to have custody over their own? (Presuming his own kids aren’t themselves ‘child actors’, of course.) A court is currently (and hilariously) trying to decide. Of course, it’s possible that Jones is the best parent in the world, but given the evidence so far permitted in court and that excluded by the judge, it’s pretty unlikely. His life story is a litany of drink, drugs, and megalomaniac narcissism, to the extent where he can’t remember basic information about his kids and also fills their heads with hateful internet nonsense. Jones is now married to a former prostitute. He denies her past (whereas she, notably, doesn’t), just like he and his naive followers deny climate change, 9/11 and the Holocaust.
Regardless of the custody battle, it’s very clear that such a person should be nowhere near political power. Yet Trump praises him and has repeated his syphillitic screeds word for word. They thus have an impact in the real world, giving the lie to his claim inside court that he’s merely a performance artist – he made a video on the way to court in which he himself made clear that it’s not true. His success, after all, depends on his audience believing he’s more than just a clown.
Over the years celebrity refuseniks like Russell Brand have appeared on his Infowars show, granting him radical credibility despite his affiliations with white supremacists and antisemites. He’s also been defended by the British investigative journalist and author Jon Ronson. Ronson’s schtik, which can be charactersised as fey muscular liberalism, can be very effective and great fun. His modus operandi, like that of Louis Theroux, uses a very softly-spoken gonzo approach of befriending people who provoke the ire of liberals: Katie Hopkins, that God Hates Fags family, Islamic terrorists. He has been described as a ‘semi-friend’ of Jones. But humanising those who dedicate their lives to dehumanising others is risky and morally questionable. What about the effects of what they do, and what they represent, notwithstanding their inner psychological battles? As Žižek points out in ‘Violence’, no one is consciously evil. We all have private narratives which explain our behaviour towards others. But the truth of a human being lies not in what they think, but what they say and do.
I don’t know Jones personally. I only know what he does and what he proudly represents. I also know the effect that people like him and his aspiring UK counterpart Katie Hopkins had in Rwanda. Now he’s asked for respect and responsibility in reports of his case. Fine. If he apologises to the people whose lives he’s ruined with his (ahem) ‘performance art’ and tries to make amends, then he’ll be deserving of respect. While he continues to propagate dangerous lies in a way which is absolutely irresponsible and disrespectful, anyone who’s not a complete prick will continue to see him as someone who should be kept securely away from contact with human beings in general and children in particular.