Hilarious footage of a chubby Texan shouting at Piers Morgan went viral last week and the name ‘Alex Jones’ was trending on twitter as a consequence. Those initiated into the wacky world of conspiracy theory knew exactly what was happening and some of them took to the social networking site to defend the apparently mad gun toting loon. Others wondered why the little Welsh fitty off The One show was suddenly getting so much attention...
"When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny." - Thomas Jefferson, US Founding Father.
Firstly the real issue behind the confrontation was gun control. What’s interesting about the era you and I live in is although the internet seems to be based on sensationalism and immediate hype the people who use it do, over time, consider the ideas it raises. This means the tactics both Piers Morgan and Alex Jones employ in this piece are given a different light. In the short term Jones’s rudeness and sensationalism lost the debate but in the long run he’s forced issues and perspectives which rarely get any coverage in the UK. The fact we all now have access to a global communications system means the ideas advocated by either side will sink or swim based on their validity, not the apparent sanity of their two supporters.
Don’t misunderstand Piers' timid demeanor in this interview, it’s not how he usually carries himself in this debate. Morgan has a history of calling for gun control in very ‘un-English’, rude and insulting terms. In his confrontation with Jones he’s either putting on an act or we’re seeing the genuine fear of a bully being confronted. That he fails to control the interview and makes few substantial responses to Jones's points would have been fine in the media landscape of the old world where the showbiz-reporter learned his trade. In that world, the same one where Piers edited a newspaper that faked pictures of our troops pissing on Iraqis, Alex Jones would have been forever dismissed as a loon and the debate could have moved on to the next stage.
However Jones is a very different beast to Morgan. He largely honed his craft in the aggressive world of US talk radio where those who disagree are straight to the front of the queue. Furthermore his online activity far exceeds Piers’. In many ways a pioneer of the internet age he and his followers push for audiences all the time, using free downloads of his films to promote their brand in a world where attention comes first and revenue second. His fans advertise him with an almost religious zeal, as far as they are concerned “getting the message out there” is an end in itself. You may disagree with him on a number of core issues, as I do, but it’s absurd to dismiss him as an irrelevant loon. Behind the shouting lies a fearsome intelligence and to an extent he represents an important and growing subculture.
Do not misunderstand this article, or my interview with Jones linked to at the bottom, I am not advocating his point of view. Much of what he says I'm fairly ambivalent to and some of it I flatly disagree with. However I do believe an informed debate about the actual issues is always more interesting than the narrow point of view provided by just the Morgan piece alone and, for want of a better phrase, “the mainstream media”.
As is revealed in my interview with him, Jones is deeply religious. This is a hugely important aspect of the disparate groups he represents. Conspiracy theorists are often driven by a belief that there is 'something more' to people than just the input-response model of a human animal which modern rationalism presents us with. At first I didn't really understand how crucial this aspect of their belief system was but over time it has started to make sense. It's one of the reasons characters like him have fundamental faith in people: because God made them. It's also why they reject apparently rational ideas such as ID cards, CCTV cameras, the database state and so on.
The gun debate, just like the UK's recent free speech debate regarding Leveson, is all about faith. In a nutshell the dynamic is this:
The US trusts its people to own guns and be responsible, the UK's does not.
Furthermore I think it was Jones who once explained it to me in the following terms; "having a gun is a sign that the Government trusts the people to behave as citizens rather than slaves. A nobleman carried a sword. A peasant was not allowed one. The peasants might revolt, a nobleman will only do so if his cause is just. In short, an armed populace provides a final defence against tyranny."
Now, that's a slightly more complex framing of the issue than I'd previously been provided with. Prior to that little logical bombshell I'd bought into the prevailing UK orthodoxy that Americans love guns simply because they're thickos.
Once you gather that, for people like Jones this issue is one of trust, you can start to understand parody videos of the "demand a plan" YouTube campaign featuring celebrities who all plead for President Obama to alter the US's gun laws. In the parody video which recently featured on Disinfo.com called "Demand Celebrities Go F*ck Themselves" the spotlight is turned upon why these celebrities are seen as being trustworthy; often because they've been promoted with gun violence. Further to that advocates of gun ownership often ask why Governments themselves should be trusted with guns? It’s a fair point given the fact that it is their armies who tend to kill on an industrial scale. Certainly the military are responsible for more firearms deaths than civilians could ever be.
In fact the initial idea of the US gun laws was to cut out the need for a standing army and give the population the right to defend themselves from British tyranny. The idea was that citizens of the US were all in favour of the constitution and the freedoms it awarded them, so much so they'd defend it to the death. They opposed our hereditary monarchy and that's why they needed guns. This is the reason Jones is so incensed that “a Brit” has the temerity to demand gun control laws and provides the context for him shouting about “1776”.
If this reference was lost on you here are a number of other key points he raises which might make a subject of Her Majesty living in the UK feel even less smug:
He mentions free speech laws in the UK. You do not have a right to speak freely in UK broadcast media. That's a fact of life in our country, not so in theirs. One of our politicians, and now media 'professional' herself, Jackie Smith, actually banned a US talkshow host from setting foot in this country because she was so upset by how rude he was with his words! Michael Savage was put on a list of other undesirables, the majority of which were there for violent crimes. His only crime was speaking freely.
He mentions the right to defend your property. It's widely known that people in the UK have faced jail time for daring to fight back against an intruder.
He mentions Pier Morgan's body guards. The highest levels of society have the protection of men with guns. They have these armed guards because they in practice agree with the NRA's assesment that the only solution to the problem presented by a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun. So would you if you lived in Cumbria in Whitehaven, UK. They wanted an armed response. So would I if some idiot was marauding the streets with a shooter.
In a nutshell Alex Jones has chosen to trust people not the often inhuman consequences of Governments bureaucracy. Some say he doesn't have that right but I respect his opinion and in a sense we agree to disagree. It's nice though that we live in a society where people like him can exist, I'd worry if they didn't.
A final note of crucial note of caution, before you join the orthodox view that Piers is some kind of hero in facing down Alex Jones. Jones was the first person I heard talking about the now acknowledged Bilderberg group, a secretive meeting between some of the world’s most powerful people. I was told in newsrooms in the UK that no such thing existed and it was mere fantasy. Nowadays it’s frequently covered by The Guardian and other major media sources. In other words, he's been relelvant to me as a journalist. On the other hand Piers Morgan is responsible for duping me, and the rest of the UK, with the fake story I mentioned about our military urinating on Iraqis. I took that story as legitimate and opinionated on it, on the air, during my time hosting talk show on a South Yorkshire radio station. Jones is often accused of exaggeration but there's no record of him simply inventing a story to fit his agenda, as Piers’ paper did here in the UK during war-time! Morgan's background is one of celebrity, Jones's is one of conspiracy. I'm not sure who I agree with but I know who I prefer.