Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequence.
This Sunday, reporter Megyn Kelly will sit down with extreme conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for an interview on NBC. She shouldn’t.
If you’re one of the few lucky people who hasn’t heard of Alex Jones, he’s an extreme right-wing radio personality who pedals dangerous, made-up, conspiracy theories to a loyal base of listeners who sometimes take action on the fake news he reports. Alex Jones has called for violence against celebrities and politicians alike.
After Jennifer Lopez called for artists to be politically conscious at the beginning of this year, Alex Jones suggested she “go to Somalia and get gang raped.” Among his many vitriolic lies, there is one controversy in particular for which Jones has achieved infamy–his false claims that the Sandy Hook School Massacre of 2012 was an “inside job.”
Alex Jones accused President Obama of staging “crisis actors” to fake the massacre at the Elementary School. The shooting took the lives of 20 children and 6 adults. His propagandist and discredited site “info-wars” has reported this story for years, causing his supporters to go so far as sending death threats to the victim’s families. Just last week Lucy Richards, a 57 yr-old Florida woman, was sentenced to five months in prison followed by five months house arrest for the death threats she sent the father of Noah Pozner, a 6 yr-old boy who was killed in Sandy Hook.
Spreading Fake News: “Pizzagate”
Alex Jones was also linked to the ongoing “Pizzagate” controversy. In December of last year, Edgar Maddison Welch, of Salisbury, N.C., took an AR-15 and drove to Washington D.C. to confront the owners of Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria because Alex Jones, and liars like him, led him to believe the business was running a sex trafficking ring from a basement the public later learned doesn’t even exist.
Alex and his co-conspirators argued they uncovered the plot in leaked emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta. The employees of Comet Pizzeria have received countless death threats from people all over the nation who believe this story. But perhaps the most important person to debunk this false claim is Alex Jones himself! Jones immediately apologized for Pizzagate after the made-up story led to an actual shooting.
Alex Jones said of the controversy: “In our commentary about what had become known as Pizzagate, I made comments about Mr. Alefantis that in hindsight I regret, and for which I apologize to him.” He goes on to apologize for the claims of the made-up story while also repeatedly shrugging responsibility for its origins and dissemination. The story was made up, plain and simple.
Zero Journalistic Integrity–or Ability
Jones’s repeated defense that “many others are saying it” and “we heard this could be true” in reference to his many false stories plaguing the internet is a disgrace to journalism and an affront to the intelligence of the American people. It sometimes seems that Alex Jones is doing whatever works for him, with a complete disregard for human life.
In his recent divorce proceedings, Alex’s lawyer argued he is a “performance artist” who does not believe or behave like his public personality. If Alex Jones knows that the persona he presents to the public would be toxic for his own children, why is he ok with presenting it to millions of Americans as fact?
America has an admirable and strong commitment to freedom of speech. Every day Americans protest, march, and organize for the causes they believe in; we shouldn’t silence those voices, even the ones with whom we disagree. But there are clear distinctions here. You can’t falsely yell fire in a crowded movie theater if the panic you cause leads to death or injuries. Similarly, you can’t make up wild conspiracy theories and call on a listener base to act on them.
\By allowing Megyn Kelly to interview Alex Jones in a prime time slot, NBC is validating a dangerous man who promotes and creates fake news. There is no evidence Alex Jones is expressing real alternative opinions. He is knowingly and intentionally lying to the American people. Jones creates false narratives based on vague pieces of reality to enrage a portion of the population; he has an absolute right to speak his mind, but he shouldn’t be shielded from the consequences of his actions which has caused real human suffering.
Megyn Kelly and NBC shouldn’t give this person a broader platform because they have a responsibility to the truth. This isn’t about “hearing another side” this is about giving a microphone to a known liar and conspirator. It’s irresponsible and wrong.