November 25, 2020

Joe Rogers: I’m not a kook; I just play one

It must be tough these days to be Alex Jones, the fringe radio host/internet provocateur.

I’ve always thought of him – when I thought of him at all, which was seldom – as a crackpot. This he earned through his enthusiastic support of various nitwit conspiracy theories over the years.

He sees shady government roles in the Oklahoma City and Boston Marathon bombings along with 9/11, says the Sandy Hook school massacre was a hoax, and most recently claimed Hillary Clinton was behind a pedophilia ring.

Even Glenn Beck has described him as a “madman.” Glenn Beck!

Jones now finds himself in a court fight with his ex-wife over custody of their three children. I don’t know anything about the ex-wife, other than her obviously questionable judgment in mate selection, but hey, mistakes happen.

And it might be reasonable to assume that, compared with him, she would look pretty darn sane as a custodial parent.

But Jones’s lawyer has suggested that this is not a valid comparison. Jones, the lawyer said, is in fact a performance artist, and the crackpot is just a character he portrays for the benefit of his audience.

To identify Jones with that character is no more appropriate than to judge Jack Nicholson based on his Batman role as the Joker, the lawyer said.

Well, that’s an interesting argument to make. Perhaps it also explains Ann Coulter, whose outlandish utterances I’ve always assumed were some kind of bizarre comedy act.

Like:

“I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East and sending liberals to Guantanamo.”

Maybe the “LOL” is implied.

In any event, maybe this all can be personally instructive for me. Maybe I’ve been on the wrong track all these years, writing what I actually believe.

But maybe (and yes, I realize that’s a bunch of maybes) it’s not too late to change. I could adopt a new persona solely for rhetorical purposes. I could write things like “Southern Miss graduates should not be allowed to adopt shelter animals,” or “Gov. Phil Bryant’s Sons of Confederate Veterans ancestor was actually a Union spy.”

Then, if pressed (in, say, a lawsuit by Governor Bryant) I could argue that the “Joe Rogers” who wrote the offending passage was only a construct for the furtherance of a free and broad-ranging public discussion.

Which, as I look at it now, is darn good phrasing just waiting to be used for something or other. Perhaps Jones’s lawyer will adopt it.

Speaking again of Jones, he apparently was not enthused with his lawyer’s characterization of him as, basically, a fraud. He really believes what he says on the radio, he testified, though his presentation might be a bit exaggerated for effect.

This backtracking is understandable, of course. His radio program airs on scores of stations. His internet sites get millions of views. One of his fans, I gather, is someone very high in the government Jones so distrusts. Very, very high.

Clearly, Jones isn’t the only crackpot out there.

Joe Rogers worked for The Clarion-Ledger, The Tennessean and The New York Times. He can be reached at jrogink@gmail.com or on Twitter @jrogink.