Alex Jones, famous for his far-right rhetoric and his conspiracy theories, has been presented with a golden ticket.
On Sunday, NBC News released a promo for an interview between Jones and former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly to be aired on June 18, showing that all you need to do for a national platform is to be a generally awful human being.
While the nation mourned the tragedy of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012, Jones spun vile theories about how the murders of 20 young children and six adults were actually an elaborate performance by the United States government. According to Jones, there was no Sandy Hook.
Jones has carved out a niche for his insanity in the dark nooks and crannies of the internet and radio, and he reportedly has big fans in the White House, too. If people want to hear what Jones has to say, it's easy to find him. He doesn't need more airtime than he already has nor a larger platform from which to spew hate. He doesn't need NBC, but it seems NBC needs him.
In the short promo for the upcoming Kelly-Jones interview, we get a taste of the mess to come.
"Sandy Hook?" Kelly asks Jones, not even giving those murdered in the shooting the respect of speaking in full sentences, revealing that it's merely a talking point to her. Kelly knows full well what Jones will say, but she asks anyway to give millions the chance to hear it, among them the grieving families of the Sandy Hook victims.
“Sandy Hook is complex because I’ve had debates with devil’s advocates that the whole story is true, then I’ve had debates when I’ve said that none of it is true,” Jones tells Kelly, right on cue.
“When you say parents faked their children’s death, people get very angry,” Kelly replies vaguely.
Kelly's role through the entire promo seems less like that of a journalist and more like that of a frustrated, but indulgent, parent. She responds to Jones with light slaps on the wrist and obvious observations instead of fierce journalistic questions backed by commitment to the truth. If the promo is any indication of what the full interview is to be, it won't be journalism on air, but a talk show as sensational as Jones himself.
The backlash to the upcoming interview has been swift and heartfelt. Nelba Marquez-Greene, whose 6-year-old daughter, Ava Grace, was murdered by Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook shooting, is an exceptionally poignant voice. On Sunday, she spoke up on Twitter about NBC and Kelly's serious lapse in judgment for choosing Jones' twisted lies over the very real grief of Sandy Hook families.
“By making this choice, you grieve our hearts and the memory of our child,” Marquez-Greene wrote. “You have a powerful platform. I encourage you to ‘shine light’ on affirming the losses suffered here- NOT on a person who mocks those losses…. Evil doesn’t need another platform.”
"Any time you give someone like Alex Jones a platform, their followers will double-down or increase their attack on grieving families," the mother told CBS on Monday. "You can't just put him in a box and say he's just a character. He's really hurting people."
NBC and Kelly's decision to put Jones' conspiracy theories in the national spotlight demonstrates the capitalist and sensationalist road mainstream media has a tendency to take these days. People like Jones have a right to spew whatever sick, illogical thing they'd like, but news agencies have a responsibility to investigate the truth in order to provide the public with trustworthy information about the world around them. Entertaining the unfounded ideas of a conspiracy theorist is not journalism — it's irresponsible.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Flickr user Sean P. Anderson