Ah, conspiracy theories.
Talk radio personality Alex Jones attracted attention for his petition to deport Piers Morgan. Then he showed up on Monday night on Morgan’s CNN show and attracted more attention, spewing conspiracy theories right and left. He spouted off about 9/11, the New World Order, suicide pills and at one point began speaking in a fake British accent. He leaped straight to Mao and Hitler without pausing to reflect on Godwin’s Law. All in all, it was a remarkable show. Morgan won the debate, but only, as Tim Stanley noted, because Jones did not let him get a word in edgewise.
This is saying something. The last time Piers Morgan won a debate was against Clint Eastwood’s Invisible Chair Obama, and that was because most of the chair’s comments were too ripe for cable. Once an actual straw man came on, but they tied. Jones, as a talk radio personality, is as close to a living straw man as you can hope to get.
There are reasons that people do not embrace conspiracy theories, aside from the high level of organization that they require us to believe is going on beneath the surface at the Denver Airport. The people who embrace them most tightly tend to yell and spit when they talk. There is a reason the only verbs associated with conspiracy theories are “spout” and “spew.” No one ever says, “And then he sat down and explained quite reasonably, calmly and without bursting out into a full-body sweat, what was Really Going On with the suicide pills and 9/11.” The reason they and their arguments are not featured more often on national news is not that they are being suppressed, exactly, as that producers fear that once they started talking, they might never stop. This only feeds it. “I’m being suppressed!” they yell.
“You just chewed through a sound cable,” we say, “and you’re frightening the houseplants.”
Perhaps to compensate for years of silence, the tendency of conspiracy theorists is never to stop talking. And this is problematic. You hear an argument that might, in isolation, be convincing, but it is quickly followed by the observation that
Congress is comprised entirely of malignant lizards Congress is doing a great, productive job! “I was with you until the New World Order,” you say.
Sometimes the best argument against an argument is its adherents. “I’ll have the opposite of what he’s having,” we say, pointing at the man in the black shirt who has just called someone a “hatchet man of the New World Order.”
I was all for deporting Piers Morgan, if only to pump excitement into the post-cliff news cycle. But after reading the piteous pleas of numerous Brits who had just put in so much effort to get rid of him, it seemed cruel. And after seeing the person who is leading the deportation charge — well, there must be some merit to keeping him that I’ve overlooked.
Besides, there are few more cutting responses to an American waving his arms and shouting about factoids than a person with a British accent saying nothing. Even if it is Piers Morgan. We can’t deport him now.