Piers Morgan’s self-serving gun control crusade

January 10, 2013
(Richard Drew/AP) I used to watch this show.
I used to watch this show, but mainly for David Hasselhoff. (Richard Drew/Associated Press)

Earlier this week, I sympathized with Piers Morgan, because — well, if Alex Jones had shown up and delivered that tirade in the midst of the “Star Wars” prequels, I would have put in a favorable reference for Jar Jar. It was enough to compel sympathy for almost anyone. 

But when I read that Piers Morgan was threatening to deport himself if we didn’t solve gun violence, my sympathy evaporated. This is not a serious response.

Piers Morgan realizes there is a petition to deport him, yes? I suppose that from his perspective, the most nightmarish scenario is a world in which millions of Americans do not have the opportunity to decline to watch him every night. “Stop!” Piers snaps, “or I’ll punish you! By leaving, as you requested!” 

“Okay,” we say. 

“Don’t make me do this.” Piers glowers. “It hurts you more than me.”

“No,” we say. “Frankly, it doesn’t.” 

It’s an important issue. But I am not sure that Piers Morgan is helping anyone other than Piers Morgan by riding it like this.

My feelings were distilled perfectly in a caption on one of the photos in Piers’s recent column in the Daily Mail.

“The families of victims grieve near Sandy Hook Elementary School,” the caption read. “Piers Morgan felt deeply affected by the tragedy.”

Oh, did he? Well, that is certainly the most noteworthy thing about that awful December morning. 

There is a certain brand of journalist who thinks, as Tom Stoppard put it, “that the most interesting thing about any story is the fact that he has arrived to cover it.” 

This kind of response suggests that a more accurate working definition of National Tragedy might be “an event so mind-blowingly awful that it upsets Piers Morgan.” With his ongoing response, one gets the sense that gun control has not affected Piers Morgan deeply because it is an important issue. It is an important issue because it has affected Piers Morgan deeply. And this is not what the issue deserves. 

I understand that public enthusiasm on this one is waning. Look at the Google searches. Searches for gun control spiked and then plummeted. Meanwhile, hunts for “Hitler Gun Control” (generally not the sort of thing you search for when you are enthused by the idea of restrictions on firearms) are climbing. So keeping one’s nose to the grindstone at this moment is key.

I understand that this is 2013, when we think the only way to draw attention to a cause is to draw attention to yourself drawing attention to the cause. But this isn’t even subtle. It’s not Gun Control. It’s “Piers Morgan’s Gun Control.” Piers gets equal billing. And he shouldn’t. If sincere, it’s inept.

It is a waste of time to complain too much about a self-parody for being a self-parody. But still. When you carry around a cause like this and fan the flames of controversy in a way that lights up your own name, when you threaten to deport yourself in response to petitions to deport you, it does no one any good. Especially when you do this to a issue that is suffering already under the pressure of the vicious news cycle. It threatens to become Piers Morgan’s Hobbyhorse instead of A Serious Discussion That Must Continue. 

The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. Up to a point. But the tug of gravity around personalities like Morgan’s is enough to overwhelm even the hardiest issue. Yes, black holes can insist they occasionally emit light. But only in the process of swallowing up everything around them.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.
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Alexandra Petri | January 10, 2013