Navigating the world of words today is hazardous territory. As a writer, I deplore the erosion of subtlety of language, and the reduction of discourse to one hundred forty characters or less.
Worse, are the wars that erupt on the pages of Facebooks, Tinders, Twitters and Snapchats – metaphorically bloodied carcasses in the IGNORE / BLOCKED categories of our collective “Friends” lists.
There is a running argument between my wife and myself as to who, or to whom is, or are to blame for this Communications Breakdown.
My favorite bogey-men are the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Alex Jones. I imagine them writhing in their dark, greasy lairs, plotting how best to divide the American public, profiting on the concomitant culture wars of their devising. The mind of someone who writes fiction for a living would naturally conjure such an image – it’s a great story-line.
My wife believes they are merely manifestations of a division that already exists within the hearts and minds of men. They are merely cashing in on the sidelines of the battlefield; selling the t-shirts and coffee mugs for one’s particular team.
I have come to the realization that the truth is closer to the scenario my wife is suggesting. I came to this understanding because of a civil lawsuit that Info-Wars screamer-in-chief, Alex Jones, participated in this past summer.
His wife, Kelly Jones, is seeking sole or joint custody of their children, ages 14, 12 and 9. She claims that he is “not a stable person,” and is threatening to others. Further, she claims, he broadcasts from their home, and his incendiary programs are disturbing to the children.
Alex Jones’ lawyer argues that he is a “performance artist,” and that his persona is just an act:
Attorney Randall Wilhite said at a pretrial hearing in Austin last week that evaluating Jones based on his on-air comments is like judging Jack Nicholson based on his role as the Joker in “Batman.” (source: Chicago Tribune)
Considering the absurd content of his programs (that Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings were a hoax, 9/11 was an inside job, and that Hillary Clinton was operating a child pornography ring from a pizza shop), if he were a true believer – does it follow that he would WANT custody of his children?
Further, consider the numbers:
- The Alex Jones YouTube channel has more than 2 million subscribers and more than 1.2 billion video views.
- Quantcast ranked Infowars.com 387th among all U.S. websites, not far behind Texas.gov, MLB.com and PBS.org.
- Infowars.com had 7.6 million global unique visitors from March 16 to April 14, according to Quantcast, which measures web audiences. (source: Chicago Tribune)
Being a flamethrower is a profitable business. It is highly probable, in my mind, that the courtroom Alex is the real Alex.
What about Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity?
Prior to their media success, both were college drop-outs (although, Hannity finally completed a degree in Communications from UC, Santa Barbara, where he was a volunteer radio host) and failed entrepreneurs. Both fell into the talk-show radio trend and built up followings among disaffected, white, male audiences who were looking for someone to blame for their lack of success, or to appease their guilt over white privilege as their non-white peers failed to catch hold of the American Dream, as relentlessly documented on the nightly news.
Both Hannity and Limbaugh have made millions of dollars in perpetuating the myth of the beleaguered, white, Christian male. This is the epitome of the so-called American Dream, and capitalism at its finest (or, worst, depending on your perspective).
Sure, like me, you are thinking; “how are they NOT culpable in the debasing of the American public discourse?”
It goes back to that argument I’ve had with my wife. She contends that these talk-show hucksters are selling a product that is in demand. For whatever reason, there is a segment of the population who believes that there is a vast, global conspiracy to eliminate “white culture” and “Christian values.” Limbaugh, Jones and Hannity didn’t create this notion, they’ve just exploited it for financial gain.
In reality, what we are experiencing is the blooming of multiple, diverse cultures – previously kept silent by an overwhelming white, Christian primacy – being absorbed into the collective social structure of America. For the first time in their lives, white Americans are having to compete for jobs, social status and the newsworthiness of their “plight.”
There have been eloquent tomes written (Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance) about the so-called forgotten man Donald Trump mentioned in his disturbing Inauguration speech this past January, and that seems to dominate his administration’s agenda.
While there is some legitimacy in these feelings of angst, it is imperative that we as a society have meaningful discussions on the subject rather than flame-throwing wars of words in cyber space. We are scaring the shit out of people of color, and new immigrants who were just beginning to emerge as equals in the American experience during the Obama era.
A starting point would be to tune out the purveyors of hatred that have made the talk-show personalities wealthy men and women, and dig deep into the reasons they have an audience at all.