Why the (Real) Left Needs to Embrace Alex Jones
For years I’ve forced myself to keep tabs on right wing outlets: Drudge, FoxNews, NewsMax, Limbaugh, etc. I think it’s important regularly to get outside of the “Daily Me” that we tend to create for ourselves these days—if for no other reason than it sharpens one’s ability to communicate with the non-likeminded. In that spirit about six months ago I started listening to The Alex Jones Show via podcast (see infowars.com). I was blown away. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was hooked.
How could an unrepentant leftist “intellectual,” whose audio news rotation includes the likes of Democracy Now, Young Turks, Truthdig, GritTV, etc., come to be an avid AJ listener? Let me explain.
In the post- and even anti-Obama political universe that actual progressives must now inhabit, I’ve long felt that the only possibility that could actually threaten elites would be some sort of left-right convergence. In the spirit that right wing libertarians and left wing anarchists tend to meet at some point on the political circle, it seemed to me that the 5-10% far left and the 5-10% far libertarian right often had much in common—if we could simply agree to disagree on a few matters (e.g., immigration, guns). After imbibing AJ’s worldview, I’m now convinced that he provides a platform actually to effect this. Call it the Amy Goodman/Alex Jones ticket. Or Jane Hamsher/Alex Jones, if you like.
Let me explain my sense of AJ and I’ll assume a skeptical left wing audience. The first thing you have to understand is that AJ is NOT Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Ronald Reagan, etc. He is NOT a Republican and he has as much contempt for mainline Republicans as he does for Democrats. Equal scorn for Bush as for Obama, etc. Furthermore, he is NOT a Tea Partier. He well understands that these are astroturf phenomena and however well-meaning may be some of the associated individuals, they have become useful idiots for Boehner, Cantor, Bachman, & Co.
AJ admires Jesse Ventura, but the most AJ-friendly national politician is clearly Ron Paul, an esteemed regular guest on his show. Yet AJ is no simple ideological libertarian. What sets him apart from that is perhaps his main theme: how private corporatist “globalist” “bankster” elites are running the world and are plotting your demise across a number fronts: economic, military, environmental, etc. What he shares with the right is his insistence on the evils of “big government.” AJ’s core insight could be taken straight out of the pages John Bellamy Foster’s Marxist Monthly Review (one of my favorites), namely, that what we have at present is the worst of BOTH the world of capitalism and socialism. What we have is big government that has been captured by globalist corporations who have used elected officials to snuff out legitimate free market competition. In a word that AJ does not use, we have monopoly capitalism, where the monopolies are maintained by our bought and paid for politicians. In a demonic inversion, we have socialism only for the rich and laissez faire only for the poor. For AJ there is no “free market” anymore. Big corporations (including banks) use government to secure their monopoly position. In fact the corporations NEED big government because they need sufficient coercive power to drive out the competition. AJ would never call himself a “socialist,” however, because he sees an overly large government as essentially uncontrollable democratically. It is a big tool available for corporate use and as such it is inherently dangerous. This is NOT a simple right wing view.
Broadly speaking, there are at least three major areas where AJ overlaps very nicely with the real left (btw, by “real left” I mean the FDL-type left that has realized Obama for the hopeless tool that he is):
1) the injustice of global economic control by government-banking-corporate elites; and
2) a robust anti-war and anti-imperalism. AJ opposes current U.S. wars with at least as much energy as progressives, the latter too often cowed by Obama and supporters.
3) a recognition that the “wars” on drugs and terror are merely subterfuges for diminishing civil liberties and jailing much of the population. (AJ’s companion website is called prisonplanet.tv.) The destruction of civil liberties under Bush/Obama are mainstays AJ’s broadcasts, and he has a particular fixation upon the TSA’s increasingly invasive “searching” (a.k.a. groping) of the traveling public.
From the typical left point of view, there are of course difficulties with AJ as well. There are what one might call “hybrid” issues, where there are areas of agreement but probably strong disagreement as well:
1) Immigration. AJ sees open borders as essentially a plot by government to ensure a captive dependent population that can be “used” against the middle class. I do not think AJ is a racist. But at times there are shades of ethnocentrism in his presentation of these issues. It should be recognized, though, that it has long been recognized on the left that illegal immigration works to the benefit of corporations who are able to use the fear of deportation to cow their defenseless workers, also (arguably) depressing wages for the citizen working class, etc.
2) Environment. AJ presents a mixed bag here. On the negative side, he is a global warning denier. He thinks it’s a big hoax, designed by global elites to funnel money and power to international institutions via carbon taxes and the like. On the positive side, though, he—and his advertisers—consistently advocate organic farming and foods and rail against government/corporate complicity and coverup regarding the poisoning of the environment. Full disclosure: after hearing the ads, I researched and bought a Big Berkey water filter, which I love, and have found to my great interest that this product is advertises both on AJ and also on lefty/permaculture sorts of venues.
3) Guns. AJ is wildly pro gun. Now it used to be an old leftist position to be against gun control on the argument that if one is a true working class movement then it is all for the better for ordinary people to be armed. The late Joe Bageant has a hard hitting chapter on this in his wonderful DEER HUNTING WITH JESUS, where he argues that urban liberal types just don’t get it when it comes to firearms. Of course most on the left, heavily overrepresented by urban non-farming and hunting types, tend toward a somewhat knee-jerk pro gun control position. I will admit that this is one area where I have been convinced by AJ (and Bageant). I own guns, etc., but even if you don’t, surely it’s not worth alienating that half of flyover country that opposes everything left of center because they want to “take my guns.” Let’s just give in on that one, okay? Learn to shoot. Teach your kids to safely. It’s actually enjoyable.
Finally, there are some areas where there will be disagreements. AJ is religious, though he is tolerant and he does not base is views on any particular religious doctrine. (Though he is more erudite than AJ, a left analog in this respect might be someone like the indomitable Chris Hedges). He is pro-life, although he does not make abortion issues central to his presentation (in many, many hours of listening to his show, I have heard him allude to his prolife views but he does not dwell on them).
More problematic, I find one of the least savory aspects of his presentation a certain good old boy mild homophobia: he wants men to be men and women to be women. Once in awhile he will stoop to Limbaugh-esque meanspiritedness, as when he calls Rachel Maddow, “Mr. Maddow.” He usually follows such quips with a disclaimer that he was merely joking, but there is that macho current in his presentation that can go in troubling directions at times. He is no fundamentalist, though. On policy issues, he is solidly for the right to gay marriage, and I’ve never heard him take an anti-gay political position on any actual policy.
Lastly and most famously, is his “conspiracy” mindset. AJ sees conspiracies EVERYWHERE. He is for example an unabashed “truther” regarding 9/11. (He is not really a “birther,” though, but he does think there are very shady aspects to Obama and his parents’ past.) One has to ask oneself if one wants to go down that rabbit hole with him. (Building 7 anyone?) At the very least, I think, serious persons of conscience can agree that 9/11 should be an empirical matter and we should not take anyone’s word about it on faith—including our own government’s. AJ is constantly pointing out the big lies and “false flags” of history, from the Maine, to the Nazi staging of the Polish radio station attack, to the Gulf of Tonkin, to Iraqi WMDs. AJ is also obsessed with such as Bilderberger, Bohemian Grove, etc. The scary thing is that he may just be right about these elite groups. Paranoids are not insane if someone really is after them. My own sense is that AJ overdoes it with this stuff and is too quick to see conspiracies under every rug. (For example, imho he is wholly unconvincing and almost Glenn Beck-like about the Arab Spring as part of a globalist plot to destabilize the Middle East.) But if he’s right about even HALF of what he talks about—and I think he probably is—he does a great service to us all by being the constantly annoying voice that won’t let us sit back and “trust” our elites. I’d go for an excess of vigilance over an excess of complacency any day. There is detritus to sift through. But there are gems as well.
In sum, AJ has become a significant force. He now has a huge following on the radio and internet that appears to be growing. He is much bigger than any comparable left wing figure. Second, I believe a mutually beneficial symbiosis is possible. In fact, more than possible. On the core issues of the economy, war, civil rights/liberties, AJ is a huge ally of the anti-Obama left. He understands the magnitude of the economic theft being perpetrated on the vast majority of us. He is a more stalwart opponent of imperial adventurism than most everyone on today’s left. Who else has live reports from Libya for goodness’ sake! He is a master showman, capable of breaking through the fog of mainstream infotainment. He has a cultural style that appeals to ordinary red state and rural types. In the spirit of Hamsher/Norquist, Grayson/Paul, etc., if we took, say, AJ’s 5-15% potential slice of the electorate, with the anti-Obama left’s 5-15% potential slice of the electorate, we could be talking a quarter to near a third of the electorate. THAT would be something our elites would fear. THOSE are connections worth building.
If we can stop the financial terrorists, end the wars, including the phony drug wars that incarcerate so many of us, and halt the assault on civil liberties, isn’t that enough incentive to ally with someone like AJ? If we won on all those issues and then we had to fight about some of the areas of disagreement, well, I’d take that world in a second. Necessity forges alliances.