Megyn Kelly smacks down dan­ger­ous con­spir­acy the­o­rist

Walker County Messenger - - Front Page - Gene Lyons Arkansas Times

As vig­or­ously hyped broad­cast events go, Megyn Kelly’s tele­vised con­fronta­tion with in­ter­net con­spir­acy cultist Alex Jones proved some­thing of a dud. Not be­cause Kelly didn’t give it her best. And maybe not even be­cause the former Fox News-blonde’s best falls con­sid­er­ably short of leg­endary TV in­quisi­tors such as Mike Wal­lace or even Bar­bara Wal­ters.

It’s partly a grav­i­tas thing; a mat­ter of stage pres­ence. At this point in her new ca­reer as a “main­stream” per­former, Kelly hasn’t quite mas­tered it. She’s in­tel­li­gent, poised and al­most alarm­ingly at­trac­tive. But au­thor­i­ta­tive? Not yet. So whose idea was it to sched­ule Kelly op­po­site CBS’s “60 Min­utes” any­way? For all of the con­tro­versy at­tend­ing her Fa­ther’s Day in­ter­view with the Austin-based pro­pri­etor of In­foWars, a web­site that ped­dles low-IQ po­lit­i­cal pornog­ra­phy along with male en­hance­ment prod­ucts and sur­vival­ist gear (there’ll be a hot time in the fall­out shel­ter tonight!), the pro­gram fin­ished far behind U.S. Open golf and a “60 Min­utes” re­run dur­ing the time pe­riod. Dead last.

But the real loser was Jones him­self, whom Kelly had lit­tle dif­fi­culty ex­pos­ing as a sweaty, blus­ter­ing fraud. “Some thought we shouldn’t broad­cast this in­ter­view be­cause his base­less al­le­ga­tions aren’t just of­fen­sive, they’re dan­ger­ous,” Kelly pointed out. “But here’s the thing: Alex Jones isn’t go­ing away.”

She’s cor­rect on all counts. It’s also true that ex­pos­ing the sheer fraud­u­lence of a moun­te­bank like Jones could be ter­ri­bly im­por­tant. Peo­ple like him thrive in the sem­ishad­ows of the in­ter­net. View­ers who wouldn’t dream of buy­ing the poi­son In­foWars ped­dles need to be more aware of what he and sim­i­lar far-right huck­sters like him are all about. Be­cause mil­lions of naive dimwits ARE buy­ing, in­clud­ing the pres­i­dent of the United States.

NBC doc­u­mented sev­eral ex­am­ples of ev­i­dence-free al­le­ga­tions go­ing right from Jones’ para­noid rants straight to can­di­date Trump’s mouth -- such as the ab­surd al­le­ga­tion that Hil­lary Clin­ton would show up for a pres­i­den­tial de­bate high on drugs. Trump thought so, too.

Of course, Jones has also al­leged that Hil­lary’s a space alien.

“When I think about all the chil­dren Hil­lary Clin­ton has per­son­ally mur­dered and chopped up and raped, I have zero fear stand­ing up against her,” Jones said in a YouTube post­ing just be­fore the 2016 elec­tion. “Yeah, you heard me right. Hil­lary Clin­ton has per­son­ally mur­dered chil­dren. I just can’t hold back the truth any­more.”

That was the in­fa­mous “Pizzagate” con­spir­acy the­ory In­foWars also pro­moted. He has since backed off.

Fear of law­suits can do that some­times.

To date, Trump has left the space alien thing alone. But you never know. How­ever, Jones now claims that the pres­i­dent phones him for ad­vice. There seems no rea­son to doubt it. But enough about Trump. Dur­ing their in­ter­view, Kelly shrewdly ze­roed in on Jones’s bizarre in­sis­tence that the 2015 mas­sacre of 26 chil­dren and teach­ers at Sandy Hook ele­men­tary school in New­town, Con­necti­cut was a hoax -- an Obama-or­ches­trated the­atri­cal spec­ta­cle to pro­mote gun con­trol.

That ob­scene and deeply of­fen­sive lie caused one Con­necti­cut NBC af­fil­i­ate to refuse to air the pro­gram. Kelly’s will­ing­ness to put Jones on the air ini­tially caused great anger and sor­row among the sur­viv­ing par­ents of the slain 5- and 6-year-olds, sev­eral of whom have re­ceived hate mail and death threats from In­foWars adepts. Their pain is unimag­in­able.

Ul­ti­mately, how­ever, they needn’t have wor­ried. Whether or not NBC dras­ti­cally re-edited the episode in re­sponse to crit­ics, as some have claimed, the end re­sult was nev­er­the­less re­veal­ing of In­foWars’ meth­ods.

So long as it fits the para­noid mind­set, ba­si­cally any­thing goes.

First, Kelly soft­ened Jones up by high­light­ing his re­cent lam­poon­ing of teenaged ter­ror­ist vic­tims in Manch­ester, Eng­land as “lib­eral trendies.” One of those trendies, she pointed out, was 8 years old. She de­scribed his prac­tice as one of “reck­less ac­cu­sa­tion, fol­lowed by equiv­o­ca­tions and ex­cuses.”

On cue, Jones be­gan stam­mer­ing, equiv­o­cat­ing and bab­bling ali­bis. Maybe some chil­dren re­ally died at Sandy Hook af­ter all, he al­lowed. “I tend to be­lieve that chil­dren prob­a­bly did die there,” he said. “But then you look at all the other ev­i­dence on the other side.”

“Of course,” Kelly said in a brisk voiceover, “there is no ‘ev­i­dence on the other side.’”

As, in­deed, there is not. Nor ever was. Kelly in­ter­viewed Neil Hes­lin, whose 6-year-old son Jesse died in the tragedy. The bro­ken­hearted fa­ther’s courage at stand­ing up to Jones can only be ad­mired. Broad­cast images of Jesse’s shin­ing face shamed the blus­ter­ing fraud.

And ul­ti­mately, shame may be the only known an­ti­dote for Jones’ brand of po­lit­i­cal ob­scen­ity. Peo­ple in­clined to ac­cept ab­surd con­spir­acy the­o­ries can be more vul­ner­a­ble to ridicule than rea­son. Men par­tic­u­larly fear the laugh­ter of beau­ti­ful women. What’s more, pre­cisely be­cause of her long­time af­fil­i­a­tion with Fox News, Megyn Kelly could end up be­ing the per­fect per­son for the job.

As­sum­ing, that is, that she wants it.

Arkansas Times colum­nist Gene Lyons is a Na­tional Mag­a­zine Award win­ner and co-au­thor of “The Hunt­ing of the Pres­i­dent” (St. Martin’s Press, 2000).You can email Lyons at eu­gene­lyons2@ ya­

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