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Reading the Far Right: Is Alex Jones Acting, and Does Bill O'Reilly Have Conservative Cred?

alex jones

Some in the wingnut media are not just skewing the news, they're making it.


Far-right media types weren't just reporting their skewed version of news this past week; they were making it as well. Among the hottest topics: Is Alex Jones for real, and is Bill O'Reilly a real conservative?

Also, a check of the sites that we read so you don't have to turned up some defenses of other anti-LGBT newsmakers, such as Army Secretary nominee Mark Green and ousted Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.

Jones, the whacked-out conspiracy theorist behind Infowars and The Alex Jones Show, is involved in a court battle with his former wife, Kelly, who wants custody of their three children. The trial just finished its first week in an Austin courtroom, and another week of testimony is expected. Austin, which embraces the slogan "Keep Austin Weird," is a liberal oasis in Texas -- but Jones's presence in the city, where he got his start via public access TV, indicates that its weirdness cuts across the political spectrum.

Kelly Jones's legal team has been arguing that Alex's deranged rants show he's not a fit parent to the kids, ages 9, 12, and 14; he's had custody of them since the couple split in 2015, as Kelly has been diagnosed with emotional and psychological disorders. Alex's lawyers have contended that he shouldn't be judged on his public persona because it's all an act.

"He's playing a character. He is a performance artist," one of his attorneys, Randal Wilhite, said in a pretrial hearing, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Alex Jones, however, is doing all he can to undercut that argument. In a video posted on the Infowars site and YouTube last week, he shared clips of commentators and comedians, including Stephen Colbert, having fun with the idea that Jones is not for real, and then he asserted that he most definitely is.

The mainstream media, he said, "don't like us because we're able to get a talking point out that's true, and the system wants a monopoly of control over the news and over the information. That's why they lie and say we're fake news."

He sometimes dons a lizard mask or Joker makeup to make a point, and when he threatens people (such as Congressman Adam Schiff or actor Alec Baldwin) with bodily harm, it's a "figure of speech," he said, but he is serious about all of his political stances. His critics, he said, would have it that "I'm an actor, supposedly. I don't have any original thoughts. Everyone tells me what to say. I've got teleprompters in here. No, I don't. I can't even read off a teleprompter. I can't even control myself. Everybody knows it around here. I'm the opposite of some scripted person." Hmm, maybe admitting to a lack of self-control won't help his case.

Also, in court last Wednesday, he said, "I believe in the overall political program I am promoting of Americana and freedom."

His political program basically amounts to this: A "globalist" conspiracy, involving large corporations and various politicians, both Democratic and Republican, is seeking to undermine American sovereignty. He has portrayed Donald Trump, who appeared on Jones's show during the presidential campaign, as one who can save us from the globalists. He's a huge Trump fan, even having made excuses for him after Trump bragged about grabbing women by the genitalia. Jones says he is not anti-LGBT, but he has decried so-called political correctness, and his recent rant against Schiff was filled with homophobic vitriol.

Jones's various wild claims include the assertion that Lady Gaga's Super Bowl halftime show was a satanic ritual; that President Obama was going to stage a coup or declare martial law to keep Trump from taking office; that Hillary Clinton wants to have Jones killed and, in a claim he had to back away from, is head of a child sex-trafficking ring run out of pizza parlors; and, perhaps his most repugnant one, that the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 was faked to build support for gun control.

Whether or not Jones really believes all this, there are plenty of people who believe him. And as Rachel Maddow has said, for every year he circulates this nonsense, the nation gets a little bit dumber.


Another right-wing talker in the news last week was Bill O'Reilly, who lost his Fox News Channel show, The O'Reilly Factor, after an increasing number of women accused him of sexual harassment -- and advertisers fled. In the name of being, uh, fair and balanced, we will note that O'Reilly disputes their accounts, although the company has spent $13 million since 2002 to settle harassment suits brought against him. And we don't often feature O'Reilly or other Fox News hosts here, because while we may deeply disagree with them, they're rather mainstream compared to the likes of Infowars or Breitbart.

But the sources that some call the "alt-right" certainly have their opinions on O'Reilly, among them being that he's not truly conservative -- and Fox News isn't either. In a clip posted Friday, Jones called O'Reilly a "complicated" man, who was a "proto-Alex Jones" at the start of his career but "also a tremendous bully." Then he said that O'Reilly's firing had nothing to do with sexual harassment.

"This is a part of a purge at Fox by Rupert Murdoch's sons," he said. The plan, he said, was to flip Fox News from being a "synthetic version" of "conservative Americana ... that they used to control the conservative movement, into a whole leftist, kind of globalist, conservatoid synthetic system, even more than what it had been."

O'Reilly's "biggest mistake was he sold out to the system," Jones continued. "He was quasi-against Trump. He was conservative light. He was ... there to be controlled opposition. But now he's gotta be taken down as a sacrificial lamb and as a victory to the left that they're openly destroying any vestige of independent media that could oppose the globalist program."

The Breitbart folks, who are somewhat less out-there than Jones, don't question Fox News's conservativism (although one piece on the site calls O'Reilly a "centrist" rather than a conservative), but they are denouncing his firing as a sign of excessive corporate catering to the left.

"It's creating an America where corporations decide what can and can't be said, and I don't like the idea where the corporations have so much control," Breitbart editor in chief Alex Marlow told the Los Angeles Times. "Corporations are under pressure to pull advertising from anyone who is right of center -- it's an attack on free speech." Yet, he continued, "Fox's prime-time lineup is actually becoming more pro-Trump. "So the left is getting a Pyrrhic victory."

Meanwhile, over at World Net Daily, the site's founder, Joseph Farah, used the O'Reilly situation to bash LGBT people. In a column posted Sunday, Farah noted that whether or not O'Reilly is guilty of sexual harassment, Fox News has the right to take him off the air if he's costing the company millions of dollars in lost ad revenue and legal settlements.

But then he wrote, "However, let's think about this in the context of leftist ideology. The left generally insists that people are who they are sexually and there is generally nothing they can do about it. Someone who is 'gay' can't change. Someone who is bisexual can't change. Someone who was born anatomically a male could really believe he is a female, and we should all understand his need to live out that fantasy. ... What if Bill O'Reilly can't help himself?"

There's so much obviously wrong with Farah's argument -- for instance, conflating identity with behavior and not recognizing that whatever one's identity, there are certain behaviors one should never engage in, and sexual harassment is one of those. And, of course, calling transgender identity a "fantasy." But that's Farah and his ilk for you.

Another WND contributor, Jesse Lee Peterson, saw a conspiracy to bring down O'Reilly and Fox News, which he, unlike Alex Jones, trusts as truly conservative. Naming many of the far right's usual betes noires, Peterson wrote, "The left won't stop until it dismantles Fox News, the most powerful and effective impediment to its power. Media Matters, Color of Change and -- all left-wing attack machines funded by America haters like George Soros -- put pressure on Glenn Beck's advertisers and orchestrated his exit from Fox News in 2011."

At any rate, we haven't heard the last of O'Reilly, who reportedly will give his side of the story on a podcast Monday and is looking for a new media home.


And finally, there's Ann Coulter, upset over the University of California, Berkeley's initial cancellation and then rescheduling of a speech by her. UCB officials cited security concerns -- the university was the site of a clash earlier this year between supporters and opponents of now-disgraced gay right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos (who says he's planning a "comeback," and at Berkeley). Coulter's speech was originally scheduled for this coming Thursday, but university officials have offered an alternative date of May 2, when classes are over and students are preparing for final exams, and in a venue that requires a shuttle ride from campus. This amounts to "marginalizing" Coulter's appearance, says a lawyer, Harmeet Dhillon, who is representing Young America's Foundation and Berkeley College Republicans, the groups that organized the event. The groups have vowed to sue if the original date isn't kept, and Coulter has said she will speak Thursday no matter what.

This all raises thorny questions, considering that freedom of speech includes, of course, freedom for the speech you hate, and far-right media types are leaping to Coulter's defense. Now, some on both the left and right have screamed "First Amendment violation!" when they lose a TV gig, but the First Amendment bars the government from interfering with free speech; it does not mean any private company or institution has to give all comers a platform (such as Fox News with Bill O'Reilly). UCB, however, is a taxpayer-funded institution, so the First Amendment does come into play -- but it and other public universities do have some discretion over what speakers they allow.

"Circuit courts have ruled that college campuses are -- unlike, say, a public park or street -- 'limited public forums,' according to the First Amendment Center," USA Today reports. "That's why universities can create rules and restrictions governing such speakers, like when and where they may speak. However, these rules must be applied fairly and have nothing to do with the speakers or their speech content." Security can be a legitimate reason to restrict certain speakers, the article notes, but "it's a problem if public safety is being used as an excuse to ban Coulter from speaking, and the real reason is that the university finds her views objectionable."

And of course we all have the right to protest such views, as long as we don't get violent. If you happen to be in Berkeley when Coulter turns up, keep that in mind whether you decide to protest her or, in an action that will probably annoy her just as much, ignore her.


Lastly, a look at some far-right media defense of homophobes. Mark Green, Trump's nominee for secretary of the Army, is a Tennessee state senator with a history of backing anti-LGBT legislation. He has also called transgender people an "evil" that must be "crushed." Activists are worried that Green will be less than supportive of LGBT troops, but his defenders on the right say he's a victim of intolerance.

"There are a few homosexual-affirming pundits that are not excoriating him for his military service record, his intellectual competency, or his passion for selfless service -- they are censuring him because he does not support the same-sex agenda," Sonny Hernandez wrote on WND last week.

Hernandez took the Human Rights Campaign's Stephen Peters to task for criticizing Green but not his predecessor, Eric Fanning, the first openly gay man to serve as Army secretary. "If Peters did not criticize Fanning, who was gay, but is now criticizing Green, who believes that marriage is a monogamous union between a man and a woman, then Peters has reiterated yet another message to the populace in America: that homosexuals love to cry tolerance, but once someone disagrees with them, they will espouse just how intolerant they are toward those who disagree with them," Hernandez wrote. "This is why I believe that Peters' message is: If a chain of command does not embrace homosexuality, then their views are 'radical, extreme and incredibly dangerous.'"

Note to Hernandez: There was nothing in Fanning's record that indicated animus toward heterosexuals, or any other reason to denounce him. Green, however, has made his animus toward LGBT people all too clear.

Another WND regular, Bob Unruh, is excited that Roy Moore, who has lost his position as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, may run for governor. (Moore is also reportedly considering a run for U.S. Senate.)

"Activists for homosexuality and transgenderism who strategized with court officials in Alabama to remove Chief Justice Roy Moore from the state Supreme Court because of his fierce defense of traditional marriage might not like where he may end up," Unruh wrote.

Unruh took the position that Moore was railroaded out of office in a politically motivated campaign: "He essentially was suspended for life for advising state judges that despite the U.S. Supreme Court's marriage ruling, the status of marriage in Alabama was still unresolved because of an ongoing case." Well, no -- the federal ruling resolved the status for the whole nation: Same-sex couples have the same right to civil marriage as opposite-sex ones. Moore didn't have to like this, but telling state judges they didn't have to comply was a politically motivated and unconstitutional move, and that's why his judicial career ended.

Moore will likely remain in the news for some time to come. And we'll continue to monitor what his supporters and other members of the far right are saying, so you don't have to.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring, The Advocate's copy chief, has spent much of her journalistic career covering the LGBT movement. When she's not fielding questions about grammar, spelling, and LGBT history, she's sharing movie trivia or classic rock lyrics.
Trudy Ring, The Advocate's copy chief, has spent much of her journalistic career covering the LGBT movement. When she's not fielding questions about grammar, spelling, and LGBT history, she's sharing movie trivia or classic rock lyrics.