Let me begin by stating that I do not believe there is an equivalency between conspiracy nut Alex Jones and civil libertarian Glenn Greenwald. Jones peddles loony theories on government plots to destroy freedom that include 9/11, the moon landing, and now the Boston Marathon bombing. Greenwald on the other hand, diligently attacks government for civil liberty infringements and illegal activities abroad. Jones is not concerned with actual evidence, whereas Greenwald meticulously sources his work. You could have a civilized and rational debate with Glenn Greenwald. You could not with Alex Jones.
But both men have a defining characteristic in common: A complete inability to connect with audiences outside their respective ideological universes.
There are elements of both men’s ideological system that merit serious attention. Scattered between Jones’s angry rants about government killing astronauts and the need to buy gold are genuinely relevant critiques on the ever expanding security state and government’s collusion with Wall Street that creates a corrupt and doomed monetary system. Greenwald’s insights on civil liberties issues are far easier to detect, and often difficult to disagree with. His work on Obama’s drone policies, indefinite detention, and government wire tapping is very important given the issues rarely see the light of day in the mainstream media.
But there is a style and monotony that both deliver their message with that turns off huge amounts of people who would otherwise be receptive to some of the ideas both men put forward.
Alex Jones spends most of the time ranting about pedophile TSA agents conspiring with the government to turn everyone into slaves, making anything interesting he has to say almost entirely irrelevant. I mean, just try to make your way through this absurd video on the Boston Marathon bombing being a conspiracy to ‘take our guns’ and feel confident saying Jones should be taken seriously on anything else:
Glenn Greenwald’s laser like focus on his pet topics and high handed disdain for anyone who disagrees with is also very hard to swallow for open minded people who would probably agree with him on a lot of issues.
Take for example Greenwald’s blithe dismissal of the liberal site Raw Story because one of its bloggers dared to disagree with him on drones and another wrote posts that supported Obama. Wrote Greenwald:
Raw Story is a moderately well-read political outlet that touts itself as “a progressive news site that focuses on stories often ignored in the mainstream media.” It recently began publishing a blog devoted exclusively to venerating the President and sliming his critics: because that’s so edgy, brave and rare; after all, the meek “MSM” would never dare glorify the nation’s most powerful political official and the party in power, so we really need a brave, dissident anti-MSM site like Raw Story to provide that.
There are a lot of good writers at Raw Story, and they do a lot of good pieces. But if you disagree with Glenn, you are automatically dismissed as a propaganda wing of the Obama administration. Greenwald has even gone as far as comparing a Jewish Obama supporter to Nazi film propagandist Leni Riefenstahl. I’ve done a fair amount of Greenwald bashing over the last few months, and I don’t feel the need to rehash all the same arguments. But the examples of his annoying piousness and inability to admit being wrong ever are numerous and ongoing (see here for his ridiculous denial that he supported the war in Iraq and here for examples of extreme smugness).
It is hard to imagine that both men don’t care about what they are saying. It takes an extraordinary amount of passion and dedication to write/speak day in, day out on topics that most people couldn’t care less about, and you have to respect their work ethic. But you also have to wonder what the overriding motivator is when them being right supersedes everything else. Jones and Greenwald want people to care about the issues they cover and they do a great job of whipping up anger over them. They have dedicated followers that hang on their every word and go to war for them in the comment section of critical articles (in a couple of hours just check below for examples). But they are not reaching people who don’t agree with them already. I look at the headline of an Alex Jones video segment and tune out. I see Glenn Greenwald writing another scathing attack on Obama’s drone policy and know exactly what he is going to say without reading it. They offer an ideological hardened view of the world that you either accept without caveat, or become an enemy of. The problem is that it then ceases being about the message and more about the messenger. Of course Jones and Greenwald would never accept that criticism and would argue that they work only to enlighten the masses.
But then that is exactly what you would expect.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.