Listening to Alex Jones, May 27
By Greg Moses
By happenstance Friday I tuned into Alex Jones via live internet stream as he took a call from a Hispanic woman who expressed tearful confusion over opinions that were being broadcast about MEChA and LULAC.
In response, Jones seemed to treat these Hispanic civil rights organizations as the moral equivalent of white supremacist groups such as the Klan.
When Jones asked the caller to talk about her own experience, she said that she has experienced enough discrimination to the point that she cannot trust any white person — “but I don’t want to see you killed.”
At this point Jones called attention to the alleged racism of the comment and spoke of his own experience facing anti-white sentiments during his youthful years in Dallas. On this topic, he promises more programs in the future.
Jones is an interesting and important player in the InfoWars of our times. He has an encyclopedic mind and a visceral instinct for liberty. I classify him as a libertarian. On the basis of today’s program, I subscribed to the radio program at a cost of about $10 per month. In the notes that follow I intend no disrespect to the man.
But I do take issue with his portrayal of Hispanic civil rights groups as the moral equivalent of white supremacists. On this issue, everything follows from where one begins.
Analysis at the Texas Civil Rights Review proceeds from a general assessment that white supremacy continues to have powerful effects in the history that we share. This is a structural assessment that when all the facts are added up, demographic trends for hundreds of years have trended in the direction of white power.
The thesis does not deny that (1) within the structures of white power, there are also class wars or that (2) bigotry against white folks is not real.
However, when a Hispanic caller speaks about patterns of discrimination that she has faced, and when Jones replies with his own experience of being called a honky or being mugged by a Black man, we have already a mismatch in the kinds of claims that are being made.
On the one hand, the two testimonials seem to be logically equivalent. The caller has experienced bigotry, and so has Jones. Therefore, bigotry may fall upon anyone’s head.
But the universal experience of bigotry does not address a quite different question: does one perceive in the patterns of bigotry a structure of racialized power such that trends of bigotry tend to fall in a direction that favors white power?
On the broader structural question, no one’s single experience – neither the experience of a single Hispanic caller nor the experience of a single Alex Jones – can be decisive. To make a structural assessment, one must cast a wide net around a multitude of facts and experiences.
For example, when the Hispanic caller says that she has been made to feel ashamed of her Spanish language, is she pointing to a pattern that is “representative” of “collective” relations between English and Spanish speaking citizens of Texas?
On this point, Jones began to affirm the validity of the caller’s complaint when he observes briefly that when it comes to Spanish speaking citizens of Texas, powers of the state do not want to invest much money in teaching excellent skills in English. In this comment, Jones helpfully acknowledges that a structure of power may be discerned in the Texas system of education. Attention to this structure of power is what remains decisive.
In the end, I wonder if the Texas Civil Rights Review will be able to find a common logical ground to discuss the problem of civil rights within a libertarian framework.
For libertarians, reality is overwhelmingly an individualized affair. According to this logical framework, it is difficult to find any categorical status for collective patterns of experience. Therefore, we will find very little ground to recognize the qualities of life that make race and racism most significant.
On the other hand, social democrats bring to the table a significantly different framework of analysis. For social democrats, collective analysis confers categorical status to social groups and classes.
In the conversation between libertarians and social democrats, there is little to be learned in tit for tat debates on issues like racism. The libertarian will continue to privilege the conclusions that follow from an individualistic framework, and the social democrat will follow a quite different path of analysis.
The debates over affirmative action, for example, are overwhelmingly disputes between logical starting points. Yet the debates are so fruitless because neither side stops to discuss the difference in framework.
From a social democrat point of view, when I’m listening to a libertarian, I ask myself, what is this person teaching me about the things that can be learned from reality if we take it from a fundamentally individualized point of view? In my own emphasis on the social structures of realty, how does the libertarian help me see what I may be missing?
We see in the testimony of Alex Jones that there is a pain to the experience of bigotry that is not completely numbed out by structures of white power. He remembers being called a honky and he remembers quite clearly that the man who attempted to mug him was Black. He also seems to take some delight in reporting that the attempt was turned back.
But also as a social democrat I would like the libertarian to consider the ways that individualized logic fails to learn important facts about individuals.
Especially among white individuals, there seems to be an assumption that group structures among people of color are simply mirror images of group structures under white power. Therefore, if people of color get together to fight white power, they must be coming from a place no different than white supremacy itself.
This is how civil rights advocacy falls under the charge of hate speech when civil rights advocates speak plainly about the problem of white supremacy. But if I am fighting white supremacy, to what extent am I attacking white people as such? In fighting white racism, how am I diminishing the humanity of white folks per se?
On the other hand, if I am advocating white supremacy, the enunciation itself is an attack on the humanity of people of color.
MeChA and LULAC are struggling toward parity. The Klan is struggling toward disparity. The moral difference between these collective projects is decisive. It is the difference between civil rights and anti-civil rights.
Now let’s carefully re-introduce Alex Jones pleasure in reporting that he turned back an attempted assault by a Black man. The pride and pleasure are expressed in his tone of voice. When you face an aggressor, there is pleasure in self-defense.
There is some bravado. If we listened to someone bragging about BEING an aggressor, it would be much more difficult to share in the pleasure. With Alex Jones, we can share a little in the pride and pleasure of self-defense.
Likewise, among struggling groups of color, one sometimes discerns a pride and pleasure of self-defense bravado. Malcolm X was a master of the art. Jose Angel Gutierrez is a great Texas example. Ramsey Muniz also expresses a kind of pride and pleasure envisioning a day when the conquest will have been turned back.
From a libertarian, individualistic framework, the pleasure and bravado of self-defense struggle can be mistaken for aggressive initiative. Perhaps it would be better if self-defenders did not fall for the pleasure of counter-assault, but when they do, who can blame them? It is after all an assault that has been turned back. And this is the raw material of every action movie that spreads the thrill of counter-assault to ticket buying audiences across the globe.
Should Alex Jones apologize for his pride and bravado at turning ba
ck an assault? When he mentions that the assailant was Black is he confessing to a racist motivation for his pleasure? On both counts, I answer no. Pride and bravado in self-defense is humanly understandable. Identifying the race of the assailant need not be an expression of bigotry. In the case of Alex Jones, I believe that he is not a bigot.
But if we take the moral qualities of self-defense bravado and apply them to collective struggles in a world of collective injustice, then we have the key for helping Alex Jones understand the difference between MEChA and LULAC on the one hand and the Klan on the other. One side is in a struggle of self defense. The other side is addicted to a tradition of supremacist aggression.