As I watched my usual compilation of Sunday morning programming this Father’s Day 2017, I heard a very interesting piece on the upcoming Megyn Kelly interview with Alex Jones on CNN, someone who, I must confess, I had only heard of peripherally, and not in a good way. The conversation among the panel of experts being asked about the pros and cons of the validity of having such a controversial figure on prime-time TV was an intelligent presentation of the issues involved. One aspect of the conversation, a point ostensibly brought out by CNN itself, struck me as being particularly pertinent. When asked why they would give someone as provocative as Mr. Jones the platform they were giving him, they countered with what is the difference between having other contentious people like terrorists and other bad guys on for similar interviews? The difference, as it struck me, was not the nature of the media or even news reporting. The difference is us. Let me explain.
In the good old days, and I admit they were not really so good, it was presumed that it was pretty clear who the bad guys were. They were, a great percentage of the time, those who had chosen to operate outside the system to which the rest of us ascribed, or, if they were still in it, they operated badly. They were either criminal or corrupt, or perhaps both, and they were doing what they were doing outside the “circle of trust”, which was mostly composed of us Americans who loved the system under which we operated, a system that encouraged open dialogue among people of opposing positions who knew they were safe because of the presence of ultimate respect. It was also clear that those bad guys were not respecting the system or playing by the rules., and it was equally clear that this was not acceptable. Even Joe McCarthy, who ran a real Congressional witch hunt that destroyed the lives and careers of so many, ultimate fell before such logic This is not so true any longer, and this is what has changed.
So, tonight, when so many Americans tune in to this interview, there will be one basic reaction: total divisiveness. Those who listen to the conversation will have automatically decided how they feel about Mr. Jones, and no amount of dialogue will change their minds. This problem will be that this kind of positioning is what is wrong. There is no longer an area of common ground wherein it is recognized that certain behaviors, including the unforgivable cruelty and cynicism that has crept into our national dialogue, are just plain unacceptable and cannot be a legitimate part who are.
Does Mr. Jones have a right to be heard? Undoubtedly. However, the larger question should perhaps be, should we hear him with the ears of a people whose common dignity and humanity are the pervading standards by which all things should be measured? If we could do just that, it might make a real, tangible and positive difference in who we are as Americans. It is something that the country and the world desperately needs.