30° Good Morning
30° Good Morning
OpinionColumnistsWilliam F. B. O'Reilly

This angry man act is growing tired

Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist, walks the

Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist, walks the corridors of Capitol Hill after listening to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on 'Foreign Influence Operations and Their Use of Social Media Platforms' on Capitol Hill, in Washington in this Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018 photo. Credit: AP / Jose Luis Magana

Twitter should have left Alex Jones alone. He’s heading straight to hell at a nice clip all by himself, barring some last-minute Ditmas-like conversion. Anyone who tells parents of dead first-graders they’re perpetrating a hoax has an extra hot corner of Hades reserved.

It shouldn’t be long. The Infowars creator is looking dangerously apoplectic, even for him. Did you see Jones harassing senators in the hallways of Washington on Wednesday? His neck veins were purple and bulging — a nano-millimeter from bursting. A straight pin or Bic Pen would do it, I kept thinking. Super quick jab. Hardly anyone would see. And who would turn me in if they did?

I don’t feel bad for thinking it at all, hardly. A hundred Alex Joneses isn’t worth a single girl or boy lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Twitter has now banned Jones for life. I’m afraid it’ll hurt Twitter more than Jones in the end. Jones and his rageaholic ilk are on their way out. Maybe not today, or even tomorrow. But soon. The angry man act that made them famous — that fueled the madness we’ve been experiencing in America — is growing tired. I don’t care how many Twitter followers Jones had. He’s going to burn out soon enough, with or without Twitter.

They all are — the Roy Moores, Joe Arpaios and Carl Paladinos — have had their fiery moment in the sun. An eclipse of reason is coming. It always does, like day follows night. With that eclipse will come measured, confident conservative voices again that will persuade without shouting. Liberal ones, too.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and every other platform with the power to censor must remember that. The temptation to shut down the bomb throwers is enormous, but the moment is fleeting. Once you go down the censorship alley, you’re committed to it, and finished as an honest information source.

The trouble is that Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey and Facebook co-founder and leader Mark Zuckerberg don’t trust their fellow citizens to discern truth from fiction, right from wrong. Blocking Russian disinformation bots is one thing, muzzling American opinion, however detestable it may be, is another. Yes, hate can catch on dangerously, but its fuel eventually runs out.

The Twitter and Facebook chief executives should look to the American Civil Liberties Union for inspiration before going further. The left-leaning civil liberties group has reliably defended the Constitutional right of neo-Nazis to march in their April Third-Reich pajama-party parades for decades. It trusts with unwavering confidence that reason and a free exchange of ideas are the patient safeguards of democracy. It trusts the American people and the American way. Facebook and Twitter should, too.

Jabbing a Number 2 Ticonderoga into Alex Jones’ fat red neck is a delicious thought, but a terrible idea. It’s unhealthy to even think about it . . . tiny bite marks running an inch up its yellow nub . . .

The way to diminish the Alex Joneses of the world is to force them into the spotlight and make them defend the indefensible. They can’t. Never in the long run.

William F. B. O’Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.