On Alex Jones
What to say about Alex Jones, the "multiplatform prophet of paranoia?" Justin Ray's grid.news reporting brings together "four key moments" which are integral to "who Jones has become" and "his high level of infamy." One of those moments is really hitting hard right now — his description of the Branch Davidians as "peaceful:"
In 1993, when Jones was hosting that Austin radio show, a standoff took place between federal agents and a religious sect called the Branch Davidians. The apocalyptic group, which led by David Koresh, was in a compound at Mount Carmel Center ranch just outside of Waco, Texas. The 51-day incident ended with the compound burning, resulting in 86 deaths — all but four within the Branch Davidians, including Koresh himself.
After the incident, Jones said he believed the group was a peaceful, religious organization, and he sought to rebuild a church at the site of the razed compound. He was able to raise $93,000 from listeners for the project.
Look, the government should have handled the Branch Davidians far more carefully and humanely. Armed raids should be a last resort, not a routine for serving warrants. Armed raids which are known to trigger apocalyptic fears should be very thoroughly thought through. All the same, calling the Davidians "peaceful" after what happened at the compound is quite a stretch. Here's Tara Isabella Burton in Vox:
On February 28, 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) attempted to raid the Branch Davidian site in order to execute a search warrant. What happened next remains unclear — both surviving Branch Davidians and surviving agents claimed the other side fired first — but the raid resulted in a bitter gun battle that killed five ATF agents and five Branch Davidians, and injured an additional 16 agents.
I'm thinking I understand what Jones does better now. Here's a group more than willing to use violence in a situation that requires some nuance to parse. The government should have taken into account the lives at stake. The media should have done less to paint those at the compound as deserving of their fate. Still, Jones appears to be a crass opportunist, using conspiracy theories to tell you that what is bad is actually good. "Peaceful" is a complete inversion of an hours-long gun battle. Once he's got you believing that everyone with bad ideas willing to hurt others is actually exercising freedom, he can sell you on anything. There are no good things is a gateway to you don't need to deal with reality. I'm surprised, in this climate, Jones isn't even more wealthy than he is.
These texts and emails are FINALLY revealing financials behind Infowars.— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) August 3, 2022
Some days in 2018, InfoWars was making $800,000 a day.
"Well after your deplatforming, your numbers keep getting better," Sandy Hook parents' lawyer says.
If they keep that up, that's ~$300 mill. a year.
Emily Dickinson, "To fight aloud is very brave" (126)
Dickinson says "To fight aloud is very brave," and "brave" catches me unguarded. I don't think I've ever been "brave." Bullying? Brash? Ignorant? All of those, sure. But not "brave." I probably should figure out how to have and display more courage in my life, so that way I can say I tried.
To fight aloud is very brave (126) Emily Dickinson To fight aloud is very brave, But gallanter, I know, Who charge within the bosom, The cavalry of woe. Who win, and nations do not see, Who fall, and none observe, Whose dying eyes no country Regards with patriot love. We trust, in plumed procession, For such the angels go, Rank after rank, with even feet And uniforms of snow.
Helpfully, Dickinson has some ideas about how courage is achieved. "...[G]allanter, I know, / Who charge within the bosom, / The cavalry of woe." An interior struggle can mark one as courageous, sure. When exactly, though, does "[t]he cavalry of woe" "charge within the bosom?" Her lines are exquisite, but I worry they lean toward hyperbole and vagueness. I have to step back and think about the general idea of fighting myself.
therapy is not enough. i need to fight my dad— megan (@chismosavirus) April 7, 2022
A cavalry charging within one's heart can illustrate moral struggle. I've stuck to bad causes far longer than any reasonable person should. As if armed horsemen were a plea to take others seriously, a plea consistently finding disaster. Say, a trench with a machine gun, or impenetrable walls, or fields full of mines. My mind crafts excuses not unlike ruthless traps instead of simply admitting wrong.
I feel this notion of moral struggle, of fighting to change one's own mind, fits well with the second stanza. "Who [the cavalry] win, and nations do not see, / Who fall, and none observe, / Whose dying eyes no country / Regards with patriot love." It makes sense there is no "patriot love" for the turbulence of conscience, no matter how consequential it may be. Some cavalry win in some hearts, and people sacrifice themselves for the safety, freedom, and rights of strangers, and a lot more people can't be convinced to care.
But I can also see this poem speaking to how we deal with broken relationships. Depression. Grief. Our better angels are often unheard for reasons which make too much sense. You're fighting something which does not want to yield, does not want to let go. A hope, a chronic condition, a memory grip in ways that almost compel the abandonment of relief.
Ultimately, Dickinson isn't hyperbolic or vague in the least. Her third stanza is fully earned, outlining a sublime and deadly vision. "We trust, in plumed procession, / For such the angels go, / Rank after rank, with even feet / And uniforms of snow." "Plumed procession" evokes hymns and saints, dreams and revelations. Like you're watching a mass formation—maybe all of those who are good—march perfectly for a doomed cause. You feel awe and tremendous sadness. Those angels could fly away, but will not. What is wondrous are quiet sacrifices, ones made for our sanity every day, ones which finally compel us to do much more.