Over the past few days, a video showing the Infowars.com host, Alex Jones' tirade against CNN anchor Piers Morgan has become a viral sensation. Within the space of 15 minutes, Jones not only declared Morgan as a "hatchet man of the new world order" but also might threatened war on the Obama administration if any action to forcibly seize guns took place.
For those of you unfamilar with Alex Jones, a simple YouTube search will provide you with a range of videos and radio shows, where he is far from shy when it comes to controversy. Most of his videos criticise governments, mass media, law enforcement or any other form of percieved authority will usually implement itself within the wider context of the 'New World Order'- much of which informs Jones' logic behind the necessity of firearms for all civilians (which he considers not simply as a 'freedom', but a duty for all citizens).
Jones might seem like an entertaining character, far removed from the accepted sensibilities of 'proper' society. But in a stange way, he also represents much of how society views itself within our age of internet mass communication. Scary as it might sound, we may in fact all be like Alex Jones - paranoid, narcissistic and anti-elitist.
When looking at the Jones V Morgan video for the first time, one thing that might be particularly striking is just how much conviction Jones has in his own position. So much - that even when Morgan tries to outline his position, he is loudly accused of being a foreign agent of New World Order. This assertion makes more sense when contextualised with other content on infowars.com, where Jones seemingly characterises those he views as enemies, simply as operatives within a grand network of authoritarianism.
But Jones is not simply a conspiracy theorist for the sake of it. In fact, he is very much the embodiment of the 'Californian ideology'- an idea developed in the early Nineties that combined concepts of libertarianism and technology as a way to challenge old institutions of power and the self-appointed elitists that ran them.
At the same time, he also represents the ideology's most prescient flaw - rather than breaking down old structures of power and authority, people like Jones instead embody new types of elitism - in this case, assuming authoritative reporting, without the legal restrictions or checks more associated with the national press.
Indeed, one only needs to look at the format of his online show to see this in action; rather than hosting debates or inviting guests with contrary views in order to conduct fair and balanced reporting, Jones instead spends his half hour broadcasts reporting on his own opinions - portraying himself as an anti-elitist hero, within an artificial world he can assume complete control of. And in many ways, Jones is not alone in doing so. Popular bloggers such as Pamela Geller and Michael Savage also poise themselves as anti-elitist heroes, operating within virtual spaces in which they can characterise their opinions as facts.
Instead of disregarding Alex Jones simply as a 'gun-loving nutjob', we should also consider what he represents within the wider context of new media. While it is easier than ever to occupy our own virtual spaces - whether through social media pages, blogs or YouTube channels, it is even easier to let our lives become dictated by them. Through his website, Alex Jones not only became unwilling to accept criticism, but also unable to respond toward it in a dignified manner - instead resorting to petty accusations and loud shouting. And while Jones' tirade might only represent its most extreme effects, we should also acknowledge that even the most casual users of social media cannot always remove themselves from the temptations of internet narcissism.
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