I DIDN'T get much work done yesterday.
It wasn't just down so much to my post-New Year lassitude as to a video I watched online.
Piers Morgan has skilfully courted controversy during his time at CNN. Since last month's shootings in Connecticut, he's been, to his credit, outspoken on the subject of guns control, as a result of which a petition on the White House website has been set up with the aim of deporting him back here. (To which the only sane response can be "Thanks, but no. We've had quite enough of him".) As of yesterday, it had attracted 106,166 signatures – only 18,737 fewer, as it turns out, than the number who have signed a petition for Texas to be allowed to secede from the US.
Anyway. The video. Morgan interviewed (a polite way of saying "was steamrollered over by") Alex Jones, a radio talk-show host and one of the people behind the deportation petition. In one sense it was interesting to see Morgan finally coming off second-best, and though he gamely tried to remain in charge, you suspected that half-a-dozen Morgans would have struggled to cope with Jones's mad, one-man assault. Attempted questions were routinely sidetracked and defused by Jones's free association of ideas and by his theatrical ability to outline conspiracy theories at the top of his lungs. As he embarked on another rant without pausing for breath, you could just about make out Morgan's plaintive interjections: "Alex ... Alex ... Alex."
At one point Jones yelled: "Hitler took the guns! Stalin took the guns! Mao took the guns! Fidel Castro took the guns! Hugo Chavez took the guns!" and warned that 1776 would kick off again should Americans lose their firearms. At different points he essayed what he fondly imagined to be an English accent, challenged Morgan to a fight in the boxing ring, and called him a "hatchet man of the New World Order". The interview didn't shed much light on the gun-control issue – not least because Jones himself owns more than 50 guns and is also the type of guy who believes that "criminal elements of the military industrial complex" were responsible for 9/11. What it did make vividly clear was the sheer depth of feeling in the extreme end of the US gun lobby – and how it might react to Obama's proposals to reduce gun violence.
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