Destroying the legacy of Art Bell with murderers and bigots

I listen to Coast to Coast AM because it’s silly and often entertaining, but sometimes it’s frustrating and annoying, and can be like listening to Alex Jones. And not just because Jones is a frequent guest treated as a normal, rational human being, instead of being civilly confined before he snaps and kills someone.

Do you think I’m joking, or exaggerating?

I’m not. Such a thing wouldn’t be the first time that a Coast to Coast AM guest has gone on a killing spree.

Philip Marshall was a guest on Coast to Coast in February and September of 2012, billed as a “veteran airline captain and former government ‘special activities’ contract pilot” who liked to talk about 9/11 conspiracy theories. Marshall personally sued the government of Saudi Arabia before his radio appearance (despite the fact that all governments hold sovereign immunity), believing that they were responsible for the September 11th attacks. Marshall self-published a conspiracy theory book last year claiming that al Qeada had nothing to do with 9/11, and he’s been peddling this garbage since 2008 when he was also accusing the Bush administration of being complicit in the attacks.

Which is all standard fare for Coast to Coast AM, they’ll let any lunatic or idiot on the air to have their say. That’s why it’s entertaining and despite the fact that 99.9 percent of what you hear on this show is either fiction or an outright lie, I appreciate an open platform for people to speak in an age with an increasingly closed-minded and domineering media, so it’s still fun.

What’s not fun is when mentally ill conspiracy theorists snap, which is what happened to Philip Marshall in February when he shot his two children, his own dog, and then himself just four months after his last appearance on Coast to Coast AM.

Marshall had already threatened to murder his wife, was heavily medicated, and had a lengthy criminal record involving physical threats to his estranged wife and others long before producers invited him on the radio.

There was already substantial evidence by then that Marshall was mentally ill to the point of being a threat to society. Toxicology reports showed hydrocodone, morphine, and hydroxybupropion in his system at the time of his death. Marijuana and alcohol were also found his home. Not only was Philip Marshall using multiple prescription painkillers and narcotics mixed with alcohol, he was taking strong antidepressants for a diagnosed bi-polar disorder and mania. Medical records from a local clinic indicated that Marshall was suffering from drug addiction and anxiety. Hydrocondone and hydroxybupropion taken together can cause adverse psychotic reactions and even abrupt changes in dosages of these medications can result in psychosis.

The man was the proverbial ticking time-bomb that probably should have been under 24 hour supervision and involuntary confinement. He was literally drugged out of his mind and threatening to hurt people — what the hell was he even doing walking around free?

Inviting him on to a national radio program where he was treated respectfully as an expert on the September 11th attacks, expressing delusions of secret government plots and shadowy intelligence agencies committing terrorist attacks, was grossly irresponsible and it probably further fueled his delusions. Again, Marshall’s final appearance on Coast to Coast AM came barely four months before he wiped out most of his family.

As usually happens, the conspiracy theory trade started inventing new parts of the story to generate new conspiracy theories. With this one, Alex Jones’ site decided that Marshall was assassinated by the CIA, with little evidence to substantiate such a claim other than that Marshall was shot in the left temple, but was right-handed. Except for the fact that Marshall was actually shot in the right side of his head. That’s the kind of crap you have to put up with from the Alex Jones and Philip Marshall’s of the world.

Since conspiracy theories are what Coast to Coast AM is all about, you can’t really fault them for inviting conspiracy theorists on their program, and it’s likely that most conspiracy theorists are mentally disturbed to some degree or another. But often they are the least reprehensible guests. Science deniers are the worst of the bunch (Corsi, in addition to being a racist and 9/11 conspiracy theorist, denies the process of fossil fuel) and occasionally you’ll hear from anti-Muslim bigots as well.

You’ll never hear white supremacists or anti-gay fanatics on Coast to Coast AM, but soft anti-Muslim bigotry is still quite welcome there. A few nights ago, George Noory had a “national security analyst” and “Middle East expert” from something called The Clarion Project on in the first few minutes of the program to discuss Egypt.

Ryan Mauro doesn’t seem to be an expert in much of anything. His academic record comes from the American Military University, which at first glance looks like an online diploma factory. The Clarion Project, which Maruo works for, is a renamed Clarion Fund, a “pro-Israel” non-profit out of New York. Clarion is run by Frank Gaffney Jr, a birther who once called for the US to slaughter journalists at Al Jazeera in a military strike, and believed the Saddam-9/11 conspiracy theory that was often pushed by Fox News many years ago. Despite pretending that he only cares about “radical” Islam, Gaffney has a lengthy documented history of Islamophobia, claiming that 80 percent of American mosques are somehow financed by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mauro’s brief visit to Coast to Coast AM the other night sought to absolve the Egyptian military of blame for the startling number of civilian deaths that have resulted from raids on civilian camps protesting the recent military coup d’├ętat. Mauro blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the violence and predicted that violence would escalate this weekend, because “a lot of the Muslim Brotherhood supporters are noticing that it’s a lot easier to kill defenseless Christians than it is to kill cops and soldiers with guns.”

More than 600 people were killed on Wednesday alone, most of them Muslim civilians (supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood or not, these are not militants) and few were Christians, if any were at all. The overwhelming majority of these deaths are being suffered by opponents of the military coup at the hands of the military.

The only thing that would have been less surprising than a stupid hack from Clarion pretending that Christians are the real and true victims in all of this — at the hands of those radical Muslim Brotherhood terrorists (the Egyptian military is similarly declaring opponents of coup to be terrorists; that’s common all over the world now, for state governments to see all dissent as terrorism) — would be if Mauro had somehow managed to paint Jews and Israelis as the real victims.

Attacks against Christian churches are real and awful, but they aren’t the story here. The Muslim Brotherhood which has wide support in Egypt Brotherhood had been repressed by Hosni Mubarak for generations. And just as happened in Iraq when the majority faith which had been brutally repressed and discriminated against for decades was set free, sectarian violence was bound to happen. Especially in Egypt, especially now. The Brotherhood had been finally been given a chance to gain power and representation through elections and then had it taken away from them by force in a coup. That doesn’t justify violence against Christians, who had nothing to do with that, no, the point is that this kind of unrest is precisely what you’d expect to happen when a repressed majority is freed, and then repressed again unfairly and illegally within just a few years.

That’s what “experts” like Mauro don’t understand, and that’s why calling them experts is laughable. Mauro’s simplistic views are what you’d expect to get from a single-agenda lobby like Clarion, a group with strong undercurrents of anti-Muslim bigotry and discrimination that probably supported the Mubarak regime and was sad to see it fall.

What’s tough to swallow from Coast to Coast AM isn’t 9/11 conspiracy theories, aliens, and ghosts. It’s when the program dips its toe into important issues that it has no business going anywhere near, like politics and world events. When Coast to Coast AM reaches out to an expert on the Middle East for its five minutes of news at the beginning of the program, you’re not getting Richard Engel, you’re getting Philip Marshall. When Coast to Coast wants an expert on politics to explain why Mitt Romney lost in 2012, you’re not getting Nate Silver, you’re getting Alex Jones.

Be mindful of that and you’ll be fine, but I’m still disgusted that Coast to Coast AM spends even a second of the day giving host to racists like Corsi and bigots like The Clarion Project.

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Note: Art Bell is returning to the air on September 16th on SiriusXM’s “Indie Talk” (104) channel, M-F 7-10PM PST (thee hours running up to Coast to Coast AM). The show will be called Art Bell’s Dark Matter.

Paul Tenny

Paul Tenny

I'm not a journalist but I do it anyway. I cover elections and have interviewed television writers and producers.
Paul Tenny

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