Owen Shroyer finally talked to me. I’m officially a veteran of the infowar.
After I clowned on him in a few articles, Shroyer finally noticed. During an early segment of his daily Infowars show “War Room” last Thursday, Shroyer mispronounced my name and decried my article about him “ghosting” me as “fake news.” He took the headline as an insult and called me a coward, challenging me to call in for a debate on air.
I was hesitant to accept the challenge because I wasn’t looking to debate. If Shroyer had actually read the article he took so personally, he’d know I was looking for an interview to learn more about him and his career. But after Twitter user @QAlerter tweeted at me explaining Shroyer had ranted about me and wanted me to call in, I couldn’t resist getting in touch.
Shroyer was trying to make a point—he instructed operators to keep two phone lines open in case I (or another person he challenged to a debate) called into the show. I called the Infowars numbers several times and listened to the show as I waited on hold. Finally, an operator came on and asked me my name. When I said I was Joe Virgillito, the leftist who slandered Shroyer, he exclaimed “oh great!” and told me that I’d “be okay” on the air
But I wasn’t worried about Shroyer or making a fool of myself on live radio. I wanted to be friendly and, hopefully, interview him. I understood the limitations of the medium. Even if I could ask questions, the show goes on the air live. Shroyer’s trying to do entertaining radio for his audience, not answer a reporter’s questions. His boisterous, ranting on-air personality would likely zap his answers of any meaning. Given how confrontational he was hoping to be, however, playing it cool seemed like the smartest option. When Shroyer brought me on after commercial break, he told me to thank him for giving me such a huge platform. I thanked him for taking my call, and briefly explained the premise of my article and why I was trying to get his attention.
Shroyer’s attitude shifted once he realized I wouldn’t debate him. He went into full nice guy mode, giving me credit for getting his attention. He answered a couple of my questions with long-winded responses designed to eat up my allotted airtime. In retrospect, I wish I’d been more biting. I asked about Shroyer’s interest in media and whether he’d always identified as a conservative—two softball questions a live radio pro could easily talk around.
My call wasn’t worth Shroyer’s time if he didn’t have the chance to “own” me for his audience. That’s why when he said we could “set something up” if I gave my information to the call screeners, I knew he wasn’t serious. I’d served my content purpose—he’d been able to use my name and our site to shout about leftists and challenge me to an on-air debate. He has nothing to gain by having me on his show again or by doing an off-air interview.
Ultimately, I was slightly disappointed by our exchange. But I can’t say I didn’t get what I wanted. I wrote about him ghosting me in the hopes of getting his attention, and it worked. As weird as it was, I actually got to speak to him. And I’d love to again sometime Owen, if you’ve decided to read past the headline this time.