August 8, 2022 Wayne Northey

Commentary On: ‘He has done more to further the cause of hate in the US than almost anyone’: the rise and fall of Alex Jones

For years, the Infowars provocateur has made millions of dollars spreading lies and disinformation on social media. Last week in a Texas court, he finally saw some comeuppance. But will this be the end of him – or is it just a temporary setback?

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Charlie Scudder

Mon 8 Aug 2022

image above: forward.com

WN: One can only hope the heading about the fall of Alex Jones is prophetic.

I have a close relative who loves this kind of hate speech. He thought Rush Limbaugh was wonderful in owning the libs.1

These two statements are both true of said relative:

We grew up in the same family. We grew up in different universes.

Go figure . . .

I could wish that all hate-mongers such as Alex Jones would crawl back into the hole whence first emerged. The world would be a safer place . . .

excerpts:

In front of a microphone with the cameras on him, Alex Jones looked comfortable on his first day of testimony. The delusional provocateur and conspiracy peddler sauntered to the witness stand in an Austin, Texas, courtroom, shirt unbuttoned without a tie, and introduced himself to the jury with his characteristic, gravelled intonation.

In court, however, he was held to a different standard. After testifying for two days – including a rigorous cross-examination that left Jones sweating and visibly uncomfortable – a Texas jury ordered him to pay a total of $49.3m (£40.8m) in damages to the parents of one of the Sandy Hook victims. He still faces several lawsuits from other families.

The judge, Maya Guerra Gamble, scolded Jones, after he told untruths at least twice on the stand. “It seems absurd to instruct you again that you must tell the truth when you testify, but here I am: you must tell the truth while you testify,” she said. “This is not your show.”

Jones tried to interject, saying he had only said what he believed to be the truth.

“You believe everything you say is true, but it isn’t. Your beliefs do not make something true. That is what we’re doing here,” the judge said.

Jones also continued to spread untrue theories about terrorist attacks, mass shootings and major tragedies, claiming they were false-flag events where paid crisis-actors showed up to promote an agenda from a globalist new world order. “When I say staged, I mean they knew it was going to happen and stood back and let it happen,” Jones testified last week. “That’s what I thought about Sandy Hook.”

Jones purports to be a free speech advocate, and that the lies he spreads are protected by the US constitution. But limits to the first amendment include speech that defames someone or is dangerous.

“You believe everything you say is true, but it isn’t. Your beliefs do not make something true. That is what we’re doing here,” the judge said.

“​​In some ways, there is no question that Alex Jones exercises his first amendment right to express himself and raise questions about public events,” says Roy Gutterman, director of the the Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University. “But this case also shows that the law of defamation does limit what false and potentially harmful statements some speakers may make.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks hate and extremist groups in the US, calls Jones “the most prolific conspiracy theorist in contemporary America.” Michael Edison Hayden, an investigative reporter and spokesman for the SPLC, says Jones’s ability to influence a huge audience makes his speech dangerous. “He is an amusing carnival barker so we kind of ignore many of the things that are staring us right in the face about how hateful he is,” Hayden says. “​​He has probably done more to further the cause of hate in this country than almost anyone outside of Donald Trump himself.”

Jones has been able to grow his Infowars platform through a lucrative sales model where he hawks specially made products on air, such as a variety of survivalist gear and a line of “overpriced and ineffective” vitamins and supplements. He testified last week that the company raked in $165m in sales between September 2015 and December 2018. “With Jones, fascism is a business,” Hayden says.

As the Infowars audience grew in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, Jones also gained a new fan and regular guest: Trump. “He ramps up his grift through the rise of extremist activism under Trump and sort of hitches his wagon of sales to Trump’s rise,” Hayden says. “To me, that’s Jones in his final form, which is just coming from this libertarian, entrepreneurial, conspiracy-obsessed world to becoming something that is much more what we would call fascist.”


Dan Friesen had heard of Alex Jones before the 2016 election, but had mainly seen his conspiracy videos in online rabbit holes, not taking him terribly seriously. The Chicago comedian was surprised to see Jones aligning with Trump.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks hate and extremist groups in the US, calls Jones “the most prolific conspiracy theorist in contemporary America”.

“I just thought it was kind of like a guy who was trying to hold the system accountable, because that’s the presentation of what the show is,” Friesen says. He began looking into Jones’s broadcasts more. “As we went along, it became so clear how so many of the things that he does are awful. I found so many problems with his ideology, and also the way he abuses information, that I started to take it more seriously.”

Now Friesen co-hosts a podcast, Knowledge Fight, where he breaks down Infowars shows and Jones’s rhetoric. He says that Jones uses the same toolbox of disinformation tactics to mislead listeners. Often, he will share a real headline from a mainstream news outlet on air, but make up what is in the actual article. He also regularly uses illegitimate sources, but tells listeners it is from the “most prestigious” expert.

“It’s just a complete farce of information,” Friesen says. “He doesn’t care about anything except for what he can use to defend the point he intends to make.”


By aligning with Trump, Jones’s popularity and influence grew rapidly. Trump used false and misleading Infowars headlines to prop up his to become president. Jones said on his show that Obama and Hillary Clinton were demons from hell and smelled of sulphur.

Hayden says, “​​He has probably done more to further the cause of hate in this country than almost anyone outside of Donald Trump himself.”

In 2017, Jones helped spread the dangerous QAnon conspiracy theory that wrongly posits that Trump was working to overthrow a cannibalistic, satanist, paedophilic cabal that secretly controlled the US government.

Over the next several years, tech platforms began banning Jones and Infowars for spreading misleading information and hate speech against a number of minority groups. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, Apple and others have removed his content and banned his accounts.

Jones supported Trump’s re-election campaign and organised “stop the steal” rallies across the US after he lost. According to the New York Times, he helped fundraise for the rallies on 6 January before the violent insurrection. That day, he participated in the march to the Capitol, and posted an Infowars video saying: “We need to understand we’re under attack, and we need to understand this is 21st-century warfare and get on a war-footing.”

His ties to other far-right groups that organised the insurrection have made him a key witness for the US House’s committee investigating the 6 January attack. Jones sued Congress when he was subpoenaed for his mobile phone records and text messages, but eventually spoke to the committee, invoking his fifth amendment right not to give self-incriminating evidence more than 100 times, according to his lawyers. Later, he sought immunity from federal prosecutors.

“Alex was the one with the match that started the fire,” the boy’s father, Neil Heslin testified. “He had a strong voice and he had a platform and he had power.”

At that moment, Jones was not in the courtroom but in his Austin studio, calling Heslin “slow” and continuing to peddle his inane theories about the 2012 shooting.

When Jones returned from his studio that afternoon, Scarlett Lewis, the boy’s mother, testified that losing her child was like losing a limb. She still has “phantom pains”, she says, like he should be there but is not.

“We went from having a child murdered and this impossible, lifelong journey … but it’s something you can process. This, I can’t,” she said. “It’s this element that’s always in the background, of fear, [that] keeps me from healing.”

“Alex was the one with the match that started the fire,” the boy’s father, Neil Heslin testified. “He had a strong voice and he had a platform and he had power.”

The parents testified that Jones’s reach went beyond just unhinged theorists online. Lewis said she has had death threats, and received harassing emails and phone calls from Jones’s listeners. One Christmas, a man pulled up in front of the house and began taking photos of her and the property. Another time, someone drove by firing a gun and shouting “Alex Jones” and “Infowars”. Lewis now sleeps with a knife and a gun nearby.

“Truth, truth is so vital to our world. Truth is what we base a society on,” she testified, speaking directly to Jones across the courtroom. “I think you know that Sandy Hook is real and that it happened, but I don’t think you understand at all the repercussions of going on air with a huge audience and lying … It seems so incredible to me that we have to do this, that we have to implore you – not just implore you, punish you – to stop you from lying.”

Please click on: The Rise and Fall of Alex Jones

Footnotes
  1. See on this, for instance, in Wikipedia, though:

    Controversies and inaccuracies

    Comedian Al Franken, who later became a Senator, wrote a satirical 1996 book (Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations) in which he accused Limbaugh of distorting facts to serve his own political biases.[50]

    Of Limbaugh’s controversial statements and allegations they have investigated, Politifact has rated 84% as ranging from “Mostly False” to “Pants On Fire” (signifying false statements that cannot be reasonably assessed as merely errors), with 5% of Limbaugh’s contested statements rising to the level of “Mostly True” and 0% rated “True”.[185] These debunked allegations by Limbaugh include suggestions that the existence of gorillas disproves the theory of evolution, that Ted Kennedy sent a letter to Soviet General Secretary Yuri Andropov seeking to undercut President Reagan, that a recent lack of hurricanes disproves climate change, and that President Obama wanted to mandate circumcision.[186][187][188][189][]

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.