Alex Jones is an American far-right radio pundit and conspiracy theorist. His website, InfoWars.com, is one of the central factories producing fake news for the white male supremacist movement, politely called the Alt Right.
It's a sign of these unsettling times that the current president of the United States, one Donald Trump, called Jones's reputation "amazing" in a 2015 interview, promising not to let Jones down. It's another sign of these troublesome times that Trump appears to get some of his "news" from Jones's fake news factory.
Jones is best known for his assertions that the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre of kindergarten children in Newtown, Connecticut, was a hoax created by those damn "libturds" to restrict real Murkans' access to guns. From his radio show:
"Yeah, so, Sandy Hook is a synthetic completely fake with actors, in my view, manufactured. I couldn’t believe it at first. I knew they had actors there, clearly, but I thought they killed some real kids. And it just shows how bold they are, that they clearly used actors. I mean they even ended up using photos of kids killed in mass shootings here in a fake mass shooting in Turkey -- so yeah, or Pakistan. The sky is now the limit. I appreciate your call."
Some of us would argue that statements like the quoted one demonstrate that Alex Jones lacks basic decency, right?
Well, now the shoe is in the other foot. Jones is waging a rancorous custody battle with his ex-wife:
Alex Jones, the provocative Austin broadcaster with a tough-guy persona, teared up on the stand Thursday afternoon and, in an emotional outburst, told his ex-wife’s attorney that the lawyer has “no decency, zero.”In the words of even more worn cliches, what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, right? Alex Jones is himself eager to "sit there and twist things," creating fake news the likes of which I have never seen in "all of literature or the movies", but he cannot take the same treatment when it is aimed at him.
“You sit here and twist things, I’ve never seen anything like it in all of literature or the movies,” Jones told Bobby Newman, an attorney for Kelly Jones, seated a few feet in front of him in a Travis County courtroom. “You have won the award sir. No decency, zero.”
Jones' lawyer has argued that Jones is a performance artist, not to be taken seriously when he makes up all those conspiracy theories and fake news. Another lawyer believes that what Jones produces is "satire" and "sarcasm."
What an interesting dilemma for Jones! His chances of getting custody would probably increase if his nastiest output was viewed as satire or sarcasm. But then his audience, which firmly believes in the "truthiness" of InfoWars.com and its conspiracy theories would feel utterly cheated by having been taken in.
Jones appears to have chosen his audience:
The attorney, Randall Wilhite, said during court proceedings in Austin that evaluating Jones according to his on-air comments is like judging Jack Nicholson based on his role as the Joker in Batman.
But Jones appeared to push back on that comparison, countering any suggestion that he's “playing a trick on the public.”
“I believe in the overall political programme I am promoting of Americana and freedom,” the Austin American-Statesman reported Jones as saying.
There you have it*. We should regard Alex Jones not as a callous exploiter of gullible right-wingers, not as someone who knows better but who writes and speaks whatever makes the most dollars march into his bank account**, but as a true prophet, creating fake news to promote a certain kind of society, one in which people like Alex Jones (a fairly limited bunch) are free.
If the cost of that is to look like one has no decency, no standards, well, that's perfectly fine. If the costs of that are frightening for democracy, well, that's fine too, because the Alt Right doesn't want democracy.
But the rest of us should be concerned. From Mother Jones in late 2016:
Even some conservatives now fear they may have crossed a Rubicon of sorts. "We've basically eliminated any of the referees, the gatekeepers—there's nobody," Charlie Sykes, a prominent conservative talk radio host (and Trump critic) told Business Insider. Republicans spent years attempting to discredit the mainstream media as deceitful and dishonest—sometimes with reason, Sykes argued. But in the process, they created a vacuum that the conspiracy mongers of Breitbart and Infowars have happily filled and Trump has deftly exploited.This means that we can now have not only our own opinions but also our own "facts:" The things we would like to believe to be true, whether they are or not!
This phenomenon is more pronounced on the American right than on the American left, as a new Harvard study has shown, and Jones's InfoWars.com is one of the major players inside the walled-in information bubble of the US right-wing.
Sigh. A quick scanning of this post made me realize how weird it is to have to write about Alex Jones and his conspiracy theories seriously, as something the president of the most powerful country on earth might use in his daily decision-making.
But the new*** meaning of "truth" often means "whatever works," "whatever elicits the correct emotions in the audience," or "whatever a person said who has been stamped as ideologically pure, never mind his or her qualifications."
* The "Americana" in the quote may be a typing error? I thought Americana refers to collectibles which somehow link to the history of the country?
** Several "controversial" (read: mean-spirited and nasty) conservative pundits most likely are performance artists without much conscience. Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter might fit into that category.
*** This appears to be Trump's views on what is true, and also the views of Alex Jones. It's a kind of an "emotional" truth, one that makes a person feel good and in some twisted sense tastes like truth. Or a gut feeling, which is rated more highly for being deeply felt, whether it's objectively true or not.