Noted conspiracy theorist and human tire fire Alex Jones is being sued by the parents of two Sandy Hook victims over his repeated claims that they were "crisis actors" in a fake shooting. Jones responded that the lawsuit was an elaborate character assassination that would end with him either jailed or dead, in a classic example of a win-win scenario. But Jones is famous for being crazy, right? What's the story here?
It's easy to dismiss Jones as a raving lunatic, because on the surface that's all he is. Some recent top stories on his websites, Infowars and PrisonPlanet, are "GOVERNMENT LEAKS FILE DESCRIBING 'REMOTE MIND CONTROL,' 'FORCED MEMORY BLANKING'" and "CNN ASSOCIATES INFOWARS WITH PEDO CHANNEL IN BID TO SHUT DOWN ITS COMPETITION." From calling schools "government internment camps," to 9/11 trutherism, to worrying that genocide is being committed against white people (at a leisurely pace, it seems), Jones has never met a conspiracy theory he didn't like to endlessly scream. When he's not perpetually on the verge of having a heart attack, he's shilling books, DVDs, survivalist gear like "Patriot Seeds" which presumably play the National Anthem as they're planted, and "health" supplements such as "Caveman True Paleo Formula" and the "True Alpha Male Pack" (only 69.95!), which are supposedly chock-full of "Ancient Supernutrients" (and also lead).
John Oliver did a widely shared segment on Jones' merchandise empire and tendency to preach like an enraged buffalo in heat. But while it's an entertaining piece, mocking Jones' mannerisms is like dunking on a serial killer's ugly shirt while he waves a chainsaw in your face. People give Jones 70 bucks to become a True Alpha Male because they believe in what he's doing, and he's doing a lot. On a typical day, his show airs for around three hours, his YouTube channel uploads four hours of additional content, his websites publish a dozen stories, and he has an active, labyrinthine forum you can lose yourself in for hours more. Jones has his own world that you can immerse yourself in 24/7, and it's a world that's paranoid and hateful.
So let's go back to that Sandy Hook lawsuit. As we've told you before, some of those parents have, for years, received a steady stream of death threats and mockery from conspiracy theorists. Sandy Hook also happened to have been one of Jones' favorite talking points, and Infowars featured article after article about how the government staged the shooting to further some nefarious plot. Does it matter that the government never followed through on, say, seizing guns from any civilians? No, because that's but another step in their infinitely long con.
In Jones' world, the government will hire hundreds of people to stage a school shooting instead of just committing one, but they're also secretly responsible for really committing 9/11 and murdering thousands of innocent people. There is always -- always -- a secret plot unfolding from the highest levels of power that requires the cooperation of countless people to pull off. The how and why are almost irrelevant. All that matters is that it's happening, and that freedom-loving patriots are under endless siege.
What kind of mindset does that create for Jones' two million listeners? What else will they do beyond sending death threats to grieving parents? Well, if you're unfortunate enough to know what Pizzagate is, you'll know that a man who listened to Jones' show drove 350 miles and fired a gun inside a pizzeria as part of his "investigation" into its supposed role in a fictitious child sex trafficking ring run by the Democratic Party. It was one of Jones' favorite conspiracy theories right up until he was forced to apologize because the pizzeria owner sued him. That owner also received all sorts of harassment and death threats, because when you say things like, "When I think about all the children Hillary Clinton has personally murdered and chopped up and raped, I have zero fear standing up against her," as Jones did, you're giving the world's worst inspirational call to action.
Richard Poplawski, an ex-marine and white supremacist who ambushed and murdered three police officers, was an InfoWars fan. Jones denied any responsibility, and blamed the Marines for training Poplawski, which makes sense if you remember that famous scene from Full Metal Jacket in which the soldiers practice killing cops. Oscar Ortega, who shot a gun at the White House because he believed that Obama was the Antichrist, enjoyed a video Jones made about how Obama was planning a New World Order which would see Americans rounded up into concentration camps. Jones claimed that any attempts to link the shooting to the video were attacks on free speech -- free speech that Obama never got around to crushing in that particular policy goal.
A Mother Jones investigation found several more violent Alex Jones fans, including Jared Loughner, who killed six people while attempting to assassinate Rep. Gabby Giffords in 2011, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon bombers, Byron Williams, who injured two cops while on his way to shoot up the ACLU in an attempt to start a revolution, and Jerad and Amanda Miller, who murdered two police officers and a civilian who attempted to intervene. They pinned a note to one of the murdered officers that read "This is the beginning of the revolution." In all of these cases, Jones denied culpability. But what's that old expression? Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, but after that, it becomes painfully apparent that an angry crank is having an objectively terrible impact on humanity?
I wrote this while listening to Jones' show, and it is an exhausting emotional roller coaster. He's more coherent than you'd think. Angry, but coherent. And his message, hour after hour, day after day, is "There is a worldwide conspiracy to destroy freedom, enslave and exterminate everyday people, and rape children. Every politician, government employee, and law enforcement official is in on it. But I am brave enough to fight back. What will you do to help me be victorious?"
For most of his fans, help comes in the form of buying a $49.75 five-pack of Superblue Silver Immune Gargle. But for some, it means picking up a gun. Jones has created a world full of awful, soul-crushing problems that can only be solved by violent but heroic revolution. And if you're already the sort of person prone to nodding your head when someone suggests that Obama is the Antichrist, what do you think fully immersing yourself in this grim, self-centered world will do to you? What does seeing this imagery every day do to you?
Jones tries to hide behind claims that he's a "performance artist," an excuse he used when his ex-wife sought full custody of their children, and one more befitting of a man defending himself for getting drunk in a Walmart than a man whose ramblings have been linked to multiple murders. And just days after the Sandy Hook lawsuit was announced, Jones declared, in a truly incredible coincidence, that he now believes the shooting really happened. That's Jones' shtick, the real one behind his goofy supplements. He will repeatedly insist that you are an evil threat to human existence right up until the consequences get nasty, a lawsuit emerges, and he's forced to backpedal so quickly you can see skid marks. He sure seems to acquire a sudden respect for the legal mechanisms of the oppressive New World Order whenever his money is on the line.
Jones has an estimated net worth of $5-10 million. Whether he's really a true believer or just in it for the money is an interesting question, but it's also like asking what started the fire in your home while your skin blisters. It's worth remembering, especially in a world in which the president has praised him, that Alex Jones is more than a snake oil salesman who says juice boxes are turning kids gay to control the population. That Sandy Hook lawsuit won't really end with him dead or in jail. It will end with him latching onto a new conspiracy to promote. And as long as we keep treating him like a wacky uncle instead of a hatemonger, that cycle will continue.
If you've spent any time at all watching or listening to Alex Jones, might we recommend a stress ball or several?
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How did these hyper-specific tropes spread so quickly?
The Hollywood rumor mill has been playing games with celebrity deaths for at least a century.