I know many people might think I’m being biased over writing posts bashing right-wing news outlets. But though I am a liberal, I don’t just write these articles to score political points. For instance, back in October I criticized Fox News for a lot of the shit they’re being bashed for now like a culture fostering sexual harassment and peddling conspiracy theories. Months later, I attacked Breitbart for its corrosive influence on the conservative media landscape during the 2016 Election, its flagrant demonization against those Steve Bannon doesn’t like, its lack of concern for facts, and its status as the platform for the Alt-Right. Besides, in recent years, white supremacist and far right terror incidents have been on the rise, especially since the presidential election of Donald Trump. Breitbart and Fox News have certainly played a role in implicitly encouraging such attacks whether they’d want to admit it or not.
But there’s another media outlet I need to discuss with my readers and that is InfoWars, a far right conspiracy-based website created, owned, and operated by Austin, Texas-based radio host Alex Jones. In fact, type InfoWars on Wikipedia and you’ll be directed to an article on Jones. In late May, its Washington Bureau Chief Jerome Corsi broadcast from the White House briefing room after announcing they had obtained a temporary press credential. Fortunately, it was only a one-day pass that was relatively easy to get. And Jones once claimed in a video back in January he had been offered access before which the White House quickly denied. The odds of InfoWars obtaining any press credentials at all from the White House Press Office are highly unlikely or so we hope. Nevertheless, it’s very apparent that the far right website has the Trump Administration’s ear. Trump has appeared on Jones’s show multiple times during the 2016 Election and has welcomed the host’s support as well as parroted his message on numerous occasions. His adviser Roger Stone was a regular guest. During the GOP Convention last July, Stone and Jones co-hosted a pro-Trump rally. Trump campaign aides and Donald Trump Jr. have promoted InfoWars stories on social media. And Trump has often promoted a lot of Jones conspiracy theories at his rallies such as Jersey City Muslims cheering on 9/11 and California drought denial. In exchange, Jones has gained prominence since then.
Of course, this article will probably speak more about Alex Jones with InfoWars only being the principal part of his multimedia empire. Aside from his infamous conspiracy-themed website, Jones also hosts a nationally broadcast radio show called “The Alex Jones Show” and runs another similar website called Prison Planet. He also peddles an extensive line of self-produced videos he refers as “documentaries” that claim to prove a whole array of his conspiracy theories. Nonetheless, despite media outlets denouncing him as a fraud for years, Jones retains considerable and widespread influence. His radio show airs on about 100 radio stations and has attracted about 2-3 million weekly listeners. His subscription only video streaming website Prison Planet has a 3,327 Alexa rank. But his biggest media platform is InfoWars which has a 330 Alexa rank and attracts more than 8 million visitors each month who’ve viewed its pages 50 million times. The biggest of his 18 YouTube channels has 1.2 billion views and his Facebook page has millions of followers. In 2011, Rolling Stone reported that Jones had a larger online audience than Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh combined. For a radical right conspiracy theorist, this degree of popularity is extensive. And it was one of the key conservative news sources for the 2016 Election.
However, we must concede that Alex Jones is a very dangerous man in the US media landscape. He is almost certainly the most prolific conspiracy theorist in contemporary America and possibly the one with the most far-reaching influence in the nation’s history. But there is a very good reason why the Southern Poverty Law Center an extremist file on him. Jones is no ordinary radio host and has lived in his own little world for the last 20 years filled with intrigue, scandals, cover ups, and conspiracies. Called by Rolling Stone as “the most paranoid man in America,” Jones is notorious for his epic rants about “New World Order” plots for world government, enforced eugenics, secret internment camps, militarized police, and behind-the-scenes control by a global corporate cabal. He is convinced that global elites have allied themselves against the United States to destroy the country. The only way to avert this dystopian future as far as he’s concerned is if true patriots resist before it’s too late. Jones is also infamous for his many predictions and never stops reminding his viewers of the one he made in July 2001 that came somewhat close to foreshadowing 9/11. Yet, not surprisingly his overall accuracy rate his infinitesimally low. In February 2010 he stated that at least 15 European nations will collapse within the next 16 months. In March 2010, he declared that there will be staged terror attacks on April 15 or 19 to coincide with anti-Tea Party documentaries releases on Fox, CNN, MSNBC, and HBO. And in May 2010, he predicted that the US dollar will be devalued by 50% within 2 years.
For years, Jones has offered his own version that’s completely unsupported by evidence but often reflect his paranoid, unhinged, racist, and misogynist worldview. Time after time he’s decried terrorist attacks like 9/11, the Boston Marathon and Oklahoma City bombings, and various mass shootings such as those in Columbine, Aurora, Newtown, Tucson, Charleston, and the Washington Navy Yard as actually “false flag” operations by our government or evil “globalist” forces wanting to take over the world. He’s referred to gay marriage as a globalist conspiracy to encourage the breakdown of the family,” “to get rid of God,” and to promote pedophilia. He’s called the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting a “hoax” created by gun control advocates as well as alleged that the victims were child actors and that nobody was killed there. Jones views himself as a libertarian and an “aggressive constitutionalist” defending individual liberties, the Bill of Rights, property rights, and the security of U.S. borders against illegal immigrant hordes being ushered in by evil forces bent on destroying our society. Because to him, illegal immigrants exist in the US to “give corporations subsidized low wages — because they can’t live on the low wages they get, so they give them the welfare, and that’s designed to give the big corporations an unfair trading advantage. They’re using poverty as a tool of control.” He’s even alleged millions of undocumented immigrants of illegally voting in the 2016 Election. Many of his theories could be seen as outright ridiculous such as the notion of the government having weapons that create artificial tornadoes. Or that the government is poisoning our drinking water through fluoridation. Or that Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl Halftime Show was a Satanic ritual. Or that Bill Gates is a eugenicist trying to wipe out minorities. Or that Hillary Clinton is running a child sex ring at a D.C.-area pizzeria. Actually anything bad about Hillary. Or that “tap water is a gay bomb and they are putting chemicals in the water to turn the friggin’ frogs gay.” Or that Glenn Beck is a CIA operative. Or that the Social Security Administration is buying ammunition to use against the public during unrest. Or that the moon landing was fake. Other claims include claims that “chemtrails” from the backs of planes spread a deadly “weaponized flu,” that juice boxes are turning children gay and that the musician Beyoncé is a CIA plant out to stir racial violence and “literally” eat the brains of children. He’s even pushed the idea that aliens in lizard form secretly orchestrate world events.
Many might view Alex Jones as a bad joke and a crazy man prone to on air meltdowns. But no matter how crazy his conspiracy theories could be, what makes him dangerous is that legions of his acolytes take him at his every word. Like any conspiracy theorist, Jones manipulates psychological fears of the vulnerable into complete acceptance of nearly anything he says- no matter how outlandish it may be. According to Der Spiegel, 2/3 of Jones’s funding comes from marketing his own products. He sells toothpaste, brain pills, bulletproof vests and guns, sleeping pills, potency supplements, and “recession-proof investments in gold coins and other precious metals offered by his syndicator-owned Midas Resources. And since InfoWars appeals to those believing Armageddon is near, business is doing well as his followers build bunkers, hoard food, and invest in precious metals. Yet, Jones’s rantings have had real impact. In 2015, he helped spark a hysterical reaction to the Jade Helm, a US military exercise designed to help soldiers train for various combat environments. Jones swore it was a cover for the beginning stages of martial law. Enough people believed him that the Army had to send surrogates to calm anxious citizens. He’s also argued that Chobani’s practice of hiring refugees has brought “migrant rapists” and tuberculosis to areas near their factories. This resulted in a boycott and Chobani filing a defamation lawsuit.
But some of Alex Jones’s fans don’t just buy his supplements, prepare for the apocalypse, or panic over certain stuff they don’t understand. In fact, a few of them have resorted to deadly violence. The SPLC’s Heidi Beirich has referred to Jones as a gateway drug for white supremacy with many leaders crediting his broadcasts for opening their minds to new thinking as they adopted their racist philosophy, including Daily Stormer Andrew Angling and Info Stormer Lee Rogers. The 2009 Pittsburgh cop killer Richard Poplawski was a frequent InfoWars visitor who frequently shared links from the site to others and sometimes even posted on it. The 2011 Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner was a fan of Jones’s film, Loose Change, a gospel source for anyone believing 9/11 was an inside job. 2014 North Las Vegas shooter Jerad Miller was an InfoWars forum member who wrote posts speculating about killing cops and avidly posted links from the site on his Facebook page. He and his wife Amanda ended up killing two cops and an armed civilian at a Cici’s Pizza and a Walmart. In October 2016, two Georgia men were arrested in connection with an alleged domestic terror plot to travel nearly 3,500 miles to a former military research facility in Alaska that they believed manipulates the weather, controls minds and traps souls. Both men had amassed an arsenal of AR-15 military-style assault rifles, four Glock handguns, a rifle and more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition, radios and flak jackets. They planned to use these weapons to attack the Alaska’s High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP), a large radio transmitter cited in numerous antigovernment conspiracy theories. And in December of that year a North Carolina man stormed a Washington D.C. pizza joint called Comet Ping-Pong to “self-investigate” rumors that the restaurant was the was the center of child sex-slave ring with connections to the Hillary Clinton campaign. After an FBI complaint showed that gunman Edgar Welch watched an InfoWars “documentary,” Jones scrubbed his site of most of its Pizzagate content in order to distance himself from the impact of this extremely toxic lie. That’s not even talking about all the shit the Sandy Hook victims’ families had to put up with. Nevertheless, Jones’s influence on the radical right is very widespread. Though he hasn’t instigated any attacks, he sure provides many terrorists plenty of inspiration.
While many people could simply write off Alex Jones as a crazy, we must keep in mind that conservative media outlets frequently aggregate and propagate InfoWars stories. In November 2016, the conspiracy website published a piece citing an unverified claim from a former Texas health deputy commissioner that 3 million non-citizens voted illegally which was later linked to the Drudge Report. 13 days later it appeared in Trump’s Twitter account. More recently, in early March an InfoWars editor tweeted an old photo of New York Senator Chuck Schumer acting chummy with Vladimir Putin. 12 hours later it appeared atop the Drudge Report and 12 hours after that, Trump had tweeted it. Even before the 2016 Election, Jones and his theories were already making rapid inroads into the mainstream mainly thanks to the Drudge Report. But Matt Drudge wasn’t the only validator. Other luminaries have appeared on Jones’s show such as Rep. Ron and Sen. Rand Paul, Fox News personalities Lou Dobbs and Andrew Napolitano, and celebrities Ted Nugent and Charlie Sheen. Fox News has aired plenty of his theories for years and he has been a guest on the network. Though the ones Fox airs often aren’t remotely related to the crazier New World Order stuff, they do serve to help promote a certain conservative worldview. And a lot of these seem to pertain to liberals and minorities. For instance, the idea that millions of undocumented immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton was all over the news. During the 2016 Election, the right wing assault on Hillary Clinton comprised of several fake news stories were daily mainstream media headlines despite not having a single shred of evidence to support them. Though to be fair, the modern conservative movement has long been afflicted with conspiracy theorists since its origins in the 1950s and 60s. Even “respectable” elements like Glenn Beck and the National Review have been very happy to manipulate far right conspiracies either to build support for typical Republicans or to make a buck. This strategy made it much easier for someone like Jones to get into the party’s foothold and come into contact with actual Republican legislators and key conservative media figures. So associating with a known right wing conspiracy theorist wasn’t much of a problem for Trump. Jones might’ve started as a fringe figure. But years of mainstreaming allowed him to build a real presence among Republican voters. And Jones’s rise helps explain why the formal GOP leadership had such a hard time disavowing him even during the primary.
Another reason that Alex Jones is dangerous is his association with Donald Trump. Trump has long been a big fan of his and a lot of his lies have come directly or indirectly from InfoWars. When he appeared on the site in December 2015, he declared Jones’s reputation “amazing” and told the internet fabulist, “I will not let you down. You will be very impressed, I hope, and I think we’ll be speaking a lot.” Jones’s support for Trump has elevated many of his fringe conspiracy theories to a mass audience. Trump’s embrace of Jones shouldn’t come as a surprise for us. After all, Trump got his start in politics by promoting “birtherism” and other racist Obama conspiracy theories. He’s a shameless opportunist with no personal ethics. Whether he believes Jones’s diatribes is beside the point. But he surely doesn’t care about the consequences. All that matters to him is that they’re receptive to an audience and give him what he wants. Through accepting Jones’s endorsement and courting the radical right, Trump helped legitimize him and his radical right fanbase. Trump has pushed some conspiracy theories Jones has originated like Hillary abusing drugs, massive voter fraud, that Justice Scalia was murdered, New Jersey Muslims celebrating 9/11, and that Rafael Cruz was involved in the Kennedy assassination. Nevertheless, since Republican leaders and media outlets were too used to conspiracy theorizing to get all worked about it. So associating with a known right wing conspiracy theorist wasn’t much of a problem for Trump. Yet, by embracing Jones, Trump also legitimizes him and all the ugly stuff his fans have done. And it doesn’t help that his administration isn’t cracking down on right wing terrorism which is a serious problem in this country.
Nevertheless, a conspiracy theorist like Alex Jones is dangerous enough that his conspiracy theories have hurt people and ruined lives. It’s bad enough that his theories have inspired terrorism and hate incidents. But it’s even worse that Jones is embraced by people in power, especially a president like Donald Trump who pushes his theories and may even make decisions based on them. To have a president like this who legitimizes Jones can undermine democracy and who knows what else. The United States was already led into a war in Iraq over a lie about weapons of mass destruction. We need to understand that when people believe in conspiracy theories in their worldview, there can be very terrible consequences. People might start questioning established facts that don’t confirm to their ideology, perhaps to the point that they may not trust institutions like government, the media, science, and even religion. Marginalized people might be demonized as freeloaders, job stealers, criminals, and even terrorists. Public figures are smeared. And anyone perceived as a scapegoat can be a targeted with violence. When leaders believe such ideas, they can implement them in policies that could undermine the public good. After all, pushing conspiracy theories to the masses is what authoritarian dictators do in order to get the public to do what they want, hate who they hate, hurt who they want hurt, and even give up their rights over perceived threats that don’t really exist. InfoWars isn’t fact-based media and there’s no reason to believe anything Alex Jones says as his dark and distorted view of the world has no basis in reality. But since he has an audience to rival mainstream outlets, plenty of believers, and fans who’ve committed illegal acts based on his claims, we must take him seriously. Because though Jones may not be a violent criminal on the streets, his influence poses a special kind of danger, especially if leaders believe his claims.