Don’t expect Alex Jones’ retribution to stop lies


Alex Jones’ defamation trial could have been cathartic if it weren’t for such unbearably sad.

Added conspiracy theorist Mr Jones ordered to pay more than $45 million in damages to Neil Hessling and Scarlett Lewis, parents of a 6-year-old who were involved in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School murdered in the incident. in Newtown, Connecticut. The jury’s verdict comes after Mr Jones was found responsible for the defamation of Mr Hesling and Ms Lewis, whom he had falsely accused for years of being crisis participants in a government-orchestrated “false flag” operation.

For the victims of Mr Jones’ harassment campaign, and for those who have followed his career for years, sentencing seems long overdue – a notorious internet villain is finally facing real consequences for his actions. The families of the children killed at Sandy Hook, many of whom have waited years to see Mr Jones pay the price for his lies, are undoubtedly relieved.

But before we celebrate Mr. Jones’s retribution, we should acknowledge that his sentence is unlikely to have much of an impact on the phenomenon he represents: the bellicose liar who builds lucrative media empires with easily rebuttable lies.

Mr Jones’ megaphone has shrunk in recent years – thanks in part to tech platforms such as Facebook and Twitter who have decided to ban him from their services. But his influence is still huge, and his influence is bigger than you might think.

court records show Mr Jones’ Infowars store, which sells dubious performance-enhancing supplements and survival gear, made more than $165 million from 2015 to 2018.Despite his deplatforming, Mr Jones still shows up as a guest popular podcast and YouTube show, while millions of Americans still see him as a reliable chronicler of current affairs, or at least a quirky pastime. (And a wealthy man—an expert witness at the trial estimated the net worth of Mr. Jones and his holding company, Free Speech Systems, at between $135 million and $270 million.)

Over the next few weeks, Mr Jones – a master of martyrdom – will no doubt turn his court failures into hours of entertainment, all of which will lead to more attention, more subscribers and more more money.

But the more important reason for caution is that, whether or not Mr Jones is still enriching himself with lies, his shenanigans are ubiquitous these days.

You can see and hear Mr. Jones’ influence on Capitol Hill, where GOP politicians seeking attention often sound like they’re auditioning for Infowars’ slots.Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, said a mass shooting may have been orchestrated to persuade Republicans to support gun-control measures, as she did in one facebook post She was playing hits from Mr. Jones’ catalog in relation to the July 4 shooting in Highland Park, Illinois. Mr Jones also played a role in fuelling the attack on the Houses of Parliament on January 6, 2021, in ways we are still learning. (The House panel investigating the riots has want a copy Mr Jones’ cellphone text messages were mistakenly sent to lawyers representing plaintiffs in his defamation case. )

You can also see Mr Jones’ influence in the right-wing media.When Tucker Carlson stirs nativist fears on his Fox News show, or when the Newsmax host spins Weird conspiracy theory With regard to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s attempt to kill Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, it’s proof that Infowars’ DNA is in conservative blood.

Even outside of politics, Mr Jones’ rambunctious, wide-eyed style has influenced the way a new generation of conspiracy theorists seek fame online.

These creators aren’t all ranting goblin and gay frog, as Mr Jones did. But they were pulled from the same unsubstantiated script.Some of them focus on softer themes — like those quirky health influencers popular recently For the suggestion that Lyme disease is a “gift” caused by matter in interstellar space, or like Shane Dawson, a popular YouTube creator who garnered hundreds of millions of views through conspiracy theory documentaries in which he credibly censors such “Chuck E. Cheese Reuse Uneaten Pizza” and “Wildfires Caused by Directed Energy Weapons.”

Certain elements of left-wing and centrist discourse also owe Mr Jones a debt. The “Red Scare” podcast popular with the anti-establishment “post-left” crowd, interviewed mr jones And share some overlapping interests. Much of the frenetic coverage and analysis of the legal battle between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard that has dominated social media this summer has been Jonesism.Even popular podcast host Joe Rogan has hosted Mr. Jones on his show and defend him as “funny” and “entertainment”), borrowing some of the infowars founder’s connection point paranoia debateFor example, the Covid-19 vaccine can change your genes.

It’s too easy to blame (or credit) Mr. Jones for inspiring the whole modern crankball. But it’s safe to say that many of today’s leading conspiracy theorists have found the same lucrative lie and entertainment value. We can also be desensitized to conspiracy theories, and many of the outrageous lies that have landed Mr Jones – such as allegations that Sandy Hook’s parents were at the heart of his defamation trial – sound less outrageous Shocked if said today.

Other conspiracy theorists are less likely to end up in court than Mr Jones, in part because they have learned from his mistakes. Rather than outright accusing the families of mass shooting victims of making it all up, they took a naive “just ask questions” stance while poking holes in the official narrative. When attacking an enemy, they will tiptoe to slander, being careful not to do anything that could get them sued or banned from social media. When they lead harassment campaigns, they choose their targets wisely—often defaming public figures rather than ordinary citizens, which gives them broader protections for speech under the First Amendment.

That’s not to say there won’t be more lawsuits, or attempts to hold conspiracy theorists accountable. Fox News, for example, is facing a defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems, which claims the network knowingly made false statements about voter fraud in the 2020 election.

But these cases are the exception, not the rule.The truth is, today’s media ecosystem is rife with Infowars-style conspiracy theories — from the History Channel show about ancient aliens building the pyramids of Egypt to TikToks made by yoga moms who argue Wayfair is selling abducted children – Whether our legal system can, or even should try to stop them, is unclear.

Social media companies can help curb the spread of harmful lies by making it harder for fableists to reach large audiences. But they have their limitations, including the simple fact that conspiracy theorists have become more sophisticated in circumventing the rules.If you draw the line in terms of claiming Bigfoot is real, attention-seeking geeks will only get millions of views by assuming Bigfoot possible are real, and their audiences would be wise to do their own research to find out the Bigfoot-related secrets that the Deep State Cabal is hiding.

For a generation of more subtle propagandists and reactionaries, Mr Jones was an inspiration to rise to the top of the industry. But he’s also a cautionary tale about what happens when you cross the line, tell too many easy-to-refute lies and refuse to back down.

Mr Jones has yet to face the music. Two other lawsuits filed against him by members of the Sandy Hook family are still pending, and he could end up paying millions in damages.

But even if Mr Jones’s career is ruined, his legacy of brazen, stubborn dishonesty will live on – in some ways, further enhanced by knowing how far you can push a lie before the consequences occur took him.





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