Will America’s conspiracy king finally be silenced? Deranged radio host Alex Jones made millions peddling far-fetched fantasies to the gullible. But after his sickening lies about the Sandy Hook massacre, he’s finally been made to pay, writes TOM LEONARD
Americans don’t have too much to cheer about right now — but they certainly savoured the moment when conspiracy-theory king Alex Jones was finally silenced.
The bombastic radio host, being sued by parents of victims of the Sandy Hook school massacre for claiming the 2012 tragedy was all a hoax, had just been told that his lawyer had committed a monumental blunder.
He’d accidentally sent two years’ worth of potentially damaging text messages from Jones’s phone to the lawyer acting for the parents — messages, he was told, that completely disproved the shock jock’s claims in court that he’d never mentioned the shootings in any private communications and strongly suggested he’d perjured himself.
Blinking heavily in court video footage that rapidly went viral online, the notorious motormouth was momentarily dumbfounded as the full scale of the balls-up sank in, before he regained his usual composure and insisted the disclosure had been intentional.
Americans don’t have too much to cheer about right now — but they certainly savoured the moment when conspiracy-theory king Alex Jones was finally silenced
It didn’t wash with the jury in Texas which on Friday ordered Jones — who has been dubbed ‘the most paranoid man in America’ (which is saying something) — to pay $49.3 million (£41 million) in damages for his outrageous claims about the massacre.
Jones, a gravelly voiced Texan blowhard who has managed to make a multi-million-dollar business empire out of peddling the most far-fetched fantasies to America’s most gullible people, had finally been brought to book for one of the most insidious of them.
He has claimed for the past decade that the Sandy Hook tragedy, the worst school shooting in U.S. history in which 20 young children and six adults died, was a ‘false-flag’ operation fabricated by the Obama government as a pretext for tightening the country’s gun laws.
Nobody was killed, and both the victims and the bereaved were just actors, Jones told his millions of disciples on his radio show and on his website InfoWars. It is just one of many ludicrous fantasies that he has championed: he’s also accused the U.S. government of fabricating the September 11 terror attacks, the 1969 Moon landing and various mass shootings and bombings in the U.S.
His central thesis is that both within the U.S. (where it’s called the ‘Deep State’) and across the world, governments, financiers and industrialists are colluding to create a satanic, paedophile ‘New World Order’ — a totalitarian world government which its creators are bringing nearer by manufacturing economic crises, developing hi-tech surveillance and engineering hoax terror attacks so they can exploit the resulting hysteria.
The dystopian nightmare Jones warns is coming relentlessly our way will be one of secret government internment camps, militarising of the police and enforced eugenics, starting with poor white people.
He has claimed for the past decade that the Sandy Hook tragedy, the worst school shooting in U.S. history in which 20 young children and six adults died, was a ‘false-flag’ operation fabricated by the Obama government as a pretext for tightening the country’s gun laws
Jones, who claims to have five million daily listeners to his syndicated radio show and 80 million monthly views of the videos he posts on YouTube, says the only way of stopping this is for ‘patriots’ to build bunkers, stockpile food and weapons, and invest in precious metals.
His main outlet is InfoWars, a website founded in 1999, which has become an endless repository for dodgy ‘news’ videos and talk shows, including Jones’s own show in which his conspiracy theories are interspersed with enthusiastic pitches for the dietary supplements — with names such as ‘Super Male Vitality’ and ‘Brain Force Plus’ — and survivalist equipment which he sells on InfoWars.
His enemies say he’s politically on the far Right, although his loopy accusations about government and big business also have an audience among the anti-establishment Left.
Jones has described himself as an ‘aggressive constitutionalist’ and said he was ‘proud to be listed as a thought criminal against Big Brother’. An ardent Trump supporter, he has claimed that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton — among other Left-wingers — are demonic and literally smell of sulphur.
He’s proved again and again there’s nothing he won’t say to build his audience. He has claimed Michelle Obama is actually a man, Lady Gaga carried out a satanic rite during a Super Bowl half-time show and the Pentagon has developed a ‘gay bomb’, allowing the chemicals from it to leak into the water supply so that frogs have turned homosexual.
He helped spread the notorious ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy theory about senior Democrats running an occult paedophile ring from the basement of a Washington DC restaurant.
For years, many have simply laughed at Jones — as Andrew Neil did when Jones went on the BBC’s Sunday Politics in 2013 and, as his guest vented his spleen in the background, Neil told him: ‘You are the worst person I have ever interviewed.’
Jones has described himself as an ‘aggressive constitutionalist’ and said he was ‘proud to be listed as a thought criminal against Big Brother’. An ardent Trump supporter, he has claimed that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton — among other Left-wingers — are demonic and literally smell of sulphur
And yet, as the Sandy Hook trial has shown, there are real victims of his demented lies. The parents who have sued him for defamation say his malicious accusations not only compounded their terrible grief but led to his deluded followers stalking, harassing and threatening them.
After the father of a girl who died at the school committed suicide, Jones claimed he had been murdered, possibly in connection with the official U.S. investigation into Russian election interference.
He has a conspiracy-laden answer for everything but his critics sincerely hope he won’t have a solution to the huge financial penalty he faces in what is only the first of three trials against him brought by family members of Sandy Hook victims.
Scarlett Lewis, who with Neil Heslin sued Jones in the Texas court to ‘restore the honour’ of their six-year-old son, Jesse, who died at Sandy Hook, testified that Jones’s claims led to ten years of ‘hell’ for them. They had asked the jury to fine Jones and InfoWars so severely that they’d be put out of business.
‘We ask that you send a very, very simple message and that is: Stop Alex Jones,’ said their lawyer in a message on their behalf. ‘Stop the monetisation of misinformation and lies.’
And what a jaw-dropping monetisation it has been. Although Jones had told the court that any award over $2 million ‘would sink us’, after companies he owned filed for bankruptcy protection as soon as the trial began, Mark Bankston, a lawyer representing Sandy Hook parents, revealed that on a single day in 2018, those firms earned $800,000.
A forensic accountant hired by the parents testified that Jones’s businesses are worth up to $270 million, while court records show his InfoWars shop made $165 million from 2015 to 2018.
The thriving online retail business is his big money-spinner — geared towards preparing people for the complete societal collapse he’s long been predicting, it offers strength and stamina-building health and dietary supplements (of dubious merit), body armour and survival gear ranging from vegetable seed packs to $3,000 industrial freeze driers.
Jones has three children with former wife Kelly who divorced him in 2015. During a custody battle, she told the court that Jones was ‘not a stable person’ and that their children had to watch him broadcasting his deranged diatribes from home. His lawyer countered that he was a ‘performance artist’ who was ‘playing a character’.
The divorce case revealed records of Jones’s spending that hardly tallied with his image as a champion of the downtrodden against the rich. The couple’s assets included a $70,000 grand piano, $50,000 worth of firearms, and $752,000 in gold, silver and precious metals. He once bought four Rolex watches in a single day and spent $40,000 on a saltwater aquarium.
Jones insists he’s not in it just for the money and believes everything he says. Critics don’t believe him, saying he has become more vitriolic over the years after realising that the more extreme he became, the more money he made.
‘I’m not a business guy, I’m a revolutionary,’ he once claimed. His revolution started in his teenage years when Jones, the son of a wealthy Dallas dentist, started reading conspiracy theory books.
He says he was inspired by one in particular, a 1971 tome by Gary Allen called None Dare Call It Conspiracy, which stated that a cabal of international bankers really dictated government policy and had even financed the Russian Revolution.
Dropping out of college, Jones started hosting a viewer call-in show on public-access TV in Austin, Texas, where he first developed his broadcasting style of outlandish conspiracy theories delivered in a booming, histrionic voice. His favourite bogeyman was the Bilderberg Group, the secretive annual gathering of bankers, economists and politicians.
In 1996, he moved to a local radio station where he started to warn of impending martial law. It was here that he first met his wife — at the time, he was sweating profusely inside a bumblebee costume while promoting the station. He attracted high ratings but was forced out three years later as his combustible views made it difficult for the station to attract any sponsors.
Undeterred, he started broadcasting from home, using a nursery room decorated with ‘choo-choo train’ wallpaper as a studio both for his programmes for InfoWars and for a radio show that was soon being syndicated on 100 stations.
Historians say Americans have a susceptibility to conspiracy theories rooted in a distrust of government that dates back to the rebellion against Britain in 1776 and reflects the fact that so many immigrants came there to escape oppressive governments.
And nobody could accuse Jones of not exploiting that susceptibility. It’s difficult to think of a national crisis that he hasn’t blamed on America’s ‘Deep State’.
The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the 2011 shooting of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the 2016 murder of 49 people in an Orlando gay nightclub and the 2017 Las Vegas shooting in which 59 died — all were ‘false-flag’ hoaxes involving ‘crisis actors’ that were orchestrated by government officials so they could crack down on Americans’ civil liberties, especially gun ownership, he said.
‘We’re going to return the republic. We’ll never be perfect but, my God, we’re not going to keep babies alive and harvest their organs,’ he said on The Alex Jones Show in 2015. ‘We’re not going to sell their parts for women’s cosmetics. We’re not gonna have Pepsi with baby flavouring in it.’
Unfortunately for Jones, his preference for scaremongering over accuracy has been catching up with him. Lawsuits against him have been piling up. In 2017, the yoghurt maker Chobani sued him and InfoWars for defamation over claims its factory in Idaho was ‘importing migrant rapists’ and was responsible for a rise in tuberculosis cases in the area. Jones settled the claim for an undisclosed amount and issued an on-air apology.
Earlier this year, he settled another defamation case — paying out $50,000 (£41,000) — brought by Brennan Gilmore, a resident of Charlottesville, Virginia. Mr Gilmore had been a counter-protester at a Far Right rally in the city in 2017 and, after he posted a video of the rally online that went viral, he was accused on InfoWars of being a CIA stooge and helping to overthrow the Ukrainian government.
Jones also faces growing questions about his role in encouraging the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters. Congress, looking for evidence, has asked to see copies of text messages his lawyer foolishly revealed to the Sandy Hook families.
Jones and his fans are already spinning his latest court defeat as yet more evidence the ‘Deep State’ is out to get him. However, he has at least discovered he can no longer keep relying on the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of free speech.
‘You have the ability to stop this man from ever doing it again,’ Wesley Ball, a lawyer for the parents, told the jury. ‘Send the message to those who desire to do the same: Speech is free. Lies, you pay for.’
And with further court judgments to follow, Alex Jones faces a very big bill indeed.