Thursday, December 12, 2019

Yes, They Made It Up

This really shouldn't be much of a shock for anyone even casually familiar with Alex Jones and Infowars, but I never cease to be amazed by the number of people who apparently mistook the program for serious and accurate news reporting - rather than a cesspool of bizarre conspiracy theories and manufactured outrage. Thanks to a feature article published last week, we now have a lot more firsthand evidence for the latter over the former. I can't say that I ever really doubted my assessment of Jones, even though I got some pushback in the comments here and on Facebook from folks, who I guess were fans, whenever I would make fun of him.

The New York Times Magazine published a feature online today authored by Josh Owens, who recounted experiences he had working for Infowars. (He first started to share information with journalist Jon Ronson, who has known Jones for decades, in October 2016.) In the article, Owens recounts outlandish and disturbing incidents at Infowars, including Jones firing a gun in his direction “as a joke,” Jones punching employees, Jones killing animals in cruel ways on video, and Jones driving visibly drunk to film a stunt on Election Day 2016 for his broadcast audience.

Owens often traveled to produce content for Jones and recounted two experiences in which the team fabricated content for Jones’ audience. “If it fit into the Infowars narrative, it played,” Owens wrote.

In one instance, Jones had watched a YouTube video showing a Geiger counter, an instrument used to measure ionizing radiation, “displaying high radiation readings” on a California beach and wanted the Infowars team to travel to the area to film reports and promotions for an iodine supplement sold by Infowars. Owens and his coworkers were unable to replicate the high radiation levels during their trip, which enraged Jones. In an attempt to placate him, the team scouted out a nuclear waste facility “just so we could capture the Geiger counter displaying a high number.”

More disturbingly, Owens recounted traveling to a Muslim-majority community to “investigate” what Jones believed was a terrorist-training center with a promise from Jones that the team would receive “significant bonuses” if what they turned in met Jones’ expectations. But the information the team found in Islamberg, New York, did not support the “unfounded rumors circulated around far-right corners of the internet” that the community housed a terrorist-training compound.

It would seem that Jones' claims to being a "performance artist" back in 2017, which he almost immediately tried to walk back, were even more true than they seemed at the time. Not only was Jones busy hyperbolizing and exaggerating on his program, he was also working with flat-out invented material. No wonder his show was so off-the-rails, especially since on top of all that he seems to be a pretty awful human being. The idea that super-rich people are part of an evil occult cabal that uses magick and spells to control the world is particularly amusing given the general lack of interest in actual magick and spellcasting. There may be a handful of very rich occultists, but the richest ones I know are professional people like me.

To an extent Jones was on the right track - many super-rich people are part of an evil financial cabal that uses money to control the world - but there's really nothing sensational about it. They have money, and they spend that money supporting politicians and programs that distort economic forces, hurt poor people, and make themselves richer at the expense of everyone else. Full stop. There's plenty wrong with that already without contending that these folks are reptiles or aliens or wizards, and to some extent I think those fantastic elements result in many people dismissing the problematic aspects of the real situation.

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