Alex Jones: Conspiracy Theorist Or Performance Artist? Either Way, He’s Dangerous
Is Alex Jones a performance artist or is he lying to escape scrutiny? And does it matter if the damage has already been done?
Alex Jones is synonymous with New World Order conspiracy theories in which sinister experts are leading you to some unspecified horrors of a dire future, and recently achieved household name status by being the face and voice of the angry conspiracy vote that went all in for Trump. So if you know anything about famous conspiracy theorists, he should be more than emboldened to keep ratcheting up the scope and severity of his theories as he screams them, red faced into a studio microphone. But that’s not what’s been happening in the last few weeks.
First, he publicly walked back all his typically credulous stories about Pizzagate, and now, claims to be nothing more than a performance artist in a custody case. Hear that politicians he threatened or libeled, parents of Sandy Hook victims, those sure that 9/11 was a terrorist act, and all his other targets who would take far too long to list for the purposes of this story? He didn’t mean any of it. That hysterical fear-mongering, punctuated by pitches for vitamins and snake oil in which you were portrayed as the evil agents of the Illuminati, was only to make a quick buck. Or as his lawyer said, judging his character by his shows or site is like judging an actor playing a villain in a movie.
And the selection of a villain for the argument is revealing, isn’t it? If Jones is truly an actor, he’s not playing a role model to put it mildly. Aside from a long career advancing some of the most common conspiracy theories which thrive among the far right and radical libertarians, the perpetually furious aspiring Putin cosplayer produced some seriously toxic plots of his own.
If you ask him, Sandy Hook was a “false flag” to convince Congress to adopt tyrannical gun control laws, a widely publicized military exercise was just a dress rehearsal for imposing martial law, the drought in California wasn’t a long predicted consequence of climate change but a product of chemtrails or HAARP (or both), the UN was going to forcefully outlaw suburbs, and the “global elites” run secret Nazi-style S&M nightclubs with sex slaves for long relaxing sessions of drinking fine spirits and rape to celebrate another day of implementing their sinister agenda. In this light, his ex-wife’s insistence that he’s unfit to have custody of young, impressionable children seems perfectly reasonable since the man seems to have some serious issues.
Likewise, Jones’ defense makes sense as well, from a logical standpoint. He isn’t just screaming his hate-fantasies at the tinfoil choir, he’s only acting like an increasingly unhinged conspiracy theorist to sucker fans into buying his supplements while they read about the boogeymen supposedly out to get all their guns, money, and freedom. He’s basically Stephen Colbert, just dialed up to 12 and the knob torn off. Some of his rants are practically in the same territory as faux-conservative Colbert joking that you might be rich if you’re having scrambled Faberge eggs for breakfast in one of his books.
Who could possibly take any of these obvious satirical rants of a madman caricature on the fringes of the web seriously? Well, the president of the United States for one, who sang paeans to Jones’ work as a candidate, as well as the millions who spread his “performance art” across the web, held public rallies during the RNC, and harassed parents of Sandy Hook victims. And that makes the seemingly sound show business defense rather awkward because he’s lying either to the courts or to his fans. The question is, which one is it?
Ironically, there’s also the idea that he’s trying to frame himself as nothing more than an actor who just plays the living embodiment of 4Chan’s /pol/ board not just because he wants to retain custody, but because he may be under investigation for colluding with Russian propaganda sources. If you were to analyze how political conspiracy theories, hoaxes, and backlash at mainstream media sources correcting them spread, as researchers as the University of Washington have done by tracking real social media users as well as armies of bots, InfoWars is one of the largest, if not the top node in this alternative fact ecosystem.
Now, by itself, this isn’t necessarily proof of anything sinister, and neither is the fact that Russian pro-Trump bots have been promoting his conspiracies at a feverish pace. But the fact that he was parroting the Russian stance on so many issues, from Syria to hacking and WikiLeaks, very consistently, for a long period of time, may have merited a look as to whether this is just his belief or there’s more to it than that.
Jones has become a really visible part of a large and opaque system which profits from manufacturing conspiracy and selling supposed solutions to all these horrible things they just told you about. Knowing that he’s attracting a lot of scrutiny that he’s never faced before as he and others like him simply slid by on being called cranks and crazies by the public and the media, he’s probably interested in minimizing his exposure to potential lawsuits and the fury of powerful people he’s pissed off over the years.
But even if we believe him that this is all an act, that doesn’t quite let him off the hook. For over a decade, he’s fear-mongered, lied, and scammed millions. His performance’s point has never been revealed or even implied, and he showed no signs that it ever would be. How long was the joke supposed to take? How many had to be fleeced? At what point would he call it a day and publicly state what he was trying to accomplish and what he thinks he and the world learned from it? If this is a performance, it’s a bizarre and dangerous one.
Going by his history alone, it’s difficult to believe that this is all just an act and he’s the only one in on it. Maybe he did indeed start off as an artist and became a believer in his own brand of furious conspiracies. Maybe he liked the power he felt from being able to manipulate his fans and Alex Jones the character became Alex Jones the scammer. Maybe he began as a passionate conspiracy theorist trying to yell truth to power and at some point realized that this became a job more than a passion.
Then he had to keep escalating to grow his audience and keep it angry and engaged, rejected his past beliefs, and is now just in it for the money as a show biz figure. Maybe he’s simply lying and his audience knows it, forgives him for it, and will eagerly tune in to his next conspiracy. No matter which one of these scenarios are the truth behind Jones and InfoWars, the damage has been done and there are now consequences for those who have to deal with the mess he made, as well as for Jones, as some of his loyal fans are bound to turn on him.