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Alex Jones and the Depraved Conspiracy Culture
Radio host and outspoken conspiracy theorist Alex Jones recently lost a much publicized custody battle with his ex-wife over the fate of their children. Prior to the ruling, Jones had asked the media, for the sake of his children, to be "respectful and responsible" in their coverage of what he called a "private matter."
It was a reasonable request. After all, going through child-custody proceedings can be a highly sensitive and emotionally trying process. And when one of the parents involved is a public figure, it can be even more painful to the family.
Yet, there wasn't a lot of compassion to be found for Jones in the news media, especially on social media, where his hardship was widely celebrated and mocked.
One of the more popular tweets came from a man named David Masad, who wrote, "If Alex Jones loses custody of his kids, I hope someone follows him around and claims his kids never existed and were just actors, forever."
The reference would likely be lost on people who aren't familiar with the Jones's history. As founder of the popular conspiracy website, InfoWars, Jones has made some incredibly outlandish statements over the years, some of which have escalated into crusades — crusades wholly believed and even participated in by some of his estimated 8 million listeners.
A lot of these conspiracies have unsurprisingly centered around the government, like the idea that the feds have weaponized tornadoes, or that they hav added chemicals to our water supply to turn citizens gay, or that 9/11 was an "inside job", or that Hillary Clinton ran a child sex ring managed out of a pizza restaurant. Others have involved alleged satanists and media figures. Jones once claimed that Glenn Beck was a CIA operative, and that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was a secret eugenics program.
But the conspiracy that Mr. Masad touched on is perhaps the most egregious Jones crusade of them all, and it surrounds another story about parents and the pain they've gone through over their children. Only, in this story, those children weren't part of a legal case. They were murdered by a crazed gunman.
You see, Jones, over the years, has perpetuated the notion on his radio show that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting of 2012 was actually a hoax, created by the Obama administration, to enact tougher gun-control laws.
"Sandy Hook is synthetic, completely fake, with actors; in my view, manufactured," Jones told his audience in 2015. "I couldn’t believe it at first. I knew they had actors there, clearly, but I thought they killed some real kids, and it just shows how bold they are, that they clearly used actors.”
As insane as that claim is, a number of demented people have bought into the premise, as illustrated in a piece from earlier this week in The Guardian.
The column's author, Hadley Freeman, brings to light the heart-wrenching story of Leonard Pozner, whose six-year-old son, Noah, was the youngest victim of the Sandy Hook massacre. Freeman describes the unimaginable pain Leonard has gone through over the years, and adds that even in the wake of Noah's death, Leonard had yet to see the "worst of humanity."
"The families were harassed by hoaxers, online and off," Freeman writes, "insisting that they stop their fake grieving. When Pozner roused himself from his catatonic grief to post photos of Noah online, hoaxers would leave comments: 'Fake kid', 'Didn’t die', 'Fucking liar'."
"Pozner has moved half a dozen times since Noah’s death, always staying near Veronique and their daughters, and is moving again soon after our interview. Partly, this is because each move is a new start, 'and I need that sometimes', he says. But it is also because he has to keep ahead of the people who, for the past five years, have been sending him death threats, purely because his son was killed in Sandy Hook.
The week before our interview, a judge issued a warrant for the arrest of Lucy Richards. She is alleged to have sent messages to Pozner, including one that read: 'Death is coming to you real soon and nothing you can do about it.' That was bad, Pozner agrees, but not necessarily the most unsettling. After all, others have put photos of his house on the web and reported him to child-protection services. 'This is the world I deal with now,' says Pozner."
Freeman's full piece is a very difficult but important read — particularly important in respect to the popular belief that the conspiracy culture in this country is relatively harmless. In many cases that's true. After all, Pozner admits that prior to the shooting, he himself was a listener of Jones's radio show. He viewed the outlandish host as an "out of the box" thinker, and "entertaining."
But as a whole, this culture trivializes horrifying acts like mass murder, and turns innocent people (sometimes suffering victims) into objects of disdain and harassment. And again, it's difficult to dismiss these individuals as an insignificant group when 8 million people listen to a man who helped popularize this disgusting fiction known as Sandy Hook Trutherism.
Obviously, when Alex Jones calls for his critics to act "respectful and responsible" when it comes to his children, the irony couldn't be thicker...but one can't expect much in the way of introspection from the conspiracy crowd.
Now, it's important to understand that it's not Jones's kids' fault that their father is a sick creep. It's also important to recognize that Jones isn't entirely responsible for this additional, totally unnecessary pain suffered by Sandy Hook parents like Leonard Pozner. The blame must be shared with those who continue to let Jones (and people like him) make a living off of such perversity.
Without website visitors, and radio listeners and guests supporting the effort, someone like Jones could never be afforded the soapbox and the influence that he has. Until that changes, and we as a people place a renewed value on attributes like honesty and shame, the depravity will continue.