Mark Twain got it only partly right. It is true that there are lies, damn lies and statistics, but there are also lies, damn lies, and conspiracy theories. One of the most horrid conspiracy theories in America history is one spread by the incomparable Alex Jones. And that is saying a lot because there are so many of them! As Barry Craig said, “Alex Jones is so repugnant he makes Judas Iscariot look good.”
This is one of Jones’s crimes against humanity: after learning of one of the most horrid mass shootings in American history when a lone gunman entered an elementary school in a quiet town in Connecticut—Newton, he went on a shooting rampage at the Sandy Hook School where he murdered 20 first graders and 6 teachers. Then when the parents of those children were suffering immeasurably, Jones added salt to the wounds, by taking the plain and uncomplicated truth of that well documented series of crimes and challenged those parents that it was all a hoax and that they were paid actors! Jones spread these outrageous and putrid lies just to gain publicity so he could sell more of his cheap goods online.
Craig was reviewing a book by Elizabeth Williamson, called Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy and the Battle for Truth when he said this:
“Almost as criminal as those killings, says Williamson, was Jones’ unconscionable misuse of his far right and virulent social media platform, Infowars. With the dead children still lying in the schoolyard, he said the shootings were faked and the grieving parents nothing more than actors in a conspiracy staged by government to support the need for more gun control.”
In other words, as Craig said, they were “the undeserving people Jones tortured for years.” It is not surprising that Craig called this a “degenerate reaction.” Craig also wrote this:
“In his trademark bombast, Jones called on his viewers — largely conspiracy believers — to descend on Newtown in outrage to bully and harass the people in this bogus massacre. It not only worked (and terrified the community), it made Jones rich hustling overpriced merchandise on his program.”
The thirst for vile baubles appears endless. I heard he earns about $65 million per year selling lies and junk! But this is not the most astonishing part. Here is the part that is really difficult to comprehend: Despite the degenerate part Donald Trump the leader of Trumpism declared his approval of Jones shortly after his election and commented how well respected he was! Only among fools and charlatans was he respected, but that did not matter to the Donald. Trump liked Jones because he was so much like himself. Both men have no compunction about spreading lies provided they serve their private purposes.
Williamson made some interesting comments about Jones and conspiracy theories. First, she drew attention to a fascinating statement by columnist Richard Grenier who defined “conspiracy theories as “sophistication of the ignorant.” She also pointed out Jones’ conspiracy theories went well beyond harming the families of the victims. As she said,
“Jones’ success in making lies true and truth lies encouraged conspiracy theorists in every major conflict after Sandy Hook: numerous shootings, the COVID-19 pandemic, the oxymoron of “alternative facts,” Donald Trump’s bogus claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him and last year’s assault on the U.S. Capitol building which he challenged his followers to carry out to “stop the steal.” She says Trump is much like Jones in that he convinces people what they (already) want to believe.”
Williamson reported how the hapless parents of murdered elementary students had to put up with angry and aggressive conspiracy theorists harassing them with leers attacking them like “an army of swarming and aggressive news media,” constantly demanding that they relive their nightmare and then spreading lies about them. Finally, they fought back against the malicious lies in court by suing Jones and the manufacturer of the gun. As Craig said,
“While millions of Americans continue to wallow in ludicrous conspiracy theories fanned by liars that make it sound like the truth, Sandy Hook’s victims of this mendacity are also getting back at their perpetrators through court decisions they initiated that are denting their detractors’ bank accounts. By 2018 some 10 Sandy Hook families were suing Jones… He has already admitted he was wrong; the parents recently turned down his first monetary offer to settle their defamation suit against him. In addition, he is being fined by the courts at a daily rate for failing to co-operate. That bill alone is over $500,000 and counting. The parents may well end up with millions, but it’s still in the courts.”
Of course, as Craig said,
“(Canada is not immune to the same kind of viral lies. The Senate has been flooded by conspiracy theory claims that changes to basic income legislation is the work of a shady global elite.) It seems not only news travels fast — so does nonsense.”
We Canadians have little right to feel superiority to our American neighbours. Conspiracy theories are a plague on us all. One of the things they do is spread mistrust helping to dismantle society which needs trust to survive.