Apr 18 2017

Is Alex Jones Faking?

alex-jonesAlex Jones is famous for his Infowars program in which he, often red-faced and ranting, promotes all kinds of absurd conspiracy theories. He claims the Sandy Hook massacre was a “false flag” operation (and pretty much every similar event – all staged by the government. He claimed that Obama and Hillary Clinton were literally demons.

The enduring question (at least for me) has been – to what extent does Jones actually believe the stuff that he says? I phrase it that way because belief is not necessarily binary (I don’t want to commit a false dichotomy logical fallacy). He may believe some of the stuff he says to some extent, but then exaggerates and gets into speculation, or simply not care about the veracity of his claims.

Clearly he has a shtick and it’s paying off well for him.

I have not taken on Jones directly (I have addressed many of the claims he supports) because I haven’t found it to be worthwhile so far. His character is clearly a nutjob, to put it bluntly, and I suspected not entirely sincere, and overall I thought it best to ignore him.

However, a recent development is interesting and worth noting. Jones is in a custody battle with his ex-wife for their children. She is claiming that he is unstable, dangerous, and not fit to be a father. Her main source of evidence is the Infowars program. She claims this is his real persona.

This is how his attorney responded on his behalf:

At a recent pretrial hearing, attorney Randall Wilhite told state District Judge Orlinda Naranjo that using his client Alex Jones’ on-air Infowars persona to evaluate Alex Jones as a father would be like judging Jack Nicholson in a custody dispute based on his performance as the Joker in “Batman.”

“He’s playing a character,” Wilhite said of Jones. “He is a performance artist.”

That would seem to put Jones in a difficult position, but probably not as much as you might hope. Jones’s attorney is confirming what many people have suspected – Jones is playing his audience. He knows his audience and he is simply feeding them exactly what they want, in dramatic fashion.

It is certainly easy to interpret Infowars as a deliberate and calculated performance. In this way he would be like Sylvia Browne. There is reason to suspect she was also playing her audience and didn’t believe a word she said.

In a way this makes sense, the best performers would be ones who know exactly what they are doing, unconstrained by reality or ethics, they could craft their message for optimal ratings.

If true, Jones would be the perfect symbol for our post-fact, fake news world. Infowars is not news, it is a parody of the news crafted to cater to a specific narrative and audience. It is, in fact, all entertainment pretending to be news. But it always takes itself seriously. Jones never drops the act.

This means that he can, when convenient, simply hide behind the claim that Infowars is all performance, and was never intended to be actual news. If his audience misinterpreted fantasy as reality, that’s on them. This is the ultimate blurring of the lines between satire (like The Onion) and fake news. In this way Infowars is like Fox News (which in my opinion is clearly narrative driven and caters to a certain audience) just more extreme.

You might think, well the con is up. If Jones admits its all BS how can his audience take him seriously anymore? Speaking through his attorney gives him only the slightest sliver of denial. His lawyer must be speaking on his behalf, and Jones will have to sign-off on any documents filed by his lawyer in the case. They are, effectively, his words.

But here is the beauty of catering to an audience of conspiracy theorists. They will simply assume that Jones was forced to admit this by the powers that be. This will now just become another conspiracy, The Man trying to discredit Jones for calling them out on all their actual conspiracies. Jones will never have to actually even say this (and risk perjury). He doesn’t have to do anything, or he might give the barest hint that something nefarious is going on and let his audience fill in the gaps.

That is the nature of conspiracy theories. They are immune to evidence. Any evidence against the conspiracy is simply part of the conspiracy. Any missing evidence for the conspiracy is covered up. Everything is a false flag, a deception. This means that you can construct and maintain a conspiracy narrative out of anything – any facts that happen to exist. Conspiracy theories are compatible with any reality, because they just make up ad-hoc explanations for everything within the conspiracy narrative.

So I don’t expect this trial to have any effect on the Infowars audience. In fact, the controversy will just feed them more.

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