Curb the conspiracies

Jake Mireles, Staff Writer

On Dec. 14, 2012, twenty-year-old Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School to commit one of the deadliest school shootings in American history. This is a fact and cannot be refuted; these events — as horrible and atrocious as they are — took place. Yet, there has been controversy surrounding the Sandy Hook shooting for the past decade. The families of the victims have been harassed online and in-person. Facts have been challenged and many conspiracy theories have emerged. These events have been instigated and perpetrated largely by one man: Alex Jones. 

Host of the viral conservative talk show “InfoWars,” Jones is a widely known far-right commentator. He has accrued a mass audience by covering current events and the conspiracies surrounding them. Jones has covered an extensive amount of “news” ranging from election fraud to chemicals in the drinking water supply, and has made a fortune selling dietary supplements and doomsday-preparation equipment while doing it.

 His most popular conspiracies and rhetoric involve painting major tragedies in American history, like Sandy Hook, as “false flags” conducted by secretive government organizations. One of the most damaging elements of his rhetoric, however, is his blatant and unapologetic use of misinformation and reporting uncorroborated information to his audience during live coverage of developing events. One of these incidents occurred during his coverage of the Parkland shooting in 2018, when Jones misidentified the shooter as a Massachusetts business owner who was completely unrelated to the developing situation. Later, Jones continued this narrative by labeling the misidentified man as a “communist,” per the Southern Poverty Law Center. This consistent use of blatant misinformation and fiery rhetoric to galvanize his audience into taking action based on his words has led to one of the highest-profile civil suits in American history. 

Since his original coverage of the massacre in 2012, Jones has painted the school shooting at Sandy Hook as a “false flag.” He has labeled the parents of the victims as “crisis actors” and has accused the event of being staged to promote anti-gun legislation. His consistency and reinforcement of this position over many years has caused some members of his audience to go out and harass the victims’ families both online and in-person. One of the former contributors to “InfoWars,” Wolfgang Halbig, was even arrested in Florida for “unlawful possession of personal information” and was accused of harassing Leonard Pozner, a parent of one of the victims, according to ABC. These events have led a coalition of families to mount a number of civil suits against Jones and “InfoWars.” These lawsuits have been largely successful, and most recently the eight families have been awarded nearly $1 billion in damages by a Connecticut jury per The New York Times

While Jones’ rhetoric is dangerous, what is more concerning is the conservative movement’s willingness to accept and defend him. Since the damage awards trial was concluded, many popular conservative pundits have come out in defense of Jones. In a Tweet, leader of the conservative youth outreach organization Turning Point USA, Charlie Kirk stated, “This isn’t about calculating real damages from Alex Jones. This is about sending a message: if you upset the Regime, they will destroy you. Completely, and utterly, forever.” Popular conservative broadcaster Steven Crowder hosted an exclusive interview with Jones, where he paints the trial as the government’s attempt to silence yet another conservative speaker. The far-right’s attempts to essentially martyrize Jones through this process is extremely troubling. Jones has undeniably incited violence and harassment toward families who have already lost so much. His claims are not based in fact, yet many conservatives refuse to condemn him and distance themselves from his rhetoric. Instead, they have welcomed him into the fold with open arms. 

Jones is not a martyr, he is a con-artist who made money inciting violence against families of school shooting victims. He has no place in legitimate political discourse and his claims should be rejected outright. Instead, Jones’ positions are becoming more widely accepted and advertised. This is unacceptable and indicative of how misinformation combined with inciting rhetoric can harm society if left unchecked.