View From The Side: Why Alex Jones Isn’t Funny Anymore
I first heard of Alex Jones when I was a squatting a flat in New Cross. It was round 2005. At the time criminal families were renting out unobtrusive houses in London’s suburbs, turning them into highly efficient weed factories, and churning out bushels of the stankiest bud you ever could hope for. I had a great connect, and our squat reeked of pungent skunk 24/7. None of us had anything approaching a normal job, and we were living the drop-out dream, supporting ourselves through DJing, playing shitty gigs, and selling bits and bobs. That left loads of time to do our other favourite thing; get wrecked and peruse the internet for mad shit. I was primed to be a Jones convert.
Tony Blair was in charge of the country, we had been fucking up Iraq for the last three years, and like many 20-somethings, we felt a complete disengagement with mainstream politics. It was inevitable that one day one of my flatmates would put me onto a ranting Texan called Alex Jones, a chubby faced yank frothing about New World Order, elite control, black op helicopters, and secret pagan worship. To a stoned outsider, Jones was hilarious; a guy who not only said things that seemed refreshingly true, but also said things that were so clearly wacked out bullshit that it was inconceivable he wasn’t performing some kind of comedy act. I’d hoped that Jones would be a subculture nutter that I could harmlessly treasure for years. How could you not love a guy who sincerely believed this:
Now, the weird thing is, Jones is finding himself moving into mainstream American politics. It turns out that there’s a whole lot of people who are disenchanted with politics and who crave someone to impose order onto a world that seems to have spiralled terrifyingly out of control. I dare say some of them also smoke a whole lot of weed. Jones has a remarkable talent for coming up with a specific reason for every historical event. There is no room for chaos in his world, no room for the random, pointless acts that have regularly buffeted Earth’s history, instead he depicts a linear sequence of cause and effects that allows people respite from the horrible thought that we’re careening towards a cliff and no one is driving.
And in Donald Trump, he has found a like-minded mouthpiece heading towards Washington. Even if Trump doesn’t make it, the markers been laid – Alex Jones can no longer claim to be on the outside. Jones and his fans are calling Trump ‘our candidate’, they came up with the ‘Hillary for Prison’ meme that dominated the Republic Convention, and they were everywhere at that convention. They’ve conveniently forgotten how Jones’s site Infowars published a corruscating attack on Trump back in 2013 which labelled him ‘vomit inducing’, but then that’s how Alex works; say whatevers on top of your head, and to hell with context or continuity. Does it sound louder than anyone else? Then it’s a goer. Trump operates in a similar fashion- some (including the ghostwriter of Trump’s ‘auto’ biography The Art of the Deal) have suggested it is psychotic. There was a telling piece on New Republic where a Jones fan broke down how Jones’s support for Trump had won him over. The sentiment doesn’t seem a million miles from the ideology that Brexit campaigners were trying to appeal to with Gove’s ‘people are tired of experts’ – and it tells of Jones’s power.
“When Alex started supporting Trump, it convinced me. .. Now I’m pretty damn excited about Trump. He doesn’t say a bunch of fucked-up words where you’re trying to understand half a sentence. He just talks to me like you are.”
Trump has reciprocated, calling Jones ‘amazing’ and telling him he ‘won’t let him down’. So as Jones manoeuvres himself from the freak show peripheries of Youtube political discourse, to a position of genuine power, it seems like a good time to ask just who he is and what he does. Unlike Alex, I don’t like to view things in black and white – I’m not convinced that he’s 100% good or 100% evil, but he is most certainly one weird fucking guy.
Alexander Emerick Jones was born in Dallas, 1974, and grew up in Austin. As a teenager he discovered Gary Allen’s 1971 book of conspiracy primers None Dare Call It Conspiracy. Gary Allen was a key member of the John Birch Society, a right wing American libertarian group obsessed with the notion of a global communist conspiracy hell bent on destroying America. Birchers often found themselves making strange bedfellows, from siding with left wingers in demanding American troops withdrew from Vietnam (Birchers genuinely believed the Vietnam War was a conspiracy to aid communists take over the States), to appealing to conservatives with their opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Bill. This see-sawing between political friends and enemies, all in the pursuit of destroying a perceived shadowy elite, offers a fairly neat dovetail into Alex Jones’s own career.
Jones took his first steps in the media by hosting a public access cable TV show aged 20. It was here he reportedly started disseminating ideas he’d picked up from Gary Allen, although it’s hard to confirm his first content as it’s seemingly impossible to find any Alex Jones material pre-96 online. What with him appearing on an obscure cable access show this isn’t a huge surprise, but it’s enough of a ‘thing’ that the more esoteric areas of the internet have decided that Alex is actually the comedian Bill Hicks, who – apparently – never actually died. And if you can’t be bothered to listen to people who will make remarkably long videos trying to prove their belief that someone will fake their death, change their height, then alter their facial structure for some unspecified, vaguely menacing CIA related reasons, then you’ve clearly not spent much time in Alex’s part of the internet.
Assuming that Jones isn’t Hicks, here’s the youngest footage of the broadcaster I can find. One’s from a 1997 show. By this point he’s moved into commercial radio broadcasting, and there’s little that’s changed since in terms of content; he’s going in on Bill Clinton, whilst decrying the media as being ‘full of bull’ and claiming that his own sources are true. The other is Alex dropping a rare piece of satire, and I gotta admit I still enjoy it – the term ‘Global Love Cop’ sounds like something Pat Mills would have introduced into a Judge Dredd story.
I can see why this is compelling. It would be naïve to assume that the mainstream media hasn’t long been biased to favour it’s commercial interests, and American politics- as with most politics- are full of cover ups, half-truths and back room deals. So here comes someone saying this is all bullshit in a simple to understand way. It’s refreshing, and it taps into the anger of the disenfranchised. Who needs complex reasons for unemployment when stagnating economies can be structured into a Zionist plot?
There are all sorts of – fairly credible- stories circulating that Alex was a bit of a nightmare at this time. Several of his co-workers at Austin’s ACAC radio station had a number of problems with Jones, claiming he would try and bully anyone who disagreed with him off the air. There’s one notorious story about a fist fight in the car park used to illustrate his general duplicity and arsiness – apparently a guy had been prank calling every show on the network. One time this guy, ‘Steve’ was at the station, and Jones recognised his voice. He challenged Steve to a fight, saying he’d ‘whup him like the bitch he was’. This challenge was accepted, they went into the parking lot and Jones got a solid beating. He then, mortified with embarrassment, claimed to have been attacked by four men with knives. He followed it up by claiming he had relatives in the FBI who would make his assailant pay. You can listen to the whole saga here – it’s an interesting, comic and somewhat sordid vignette. Crucially it goes against most of Jones’s avowed dislike of the abuse of authority and nepotism. But who knows the truth eh?
Jones probably would have remained a fairly obscure online crank, a sort of David Icke, minus the lizards and universal love, plus a whole lot more guns, had it not been for Jon Ronson. In 1999, the Welsh journalist was completing a series called Secret Rulers of the World for the UK’s Channel 4. The series detailed Ronson’s travels through the world of conspiracy theorists, and in one episode he joined up with Alex Jones to investigate Bohemian Grove. Bohemian Grove was legendary in conspiracy circles as the reputed site of a yearly meeting of the world’s elite. International heads of state, high court judges, bankers and business men were all rumoured to descend on the woodland spot to perform arcane, occult rites. The meeting between Ronson and Jones produced two documentaries – Ronson’s own The Satanic Shadowy Elite? which showed him winding up Jones (not, in all honesty, difficult) until the Texan cracked and broke into Bohemian Grove- and Jones’s own Dark Secrets Inside Bohemian Grove, which shows what Jones discovered inside. Both docs make amazing watching- Ronson’s is warm and funny, even as it depicts Jones as something of a paranoid, showboating nutbag. Jones meanwhile, managed to grab bizarre footage of a group of very powerful men apparently worshipping a totem shaped like an owl God, whilst staging a mock human sacrifice. It was absolute gold, and for Jones, all the confirmation he needed – there was a Satanic elite in charge of the planet, and something had to be done.
Jon Ronson has claimed, both at the time, and as recently as this week, that Jones cynically exaggerated his reports of the Grove, which Ronson himself described as more overgrown frat party than Satanic rite. But Jones had found his sensationalist niche- and given what he came across in the Grove it’s hard to blame him. From Bohemia Grove onwards, no accusation was too wild. He set up the Infowars website and started broadcasting in earnest. Over the last 15 years his media organisation has been hitting crazy, entertaining heights time and again with tales of the Rothschilds creating mass eugenics schemes, DMT fuelled trips into dimensions run by clockwork elves, and constant warnings that martial law is only a gun control act away.
Like the proverbial million monkeys on a million typewriters, every now and then Alex gets it right, it’d hard to be churn out shows at the rate he does and not. But a whole, whole lot of the time he gets it wrong. And not just a bit wrong. As far as I can see there’s quite a big distance between someone saying Ed Milliband is going to beat David Cameron in an election, and getting that wrong, and someone saying Obama will stage his own assassination, or that the American currency will collapse within two years, or that the internet is going to get shut down by the government, or that the military are moving in to take over Texas in a month. The things that Alex Jones gets wrong still do something right; they scare the living shit out of his listeners. By the time the event hasn’t come to pass, he’s ranting about some next madness, and they’re worked up about the new threat. He’s managed to maintain this state of psychological warfare for nearing a decade. I’m almost impressed at his ability to say literally anything with absolute conviction – here’s 45 times he has done so-
But it all gets a bit less funny when this kind of self-promoting con artist starts to have any interaction with actual political process. I’m good with Alex talking to kooks like this dipshit about how Obama is going to ‘activate the Beyonce’s’ to remain in power indefinitely – it’s the equivalent of a sloshed Weatherspoon’s chat between two Daily Sport readers. But now he’s interacting with political figures on the far right who represent a very real and unpleasant threat, and bringing them a readymade fanbase of millions. A couple of days ago, Jones continued his love affair with Trump, releasing a video praising the Donald as ‘an infowarrior’- a name that places Trump firmly in the context of Jones’ own Infowars website. In the same video Jones also talked about having a lunch with Nigel Farage. Alex described Farage as a “very, very good man. Very, very real.” Other recent politicians Jones has backed include Marine Le Pen, of French far right party Le Pen.
So we’ve reached the nadir of post-truth politics. A man who has made a career from wild, easily disprovable claims is now backing politicians that have made careers from making wild, easily disprovable claims. The dissonance is remarkable between what Jones says he wants- freedom from elites- and what the people like Trump and Farrage are- financial elites out to feather their beds. To act like Trump, a billionaire born into immense wealth, who has bankrolled numerous politicians – including the Clinton’s – is somehow an ‘outsider’ of the elite is quite incredible. Is Jones stupid? Is he taking the piss? Either way he’s not to be engaged with as serious.
I gave up smoking weed long ago, so I can’t find Alex funny anymore. Now I just want him to pack up his snake oil and exit stage left. He is dangerous precisely because his positions have no basis – they can swing and change and be disproved, and it doesn’t make any difference to his thinking – this explains his current support for Trump. Let’s not forget that back in 2011, Jones was claiming that Trump was going to be a kind of political false flag paid off by Obama:
This strange ability to adopt any stance at any time, to point a finger at any living person and scream YOU’RE A WITCH, then, in another moment, announce that that same person is America’s greatest hope, means that at one point or another Jones has managed to appeal to anyone who has felt disillusioned with a political system that is clearly corrupt – and surely that’s almost everyone. This is why his content is shared by numerous people who would identify as left wing, and think of him as some sort of truth exposer. And, yes, I get that 9/11 seems a bit fishy, and that the Middle East is about a lot more than terrorist attacks in Europe and the States, or even that the American government invited over Nazi scientists to work in the aftermath of WWII (just over a thousand of them rather than the tens of thousands Alex claims) – but when these points come from a guy who also posts videos claiming that Black Lives Matter is more dangerous to black people than the KKK, asking ridiculous questions like Is Obama The Son of Satan, claiming Pokemon Go is a tool of the illuminati for destroying your humanity (for fucks sake), or equating gay marriage with paedophilia in Being Straight is a Crime, I can’t see why he shouldn’t be completely ignored. He is either a cynic, an idiot, a maniac, or some combination of all three.
Alex Jones is about simple answers and the conjuring of simple boogieman enemies (‘they’ and ‘them’ feature constantly, if rarely specifically). He builds interconnected palaces of compelling nonsense. And, right now, as the world floods us with information, and situations spiral into increasingly complexity, the last person we should trust is the one with simple answers.