Believing Absolutely Everything

One thing leads to another. The white nationalists marching in Charlottesville, with their torches and Confederate (and Nazi) flags, were shouting “Jews will not replace us” – which had a bit to do with Trump’s guy Steve Bannon, now long gone from the White House, and with his Breitbart News running endless items about the centuries-old cabal of Jewish bankers who really run the world and screw everyone else, and who really hate white Christians. Those guys are greedy hook-nosed degenerates. The source is the Protocols of the Elders of Zion – a total fabrication. There were no protocols, but Henry Ford printed tens of thousands of copies of that odd book so everyone would know about those damned Jews, and Henry Ford is an American hero. He gave America wheels. And he hated Jews. There’s a source for these things.

There are modern sources too. In December 2015 there was this:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump appeared on Alex Jones’ program, where Trump praised Jones as having an “amazing” reputation and promised, “I will not let you down.” Jones is America’s leading conspiracy theorist – he believes the government was behind 9-11 and several other catastrophes.

Jones’ website Infowars.com has called him “one of the very first founding-fathers of the 9-11 Truth Movement,” which believes the government was behind the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Jones has also pushed conspiracy theories about the Oklahoma City bombing, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, the Boston Marathon bombing, and several mass shootings.

Trump seemed comfortable with that:

Jones and Trump heavily praised each other during the December 2 interview. Jones claimed Trump has been “vindicated” about his false 9-11 U.S. Muslims celebration claim, said “90 percent” of his audience supports Trump, and told the candidate he’s “shown your knowledge of geopolitical systems.” Jones went on to say that Trump is “a true maverick,” and “what you’re doing is epic. It’s George Washington level.” Trump returned the favor, telling Jones: “Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.”

Trump has his weaknesses. He’s a sucker for conspiracy theories. Maybe he believes them. Or maybe he just finds them politically useful. Maybe it doesn’t matter. He does know how lazy people are. Secret conspiracies simplify things for many people. He can work with that. Still, Jones is pretty far out there:

Boston Marathon Bombing: Jones and his website have labeled the Boston Marathon bombing a “false flag cover-up” carried out by the government.

Aurora and Sandy Hook Shootings: In 2013, Jones said the two mass shootings were staged: “You saw them stage Fast and Furious. Folks, they staged Aurora, they staged Sandy Hook. The evidence is just overwhelming. And that’s why I’m so desperate and freaked out. This is not fun, you know, getting up here telling you this. Somebody’s got to tell you the truth.”

The government did all that, to justify taking away everyone’s guns, so no one could fight back against the coming totalitarian tyranny. Trump said he wouldn’t let Jones down, but then he moved on. He never invited Jones to the White House. He never mentioned him again.

Trump had been trolling for votes. He knows how lazy people are. Secret conspiracies simplify things, but Jones’ conspiracy theories were too narrow. His were larger. The whole world has been laughing at us, even our allies. Everyone is screwing us over – everyone! Everyone is out to get us! It’s time to humiliate them! When someone hits you, hit them back ten times harder. That will make America Great Again. America won’t just win. America will humiliate all others and take care if that vast all-inclusive international conspiracy of all other nations against us. There is one, so don’t believe any of that fake news that there isn’t – “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

After all, the press is “the enemy of the people” – another vast conspiracy.

That’s what Alex Jones had been saying all along, but in a narrow way, regarding minor matters – guns and all that. Trump went big.

There’s no reason to accept any of it, large or small. Thump is safe. The wrath of Trump’s base ends careers. Even Democrats know you don’t mess those folks. Hillary Clinton learned that the hard way, but Alex Jones isn’t safe. Nonsense is nonsense:

An attorney for conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones argued in court Wednesday that a defamation suit brought against him and his website by the parents of a child killed in the Sandy Hook school mass shooting should be dismissed.

Judge Scott Jenkins in Austin, Texas, did not rule on the motion, and court recessed until further notice. He has 30 days to rule on the motion.

Jones has used his InfoWars website as a platform to peddle various conspiracy theories, including that the 2012 mass shooting in Connecticut where 26 people were killed was a “staged” hoax and the families are paid actors.

The families of victims Noah Pozner and Jesse Lewis filed defamation suits in April in Texas, where InfoWars is based, saying Jones’ claims have led to them being tormented, harassed and subjected to death threats by his online community of followers who believe him. The suits are seeking more than $1 million in damages.

Jones is in trouble but doing what he can:

The hearing Wednesday concerned the claims of Veronique De La Rosa and Leonard Pozner, the parents of Noah Pozner, who was 6 years old when he was killed by gunman Adam Lanza at the Connecticut elementary school on Dec. 14, 2012. Lanza killed 20 children and six adults, and he killed himself as police arrived.

“Maybe it’s fringe speech. Maybe it’s dangerous speech, but it is not defamation,” Jones attorney Mark Enoch told the judge Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Jones is looking to have the suit dismissed under the Texas Citizens Participation Act, which protects a citizen’s right to free speech.

This is a curious argument:

Jones’ lawyers wrote in arguments in July that he was acting as a journalist when he questioned the narrative of the shooting given by the police and other officials and compared him to the Washington Post reporters who uncovered the Watergate scandal.

“Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein relied on allegations from Deep Throat to link the Nixon Administration to the Watergate break-in,” his lawyers wrote in filing for a dismissal, according to The Associated Press. “Such journalism, questioning official narratives, would be chilled if reporters were subject to liability if they turned out to be wrong”

He acknowledged that he had called the shooting a hoax in the past, but said he now believes it actually happened, according to the AP. Jones said in a video posted in April that “I believe Sandy Hook happened.”

In short, he was wrong, but true journalists have to be allowed to be wrong now and then, even if they know that they made it all up on the first place.

That’s an odd concept of journalism and that’s not going to fly:

Jones is also facing lawsuits in Connecticut brought by several additional families of victims, as well as a separate suit by a man who was falsely identified on the InfoWars website as the shooter who killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day, according to The Associated Press.

Jones is finding he cannot make it all up:

Jones’ ex-wife, Kelly Jones, who is in a legal battle with Jones over the custody of their children, attended Wednesday’s hearing on behalf of the Pozner family. Kelly Jones said that she was involved in the creation of InfoWars, “and I’m trying to make that right.”

“These people not only lost their children in the most horrible way that you can imagine – I mean, unspeakable – but they’ve been harassed by his audience,” Kelly Jones said outside the courtroom earlier Wednesday. “They’ve had to move houses. They had people come up to them and say that their children didn’t even exist.”

“And nobody should go through that hell,” she said. “And Alex needs to be held accountable for that.”

The press is “the enemy of the people” – reporters have been getting death threats. Sooner or later one of them will be killed, by a patriot. Trump should be held accountable for that but he won’t be. The wrath of Trump’s base will protect him, but Jones is in deep trouble:

Top technology companies erased most of the posts and videos on their services from Alex Jones, the internet’s notorious conspiracy theorist, thrusting themselves into a fraught debate over their role in regulating what can be said online.

Apple, Google, Facebook and Spotify severely restricted the reach of Mr. Jones and Infowars, his right-wing site that has been a leading peddler of false information online. Mr. Jones and Infowars have used social media for years to spread dark and bizarre theories, such as that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax and that Democrats run a global child-sex ring. Apple made its move on Sunday and the others followed on Monday.

The actions, one of the tech companies’ most aggressive efforts against misinformation, highlighted a difficult dilemma for their businesses. They have long desired to combat misinformation online, but they have also been reluctant to be arbiters of truth.

That is a problem:

Since a rise of misinformation online around elections, such as the 2016 presidential vote, the tech companies have faced increasing calls from lawmakers and the news media to address their role in that spread of false information and a related increase in partisan divisions. The tech companies have recently stepped up enforcement – but that has led to accusations of political bias, largely from conservatives.

The moves over the last two days helped fuel that debate. “Whether you like @RealAlexJones and Infowars or not, he is undeniably the victim today of collusion by the big tech giants,” Nigel Farage, a British conservative politician, said on Twitter. Mr. Farage helped lead the successful campaign for the country to leave the European Union and has been interviewed by Mr. Jones. “What price free speech?”

It’s a conspiracy, I tell you! This is collusion by the big tech giants! Maybe they’re Jews!

Nigel Farage didn’t make that last accusation, only the first two. One man’s nonsense is another man’s truth, but one side has decided on the truth:

Apple on Sunday removed five of the six Infowars podcasts on its popular Podcasts application. Commenting on the move, a spokeswoman said, “Apple does not tolerate hate speech.”

Facebook, Spotify and Google’s YouTube site, which removed some Infowars content last week, followed with stronger measures on Monday. Facebook removed four pages belonging to Mr. Jones, including one with nearly 1.7 million followers as of last month, for violating its policies by “glorifying violence” and “using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants.” Facebook said the violations did not relate to “false news.”

YouTube terminated Mr. Jones’s channel, which had more than 2.4 million subscribers and billions of views on its videos, for repeatedly violating its policies, including its prohibition on hate speech. Spotify cited its own prohibition on hate speech as the reason for removing a podcast by Mr. Jones.

Jones’ response was what everyone expected:

In a message posted on Twitter on Monday, Mr. Jones said: “The censorship of Infowars just vindicates everything we’ve been saying. Now, who will stand against Tyranny and who will stand for free speech? We’re all Alex Jones now.” He railed against the tech companies on his live show on Monday, which was streamed on the Infowars website, saying their moves were part of a leftist agenda in advance of the midterm elections. “I told you this was coming,” he said to viewers.

It’s a conspiracy, I tell you! What else could he say, because this hurts:

The moves are a significant hit to Mr. Jones’s ability to reach wide audiences, and particularly new followers. YouTube was a particularly important distribution channel, in part because YouTube’s recommendation engine frequently surfaced past Infowars videos to users who had shown interest in conservative topics. Terminating his YouTube channel erases all of its past videos and restricts it from posting new ones.

And now after Infowars is removed from various platforms, Alex Jones begs Donald Trump for help – Trump must make “censorship” the top issue in the midterm elections or else he will be impeached. There’s the wrath of Trump’s base to consider here. They could turn on him over this – but Trump has not yet leapt to Jones’ defense. Three years ago, Trump called into his radio show, trolling for votes. He got the votes. This guy may be more trouble than he’s worth right now. He was never worth much anyway. Trump has other worries, like Robert Mueller. Jones will have to deal with this all by himself. Trump has better conspiracy theories anyway. Junes is a total loser. Sad.

Alex Jones has been superseded anyway. Paul Waldman covers that:

When people started showing up at recent Trump rallies waving signs with giant “Q”s on them and making references to QAnon, a conspiracy theory to end all conspiracy theories, members of the press, and no doubt many people at home, were puzzled. Aren’t things crazy enough already without this fresh new lunacy? The trouble is that this is neither the first nor the last absolutely bonkers conspiracy theory to infiltrate today’s GOP, getting both literally and figuratively within a few feet of the president of the United States. In fact, it would have been more surprising if the Republican Party wasn’t overrun with conspiracy theorists.

But this one is special, as Molly Roberts explains:

The simplest description of the plot line goes something like this: President Trump isn’t under investigation; he is only pretending to be, as part of a countercoup to restore power to the people after more than a century of governmental control by a globalist cabal. Also, there are pedophiles.

A figure named “Q,” who supposedly possesses Q-level security clearance, disperses “crumbs” that “bakers” bring together to create a “dough” of synthesized information. (This is not how baking works, but that seems the least of our worries.) Because Q is the 17th letter in the alphabet and 17 is also a number Trump has said a few times, among other clearly-not-coincidences, he is the real deal, not an Internet troll engaged in an elaborate example of live-action role-play.

What? Waldman adds this:

She forgot to mention that JFK Jr., who faked his own death, may be Q. Ryan Broderick of Buzzfeed suggests that the whole thing may have actually started as a prank meant to make right-wingers look ridiculous, which sounds pretty plausible.

That item is here – a real slog – but Waldman sees bigger issues:

On the surface, what’s most curious about this kind of conspiracy theory emerging on the right is that it comes at a time when they control everything. “Can anyone recall another time when there was more conspiracy-mongering by supporters of the party in power than the party out of power?”, asked The Post’s David Weigel, and it’s true. Conspiracy theories are usually used by those who feel alienated from power to explain how things got the way they are. When they lose an election, at least some people will be pushed to believe that not just the election itself but lots of other things are controlled by dark, powerful forces whose machinations are hidden from ordinary people.

That’s one of the reasons conspiracy theories are attractive: They tell you that everyone is stupid and ignorant, while you are one of the few people smart and clued-in enough to understand what’s really going on.

Still, that doesn’t explain why Republicans would be so vulnerable to even the most deranged conspiracy theories, when there’s a far friendlier explanation for everything happening now, namely that Donald Trump is a fantastic president beloved by the people, which is why he won in 2016 and his party controls Congress and most of the power in the states. Why is that the less attractive story?

That’s a good question, but a dumb question:

The reason is simple: Conservatives have been trained by the people they trust most to believe that everything is a conspiracy – and not just a conspiracy; a conspiracy against them.

No one embodies that more than Trump himself, of course. He transformed himself from a celebrity into a political figure by becoming America’s most prominent proponent of the racist “birther” theory that President Barack Obama was not in fact born in America. No conspiracy theory seems too idiotic for Trump to at least consider, whether it’s that Ted Cruz’s father killed JFK, or that Antonin Scalia was murdered, or that millions of undocumented immigrants voted illegally against him, or that vaccines cause autism.

That may be why he called into the Alex Jones radio show a few years ago and said he wouldn’t let Alex Jones down, even if he just did, but Waldman says that doesn’t really doesn’t matter:

This started way before Trump. For years, conservatives have been fed one conspiracy theory after another by the hosts on Fox News, by Rush Limbaugh and by many other right-wing media figures. They’ve been told that climate change is a hoax dreamed up by scientists running a grift for grant funding. They’ve been told that unlike, say, the Koch brothers, who are just patriotic Americans exercising their right to spend their money advocating political outcomes they favor, George Soros is a sinister puppet master who pays protestors to agitate for left-wing causes.

In fact, even what we regard as relatively “mainstream” conservative news organizations offer their audiences a picture painted every day of a society run through with one conspiracy after another: a conspiracy of liberal professors to brainwash your children, a conspiracy of liberal journalists to twist the news, a conspiracy of liberals in Hollywood to undermine your values, a conspiracy in government to destroy Trump. No matter who is in power, there are still multiple conspiracies out to get you.

One of the signal beliefs of the conspiracy theorist is that almost no one can be trusted, because the truth is buried under a mountain of lies.

That’s why both Jones and Trump have said that what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening. That’s why Trump’s Republican Party is particularly fertile ground for this kind of thing. That’s where they’ve lived for years – but of course, in a general sense, skepticism is a good thing. Don’t believe everything. That’s healthy skepticism, but this is unhealthy. Believing absolutely everything will get us all killed. That’s a more useful conspiracy theory.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
This entry was posted in Conspiracy Theories, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s