Conspiracy Theorist-In-Chief: Meet Donald Trump’s Man In The Shadows, Alex Jones

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The Trump candidacy has propelled figures from the periphery of American politics to the centre. None of the winners have been bigger, or more improbable, than Alex Jones, writes Max Chalmers.

In December 2015, two of America’s most bombastic conspiracy theorists came face to face in a surprisingly touching encounter that revealed just how deep down the rabbit hole the entire nation was about to dive.

One was the man well on his way to claiming the Republican Party’s candidacy for President, a misogynistic sociopath whose political career was launched by a concerted effort to prove the nation’s first black leader was a foreigner.

Donald Trump was beamed into the studio via a videolink. Perched over a laptop in Trump Tower, his face glowed an off-red colour. On the other side of the split screen was a man who could barely contain his excitement, a political commentator famous for his ballistic outbursts but uncharacteristically reverent in the face of Trump’s ramblings.

The admiration ran both ways.

“Your reputation is amazing,” Trump said to his host. “I will not let you down, you’ll be very, very impressed I hope, and we’ll be speaking a lot, I think.”

Donald Trump speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (IMAGE: Gage Skidmore, Flickr).
Donald Trump speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (IMAGE: Gage Skidmore, Flickr).

Despite his massive audience, most Americans wouldn’t have heard of Alex Jones, the man Trump had dialled in to chat with, until quite recently.

A 42-year-old Texan broadcaster, Jones is a grassroots conspiracy theorist who built an audience on radio before finding a huge digital following via his websites InfoWars and Prison Planet.

Jones’ ideology is hard to pin down, a mix of anti-globalist, anti-socialist, anti-banker, anti-elitism that manages to overlap with anti-immigration and pro-gun sentiment. He thinks elites use welfare to keep the population docile and that the United Nations is secretly running the US police.

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The jumble of issues that interest the broadcaster make more sense when you consider he has said that 9/11 was an inside job, that the Boston bombing was a false flag, that the murder of 20 children at Sandy Hook elementary school was faked (using actors), that homosexuality is caused by chemicals inserted into juice boxes, that Michelle Obama is a man, and that Joan Rivers was murdered because she said so publicly. His radio show opens like this:

Deep behind enemy lines in occupied Texas broadcasting world wide, you’re listening to the voice of human resistance against the techonotronic technocracy takeover. You’re listening to Alex Jones!”

Behind the conspiracies Jones promotes is a big picture about the “New World Order”.

According to a 2011 profile in Rolling Stone magazine:

The endgame, Jones believes, is a mass eugenics operation that will depopulate the planet by poisoning our food and water with fluoride, radioactive isotopes and various futuristic toxic soups being engineered in New World Order laboratories. Those who resist are being tracked by secret, federalized police bunkers known as “fusion centers” that will eventually round up every dissenter and throw them into camps run by the Federal Emergency Management Authority.”

Among the takeaways from that portrait of Jones is the argument that his personal experience with real-world police corruption, apparently later vindicated, led him down the dark road he now prances. As with many Americans, real causes for disillusion and suspicion opened the door to vast fantasies.

In the face of such grim circumstances Jones portrays himself as a heroic humanist, pushing back against a global conspiracy and a secular elite who want to play God. He is prone to explosive outbursts that swell into fits of rage then segue into impressions and funny voices. The video below is perhaps one of his more notorious (although not from his own show) – it really starts to kick off at the two minute mark.

More broadly, his clips are well produced and hugely entertaining, and his enormous balding head provides the perfect stage for his operatic and emotive monologues.

For someone who regularly alludes to the possibility of their own violent demise at the hands of the global elite, Jones has been done very well in recent years, even appearing in Richard Linklater’s film The Skanner Darkly in a scene in which he is whisked away by malevolent agents as he tries to warn the public of the government’s insidious plans for control.

His number of followers reaches well into the millions, with InfoWars consistently clocking between four and eight million readers a month.

Jones has been on the rise for years, but it’s thanks to Donald Trump that he’s achieved a level of success and influence few would have believed possible.

Despite his railings against elites, Jones is a big admirer of Trump, telling the real estate mogul in their now infamous December 2015 interview (again, in a surprisingly touching confession) that his 13-year-old son Rex Jones convinced him Trump was the real deal.

In the half hour chat, the men mirrored each other without really interacting, one ranting then pausing to let the other go off. It’s like watching two people converse through a soundproof glass wall – they can guess what the other might be talking about but they’re not really sure, moving off on their own line of thought when they can see the other has stopped talking.

Jones occasionally built up to asking the kind of question his conspiracy-loving audience might want to hear (is Trump, in fact, a “Clinton operative”?) but swerved away at the crucial moments, answering his own inquiry then pitching Trump an open-ended piece of praise. He didn’t even push Trump when the candidate linked Osama Bin Laden to 9/11.

The appearance was not a good look for Trump, especially when he appealed to Jones’ audience to buy his new book as a Christmas present and then lavished praise on the host. Jones responded by thanking the soon-to-be presidential nominee.

“You will be attacked for coming on,” he said. “We know you know that.”

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Most of Jones’ predictions do not come true. But that one did.

In August, Hillary Clinton gave a speech attacking Trump on the basis of his support among far right groups that have been energised by his candidacy. She named the ‘alt-right’ among them, the fringe online community which includes a healthy number of white nationalists. She noted Trump’s appearance on Jones’ show.

“He actually went on Jones’ show and said: ‘Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down’,” Clinton taunted.

The provocateur was back in the news this week after being called out by the President of the United States, Barack Obama, for claiming that Obama and Clinton were from Hell.

US president Barack Obama.
US president Barack Obama.

“I’m told there’s a rotten smell around Hillary,” Jones had said. “I’m not kidding, people say – folks, I’ve been told this by high up folks. They say listen, Obama and Hillary both smell like sulphur.

“I never said this, because the media will go crazy with it, but I’ve talked to people that are in protective details – they’re scared of her. And they say ‘listen, she’s a frickin demon and she stinks and so does Obama.’ I go, ‘like what? Sulphur. They smell like Hell.’”

Obama responded by decrying the political tendency to, in this case literally, demonise opponents, and then theatrically sniffed his own skin, indicating that he could not detect the smell.

It’s one thing for Trump to endorse Jones’ captivating madness but there’s also reason to think his words of praise are more than superficial vote-mongering.

In a speech responding to the multiple allegations of sexual assault and impropriety aired by a range of women against Trump this week, the nominee made one of his most forceful and conspiratorial attacks yet, hitting back by tying the media and Clinton campaign together and heaping blame on vaguely defined elites.

“For those who control the levers of power in Washington, and for the global special interests, they partner with these people that don’t have your good in mind,” he said. “Our campaign represents a true existential threat like they haven’t seen before.”

Rosie Gray, A Buzzfeed reporter who has been among the best at covering the ‘alt-right’ movement, noted the speech was reminiscent of the articles on Jones’ InfoWars website.

Others who have followed Jones since his early days also see his footprints in the campaign.

Guardian journalist and author Jon Ronson chronicled Jones’ early adventures and reunited with him at the 2016 Republican National Convention. In an interview on Slate’s Trumpcast, Ronson said Trump had drawn on InfoWars pieces written by Jones, citing a speech he gave denying that California was in drought.

“There have been occasions when Trump would use some odd phraseology in a speech and then it would turn out that Alex Jones had used exactly the same phraseology some weeks or days or months earlier,” Ronson said.

Jones told Ronson that Trump would talk to him on the phone and that his influence on the campaign was “second to none”.

“For all his bluster about not wanting to be an elite – he’s his own guy – [Jones] was clearly very happy that the Trump campaign have bought him in,” noted Ronson.

His boasts to Ronson may be exaggerations or outright lies but Jones’ ideas have clearly been used in other ways, with InfoWars pieces being tweeted by Donald Jr and Trump himself (something that clearly caused great joy at InfoWars).

It’s difficult to gauge what impact boosting those like Jones has on the broader public, but we know that his work has been admired by some who have allowed their rage and dislocation to morph into acts of violence.

Jerad Miller, who shot and killed two police officers and a civilian with his girlfriend before they turned the guns on themselves, was a fan of InfoWars. Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev also took an interest in the site. Neither’s interest appears to have been seminal, but the site may well have played a role in fermenting the anger and confusion that led both to murder.

It would be an oversimplification, however, to put all Jones followers in this category. America is a place where grave injustices and alarmingly powerful interests do manifest. In such a setting, who wouldn’t want to watch a chunky Texan give Karl Rove a hard time?

Trump and Jones have many things in common, not least of which is an intrinsic understanding of television and entertainment. The latter’s success has fed off the former’s. For Jones, being shamed by the likes of Clinton and Obama is more than just a badge of honour: it’s also highly profitable.

Whatever happens to Donald Trump on November 8 – and whatever happens to the country as a whole – Alex Jones has already emerged as one of the election’s big winners.

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Max Chalmers

Max Chalmers is a former New Matilda journalist and editorial staff member. His main areas of interest are asylum seekers, higher education and politics.

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