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Review: The Truth vs. Alex Jones

Review: The Truth vs. Alex Jones

Alex Jones may be the target now, but you could be next

“Your kids have been turned into mindless vassals who look up to some twit instead of looking up to Thomas Jefferson,” screams Alex Jones into the camera. “Kids! Magellan is a lot cooler than Justin Bieber! He circumnavigated, with one ship, the entire planet! He was killed by wild natives before he got back to Portugal!”

His face reddens and his fists begin to pound the air. “That’s destiny! That’s will! That’s striving! That’s being a trailblazer! Going into space! Mathematics! Quantum mechanics! The secrets of the universe! Life is fiery with its beauty!” He finally explodes, “And they want to shutter your mind talking about Justin Bieber!” 

This might sound like the ramblings of a madman—and it is—but as presented in the decade old original viral video, it is one of the funniest clips on the internet; one that regularly goes viral across all sides of the political spectrum as people begrudgingly nod along. He's right.

You won’t find many neutral assessments of radio host Alex Jones. The infamous founder of InfoWars runs one of the largest alternative news networks in the country which has earned him a reputation as a blustering populist conspiracy theorist. 

To a large portion of the internet, he’s a figure embraced purely for the entertainment factor. His over-the-top inspirational rants about the glories of Magellan, his willingness to commit cannibalism, and the pioneering spirit of being alive are hilarious. His spirit for fighting evil wherever he finds it is infectious—even when he’s clearly off base. And this has created a culture where it’s popular—even among his critics—to adapt his strange rants into indie folk songs

Jones is also associated with two of the most controversial events of the past two decades: the Sandy Hook school shooting and the January 6 riots. He didn’t instigate either, but he did get tied to both events via association. Jones was a major voice among many in promoting the idea that the 2012 school shooting was a false-flag event to push gun control. Even before his infamous interview with Piers Morgan, Jones had pushed the idea that governments use such events to seize private citizens’ defense weapons. 

After years of subsequent defamation lawsuits, courts in Texas and Connecticut ruled that Jones must pay nearly $1.1 billion in restitution to the families he alleged were crisis actors — the largest such settlement in American history. The proceedings of those courtroom trials are now immortalized in the HBO Max documentary The Truth vs. Alex Jones. 

From the same filmmakers who produced the salacious Finding Neverland miniseries about Michael Jackson’s pedophilia allegations, the documentary cannot help but come off as sanctimonious. It's a deadly serious and moody piece of filmmaking, working overtime to drag the somewhat unserious purveyor of gay frog jokes back down to earth long enough to scold him. 

The film actively encourages its audience to approve of Jones’ financial destruction as a necessary consequence of his actions. It wants you to think that Alex Jones is a cold-blooded sociopath who exploits his audience entirely for profit—which isn’t a hard case to make if you assume he’s malicious rather than impulsive and stupid

When asked what the desired result of the trial should be, one of the Sandy Hook moms gleefully announces, “The total destruction of Alex Jones! Can I say that?”

Given that the film’s most energetic interviewees are prosecutors, one can guess where it's going. The documentary claims that Jones regularly astroturfs controversies through knowing lies to surge sales of vitamins and books through the InfoWars store. And since the first trial in Texas resulted in a default judgment against Jones due to his alleged lack of compliance with the court (curious given his legal team’s incompetence), the judge and lawyer take great joy in watching Jones squirm in the witness chair under duress. 

“You can never trust anything this guy says, he’s a calculated liar,” says Texan prosecuting attorney Mark Bankston. “You can put an end to his lies by punishing Alex Jones … The idea of him going back and starting this all over again—he will. That’s why you must take enough so he can never re-enter public life because if this isn’t his exit from the American stage, his story is nowhere near close to over.”

Alex Jones is not a calculated individual. He’s a raw nerve, highly reactionary, and speculative. He was likely guilty of libel to some degree, but the highly speculative nature of the show and his tendency to fly by the seat of his pants makes it messy. Jones went through multiple lawyers and treated the proceedings poorly by refusing to shut up in court and regularly commenting on the lawsuit on his show, which contributed to the poor verdicts. He should’ve plead the fifth, and avoided discussing it outside of court. 

Granted, the Sandy Hook parents do have a point. His reporting led to a dozen traumatized parents receiving a decade’s worth of digital harassment, death threats, and public confrontations. Some level of restitution is fair for this mischaracterization—but maybe not in the numbers of the GDP for small industrialized nations. 

However, this documentary has much more going on than one scummy journalist getting his just desserts. The law came at Jones hard, Jones made mistakes in the trials, and the media, likely personally angry at him, has reveled in painting him as one of the most destructive forces in America—openly declaring him a villain. Jones is not a reliable news source nor a particularly ethical character, but the excessive nature of these proceedings stinks of triumphalism. 

As with many things, the documentary interprets Jones with a very different tenor than the internet does. Whereas it was rightly said that the right-wing takes President Trump seriously but not literally, the media takes him literally but not seriously. The movie interprets Jones in this light, holding him to his words to the letter in a manner he may not have intended. 

The Truth vs. Alex Jones is a documentary at war with the post-truth world; frustrated by the state of a decentralized information apparatus where one person’s ideas can spread to unsavory people who abuse them. People are more skeptical of power than ever, and there is no power greater than the ability to declare something “the truth”. The documentary is celebrating a rare instance where the powers that be successfully descended onto one man to make him an example.  

Attempting to “Solve the Alex Jones problem” will have much wider implications because he’s an easy person to hate. But as lawyers say, “hard cases make bad law.”