There’s a war on for your mind (and your ratings, too)

There’s a war on for your mind, conspiracy zealot Alex Jones tells us, and there’s little doubt Jones himself is among the combatants.

Alex Jones

Alex Jones

But there’s also little doubt that Infowars, Jones’s well-oiled, paranoia-spewing, alternative-media machine, is fighting a losing battle.

It’s not that he doesn’t have enough firepower –- figuratively or literally, as it turns out -– to gain a foothold in the struggle. The problem is in his technique – shoot first, aim later, ask questions only if they fit his agenda.

I used to think Jones’s biggest problem was that he got in his own way, and that he might be somewhat purposely oblivious to this dynamic in his quest to provide an alternative to the mainstream message that is fed to the masses.

At some point it became clear that Jones has become what he claims to despise – a fear-mongering, paranoia-inspiring, ratings-whoring, less-than-trustworthy source of facts and information. It also became apparent that Jones didn’t care, so long as his shtick resulted in a few more page views or Twitter followers.

Which is really a shame because, in practically no time at all, my view of Jones has transformed from someone who was just a few sloppy habits away from having a legitimate anti-establishment media outlet, to a tired circus clown whose old bones are cracking and whose makeup is running down his face.

I’ve had a short-term, love-hate relationship -– with an emphasis on the latter — with Infowars. For those unaware, Infowars is Jones’s multimedia, conspiracy-theorist blitzkrieg that includes blogs, videos and a number of other media formats the Austin, Texas native uses as a vehicle to spread his message.

At first I respected what he was trying to accomplish, which I generally believed was an earnest attempt to unmask information that the government and other public figures don’t want you to see or hear -– information that no doubt exists on some level.

But from the start I’ve had an issue with how Jones, a junior college dropout who has no formal media or broadcast training of any sort, presented his murky cases as though they were iron-clad truth.

The cringe-inducing part of it is that Jones occasionally does an ample enough job of presenting alternative information. It’s worthwhile and it’s capable of grasping the attention of anyone with an open mind and half a brain.

However, the 39-year-old isn’t interested in intelligent dialogue or professional reporting -– he’s in the fear business, and business is good. So much so that he has a show on Sirius radio and boasts of the luxurious lifestyle his career path has afforded him.

I’ll give Jones some nominal credit -– there’s no question he works hard and what he does, however you define his “work.” The whole Infowars assault is nothing if not aggressive and, after watching some of his videos and reading his blogs, you wonder when the guy sleeps.

Moreover, some of his material is what would universally be considered pretty good work.
He’ll pull out a couple of magazines and note that politician John Doe said this in X magazine, only to say this in Y magazine two weeks later. So what was Senator Doe really trying to say? It would be a terrific question to ask the politician in question point-blank.

Instead, Jones fills in the blanks with his own far-fetched conclusions, thereby negating whatever solid grass-roots work he might have done.

I found Jones, as I suspect a lot of people have, by accident. It was not long after I saw the film, “Zero Dark Thirty,” wondering if the movie would shed some light on questions I had about the May 2011 raid that killed terror leader Osama Bin Laden. I went looking for some reviews of the film after learning it had spawned some debate over the use of torture tactics in the search for intelligence on Bin Laden.

One such article mentioned there were conspiracy theories about the raid, and included a link to an Infowars piece on the topic. I was interested to find that Jones thoroughly addressed the topics about the raid I had questioned, and they are the two obvious ones: The chopper that crashed at the Abbottobad, Pakistan compound but somehow resulted in zero casualties or injuries and barely affected the mission, and the U.S. government’s apparent decision to quickly dump Bin Laden’s body at sea, knowing full well that a failure to show some sort of proof of his demise to the American public would feed conspiracy theories.

Jones had some great material on the Bin Laden raid, including interviews with people who have both built and flown choppers like the one used, who said it was physically impossible for the helicopter to crash-land as safely as the government version of events suggested it did. He also showed numerous interviews with Pakistan residents who witnessed the raid, many of whom reported seeing three helicopters enter the Bin laden compound, and just two leave.

This type of information is solid enough to stand on its own merits, but this is what Jones doesn’t get. Alerting us that our BS radar should be up when it comes to the government’s story about this isn’t enough – it’s as though finding holes in the story gives Jones a license to feed his far-fetched “theories” as truth.

In this case, Jones has concluded that the whole Bin Laden raid was a hoax, the whole thing a gimmick to improve President Barack Obama’s approval rating in an election year. This is where any credibility he established goers out the window.

Almost all of Jones’s outrageous yarns have the same basic flaw. For one, most people are too dumb to consistently remember their role in a sophisticated cover-up or hoax. This is why, when they do happen, they are usually easily discovered, as his work often points out.

Also, people generally are terrible at keeping secrets and, despite Jones’s assertions otherwise, the government can’t kill everyone who knows one.

Moreover, at some point people get on with their lives -– they have other shit to do and things to think about, and I’m not sure anyone has the time or wherewithal to pull off the grandiose scandals Jones alleges.

This isn’t to say the government officials won’t lie to you -– because rest assured, they do –- but Alex Jones does, too, so it’s a zero-sum game in that regard.

Jones also lost any respect I was gaining for him with his recent behavior on a national stage. In other words, this guy never met a shameless self-promotion opportunity he didn’t like.

When he recently got an appearance on CNN with Piers Morgan, he turned the gun-control “debate” into an absolute farce, screaming at Morgan at the top of his lungs and insisting a 1776-style revolution would break out should the government ever enact strict gun control.

Jones looked like a pathetic, attention-whoring muse, and the whole episode was a blight both on real journalism and humanity, but he got his wish. Millions of people who’d never heard of him, now did, and he parlayed the insta-fame from his rant against Morgan into an hour-long interview with Howard Stern just days later.

But for whatever newfound notoriety he has gained, it appears he is just as quickly wearing out his welcome in many circles. Like a schoolyard bully who takes an uppercut from his lunch-money victim, Jones has been absorbing a counter punch lately, but it’s one he deserves.

This is especially true in the wake of how he handled the Boston Marathon bombings. Before a regional audience that was already wary of him because of the Piers Morgan debacle, there was almost an advanced backlash in anticipation of the yarn Jones was destined to spin about the bombings.

Sure enough, within hours Jones was showing “suspicious” film of guys in similar-colored sweat suits signaling to each other on the marathon course. Come to think of it, I’ve seen similar-looking guys at other sporting events. They are called event staff.

As if his “theory” weren’t absurd enough, there were a couple of ironies in play. For one, the Boston Marathon bombings were a relatively simple case in terms of who did it. Although the “why” remains something of a question, the high-def videos of brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokar Tsarnaev carrying around bombs strapped to their backs was pretty damning evidence.

Moreover, get this: the investigation into how Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older brother who was killed in a shootout with authorities, became radicalized revealed an interesting fact -– he evidently was a huge fan of Alex Jones and Infowars.

http://gawker.com/accused-marathon-bomber-influenced-by-infowars-478641825

The irony that Jones, who makes a living out of promoting far-fetched theories about grand conspiracies regarding real and imagined acts of terror, might have inspired someone to actually commit an indisputable act of terror, is one that isn’t lost on a lot of people.

The mainstream media that he generally uses as a punching bag couldn’t help take a few shots of its own when Jones’s public-approval rating was at its lowest following the Boston bombings.

jones-cartoon

When Jones started sending his cronies out on the streets of Boston to gather his “story,” they were predictably met with a hostile response, such as the memorable one caught on video below.

Jones’s momentum is fading fast, and it’s deserved and just as well. Some of his basic tenets are relevant -– mainly, don’t believe everything the government tells you. The problem with Jones is, there’s no reason to believe him, either.

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Josh Nagel

About Josh Nagel

Josh Nagel is a professional writer, journalist and sports analyst based in Reno, Nev. His primary writing specialties are sports, music, entertainment, gaming and human-interest stories. He is an award-winning sports, features and column writer, and is currently the managing editor of the weekly entertainment magazine Best Bets in Reno. He has worked as a journalist and writer for more than 17 years, the last 12 of which have been in Reno. His sports writing has appeared in USA TODAY and the San Jose Mercury News, and he has written entertainment cover stories for RENO Magazine and Best Bets. Nagel's sports handicapping resume includes working as a featured columnist and blogger at Covers.com, and he has worked as a sports information expert at DocSports.com. He also has made several guest appearances on the William Hill Sports Radio Show in Reno. His gaming writing has appeared on PokerNews and PokerSavvy.com.
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3 Responses to There’s a war on for your mind (and your ratings, too)

  1. Great post. I personally don’t follow Alex Jones because I don’t tend to follow conspiracy theories. However, your post makes a broader statement about the media today. One thing the Internet revolution did was take away was severely reduce journalistic standards. Nowadays anyone who has an opinion and a few bucks to promote their work can launch a “news” site. In one sense, this is good because the mainstream media is wedded to profit above all else. On the other hand, we now have so much noise that it’s difficult to tell who is offering worthwhile information and who — like Alex Jones — is just making stuff up. One funny thing about the Piers Morgan interview is that Jones argues that suicide is now the No. 1 cause of death in America due to the existence of psychotropic drugs. Suicide is actually about No. 10 on the list with heart disease being the No. 1 killer. What’s more, while suicide rates have climbed since 2003, it seems that they showed a decline from 1950 to 2003. So, there is no scientific way to pin the increase in suicide rates on drugs. Of course, it doesn’t seem like this guy likes science.

    • ajason says:

      Forest, I agree. However if 1/10th of what Jones spews it true shouldn’t most people be worried? If you look at what the NSA whistle blower Ed Snowden
      just exposed last week it affirmed what Jones has been saying for years. It seems like to me all news now is just infotainment, it’s up to the receiver to sort out what’s nonsense and what isn’t. The problem lies in that most receivers of information are lazy and take things at face value. -Anthony

  2. Craig Ayres-Sevier says:

    Josh Nagel, one of the better professionals whom I remember. Such a great piece, this. I couldn’t agree more with his incisive take on Mr. Jones. At first, I was keenly interested in Mr. Jones as I read/view everything no matter how mainstream nor how alternative: it’s all interesting to me. But the guy can’t argue his point; he just makes disturbing statements. Those have no credibility with me. Thanks, Josh, for such a well-written article.

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