Alex Jones faced the world in court and was perfectly honest: he’s selling a fantasy that aligns with his goals.
“I believe in the overall political program I am promoting of Americana and freedom,” Jones said on Wednesday, April 20.
The remarks came during testimony in Travis County Court where Jones is battling with his ex-wife for custody of the couple’s three children. Jones has been accused of instability, exhibited in his promotion of his particular brand of hateful conspiracy theories, including calling the Sandy Hook massacre a false flag operation and accusing a D.C. area pizza restaurant of being a front for a pedophilia ring.
Jones’ lawyers insist that the InfoWars host is a showman, playing a part. Jones has mostly denied this—both in court and in a video recorded before his appearance on the stand—instead saying that he’s using showmanship in the pursuit of a political project that he believes in.
It’s a clever rhetorical twist in that it doesn’t actually tie Jones down to believing any specific conspiracy theory he’s promoted or ludicrous assertion he’s made in his career as a purveyor of wild-eyed anti-establishment media. Instead, Jones is able to plausibly deny actual belief in anything he says while maintaining credibility with his commercial base of angry, paranoid followers.
That duplicitous language is part of Jones’ appeal. It’s also part of the appeal of the white nationalist movement he represents. Both political actors are trying to resist decades of economic and cultural change by manipulating the language and terms of the discourse. It isn’t a new tactic. The French writer Jean Paul Sartre explained the fact-bending discursive prose of white nationalism in 1946 in his seminal essay, Anti-Semite and Jew.
Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti?Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert.
If you’ve spent even a few minutes listening to Jones rage at the camera about chemicals in the water turning the frogs gay or seen the article on his website InfoWars accusing George Costanza of spreading the mark of the beast on the cover of TV Guide then you already know the accuracy of Sartre’s analysis. Jones and his political allies play with words and ideology as much as they want because the political program they are pursuing has no coherent philosophy.
Jones describes himself as a “paleoconservative,” a Pat Buchanan-esque figure with a propensity for resisting official stories on any major world event and casting government explanations for crises as the work of a shadowy elite bent on world domination and interstellar travel. These elites, Jones said in 2007, want only one thing—to travel the stars in spaceships powered by the blood, sweat and tears of hard working Americans.
The solution to the elites’ oppression—a solution that has undergone revisions and evolution over the past decades, but remains the same at its core—is for a vaguely defined cohort of real Americans to overthrow the financial and political elites and retake the US, returning the country to its Christian and capitalist roots. This America that Jones wants us to return to has never really existed, of course, but that’s not the point. The reality of the articulated goal is secondary to the actual aim of Jones’ political movement: a reclamation of privilege.
That goal is what drives Jones’ fans. Infowars’ prime viewing and listening demographic is made up of white men—mostly older white men—who see their status eroding in the new American culture. It’s easier to blame a monolithic elite than it is to accept the coming shift in cultural and demographic power from exclusively white men to only mostly white men. With that loss of racial status comes a burning drive to protect it.
The idea that any of Jones’ acolytes would question the radio host’s manipulation of truth in the quest for that lofty ideal makes no sense in the current political environment. Most of Jones’ supporters remember when the Bush administration pulled the hard sell on the war in Iraq—a pack of easily disproven lies. Those lies in the pursuit of a political goal had no legal ramifications, no loss of credibility, and no institutional blowback for the architects of the war. So nobody should be shocked when the leader of a different political movement plays fast and loose with the truth too.
But if you think his followers care about this one way or another, you’re missing the point. What’s important to his audience isn’t the factual nature of whatever conspiracy theory Jones is endorsing or whatever point he’s trying to make. Instead, what’s important is the overarching mission of his work—ensuring the continuation of white, Christian dominance and supremacy in America.
And any creative license he takes with getting that message out to his followers, old and new, is justified as he threads the needle between presenting himself as both an entertainer and a voice illuminating the dark secrets of the ruling class.
You can follow Eoin Higgins on Twitter and find him at Patreon.