New analysis explains how Alex Jones contributed to conspiracy theories going mainstream
In wake of the latest court ruling in favor of the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School victims, a new report is shedding light on Alex Jones' influence and how he has contributed to conspiracy theories going mainstream.
Recalling multiple recent traumatic news events, NPR's Shannon Bond noted Jones' "track record of fabulism" and how he's managed to spin conspiracy theories to refute factual reporting.
"The Boston Marathon bombing in 2013? Staged by the FBI," Bond wrote. The shooting of Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords in 2011? A government mind control operation. The September 11th terrorist attacks? An inside job."
When Jones founded InfoWars in 1999 after spinning a conspiracy theory on an Austin, Texas radio station, he became a catalyst for the far-right community. Bond went on to explain how Jones crept into the mainstream. "As his audience grew, Jones popularized a vocabulary for pernicious doubt: not just that officials and media are hiding the truth, but that tragic events are being engineered for nefarious purposes," she wrote.
Sara Aniano, a disinformation researcher for the non-governmental organization, Anti-Defamation League, also offered more insight. "He's at least a catalyst of those prevailing narratives that follow almost every newsworthy tragedy, whether it's a mass shooting or otherwise," Aniano said.
But despite the many conspiracies he's spun over the years, the misinformation circulated about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was likely the most appalling.
"A lot of people who share these theories that those were staged by the government for gun control reasons or that the children and parents are crisis actors will reference Sandy Hook as the basis of that conclusion," Aniano said.
So, how did Jones reach a common ground with former President Donald Trump? Bond noted that Jones also contributed to the spread of the PizzaGate conspiracy theory; a theory Trump bought into during an InfoWars interview back in 2015. Melissa Ryan, CEO of disinformation tracking firm CARD Strategies, explained how Jones and Trump inadvertently fueled conspiracy theorists.
The former president "gave those folks who are conspiracy theorists signals that he was their guy and they had a candidate who was a conspiracy theorist for the first time," said Ryan.
"Trump won by being willing to appeal to this base of supporters that other people in the party would have kept at arm's length," she said, "lest they be called out for having extremist views. Conspiracy is a permanent part of our political and cultural discourse now," Ryan said. "I think you can say that Alex Jones was an innovator in that."
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