'The karma was jaw-dropping': Conservative savors Alex Jones’ 'legal implosion'
Far-right Infowars host Alex Jones has been having a very bad time in the civil lawsuits brought against him by the Sandy Hook parents. On Thursday, August 4, a jury in Austin, Texas ordered him to pay $4.1 million in damages to the parents of one of the Sandy Hook victims. And the following day, on August 5, an Austin jury ordered him to pay another $45.2 million in punitive damages.
One person on the right who obviously has no sympathy for Jones is Charlie Sykes, a Never Trump conservative and columnist for The Bulwark who is often featured as a pundit on MSNBC. In an August 7 column for The Bulwark, Sykes describes Jones’ “legal implosion” as “karma.”
On December 14, 2012, 26 people — including 20 children — were massacred by gunman Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Jones subsequently promoted the conspiracy theory that the massacre was a government false flag operation designed to attack the 2nd Amendment rights of gun owners. The families of the Sandy Hook victims suffered threats and harassment from Jones’ followers, who accused them of lying — and Jones has been battling civil lawsuits from the Sandy Hook families that he bullied on his show.
Sykes, in his column, reiterates what he wrote for MSNBC Daily on August 6, saying, “How bad was Alex Jones’ week in court? It was bad. He was caught lying under oath about his previous lies about the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. And he found out that his lawyers accidentally turned over every one of his texts and e-mails to the attorneys for the families he has maligned. And he was ordered to pay one of those families close to $50 million in total damages, although that number could change. It was an extraordinary reckoning. And it’s likely only just beginning.”
The Never Trump conservative goes on to explain why Jones’ “very bad week” and his legal and financial woes are a “teachable moment” for right-wing media outlets.
“Sure, it’s a televised example of pure schadenfreude,” Sykes writes. “But it’s also a reminder that in today’s conservative movement, crazy is not only tolerated — it’s encouraged, because Jones’ toxic, anti-governmental conspiracy theories have slowly but surely infiltrated the political waters. Things that ten years ago would have been dismissed are now being repeated in the halls of Congress. And of course, former President Donald Trump is right there in the middle of it all.”
Sykes continues, “For decades now, Jones has weaponized and monetized conspiracy theories, fake outrage, lies and paranoia. He and his website have pushed theories that 9/11 was an inside job, suggested that the government may have also been behind the bombings in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people, and at the Boston Marathon, which killed three. Jones claimed that the mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was a ‘deep state false flag operation’ engineered to start a civil war. He told his followers that the mass murder at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, ‘was a false flag, mind-control event.’ The Columbine school shootings were ‘100 percent false flag,’ as were the attacks in Orlando, Florida, Las Vegas and San Bernardino, California.”
Before the Donald Trump era, Jones was a fringe figure even on the right. Far-right former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly dismissed Jones as a kook. But after Trump was sworn in as president on January 20, 2017, Infowars was given full White House press credentials. The Trump White House treated Infowars much more respectfully than it treated legitimate reporters for CNN or MSNBC.
Sykes notes that Trump ally and veteran GOP operative Roger Stone once described Jones as “the single most important voice in the alternative conservative media.”
“This week, Alex Jones found himself in a court of law, where the lies finally caught up with him,” Sykes writes. “And when it happened, the karma was jaw-dropping…. Unfortunately, however, his spectacular fall does not mean an end to Jones’ now-much more common brand of political paranoia. Right-wing media, with nudges from the former president himself, has become habituated to Big Lies and apocalyptic conspiracy theories.”
Sykes continues, “Dangerous, obviously untrue theories about voter fraud and the ‘Deep State’ are now commonplace. Dozens, if not hundreds of imitators, fellow grifters, and bottom feeders are ready to take his place. But his successors should pay close attention to the fate of Alex Jones. It may give them a glimpse of their own future.”
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