Infowars host Alex Jones has had a hand in promoting some of the nation’s most dangerous conspiracy theories, including the depraved theory that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax.
He’s now being sued by parents of Sandy Hook victims for causing emotional distress and encouraging threats against them. In a deposition this month as part of one of the lawsuits, Jones attempted to shift some of the blame for the promulgation of the Sandy Hook lies. But in doing so, he ended up revealing new details about the inner workings of Infowars as well as laying bare the symbiotic relationship between sites like YouTube, 4chan and his own website.
During the interview, Mark Bankston, who represents Scarlett Lewis, whose son was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, repeatedly attempts to get Jones to admit that all the “chatter” and “experts” he refers to on Infowars is actually just made up or is concocted by anonymous online shitposters. (Minor edits have been made for brevity and clarity. You can read the full transcript here.)
Bankston: We talked earlier about misidentifying the Parkland shooter last year. InfoWars’ source was 4chan, right?
Jones: I don’t remember that, but we corrected it within a day. ...
Bankston: What I’m asking is: Do you or do you not know if 4chan was your source?
Jones: I believe it was one of the places that put it up. ...
Bankston: Where do you get your chatter? 4chan is one. Do you have any others for us? ...
Jones: I would say YouTube. The videos within the first two weeks with, like, 5 million, 10 million views, plus; and they were showing a lot of things that when you looked at it, looked pretty compelling.
Jones regularly invites YouTube conspiracy theorists as guests on his show. He had on career “truthers” like James Fetzer, who wrote the book Nobody Died at Sandy Hook, and Peter Klein, whose conspiracy documentary about the school shooting, titled “We Need to Talk About Sandy Hook,” was subsequently banned from YouTube, along with Jones himself.
Jones also admits that 4chan, the favorite anonymous message board of extremists and trolls, was a regular source for his segments. He claims that mainstream media outlets propagated conspiracy theories like Pizzagate before he did and deserve the blame (he failed to mention that the mainstream media didn’t regurgitate the Pizzagate conspiracy whole ― he did, and he was forced to apologize).
It’s telling that Jones uses those platforms because they, like Infowars, have acted as incubators for conspiracy theories and the real-world violence and distress that they produce. Bankston latched on to this connection during the deposition.
Infowars, YouTube and 4chan were huge platforms for the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which led an armed man to show up in 2016 at a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant where he thought Democratic Party leaders were hiding children as sex slaves. The platforms allowed for the spread of misinformation about the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people on Feb. 14, 2018, and Jones himself was sued for defamation for misidentifying the shooter. These and other platforms amplified the violence exacted on dozens of worshippers at two mosques by a white nationalist gunman in New Zealand.
In the case of Sandy Hook, Bankston pointed out that a woman was jailed for harassing and threatening parents of the deceased almost immediately after Jones released the personal information of one of the parents.
Bankston: You don’t know that there was a woman [Lucy Richards], an InfoWars follower, who went to federal prison for stalking and threatening to kill Sandy Hook parents and that she’s now barred from ever seeing InfoWars again by court order?
Jones: I read about a woman and the media alleging that.
Bankston: And you know that happened in central Florida very shortly after you disclosed [Sandy Hook parent Leonard Pozner’s] personal e-mail address and maps to where he picks up his mail; you know that, right?
Jones: No, I do not.
YouTube (and social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook) has been criticized for years for failing to crack down on extremist content. The platforms have each vowed to work on fixing problems that their algorithms can create ― exposing users to a barrage of conspiracy theories, for instance ― but none has yet found a successful roadmap.
In the end, Jones didn’t fully admit wrongdoing on his part in these cases, nor did he acknowledge that his promotion of these conspiracy theories hurt people. Instead, he blamed general “psychosis,” which he says led him to believe “everything was staged.”
While he attempts in the deposition to distance himself from the various hoaxes, he has continued to target Sandy Hook parents as recently as this month. In a March 25 Infowars broadcast, Jones offered that a Sandy Hook father who was found dead of an apparent suicide was actually murdered in a plot to distract from special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation.