Alex Jones must pay nearly $1 billion to families of Sandy Hook shooting: The problem with conspiratorial thinking

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Alex Jones must pay nearly $1 billion to families of Sandy Hook shooting: The problem with conspiratorial thinking

October 26, 2022 - Mark Legg

Infowars founder Alex Jones appears in court to testify during the Sandy Hook defamation damages trial at Connecticut Superior Court in Waterbury, Conn., on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. A six-person jury reached a verdict Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, saying that Jones should pay $965 million to 15 plaintiffs who suffered from his lies about the Sandy Hook school massacre. Jones and his company were found liable for damages last year. (Tyler Sizemore/Hearst Connecticut Media via AP, Pool, File)

Alex Jones on trial

Infowars founder Alex Jones appears in court to testify during the Sandy Hook defamation damages trial at Connecticut Superior Court in Waterbury, Conn., on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. A six-person jury reached a verdict Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, saying that Jones should pay $965 million to 15 plaintiffs who suffered from his lies about the Sandy Hook school massacre. Jones and his company were found liable for damages last year. (Tyler Sizemore/Hearst Connecticut Media via AP, Pool, File)

Alex Jones. Conspiracy theorist or political prophet? Part of the “alt-right” or anti-establishment? A knightly protector of free speech or the emperor of modern misinformation?

His gravelly voice echoes in the ears of millions and his influence has flowed into his pockets. Jones is a radio show host, filmmaker, and writer, infamous for his fantastical claims and conspiracies.

He was likely worth between $135 million and $270 million, and his company once made $800,000 in one day. Over the years, he’s sold millions of dollars’ worth of apocalyptic gear and supplements through his site, Infowars. Jones’s lawyers claim he has struggled financially ever since mainstream media canceled him in 2018, but his true current net worth is unknown.

Jones looks for ulterior motives through a microscope of hunches and scribbles down notes on the movement of every shadow in Washington.

There is no doubt that he raises conspiracies—or, more often, shouts them without pausing for breath.

Alex Jones’s problem with conspiratorial thinking

An issue with conspiratorial thinking, found in QAnon and others as well as Jones, is that it groups anything suspicious under the influence of the all-encompassing “they.”

Who is this mysterious “they”?

The “trans-human globalists” are often Jones’s choice name for them. Another common target is simply “the Democrats,” although he doesn’t hold back from lambasting Republicans.

Being wary of transhumanism and doubting the merits of globalism are not necessarily a problem. However, labeling anything suspect as part of the same underground, dark, frightening “other” is slipshod and leads to people being misinformed and confused and to the harassment of innocents.

Here’s the pattern: He takes a piece of “evidence” and speculates wildly about its reach and cause. He reaches into what is possible, then suggests that his theory overrides other explanations and context. He then passes off his interpretation, logically valid as it may be, as part of the fact and thus “confirms” the conspiracy.

To see why this is a problem, follow a thought experiment.

Let’s say I see a broken glass on the ground in my apartment one morning. My wife didn’t break it; neither did I. I could speculate that the FBI snuck in to spy on us in the night and knocked the glass over as a warning while leaving no other trace behind (the FBI are good at leaving no trace).

That explanation is technically possible.

Or, maybe it was our cat after all.

Which one should I believe?

The possibility of something does not make it the best explanation.

Why do people listen to Alex Jones?

Even the worst conspiracy theorists are sometimes right.

Years ago, Jones talked about Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire financier who solicited sex from dozens and dozens of underage girls. Epstein invited powerful people from all over the globe, including presidents, to his mansion.

Epstein’s frightening power meant he wasn’t held accountable for years while the horrors continued. An untouchable billionaire who befriended elites was pulling strings on a federal prosecutor with a “vast network” of underprivileged girls for sex?

Undoubtedly a “conspiracy.”

But of course, we know this one happened to be true.

I suspect that Jones is an intelligent man. His mind works quickly, but he does not reign in his tongue. His sometimes genuine concerns are laced with half-truths and false equivocations, mixed together in his infamous, furious rants.

He moves so quickly and blows up so rapidly that his occasionally interesting thoughts are covered up in an utter lack of credibility. His pride and conspiratorial thinking mix together to create an untrustworthy, dangerous source of opinion.

Alex Jones’s worst conspiracies

Jones’s conspiracies are widespread and deep. Some seem so fantastical they boggle the mind.

For instance, he postulated that the government controls the weather and manipulates tornados. He told people in 2013 to watch out for helicopters or other aircraft around the area of tornados to see whether it was the government’s fault or naturally occurring.

Some of his patently false theories that have misled millions include: The 9/11 attack was a false flag operation perpetrated by George W. Bush as a power grab, the Boston Marathon Bombing was staged by the FBI, and, perhaps most notoriously, the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax to take away American gun rights. Jones called the victims and children “actors,” part of a staged show put on by the government.

That last claim is the subject of the recent defamation lawsuit that rewarded families of the dead victims nearly $1 billion.

Why Alex Jones was fined nearly $1 billion

Alex Jones was found liable for defamation last year, but his recent trial was held to determine what damages he owed certain victims of his defamatory speech. His company, Free Speech Systems, which owns Infowars, filed for bankruptcy months ago.

Jones’s followers believed that the Sandy Hook families were part of the insidious plot so they hunted the families down and threatened them to reveal the “truth.” A thimble of empathy is enough to see the wretched irony of this persecution and the emotional damage such a lie would cause. Families whose children had died a horrendous death were subject to rape and death threats for “faking” the death of their children.

Jones refused to apologize to families during the trial, saying, “I’ve already said ‘I’m sorry’ hundreds of times, and I’m done saying I’m sorry.” He called the families “pawns” on his show.

While there are legitimate concerns over whether the fine of $965 million is too high, the defamation laws worked as intended. It held an influential speaker, who defamed dozens of people and profited from it, accountable to the law.

While we may debate over whether mainstream media or sites like YouTube should have canceled him in 2018, this case represents the US court of law ruling against Alex Jones’s reckless, false speech that grieved families already grieving the deaths of their children.

Why Christians should be wary of conspiracies

Speculation is a part of the contemplative life. We make decisions based on limited knowledge every day. That does not mean we should obsess over fringe ideas. If we want to think about UFOs and other conspiracies with seriousness, we need to be careful, steady, and match our level of confidence with our level of certainty. We must be careful not to fall into seeing plots in the shadows everywhere.

Paul writes that Timothy should warn people not “to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion” (1 Timothy 1:4–6).

The issue with conspiratorial thinking, especially from a platform with an audience of millions, is that it does not handle truth carefully. It is often “vain discussion.” It tosses around misleading words and stokes unfounded fear.

Jones claims to be a Christian. Yet his careless, angry speech laced with lies and unfounded conspiracies does not reflect a Spirit-filled life.

Christian, be watchful of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV®️ Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®️), copyright ©️ 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated in whole or in part into any other language.

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