In an era where the politics of our nation have become so divisive and paranoid, the dangerous rise and use of ‘alternative facts’ and absurd conspiracies needs to be addressed. I will argue that one individual in particular, Alex Jones, has perpetuated dangerous misconceptions.

Alex Jones is a conman, a fraud and professional peddler of lies. He rose to national prominence by promoting paranoid allegations against the U.S. government, elected officials and dead children, to name a few. Unfortunately, he is the most influential right-wing conspiracy theorist in the United States to date.

He blames the U.S. government which, according to him, is a shadowy New World Order, for everything from autism (which he claims is caused by vaccines) to numerous ‘false flag’ operations such as the Sandy Hook Massacre and the Pulse Night Club shooting.

This is a man who claimed that the Sandy Hook shooting, during which 20 children were massacred, was a hoax and employed by so-called ‘crisis actors’. He stated the shooting was completely fake and staged in order to promote more restrictive gun control legislation.

Eight of the families of those who died have sued Jones, claiming that his reports on the Sandy Hook massacre have caused them immense personal pain and led to his fanatical followers to harass them.

Those who believed Mr. Jones’ lie have verbally attacked those parents and loved ones who still grieve today. They’ve called, mailed and publicly tried to shame them. How ignorant and brainwashed can a person be to have such audacity?

Jones later said he believed the shooting “really happened” but later insisted that the families suing him were agents of the Democratic Party.

An ally and supporter of President Trump, Jones has reserved some of his most absurd and wild vitriol for those he deems enemies of the president.

In particular, he claimed special counsel prosecutor Robert Mueller was a demon and pedophile: “Everyone’s so scared of Mueller, they’d let Mueller rape kids in front of people, which he did.” In a later radio segment, Jones threatened to “take down” Mueller and he would “die trying, bitch.”

It’s one thing to shout and spew absurd lies and fallacies, but with Jones having such a vast audience, his words have real-life consequences for normal Americans.

He and his followers pass off these false narratives as truth-telling, despite having zero evidence to support his claims. Our society needs to realize that passing off conspiracies such as those perpetuated by Jones are incredibly dangerous.

In his defense, people can argue that those who read and listen to his vile, fictional stories should know better than to think they are real or true.

But in an era where information is so readily available and pushed around on social media, I would argue that many people don’t have the time to do their own research or fact-checking; making Jones even more dangerous.

Further, I would also argue that Jones is taking advantage of the ignorance of his followers as his lawyer stated in court that Jones plays a “fictional character” and is a “performance artist.”

His online media outlet, InfoWars, is riddled with advertisements for doomsday preparation toolkits, special vitamins to combat poison in our water and other ridiculous items which can be purchased for a pretty penny.

Jones is playing on the willful ignorance of the American public to not only load his own pockets but to also put himself on the national spotlight.

He was one of the leading propagators of the Pizzagate hoax, which is an absurd, dangerous collection of lies arguing that the owner of the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria had connections to several powerful Democrats, had tunnels underneath the restaurant which served as a headquarters for a Hillary-Clinton sanctioned web of child-trafficking, pedophilia and murder.

This led to a man named Edgar Welch who went to the pizzeria armed with an assault rifle ready to “rescue” the children he was convinced were being held under the restaurant. Although Jones did issue a rare apology, it does not take away from the fact that he knows how strong his influence is.

This incident in particular illustrates Jones’ ability to influence his followers to take action in the real world, no matter how insane, unrealistic or far-fetched his claims may be.

ANDREW DOUGHERTY is a senior news reporter for The Vidette. Contact him at vidette_addough@ilstu.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @addough

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