Alex Jones, Trump, and the war on sanity

Hillary Clinton is a serial killer. Worst ever. Chops up children. Literally. So declared Alex Jones on his “Infowars” show.

Cuckooland? Surely. Yet not only does Jones have a huge devoted fan base believing his ravings, it includes the President of the United States. Who’s appeared on Jones’s show, lavishly praising him (saying “your reputation is amazing” and “I will not let you down”). Trump has even often publicly parroted Jones’s words.

PBS’s Frontline recently broadcast an hourlong look at Alex Jones. He quickly learned that the more outrageously insane his show became, the more viewers he got — and the more money, not just from ads, but from hawking merch like “survivalist” gear and quack medicines.

Hence his stoking Hillary haters with over-the-top demonization — again literal, calling her Satan’s handmaiden. Jones also spread the “pizzagate” whopper, that Hillary was running a child sex ring out of a pizza parlor’s basement. Frontline showed a pathetic fool who (like millions) believed Jones, and shot up the restaurant, after making a video about sacrificing his life to save those poor child victims. Of course he found none there. The victim was him (and the pizza joint).

Jones also pounded the 9/11 conspiracy theory that the attacks were actually perpetrated by the U.S. government as a pretext for martial law (or something). Never mind that there was no martial law. Some 9/11 loonies concoct what they say is evidence to support their delusion (it doesn’t), but Jones himself never needs any facade of evidence. Like his fan Trump he’ll say anything simply because he can.

Hardly was the Sandy Hook shooting over when Jones called that too a government fake job (preparatory for confiscating guns, which of course didn’t happen either). Jones launched a jihad of vilification against the grieving parents, accusing them of being actors. At least one was forced into hiding from the onslaught of Jonesian troll mobs. Again Jones offered no evidence for his wild charges. Instead telling his fans to do their own “research.”

Oklahoma City bombing? Fake too. Apollo 11 Moon Landing? Fake of course. While Bill Gates is attempting genocide, and the government is creating hurricanes to kill people.

When finally sued by a Sandy Hook parent, Jones testified in a deposition that his behavior was caused by a psychosis making him believe everything is fake. Quite an admission — or a smarmy cop-out to deflect from his culpability. And it didn’t stop him from subsequently continuing the sick shtick.

Oddly, one thing Jones says is not fake is in fact the biggest fraud ever: Trump. The pair comprise a mutual admiration society, Jones calling Trump the real deal. Because Trump validates Jones’s phantasmagoria. Presidential endorsement confers a huge cachet of legitimacy, vastly leveraging Jones’s malign influence.

How low has America sunk. This is not some harmless matter of mere theatrics. And it goes way beyond the harm suffered by Sandy Hook parents. This deranged flight from reality is destroying the country.

Think that’s hyperbole? Look around you — at all the hospitals overflowing with the dying, all the economic devastation, shuttered businesses, unemployed and traumatized people, children who can’t go to school. What has that to do with Alex Jones? Everything.

Because Jonesian craziness made enough Americans throw responsibility to the winds to vote for Trump. And that’s why our pandemic performance is the worst of any advanced nation. We completely blew it, getting both economic and health disasters, because to this day Trump, stewing in his cesspit of derangement, has been incapable of leading a serious national response.

Even with the electorate appalled by this, Trump can’t get his act together on it. Instead imagining he can win re-election with divisive racism that freaks out respectable Americans, and by ridiculously smearing longtime centrist Joe Biden as a tool of raging extremists. And by messing up voting.

While Alex Jones does his usual act crying “fake” about the virus, leading anti-mask protests. Yet saying that if the pandemic gets bad enough he’s prepared to kill, skin, and eat his neighbors.

Trump doesn’t merely ignore science and rationality, he wars against them. Knowledgeable voices about covid are shunned. But Doctor Stella Immanuel he’s recently called “very impressive” and “spectacular.” Retweeting multiple times a video in which she appears, still touting . . . wait for it . . . hydroxychloroquine. The zombie quack cure Trump refuses to let die despite every responsible scientist’s debunking. This Stella Immanuel has also said that “alien DNA” is currently used in medical treatments, that gynecological problems are caused by dream sex with demons and witches, that scientists are working on a vaccine to prevent religion. Oh, and the government is partly run not by humans but “reptilians” and other aliens.*

“Spectacular” quoth our president.

Awash in all this lunacy, it’s no surprise the administration has its head up its ass about the pandemic, and millions of Americans still reject masks and other precautions. Actually, that’s only perhaps 20% of our population. But a recent analysis reported in The Economist calculates that those 20% are responsible for almost all the spike in covid cases and deaths we’re seeing.

So that hard core of fools matters greatly. Our covid epidemic is a direct consequence of an epidemic of epistemic disease. Epistemology refers to how we know things. If someone can’t see Alex Jones is either a raving maniac or a cynically dishonest con man, that person suffers from epistemic blindness. Same for Trump. Any rational person (without even knowing his rotten history) can see just by watching Trump how vile he is, how he degrades America.

Is this reality blindness, this affinity for balderdash, something new? The American character may not really have changed; but in past eras an Alex Jones would have had no way to reach a mass audience. There were gatekeepers, who took their responsibilities seriously, and protected the public from such poison. Now there are no gatekeepers, no gates, it’s a media free-for-all. Jones’s pyrotechnic performances are more compelling to watch than Walter Cronkite ever was. And Jones actually makes viewers feel smart by telling them they’re getting the real hidden truth. A lot of suckers, even seemingly educated ones, lack a sufficient base of knowledge and understanding about the world to properly evaluate what they’re hearing, and to see that it flouts reality.

My viewing the Alex Jones documentary was juxtaposed against the John Lewis memorial coverage. Reminding me of how much good this contradictory country also harbors. Lewis too had to battle against evil and ignorance. The battle never ends. America thrills my soul and breaks my heart.

An election looms (assuming failure of Trump’s efforts to wreck it). Forget issues. Forget ideology. This election is about sanity. Can we make America sane again?

* This “reptilian” trope is the foundation for an entire edifice of meshugaas built by professional conspiracy hawker David Icke (who insists his name is pronounced “Ike,” not “Icky”). Alex Jones has also promoted “reptilian” rubbish.

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