I’m trying to work up some sympathy for Alex Jones, who has been bumped from YouTube, Facebook, Spotify and Apple for his hateful lies. But not very hard.
OK, that’s not true. I’m not trying at all. I don’t even have sympathy for the social-media platforms that dropped him, because it took them far too long.
For those few readers who may be unfamiliar with Mr. Jones and his infamous Infowars website and syndicated radio show, he’s made quite a name for himself by spewing despicable conspiracy theories. Not content with the garden-variety “9/11-was-an-inside-job” trope — which he’s trumpeted for years — Jones also has insisted that the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults was a hoax; that survivors of the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting are “crisis actors,” and that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta were running a child sex ring out of a family pizza parlor in Washington, D.C.
The fact that none of these things is true does not bother Jones in the slightest. New York Magazine reports he’s making millions of dollars a year selling nutritional supplements such as Infowars Life Silver Bullet Colloidal Silver, Infowars Survival Shield X-2 (1 fluid ounce of iodine supplement, $39.95, but on sale this week for $29.95); and Infowars Alpha Power Vital Male Androgen Biosynthesis Promoter ($69.95 for 30 capsules, but on sale now for just $52.46).
Lunatic conspiracy theories and snake oil — it’s a perfect match.
True to form, Jones is howling that he’s the victim of censorship at the hands of the “tech elites” in Silicon Valley, that his First Amendment rights have been violated and that this is just the beginning of — you guessed it — a conspiracy to silence conservative voices.
“What conservative news outlet will be next?” Jones tweeted.
If any “conservative news outlet” is banned from social media, we’ll let you know. Infowars is not a “conservative news outlet.” It’s a spectacle of mouth-foaming paranoia designed to strike fear into the hearts of gullible people. Jones is correct that he has a First Amendment right to spew his fake news. That’s why his website is still operating. The First Amendment says the government can’t prevent him from speaking what’s left of his mind.
But Facebook and YouTube aren’t the government. They are corporations that have standards about what can appear on their sites, and they are, finally, enforcing those standards.
That’s not censorship. That’s common decency — a concept foreign to Alex Jones.
“Understand this: The censorship of Infowars just vindicates everything we’ve been saying,” Jones tweeted. “Now, who will stand against Tyranny and who will stand for free speech? We’re all Alex Jones now.”
No, thank God, we’re not.
Reach editorial page editor Gary E. Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org .