Is Infowars over? The crumbling empire of Alex Jones
'I think he has fun being a big personality'
He got his start as a rabble-rouser on public-access television in Austin, Texas. Now, Alex Jones oversees Infowars, an internet empire that finds government and media conspiracies around every corner.
Infowars — funded in part by sales of male "vitality" pills — is now under threat as social media platforms have banned Jones for hate speech, and he faces several defamation lawsuits.
If you haven't heard of Alex Jones, you've almost certainly heard some of his beliefs: that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. That 9/11 was staged. That climate change believers can alter the weather to bolster their arguments. That the Sandy Hook elementary-school massacre was a government hoax perpetrated to support measures for stricter gun control.
Everyone in the media environment has to rely on social networks and social media to drive their audience. He doesn't have that anymore. It's going to be tough.- Dan Solomon
Putting forth that false argument has earned Jones two lawsuits from parents whose children were killed in the shooting, and have been hounded by Jones's supporters.
In the last week, Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, iTunes, LinkedIn and other major web platforms banned Jones from using their services.
This will make a serious dent in Jones's ability to spread his word, says Dan Solomon, an Austin-based writer who has followed Jones's checkered career, writing most recently about Jones in Texas Monthly.
"Everyone in the media environment has to rely on social networks and social media to drive their audience. He doesn't have that anymore. It's going to be tough," Solomon said.
Jones used to fund his site by selling DVDs, Solomon adds, but in recent years has distributed his films freely on YouTube, relying instead on a stable of "health" products he sells to help his followers survive what he calls government threats to their lives.
"He has a really interesting business model, which is that he does a three hour program that tells you that you can't trust anybody and that they're putting things in the food, or putting things in the water, or they're putting things in the air that are going to have these terrible effects," Solomon said.
"But if you go to his store you can get a product that will protect you from that. He sells 'Brain Force' or 'Super Male Vitality' or the ultimate red pill, or these things that are probably garbage."
Cutting his social media access will hurt him considerably, Solomon says, but perhaps more serious are some of the defamation lawsuits that are currently in U.S. courtrooms.
Curiously, his lawyers have argued in court that Jones shouldn't be taken seriously for some of his more outrageous allegations, Solomon says.
So is Jones a real believer in his theories, or is he just a showman out to make a buck?
"I think that he believes enough to go in for all of this. I think that he is able to convince himself that things are true when he wants them to be true," Solomon said.
"I think he has fun being a big personality."
To hear the full interview with Dan Solomon, download our podcast or click the listen button at the top of this page.