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Performance defense falls flat

Joshua Defibaugh

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At first it was funny. The local conservative communities in Austin, Texas were the only ones able to enjoy the ever-ranting and raving Alex Jones on the radio. Later, however, Jones expanded his conspiratorial empire, dominating the World Wide Web — especially YouTube. With his website, Infowars, Jones delivered high-energy shows with topics from the liberal conspiracy to open portals to the demon world to government agencies “putting chemicals in the water to turn the freaking frogs gay.”

Now, however, after an arduous court battle with his ex-wife, Kelly Jones, Alex Jones lost custody to his children. The court proved to be important not just for his children, but also for his radio and YouTube persona.

As reported by NBC News just two weeks ago, Randal Wilhite, Alex Jones’ lawyer, argued that Jones, during his shows where he could be seen screaming about Obama, Clinton and other powerful liberals, was merely “playing a character.” Judging and comparing Jones by his Infowars performance would be akin to judging any actor by the roles they play in movies. It’d be like judging Jared Leto by watching “Suicide Squad,” where he played the most recent iteration of The Joker.

At first, the “performance artist” line of defense seemed absurd, especially on Reddit, where one user said, “It makes way more sense than him actually believing the goofy (stuff) he says.” Others argued it was a smart move. “That’s actually pretty smart from a legal perspective. That basically allows him the right to say almost anything he wants,” said another Reddit user.

But according to Ben Hartman, who covered the Jones debacle for The Daily Beast, the “performance artist” reasoning didn’t resonate well with the jury or court attendees.

“Regardless, the jury and assorted onlookers have been treated to a healthy dose of an Alex Jones who in real life — in the courtroom, without cameras — does, in fact, bear a strong resemblance to the on-air dynamo who brought us ‘Hillary for Prison’ and the infamous gay frogs rant,” Hartman wrote last Thursday.

That summation isn’t hard to digest. Jones has a history of saying things more outlandish than “gay frogs” or “Hillary Clinton is a criminal.”

Jones’ initial claim to fame was his involvement in the “Truther” movement, a collective of people trying uncover the truth of the Sept. 11 terror attacks in New York City and Washington. He’s published headlines on Infowars such as, “Expert: 9/11 false flag was the greatest crime of the century” and “9/11: CIA likely built remote-controlled commercial jets in aircraft boneyard.” Jones had led a similar movement concerning the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings.

Recently, Jones has discredited the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut shooting, claiming it was an “inside job.” He’s also claimed, in all seriousness, that Former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton is a “demon,” citing flies on her face and an odor not unlike sulfur.

It’s hard to know whether Jones truly believes the things he’s saying, though I have a theory. According to TheRichest, a website devoted to tracking the world’s wealthiest individuals, Jones is worth $5 million. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, his show has numerous sponsors and paid segments, including Midas Resources, a company that has a value of nearly $10 million.

Jones, like Glenn Beck, another conspiratorial conservative television and radio show host, probably continues on with his show and his outlandish statements and theories because he’s paid to do so. And while it may be a performance, it’s still worth taking seriously, given the current president has expressed his affinity for Jones on numerous occasions.

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Performance defense falls flat