Don’t give Alex Jones attention

Social media and memes have let conspiracy theorists run rampant

Xavier Cullen, Opinion Editor

I don’t think it’s controversial to say that Alex Jones is insane.

From calling tap water a “gay bomb” to accusing Oreo cookies of having pedophilia symbolism, Jones is one of the craziest — and funniest — alt-right conspiracy theorists on the internet.

Illustration by Xavier Cullen. Photo of Alex Jones by Jared Holt/Wikimedia Commons.

However, while we can all laugh at his ramblings about 5G internet towers and how Hillary Clinton is a biblical demon, we have to remember that his words have severe consequences.

On Oct. 1, a Texas judge ruled Jones responsible for damages caused by his egregious claims that the Sandy Hook Massacre was a “giant hoax.” Jones will now have to pay some of the family members of the 26 people killed on one of the most horrific days in American history.

This decision is a grim reminder of the harm Jones’ antics can have on real-life people. For the families of those 26 people, Dec. 14, 2012 is a day that they will never forget. Jones put their relatives’ deaths into question, accusing them of faking death certificates and lying to the public.

Finally, justice has been served, but we still face a harsh reality.

A major reason why Jones became so popular was because of the many memes, jokes and news stories about him. So many people have heard of his rants about “chemicals in the water that turn the frickin frogs gay” or the famous TikTok audio of Jones screaming “come on over here” as he chases down a man who gave him the middle finger.

It’s funny to see how crazy one man can become, but not everybody is laughing. Some are taking what he says quite seriously.

Before it was permanently suspended, “The Alex Jones Channel” on YouTube had over 2.4 million subscribers, and Jones’ short-lived TikTok account garnered millions of views. His TikTok video containing false claims of a child-smuggling facility at the southern border passed 6.1 millions views, according to Media Matters.

We can all sit back and act like what Jones says is a big joke that nobody would truly believe, but that’s just not true. Only eight months ago, thousands of rabid Donald Trump (and probably Jones) supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, breaking through police barricades and forcing an evacuation of the senators inside. Jones said he donated $500,000 for the rally that led to those events.

It’s funny to see how crazy one man can become, but not everybody is laughing. Some are taking what he says quite seriously.

— Xavier Cullen, opinion editor

While many social media and content sharing platforms had already banned Jones at that point, the seeds that Jones planted had grown into a giant forest of right-wing conspiracies. These websites allowed Jones to build an audience for far too long. In fact, Jones himself thanked Facebook and YouTube for letting him get billions of ears to hear his brain-destroying propaganda.

“(I) was a joke to the elites,” Jones said on the Sept. 23 edition of “The Alex Jones Show.” “Now they saw people are actually listening, so they took us down. But now thank God we got a good shot at them because that had spurred so many other people like ripples in a pond.”

He’s laughing in our faces. Jones knows that Facebook and YouTube helped him foster a large audience, and he uses that advantage to preach this violence and death. We’ve already seen how far QAnon believers and Trump supporters will go to fight for their fake conspiracies, do you really think it will get any better?

Even if Jones disappeared forever tomorrow, his legacy would still be seen in the political sphere. Jones himself said that he “awoke” political commentators like Fox anchor Tucker Carlson and podcaster Joe Rogan.

Carlson’s prime-time show, “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” is the most popular show on cable, with an average of 3.242 million viewers, according to Nielson. Rogan’s podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” is the No. 1 podcast on Spotify in the U.S., according to Chartable.

At the end of the day, we made Jones, and we made this mess. Whether it was laughing at his outlandish antics or making memes of his out-of-context quotes, we all played a part in keeping Jones in the mainstream consciousness.

Once we admit this, the next question is this: what do we do now?

We have mobs of right-wing nutjobs who will do anything for their deity figure Trump, and we are staring down another three more years of the Joe Biden administration, which will surely piss these people off even more.

The first thing that people can do is doing nothing. Don’t share funny clips of Jones on social media, don’t engage with him by debating him or going on his show and don’t treat Jones with the respect that he does not deserve.

Jones is a monster who only cares about mass chaos. The more we treat him like an honest political commentator, the more people will view him as a legitimate pundit.

The worst thing that can happen to an internet celebrity is becoming irrelevant. If we treat Jones like a threat to our well-being that should be shunned from every corner of the world, he will fade into irrelevance.

Even if we are successful with that, we should never forget the lessons that we have learned. Carlson and Rogan have risen to fame in similar ways to Jones.

Both were laughed at for their horrible opinions, like when Carlson called Iraq a “crappy place” filled with “primitive monkeys,” or hilarious clips, like when Joe Rogan smoked weed with Elon Musk.

There’s a stark similarity between Carlson, Rogan and Jones, yet no major network or platform is doing anything about it. In fact, Spotify decided in May 2020 to sign Rogan to an exclusive licensing deal worth over $100 million, and Fox News is continuing to air “Tucker Carlson Tonight” despite severe backlash and boycotts of his sponsors.

At this point, it might be too late to stop these two media giants. They are far too popular to be erased without a trace.

Maybe the lesson from all of this is not that we should prevent the next Jones — that ship has sailed long ago — but that we should do everything in our power to stop the spread of these inflammatory figures, even if it is futile.

When facing down the barrel of inevitability, the answer is not to surrender, but to fight back with all your might. I hate having this as my final message, but if someone like Jones can get millions of supporters, maybe we are reaching a depressing, destined fate.

However, we must fight on. This might be a losing battle, but at least we can tell our future generations that we tried.