On August 25, the protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, against the police shooting a Black man in the back took a deadly turn when a 17-year-old vigilante gunman shot and killed two protesters. Far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones spent the days leading up to the shooting encouraging vigilante violence, at one point even suggesting citizens should be getting firearms “and learning how to use them” because “all hell is already breaking loose."
Many in right-wing media have defended the actions of the suspected shooter, claiming that he was merely acting in self-defense against mob violence. In an August 26 live-streamed video, Jones read from an article from far-right publication the Nationalist Review claiming the suspected gunman was “part of the contingent of armed citizens who were patrolling the streets of Kenosha in order to protect property and lives from looters, arsonists, and violent street criminals” and defended him from murder charges.
Jones is a conspiracy theorist who has been sued over his false claim that the deaths of 26 young children and school employees in the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting were a hoax. He and his Infowars properties have previously been removed from multiple online platforms including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Jones and Infowars now use a site called Banned.video to host Infowars content.
Jones has a history of encouraging listeners to take up arms against any perceived threat. In the days before the vigilante shooting in Kenosha, Jones posted radio, video, and website content encouraging an armed response to the protests and claimed while discussing other stories that he was personally at a “breaking point” and wanted to “start killing people”:
- On August 21, Jones said, “I want to start killing people. … I’m not kidding around, folks. I’m at my breaking point.” Jones claimed that he was feeling this way because he “reviewed … what they’re putting on TV for kids.”
- On August 24, Jones encouraged listeners to get guns and learn how to use them. Jones said that he has also “been getting the guns out, getting them cleaned,” and he has “been target shooting ... because all hell is already breaking loose.”
- On August 24, Jones said, “This is do or die right now. This is hundreds of years of evil building up to take down the United States and the West.” Jones’ guest Drew Hernandez, who also recently appeared on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, argued, “It’s the everyday American that has to stand up, that has to speak up, that has to get up and do something and say something themselves. That’s why we have our freedoms, that’s why men and women that have gone before us have bled and that have died for this moment, Alex, for this moment. Because whenever freedom is on the line, sacrifices have to be made and that’s where we are in 2020 right now.”
- On the night of the shooting, as reported by The Verge, an article on Infowars promoted a “local militia” that it said “is making a call-to-arms for ‘any patriots willing to take up arms and defend our city tonight from evil thugs.’” The August 25 blog post also noted that “a few brave locals came out armed last night to protect their businesses in Kenosha.”
- On August 25, a separate Infowars post highlighted a video from the previous night of an “armed militia [trying] to stop looters & rioters in Kenosha.”
- On August 26, Infowars' Paul Joseph Watson lashed out at the Kenosha sheriff for not deputizing citizens in the aftermath of the shooting. On the website, Watson wrote that “armed citizens [are] vowing to defend their safety and property from increasingly violent Black Lives Matter agitators,” but “it appears they are not getting much support from authorities.”