Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump praised conspiracy theorist radio host Alex Jones for having “one of the greatest influences” he’s “ever seen,” according to a new e-book by a former Jones collaborator.
Jon Ronson is the author of the new Kindle Singles e-book The Elephant in the Room: A Journey into the Trump Campaign and the “Alt-Right.” Ronson is a journalist and filmmaker who also wrote The Men Who Stare at Goats and The Psychopath Test. He writes that he worked with Jones early in their careers and explains that he is “basically Alex Jones’s Simon Cowell,” and that the two collaborated to infiltrate a gathering of influential people at Bohemian Grove -- a scheme that was Ronson's idea (emphasis in original):
I am basically Alex Jones’s Simon Cowell. I star-spotted him in the late-1990s. He’d been a locally renowned radio talk show host in Austin, Texas, back then, but I gave him the idea that catapulted him to fame. My idea was for the two of us to sneak into a secretive summer camp in the forests of Northern California called Bohemian Grove, where powerful men like George H.W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger were rumored to undertake an annual ritual in which a human effigy was thrown into the fiery belly of a giant stone owl.
“That can’t be true,” I thought when I first heard of the ritual. “I wonder if I can get in and film it?”
I didn’t want to infiltrate the camp alone, because if I failed there would be no story. It would just be me failing to enter a summer camp. If I failed alongside the charismatic fledgling conspiracy talk show host Alex Jones, however, I could at least write about him failing.
We didn’t fail. We succeeded wildly. But our relationship foundered soon afterward.
Ronson relates that he thought the Bohemian Grove ritual was just silly antics by the participants, while Jones saw something sinister and evil (“Alex was suggesting we had possibly witnessed an actual human sacrifice -- which we definitely hadn’t”). He and Jones then went on divergent paths and began publicly feuding, with Ronson stating that Jones pushes irresponsible conspiracy theories and rhetoric about numerous topics. Jones is the leader of the movement that claims the government was behind the 9/11 terror attacks. He has also promoted conspiracy theories about government involvement in the Oklahoma City bombing, Boston Marathon bombing, and Newtown, CT, elementary school shooting, among many others.
After years apart, Ronson noticed that his former collaborator had moved from the fringes to political prominence because of his ties to Trump. That prompted the author to reach out to Jones at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland for a series of interviews.
“How frequently do you and Trump communicate?” I asked him.
Once again, Alex hesitated. Alex, who dazzles millions with his streams of consciousness, did not talk in a stream of consciousness way about Trump.
“We speak on the phone,” he said, cautiously.
“So, you’ve talked a couple of times on the phone?” I asked.
“The media’s picked up on how I communicate with him through YouTube videos,” he said.
I looked surprised. “Do you?” I said.
“I put a video out,” Alex said, “a message to Trump. And then two days later he lays out the case. It’s like sending up the Bat Signal.”
Jones then said that Trump told him he has “one of the greatest influences I’ve ever seen. … It’s greater than you know. Just know that your influence is second to none” (emphasis in original):
Now, Alex gave me a new example: “I’d said, ‘If the Russians got the emails Hillary deleted, please release them.’ And then …”
“Huh,” I said.
Alex suddenly looked flustered. “I don’t think I want to say I’m some kind of Rasputin to Donald Trump,” he said. “But Trump has said to me …” Alex paused for a long time. “Trump has said to me, ‘You have one of the greatest influences I’ve ever seen. Do you know how big your influence is?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I know it’s far reaching.’ And he said, ‘It’s greater than you know. Just know that your influence is second to none.’”
I found this touching and absurd. Alex was deriving meaning from one of Trump’s platitudes -- from words as loquacious and showy as his golden rooms and as empty as air.
Ronson also spoke to longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, who frequently appears on The Alex Jones Show and helped set up Trump’s December 2015 appearance on Jones’ show. During that appearance, Trump praised Jones for having an “amazing” reputation and promised that he wouldn’t let him down.
Stone told Ronson that Trump was “well aware of who Alex is and everything Alex has accomplished”:
“When you first introduced Alex to Donald Trump, did he take some convincing?” I asked.
“Donald is a student of the internet,” Stone replied. “He’s an inveterate watcher, so he was well aware of who Alex is and everything Alex has accomplished. Donald told me he sees the many, many Hillary for Prison T-shirts in his crowds.”
“What does he think of them?” I asked.
“He loves them,” he said.
Jones previously said on his radio show that he “personally talked to” Trump and encouraged him to push the conspiracy theory that the election is rigged.