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  • Far-right figures spew toxic and dangerous bullshit after Anthony Bourdain's death

    Members of the far-right fever swamp spread conspiracy theories, blamed “political correctness” for spikes in suicide rates, personally attacked Bourdain, and blamed women 

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Anthony Bourdain stood for everything that far-right figures and online message boards hate. Following the tragic news of the CNN host and legendary chef’s death by suicide, these fever swamps went into overdrive with absurd conspiracy theories and toxic hot takes that personally attacked Bourdain and women with whom he had relationships. Instead of discussing the importance of mental health and guiding audiences to anti-suicide resources, these figures tried to use suicide to win a news cycle for some amorphous culture war benefit.

    Alex Jones, a host for conspiracy theory site Infowars, dismissed the reports of suicide to claim without evidence that Bourdain was murdered. Jones, who has never missed a chance to irresponsibly insert absurd conspiracy theories into the news, said Bourdain was “planning to go public against the deep state" and someone wanted to stop him from doing “a Kanye West”:

    Jones also implied Bourdain’s death was a result of his criticism of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over her response to the numerous reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment committed by movie mogul and former Democratic donor Harvey Weinstein. Jones’ claim echoed posts found on 4chan, which also attempted to connect the tragedy of Bourdain’s death to the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory. That theory holds that powerful celebrities and Democratic politicians are linked to a pedophilia ring housed in the basement of a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor; it spurred one believer, who was trying to self-investigate the claim, to open fire inside the restaurant.

    The conspiracy theory linking Bourdain’s death to Clinton also spread through several YouTube channels and appeared on Twitter accounts and fake news-peddling websites like True Pundit, Liberty One News, and YourNewsWire.

    Others in the far-right fever swamp displayed, at best, tone deafness and staggering ignorance about suicide as a public health issue, and at worst callous and dangerous disregard for the harm their words could do. Jacob Wohl, self-appointed editor-in-chief of the pro-Trump Washington Reporter, called Bourdain “soft.” Wohl’s tweets echo sentiments that can also be found in the “politically incorrect” board on 4chan, and they reach more than 150,000 followers.

    During the June 8 edition of his show CRTV Tonight, Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes used Bourdain’s suicide to make disrespectful word plays around the word “hanged” and baselessly speculated that cocaine had played a part in both Bourdain’s and fashion designer Kate Spade’s recent death, also by suicide. McInnes followed with a rant about the spike in the suicide rate, blaming “political correctness:”

    The women-hating site Return of Kings, founded by a misogynist who has blamed the pattern of violence by incels (short for “involuntary celibates”) on the women who don’t sleep with them, used the news of the tragedy to blame women, mirroring sentiments also found on 4chan.

    This is only the most recent episode of far-right figures injecting a tragic news cycle with toxic, poisonous bullshit. In pushing lies about the deceased, they cowardly exploit the fact that their subjects can no longer set the record straight while cynically profiting by gaining attention or clicks. Like clockwork, they do it after reports of mass shootings or news of celebrities dying by suicide.

    This news cycle should be centered around celebrating Bourdain’s legacy, life, and contributions, and reporting on suicide as a public health issue. But far-right figures and users of toxic message boards like 4chan have no qualms about co-opting the story to attack him and insert their own agendas.

    Notably, Bourdain had a history of using his platform to advocate for issues like protesting violence against women, standing with the population of the Gaza strip, calling out the crimes of Henry Kissinger, documenting the repression of dictators like Vladimir Putin, and advocating for Hispanic restaurant workers.

    Bourdain was the opposite of these far-right figures because the issues were never about him. It is particularly despicable for these people to attack Bourdain after his death because he stood tall for everything they hate -- and he did so by listening to the voices of others.

    To get help for suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

    Natalie Martinez contributed research to this piece.

  • Infowars livestreams a Planned Parenthood protest the day after the anniversary of Dr. Tiller's murder

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On May 31, 2009, an anti-abortion extremist murdered abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, who had been harassed and targeted by anti-choice groups and right-wing media for years. On May 31, 2018, Infowars reporter Owen Shroyer announced that he would be hosting and livestreaming a protest outside a Texas Planned Parenthood location.

    During the May 31 segment of Genesis Communication Network’s The Alex Jones Show, Shroyer announced that Infowars would “launch a protest here in Austin at Planned Parenthood” the next day in response to his frustration that the NRA and Infowars were “being blamed for anytime there’s a shooting” while Planned Parenthood wasn’t blamed for being part of “a death cult.” Shroyer noted that in addition to organizing the protest, he would also be livestreaming the event to various channels. Toward the end of the segment, host Alex Jones and Shroyer started mocking the people they think will show up to the protest, calling them satanists and claiming they'll say things like “We are slaves, we are dying,” “I love abortion,” and “I want to kill kids.”

    Back in reality, anti-abortion violence and harassment are both very real and very serious threats to those who publicly provide, write about, or even discuss abortion. Since 1993, 11 people have died as a result of anti-abortion violence, and numerous providers, patients, and their families have been injured; as recent data from the National Abortion Federation (NAF) demonstrates, this trend shows little sign of abating. NAF found that in 2017, “trespassing more than tripled, death threats/threats of harm nearly doubled, and incidents of obstruction rose from 580 in 2016 to more than 1,700 in 2017.” There was also a continued “increase in targeted hate mail/harassing phone calls, and clinic invasions,” as well as “the first attempted bombing in many years.”

    According to NAF’s 2016 report, rates of anti-abortion clinic protests were already at the highest levels seen since the organization began tracking incidents in 1977. And in 2018, there have already been numerous reports of violence or threats against clinics, with incidents reported in Illinois, New Jersey, Utah, Texas, Pennsylvania, California, Washington, Massachusetts, and more. In North Carolina, abortion provider Calla Hales has documented the frequent anti-abortion protests and harassment directed at her clinic -- including attacks on her personally.

    Nevertheless, right-wing media have frequently fostered or encouraged anti-abortion harassment -- sometimes directly targeting abortion providers by name. Before being ousted from Fox News after public reports that he sexually harassed multiple colleagues, Bill O’Reilly spent years not only spreading misinformation about abortion, but also openly bullying abortion providers like Tiller. Prior to Tiller’s death, O’Reilly called the doctor “Tiller the baby killer” and insisted there was a “special place in hell” for him. After a deadly shooting attack at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015, O’Reilly defended his previous attacks on Tiller, claiming that his comments were accurate.

    Even without O’Reilly, Fox News programming is still rife with anti-abortion misinformation and demonization of abortion providers. In just one example, after Fox News’ The Five briefly moved to a prime-time slot, co-host Greg Gutfeld took a page out of O’Reilly’s playbook and called for anti-abortion violence. During the April 2017 segment, Gutfeld compared abortion to slavery and argued that “if you are pro-life and you believe it is murder, you should be willing to fight” and “start a war” to stop abortions from being performed.

    Beyond Fox News, wider right-wing programming has also contributed to an atmosphere that fosters anti-abortion violence and harassment. In 2016, after Robert Dear allegedly opened fire in a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood center (killing three and injuring at least nine more), The New Republic reported on Dear’s penchant for right-wing media such as Fox News and Infowars -- noting in particular how these outlets contributed to Dear’s paranoid, conspiratorial views on abortion and Planned Parenthood. According to The New Republic:

    In fact, as I learned from hours of speaking with Dear, the narratives he learned from Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones and Bill O’Reilly and countless far-right web sites meshed perfectly with his paranoid delusions, misogynist beliefs, and violent fantasies. The right-wing media didn’t just tell him what he wanted to hear. They brought authority and detail to a world he was convinced was tormenting him. They were his shelter and his inspiration, his only real community.

    Fox News had launched in October 1996, a little more than a year after the Oklahoma City bombing, and O’Reilly was one of its biggest on-air talents. “Fox gives voice to people who can’t get on other networks,” O’Reilly later told a reporter. “When was the last time you saw pro-life people unless they shot somebody?” Like Limbaugh, O’Reilly devoted lots of air time to denouncing abortions, and those who provided them.

    That the conspiracy theory site Infowars would follow this playbook for stoking anti-abortion harassment is of little surprise.

  • Right-wing media praise, justify Trump's decision to pardon Dinesh D'Souza

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Right-wing media figures were quick to defend and rejoice over President Donald Trump’s decision to pardon conservative author and pundit Dinesh D’Souza for his felony conviction for violating campaign finance law.

    On the morning of May 31, Trump tweeted:

    D’Souza was indicted in 2014 for violating campaign finance laws, and right-wing media figures also jumped to defend him then, portraying him as a victim of political persecution by the Obama administration, which D’Souza had criticized in a lie-filled book attempting to trace Obama’s liberal policy motivations and later in a lie-filled movie. But D’Souza pleaded guilty to the charges against him five years ago. His more recent missives have included tweets mocking students who survived the February school shooting in Parkland, FL and likening Democrats to Nazis.

    Following Trump’s announcement that he will give a full pardon to D’Souza, right-wing media figures celebrated the decision and claimed that D’Souza was indeed treated unfairly:

    Fox News host Jeanine Pirro: “Fantastic news @DineshDSouza to be pardoned by @POTUS. Obama’s political prosecution null and void.”

    Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano: Trump’s pardon of D’Souza is “a marvelous act of justice. Not mercy, justice.”

    Fox News host Laura Ingraham: “It’s about time”; pardon “was long overdue.”

    Right-wing troll Mike Flynn Jr.: “WOW! Incredible! @DineshDSouza totally deserves this! CONGRATS!”

    Pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Alex Jones: “Good to see Trump using that power” to correct “a lot of these travesties of justice that are taking place.”

    Wash. Examiner’s Byron York and Ingraham agree D’Souza sentencing was a “travesty” and “outrage.”

    Radio host Rush Limbaugh: D’Souza was sentenced “so that Obama could flex his muscles and show what a tough guy he was.”

    Fox & Friends co-host Pete Hegseth: “I thought that was great.”

    Right-wing blogger Jim Hoft: D’Souza’s prosecution was an “Obama political hit job and “an obvious witch hunt.”

  • Alex Jones and his co-hosts have a misogynistic obsession with lesbians

    Alex Jones: “All they want is for us to submit to them”

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Anyone watching Infowars long enough would notice host Alex Jones’ remarkable obsession with a very specific subset of the global population: lesbians. Jones’ unhinged tirades about innumerable topics have rightfully made him a target for online mockery and the protagonist of numerous internet memes. But there’s something more sinister than funny in the way that Jones and some of his guest co-hosts depict, mock, and dissociate from lesbians to Infowars’ hundreds of thousands of viewers.

    Jones’ guest co-hosts -- including Gavin McInnes, founder of the chauvinistic fraternal organization Proud Boys, Infowars contributor Owen Shroyer, and anti-feminist troll Milo Yiannopoulos -- mimic his hateful rhetoric. That treatment ranges from sexist, sophomoric mocking of lesbians for their supposed appearance to the dangerous perpetuation of the absurd idea that lesbians are depressed because they need a man or have turned to women after having a “bad experience with men in their life.”

    Jones shows no qualms about trivializing traumatic issues like child abuse when he asserts that women become lesbians because “daddy beat her up.” He has also used violent imagery to describe romantic and sexual relationships between women, including saying, “If they can’t find a man to smack them around, well, they found them a girl going to do it real good, knock them upside their head.” Jones has even openly suggested he could be personally violent against lesbians too:

    ALEX JONES (HOST): We could take on 500 of you in physical combat, but see, that isn’t what matters -- they’ve got the media and they’ve got our good will and they’re gonna program us. All they want is for us to submit to them.

    Beneath his rhetoric lie toxic elements of misogyny and male supremacy. Jones claims that lesbians “want all the women for themselves,” which both implies that men are entitled to women and that women are not autonomous beings with the capacity to make their own decisions about which individuals they choose as partners. He also claims lesbians “want to be the guy smacking the hot chick around,” reinforcing erroneous assumptions that lesbian relationships follow heterosexual gender roles while trivializing violence against women by saying “some women like it.”  

    Jones’ rhetoric could have the effect of poisoning his audiences’ perceptions of the queer female community, by directly pushing for the further marginalization of a minority that continues to fight for equality under the law.

    Video by John Kerr.​

  • Alex Jones' shows are now on cable -- and he wants to take it even further

    Jones praised "pro-Trump" Sinclair Broadcast Group: "They know what to do"

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Alex Jones boasted that the programming from his conspiracy theory operation Infowars now airs on “over 300" TV stations, including “over 70 cable systems or so and maybe over 15 TV stations,” and he praised the strategy of Sinclair Broadcast Group, claiming it “knows what to do” in pushing out pro-Trump propaganda on local stations.

    During the May 8 livestream of his show, Jones noted that his programming is carried by cable systems, which he said he has accomplished by making his content “free to air” and gifting the 15 minutes of advertising on each hour to the cable provider or local station, while he plugs his dietary supplements and apocalypse-preparedness merchandise during his regular programming. Jones bemoaned that his programming isn’t on Sinclair “at this point,” while calling Sinclair “the leader, nationwide, in local television.”

    The right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group is already the largest provider of local TV news in the country and is now further expanding thanks to the Federal Communications Commission under President Donald Trump. Sinclair requires its news stations to run fearmongering rhetoric and pro-Trump propaganda on a regular basis, exploiting the trust communities have in their local news. In March, Sinclair stations around the country started airing promotional segments in which local anchors had been asked to attack media outlets for their “irresponsible, one-sided stories.” The segments looked like a “hostage” video. Jones went on to praise Sinclair’s “pro-Trump stuff” model, claiming that “it sells”:

    ALEX JONES (HOST): I don’t know why I said in that promo over a hundred TV stations -- it’s over 300, over 70 cable systems, and that was as of about a week ago. We just signed a couple smaller deals, another 15 stations or so, few more radio stations came in. But I think we’re  gonna get a deal with 200 -- 200 more. And a lot of these are in big cities and are the main channels where they’re doing stuff like carrying my show but taped to air at night during family hour, and then they tell people, “And tune over to our sub-channel for 24 hours a day.” It’s very smart. Now again, in the late ‘70s they said that AM stations were gonna turn off. But then conservatives and libertarians and people like the great patriot who helped us get rid of the Fairness Doctrine had the ideas to, hey, launch political talk radio on there and get around the leftist control that dominated television. So the internet of the ‘80s and ‘90s, before we really had the modern internet, was AM radio, and it’s still there today and it’s still doing pretty good despite all the attacks because people decided to use it. Well, they say TV -- local cable, local broadcast TV -- doesn’t have the listeners it used to have or the viewers. That’s not true. You put specialty things on, local sports, local news, it has huge ratings. You put special political programming on that’s pro-America, that people are hungry for -- why do you think Sinclair has had all this pro-Trump stuff on? Cause it’s popular. It sells and it’s good. So, again, ladies and gentleman, Sinclair knows what it’s doing -- they’re the leader, nationwide, in local television and we’re not on Sinclair at this point. But I’m saying, they know what to do. So these TV stations, these cable systems are putting us on all over. It is explosive. This is very, very exciting.

    Pam Vogel contributed research to this piece. Find out here if Sinclair controls a local news station near you.