Editorial: There is no ‘but’ in the First AmendmentSource: East Arizona Courier
A number of digital platforms have given the heave-ho to Alex Jones and Infowars.
Jones, for those unaware, is a talk radio host who has taken the conservative bombast exhibited by Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and, in the words of Nigel Tufnel of the band Spinal Tap, turned it up “to 11.”
For the better part of 20 years, he’s been warning “good Americans” about the New World Order, a super secret group of . . . well, we’re not sure. Sometimes it’s the ultra-rich who wish to subjugate everyone else; other times, it’s communists and socialists, and it can even be elitists who (mistakenly) think they know better than the people “smart” enough to believe Jones.
He’s claimed the government can manipulate the weather via chemtrails — adding of super secret chemicals into jet fuel so the exhaust will supercharge the atmosphere, allowing the government to use the High-Frequency Auroral Research Program (HAARP) to create weather catastrophes such as Hurricane Sandy.
He’s the one who put in the president’s ear that millions of illegal ballots were cast in the 2016 election (despite there being no such evidence), and it was his broadcasts that convinced a gunman that Hillary Clinton was running a child-sex slavery ring out of the back room of a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor.
He was a flag-bearer for the birther movement, pushing forward the belief that Barack Obama was not born in Hawaii, thus is not an American citizen and invalidating his presidency.
All of that pales in comparison to what may be his worst conspiracy theory — that the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary was a hoax and the murdered children were simply actors. He calls these shootings — including the mass shooting in an Orlando nightclub — “false flag operations,” a staged event allowing the government to use a fake tragedy to take away civil liberties and — and this is the really scary part to Jones’ listeners — guns.
It is that last conspiracy theory that appears to have put Jones in hot water. Jones’ fans believe in the nonsense he spouts with such fervor, they’ve taken to harassing the parents of the murdered children, sometimes even threatening the parents, forcing parents who have lost a child in one of the most horrific ways imaginable to change their identities and move.
Harassment, hate speech and violating community standards are the reasons given by Facebook, Apple’s iTunes, Spotify and YouTube in their decision to remove Jones’ content from their platforms.
Jones can still be heard on his own website, Infowars.com, so he hasn’t been completely silenced, but his reach has been significantly diminished.
Jones can most charitably be described as a buffoon, at worst a hatemonger. We lean to con man because of his own comments during a custody hearing. His ex-wife didn’t want Jones to share custody of their children because of Jones’ aggressive nature, which is often on display during the video broadcasts of Jones’ show. Jones’ response was that the aggressive actions were simply a “performance” by him as an actor and that nothing on the show was real.
He also hawks a number of “health” supplements for sale on the Infowars website, none of which has proved to actually provide any health benefit. In fact, the Center for Environmental Health found that two of his products actually contained excessive levels of lead, making the products dangerous, not healthy.
We cite all this to explain why we don’t care for Jones and the hatred he promotes. At a time when tribalism appears to be taking over the nation, the last thing it needs is for the gullible to taken in by a charlatan sowing the seeds of racial animus and xenophobia.
However . . .
We’re uncomfortable with Jones’ voice being silenced on multiple outlets. As staunch supporters of the First Amendment to the Constitution and defenders of free speech, we can’t support someone’s speech being taken away, even someone we find as reprehensible as Jones.
As pointed out on our personal Facebook page, by someone whose opinion we respect (and is much smarter than us), we’ve called many times for the blocking of Russian hackers, who create fake news on social media as an attack on American democracy. Why, this person asked, should one set of false stories (from Russia) be OK to eliminate but not another (from Jones)? After all, weren’t the Russians just exercising their free speech?
We don’t think an act of war (which a cyber attack is) falls under free speech. If Jones called for armed insurrection and revolution (something, we fear, we’re coming close to in post-2016 America), we would condemn Jones as quickly as we condemn the Russians and call for his ouster off digital media as well.
We find Jones repugnant in his use of victims of horrible mass shootings as pawns in his quest to separate the gullible from their money, like a political televangelist.
However, no matter how we feel about Jones, we believe the First Amendment is there to protect all speech, not just the speech we find palatable. Jones should be shouted down by voices of reasoned opposition and individuals should exercise their right to simply not listen to him; he should not be gagged by corporate entities only concerned about protecting shareholder value.