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Is Alex Jones a Performance Artist? Does It Matter?

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Psychologists will tell you people find conspiracy theories comforting for a number of reasons: a collective sense of self-congratulation at uncovering "hidden truths" (Sandy Hook deniers), an inability to process events that promise dramatic societal change (9/11 "truthers"), or just general pigheaded ignorance (too many to count, but mostly those who believe we faked the moon landings). An ex-co-worker of mine actually wrote his dissertation on conspiracy theories. Granted, he never let me read it (possibly because someone got to him), but I like to think he'd concur.

What we do know is that Austin-based radio host/InfoWars.com founder/living approximation of human centipede final segment Alex Jones is a vocal proponent of the government cover-up, to put it mildly. Jones’s show has been instrumental in disseminating conjecture about everything from vaccines causing autism to the sinister Bilderberg Group, while his website is both a clearinghouse and an all-caps call to arms for those who reject “MSM” lies and government brainwashing.

Or maybe not.

For the last couple of weeks, Jones has been embroiled with ex-wife Kelly in a custody battle for their three children. On April 17, his lawyer attempted to lay the groundwork that Jones is merely a performance artist (and is not in fact the unhinged rage machine that screams about George Soros on his radio show):

"He's playing a character" and is nothing like his online persona, attorney Randall Wilhite reportedly insisted in a Texas courtroom at a pre-trial hearing ahead of the right wing radio jock's custody battle with ex-wife Kelly Jones.

Judging Jones by his Infowars performances would be like judging Jack Nicholson by his depiction of the Joker on "Batman," Wilhite told state District Judge Orlinda Naranjo last week, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Another of Jones’s attorneys, David Minton, described his work as “satire.” However, the public reaction to these claims was apparently significant enough that Jones himself filmed a video (as he was walking into court, no less) saying he believed “110 percent” in everything the show stands for. He later testified in court he believed in his program. This before stating that chili causes him to lose his memory. Anecdotally, I know several longtime Austin residents who'll tell you Jones has always claimed he was merely playing a part. If true, it would seem to indicate Jones isn't so much a prophet of rage but the L. Ron Hubbard of the alt right.

Normally, we could write Jones off as the kind of florid, spluttering blowhard one should only listen to on the off chance he'll suffer a hemorrhagic stroke on the air (see also Rush Limbaugh). But in what has become an increasingly horrifying development, Infowars fan and current President Donald Trump (hence the "horrifying") often repeats material found on Jones's show, including the idea that Barack Obama was a secret ally of the Islamic State (and he couldn’t even get sharia law implemented in eight years! Sad!), the idea that “thousands” of American Muslims celebrated the collapse of the World Trade Center, or that the "dishonest press" is somehow concealing the existence of numerous terrorist attacks.

Put another way: Trump constantly refers to outlets like CNN, NBC and The New York Times as "fake news," yet expresses his support for Jones, who deleted articles and videos related to the ludicrous "PIzzagate" conspiracy, likely to avoid a potential lawsuit. Imagine the reaction from those like Jones if the Times or Washington Post went and scrubbed their archives of embarrassing stories.

If recent events have taught us anything, it's that we have yet to reach bottom with these stalwart defenders of liberty. Bill O'Reilly only ended a decades-long pattern of workplace harassment and abuse after Fox News finally felt the sting of its vaunted free market (and he'll still receive a $25 million dollar payoff). The network is also the subject of a class-action lawsuit alleging years of sexual and racial discrimination.

Of course, you'd have to watch something other than Fox News to know that.

The claims of Jones's lawyers haven't put much of a dent in his following (his YouTube channel still boasts more than two million subscribers). And if you're in the habit of listening to the thyroidal ravings of a guy you'd call the cops on if you saw him loitering near a playground, insignificant things like whether he actually believes the things he's saying or inexplicably dropping references to the 150 women he slept with as a teen in a recent video ostensibly defending his Sandy Hook assertions aren't going to change your mind.

Stephen Colbert once remarked that reality has a liberal bias. As long as Jones et al. provide an audience eager for any ammunition to fire back at the mounting "liberal" evidence of everything from climate change to corruption at the highest levels of the federal government, he's not going anywhere.

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