POLITICS OCTOBER 7, 2009
Alex Jones is a husky man with short sandy hair, weary eyes, baby cheeks, and the kind of deep, gravelly voice made for horror-movie trailers. And it’s horror he has in mind. "Your New World Order will fall!" he screams through a megaphone at the shiny façade of a nondescript office building. "Humanity will defeat you!"
A syndicated radio host, filmmaker, and all-around countercultural icon based in Austin, Texas, Jones has long been one of the country’s most significant purveyors of paranoia. His 2007 documentary Endgame: Blueprint for Global Enslavement, in which the megaphone scene takes place, purports to reveal a eugenics-obsessed global elite bent on eliminating most of the earth’s population and enslaving the rest. Members of a Satanic international network, Jones explains in an ominous voiceover, have been "steering planetary affairs for hundreds of years. Now, in the final stage, they prepare for open world government." And, in a line that would later echo among tea party protesters nationwide, he says, "The answer to 1984 is 1776!”
Though Jones has always had impassioned fans, until recently, he has remained a quintessentially marginal figure. A leader of the 9/11 Truth movement--he’s listed as an executive producer on the final cut of Loose Change, a documentary at the movement’s center--Jones claims to have uncovered the interconnected plots behind the JFK assassination, water fluoridation, and the recent economic crisis. He has accused the Illuminati of putting its symbols in the Starbucks logo as a taunting show of strength. Ron Paul is a frequent guest on his radio show, and Jones, who also runs a website called RonPaulWarRoom.com, has been a major supporter of the Ron Paul movement. One of his highest-profile guests was Lou Dobbs--Jones calls him one of his "idols"--who appeared on the show in March 2008; the two discussed ostensible plans to merge the United States into a supranational "North American Union" with Mexico and Canada.
But it’s really only since Barack Obama’s election, when Jones turned the full force of his apocalyptic imagination toward the new president, that his ideas have found purchase in the conservative mainstream. Several Republican officeholders, from state representatives to congressmen, have appeared on his program to trade wild theories about Obama. Glenn Beck has brought his fear-mongering about the New World Order to network television, and an online Fox News show collaborated with him on a joint broadcast.
To be sure, sundry leftists, as well as some Hollywood types, appear on Jones’s show, as well. Dennis Kucinich and Noam Chomsky have both been on. It’s where actor Charlie Sheen goes to spout his 9/11 Truth theories. But left-wing craziness tends to stay sequestered on the fringes of politics, while the right-wing fringe increasingly is the Republican mainstream. According to a recent Public Policy Polling survey, only 37 percent of Republicans believe that Obama was born in the United States. Jones has become politically salient because much of the right is as unhinged as he is.
Alex Jones speaks in capital letters, every word ringing with hypnotic urgency. His four-hour weekday radio broadcast, airing online and on some 60 stations nationwide, begins with the Star Wars Darth Vader theme, and his opening monologues resound with science-fictional melodrama. "This transmission is absolutely essential," began a typical dispatch on September 10, 2009. "All the different pieces of the puzzle are now coming together." He then seesawed between the plausible and the insane: an Israeli attack on Iran may be in the offing; Girl Scouts are being trained as fascist spies; the dollar is falling; the government plans to round up the citizenry and shoot them in the back of the head.
Passionately isolationist and antiZionist, his radio program and websites, infowars.com and prisonplanet.com, occupy the shadowy territory where the far right curves around and meets the far left. "People on left-wing blog sites are constantly recommending him," says Chip Berlet, senior analyst at Political Research Associates, a progressive think tank that monitors right-wing movements. Berlet says he often gets e-mails from would-be leftists saying, "You’re such an idiot. You should listen to Alex Jones."
Nevertheless, Jones’s roots are very much on the far right. He represents an old strain of American conservatism--isolationist, anti-Wall Street, paranoid about elite conspiracies--that last flowered during the John Birch Society’s heyday. He began his radio broadcasting career in 1996, in his early twenties, with the Austin-based show "The Final Edition," which promulgated all sorts of black-helicopter theories about Bill Clinton. Steeped in the rhetoric of the militia movement, he’s long been a champion of Randy Weaver, the white supremacist whose wife and son were killed in 1992 by federal agents at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. (He’s asserted that the people behind Ruby Ridge and Waco were also behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombings--"Clinton’s Reichstag.")
Unlike most Clinton-haters, Jones (who didn’t respond to interview requests) hated George W. Bush just as much. To him, both Democrats and Republicans are puppets of the same set of rapacious moneymen who have hatched the New World Order conspiracy. So, when the World Trade Center was attacked again in 2001, Jones didn’t hesitate to blame the government for what he saw as an atrocity perpetrated by the global elites in their drive to enslave the world’s population.
Until recently, Jones’s search for mainstream allies has been less than fruitful. During the Bush years, when the conservative movement acknowledged Jones at all, it was to mock and revile him. In March 2006, Sean Hannity ridiculed Charlie Sheen for spinning September 11 conspiracy theories on Jones’s show. In May 2007, Michelle Malkin argued that Ron Paul’s associations with Jones and the 9/11 Truth movement should disqualify him from participating in GOP primary debates. Last year, Bill O’Reilly ran outtakes from Jones’s interview with fellow Truther Willie Nelson on a segment about "the dumbest things that have been said in the past three months."
But, since Obama’s election, the ridicule has died down. On March 15, Jones released a documentary called The Obama Deception, which has been widely advertised in conservative media and viewed more than four million times on YouTube. The Obama Deception is basically a more detailed version of the dystopian scenario promoted night after night on Beck. Arguing that Obama is the front man for an oligarchy working to create a planetary totalitarian state, it is like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion stripped of any reference to Jews.
Three days after The Obama Deception was released, the online Fox News show "Freedom Watch"--hosted by the network’s senior judicial analyst, Andrew Napolitano--did a joint broadcast with Jones. "I am so happy because we’re doing something different right now," Napolitano announced at the start of his March 18 program. "We are simulcasting with the one, the only, the great Alex Jones on Alex Jones radio!"
Jones appeared on a split screen with Napolitano. "What are you talking about today?" Napolitano asked him. "Oh, just how hundreds of mainstream news articles a week are saying there is a new world order, a global government, it will be run by the very banks that are collapsing society by design, and we will pay carbon taxes to them," Jones replied. He went on in that vein for a few moments. Then Napolitano said, approvingly, "I appreciate what you’re exposing ... I must tell you that there was a time when the types of things that you are warning against was not discussed openly and publicly." FoxNews.com has also echoed Jones’s warnings that plans to contain swine flu were a pretext to establish martial law--citing his infowars.com as a website that "has been tracking disturbing developments in swine flu preparedness"--and, on September 22, Napolitano appeared on Fox News claiming, in a mix of exaggerations and outright falsehoods, that Massachusetts was on the verge of enacting legislation that would allow police to set up swine-flu quarantines, barge into homes, and snatch unvaccinated children.
Some conservatives have groaned to see the newfound respect Jones is getting. So far, though, no one has paid a price for associating with him. In late July, Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas appeared on Jones’s show to discuss the "nation-ending" potential of Obama’s policies and the country’s incipient march toward eugenics and fascism. "Did you hear about the White House science czar calling for putting stuff in the water to sterilize us?" Jones asked him. Gohmert allowed that he had not, but he didn’t seem particularly surprised. A few minutes later, Jones asked the congressman for his thoughts about "the youth brigades, national compulsory service," that the Democrats had in store. "[T]his stuff has been done before," Gohmert said. "It was done in the 1930s, and that was not the only place it’s been done."
"Mao did it," added Jones.
"Well, that’s exactly what I was thinking of," replied Gohmert.
Bidding him goodbye, Jones told him, "We’re glad you’re there fighting, and we’re supporting you, sir, and Ron Paul and many others." For Jones, the struggle is a lot less lonely than it used to be.
Michelle Goldberg is a senior correspondent for The American Prospect. Her most recent book, The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power and the Future of the World, was published this year by Penguin Press.