Alex Jones, Cass Sunstein, and “Cognitive Infiltration”

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    by Ron Unz, The Unz Review:

    Late last week a Texas jury ordered Alex Jones to pay nearly $50 million in compensatory and punitive damages to the parents of a child killed in the Sandy Hook shootings, with two more trials still scheduled. These awards may be sharply reduced, but if they are not, the result will probably mean the destruction of Jones’ media empire.

    For decades Jones has been one of America’s most prominent conspiracy theorists, and although I’ve never watched his show nor scarcely ever visited his website, under ordinary circumstances I would be quite sympathetic to his plight, given the tremendous record of dishonesty by his arch-enemies in the mainstream media.

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    From what I’ve read, Jones came to major national prominence in the early 2000s when he became a leading skeptic of the official 9/11 narrative, widely promoting public criticism of that official fairy tale when no one in the mainstream media and even few alternative journalists were willing to do so. I myself only became aware of these issues long afterward, and if I’d been listening to Jones at the time I would have learned some important facts years earlier.

    However, even a broken clock is right twice each day, and the conspiracy community seems plagued by individuals who tend to believe that almost everything is a conspiracy and that reality can be determined simply by inverting the statements of government officials or mainstream journalists. Jones represents an unfortunate example of this tendency, probably egged on by his numerous agitated followers.

    Soon after the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School took the lives of 26 students, Jones and various other prominent conspiracy-activists began denying the reality of the massacre. They focused upon initial inconsistencies in the mainstream media reports and what they considered suspicious video footage to claim that the killings had never occurred, and that the incident was merely a hoax concocted by powerful groups for sinister reasons, with the allegedly grief-stricken parents actually being “crisis actors” recruited to play a role for the national television cameras. Indeed, Prof. James Fetzer, who held similar beliefs, entitled his controversial book Nobody Died at Sandy Hook, and he subsequently lost a defamation lawsuit similar to that of Jones.

    The parents of murdered children are highly sympathetic victims, and publicly accusing them of being paid actors with imaginary children seems legally actionable, especially after they were bombarded with death threats by Jones’ legion of devoted followers. Under American libel law, even the wildest accusations may be freely made against public figures without much fear of legal consequences; but the parents of murdered schoolchildren are private individuals, so Jones appears to deserve his fate.

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