Wednesday, August 1, 2018


Conspiracy theorist and outright liar Alex Jones has long been the best example of the worst of right-wing media. But his claims of fake deaths from the 2012 Sandy Hook school attack that left 26 dead, most of them children, could be the worst.

But now he is facing a legal challenge that would do a great job of setting precedent for those who engage in such outlandish, dangerous behavior. It is also exposing the kind of damage that his words have done to families already dealing with the trauma of losing a child.

As Reuters reports today in a great overview of the case, Jones' false claims that the Sandy Hook killings were faked are being taken by many as truth, including some who have been harassing the parents of the dead.

Reuters writes:

Although his theory is false, people who believe Jones have for years harassed and taunted families of the victims, court papers showed and the families have said. Some families said they have been subjected to death threats and been forced to move several times in an effort to escape harassment.

The lawsuits filed in April by Leonard Pozner, Veronique De La Rosa and Neil Heslin seek at least $1 million in damages. Each claims Jones repeatedly asserted the Sandy Hook shootings were staged and that the parents were liars and frauds who helped in a cover-up, according to court documents.

No one is a greater proponent of press freedom than me and I cringe at the thought that any judgement against Jones could lead to future anti-press legal actions or penalties that are not warranted.

Still, the abuse of the First Amendment by Jones and his ilk needs some controls. If he is not willing to do it himself, perhaps the courts must.

I've followed Jones' act for years, most recently during my time at Media Matters for America, which has documented his lies and conspiracy theories for more than a decade. And if his Sandy Hook claims were not bad enough, he also accused a survivor of the 2018 Parkland shooting in Florida of being a "crisis actor."

Other examples of his outlandish lies and dangerous false claims range from believing the government can control the weather to backing Donald Trump's claims that millions of undocumented voters cast ballots in 2016. Trump, meanwhile, has supported Jones while launching "fake news" attacks at the likes of CNN. 

In a related move, Trump turned a Tampa, Fla., audience at his rally on Tuesday against CNN reporter Jim Acosta. Trump has launched attacks on Acosta several times in recent weeks. It was very disturbing to see this kind of treatment of a reporter doing his job.

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