Infowars: America’s favourite online hatemonger gets jackbooted off YouTube

The Meming of Life: Facebook, Spotify and Apple Music have also had enough of Alex Jones’s bile and snake-oil, but why did they take so long to do the right thing?

After months of increasing scrutiny, tech companies, such as Facebook and Apple, have deleted content from right-wing provocateur Alex Jones. Video: The New York Times

 

“Watching television,” said Bill Hicks, “is like taking black spray paint to your third eye.” Luckily, he said this directly into a TV camera, so we can all look back at his routine 30 years later and nod sagely at the sincere consistency of such wisdom. It makes one wonder what he would have made of YouTube or, more specifically, what kind of sassy videos he would have uploaded to the platform concerning its own evils.

If one corner of its murky mass resembles Hicks’s optical aerosol, it’s Alex Jones’ Infowars, which was this week finally removed from the platform, and also from Facebook, Spotify and Apple Music.

Alex Jones trafficks in the full zodiac of conspiracy bugbears: chemtrails, vaccines, a shadowy new world order made up literal inter-dimensional Satanist paedophiles.

‘False flags’

More disgusting still are his claims that mass shootings are “false flags”, ie manufactured events designed to make way for gun control. This led viewers to send death threats to the grieving parents of children murdered in the Sandy Hook shooting. Some of these parents – whom Jones terms “crisis actors” – have had to move home several times, and are currently suing Jones for his part in the harassment currently preventing them even from visiting their children’s graves.

Despite this, Infowars had well over 2 million subscribers and, Jones claims, a global reach of 70 million viewers. This platform was too big to support someone making these kinds of obvious, and obviously malicious, falsehoods.

In a way, Jones is merely getting a little of his own medicine, although luckily for him not in the literal sense

YouTube’s monetisation also means that Jones’s 1.6 billion total views on YouTube is likely to have netted him substantial ad money, but this is by no means his biggest earner; fully one quarter of Jones’s screen-time is spent selling his own products: apocalypse survival kits, protein powders and vitamin supplements. To some extent, it’s Holland & Barrett for Nazis who watch Bigfoot documentaries.

Global conversation

YouTube removing Jones is not a free speech issue, but a chance to face up to the influence the platform is having on the global conversation. A free market means platforms can choose who they host and who they don’t, and an open forum of ideas does not preclude the banishment of outright falsehoods. Enforcing standards of clarity and truth is, in fact, the bedrock of civilised debate.

Put another way, “[i]t is not censorship if you violate the rules” – a nugget that comes from the small print on Infowars’ website. In a way, Jones is merely getting a little of his own medicine, although luckily for him not in the literal sense. If watching television is black spray paint, Infowars’ YouTube account was a rancid jet of All Attack Outdoor Bear Mace ($49.99 inc tax and shipping).

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