SmoothieDiet

Who is Alex Jones? The conspiracist and dietary supplement salesman built an empire over decades

HOUSTON (AP) — Alex Jones has pushed many conspiracy theories over the last three decades, including that the U.S. government was behind or failed to stop the Oklahoma City bombing and the 9/11 attacks.

As the outlandish nature of his false claims grew, so did his media empire, with annual revenues of up to $80 million, and a fanbase that listens to him on more than 100 radio stations across the United States as well as through his Infowars website and social media.

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“I would say that he’s one of the more extreme actors operating in this overall environment of disinformation,” said Nathan Walter, an associate professor at the Department of Communication Studies at Northwestern University.

But the future of Jones’ Infowars media platform is now uncertain as he owes $1.5 billion for repeatedly lying on his Infowars programs by saying that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that killed 20 first graders and six teachers was a hoax. On Friday, a federal judge ordered the liquidation of Jones’ personal assets but dismissed his company’s separate bankruptcy case.

It wasn’t immediately clear what would happen to Free Speech Systems, Infowars’ parent company that Jones built into a multimillion-dollar moneymaker over the past 25 years.

The bombastic Jones said on his Infowars show earlier this month that he’s been “an honorable, straightforward man.”

Born in 1974, Jones grew up in Dallas. His father was a dentist and his mother was a homemaker. As a teenager, his family moved to Austin.

It was there, in a city with the unofficial motto of “Keep Austin Weird,” that Jones, fresh out of high school, started broadcasting on a public-access television channel in the 1990s. He began promoting conspiracies about the U.S. government and false claims about a secret New World Order, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Jones was influenced in part by the 1971 book “None Dare Call It Conspiracy,” which claims shadowy forces control the government, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In 1996, Jones began working for radio station KJFK in Austin. He was fired after three years because his viewpoints made it difficult to get sponsors for his show, according to the Austin Chronicle.

After his firing, Jones began broadcasting from home on his Infowars website, buying the domain name for $9.

Jones has been successful because he effectively adapted to the changing media landscape and benefited from social media and the rise of podcasting, Walter said.

“He is very appealing in how he talks to his listeners. It feels as if they’re part of a community, they’re part of a friend group,” Walter said.

In 2004, Jones had two employees and a tiny office in south Austin. In 2007, he formed Free Speech Systems, to run his growing media business, according to court records in his bankruptcy cases. By 2010, Jones had over 60 employees. Free Speech Systems also filed for bankruptcy reorganization after the Sandy Hook lawsuits.

Jones’ company has four studios in Austin that broadcast his shows as well as a warehouse for the products he sells, according to court records.

In 2013, Jones focused on selling dietary supplements with such names as Infowars Life Brain Force Plus and Infowars Life Super Male Vitality.

“Most of (Free Speech Systems’) revenue to this day (about 80%) comes from sales of dietary supplements,” according to court records.

After the families of the Sandy Hook shooting victims sued Jones in 2018, various social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube banned Jones from their platforms. After Elon Musk bought Twitter and changed the name to X, he restored Jones’ account in December.

Walter said he didn’t think the social media bans had much negative impact on Jones. If a judge decides to liquidate his assets on Friday, that likely won’t stop Jones from spreading misinformation, Walter said.

“The biggest takeaway from the first moment when we were introduced to Alex Jones until (Friday’s) hearing happens: It tells us more about us as a society, our vulnerabilities, our susceptibilities than actually something unique about Alex Jones,” Walter said. “There are other people. Maybe not everyone is as gifted and talented in using his platform to spread these lies, but there are other people like Alex Jones.”

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Follow Juan A. Lozano: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70


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