Alex Jones Doesn't Understand How Free Speech Or Humanity Work
If you're unfortunate enough to know the name Alex Jones, you'll recall that he promoted the absurd conspiracy theory that the 2012 murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary school was all some elaborate hoax, based on the crack reporting of rabid raccoons chasing themselves inside his head. This actually resulted in some victims' families having to go on the run like Richard Kimble in "The Fugitive" because they were receiving death threats from the morons who took Jones seriously. But the families whose grief Jones cruelly exploited are fighting back.
On Wednesday in an Austin courtroom, the struggle of the Sandy Hook families to hold to account Alex Jones, a powerful leader of this online community, will reach a crossroads. Lawyers for Noah Pozner's parents will seek to convince a Texas judge that they — and by extension the families of eight other victims in the 2012 shooting that killed 20 first graders and six adults — have a valid defamation claim against Mr. Jones, whose Austin-based Infowars media operation spread false claims that the shooting was an elaborate hoax.
The Pozner hearing is a bellwether in three cases, including another in Texas and one in Connecticut, filed by relatives of nine Sandy Hook victims. It comes as the social media platforms Mr. Jones relies upon to spread incendiary claims initiate efforts to curb him.
Later this week, Jones will hop over to another room in the same courthouse for his other defamation suit. (Like an alcoholic doctor who never washes his hands, Jones is sued a lot.) Marcel Fontaine, whom Jones falsely identified on his Infowars website as the gunman in the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, is suing him for what you just read between the commas. Fontaine lives in Massachusetts and has never even been to Florida. Accusing him of visiting the home of Disney and stand your ground is defamation enough, but recklessly claiming he murdered innocent children kind of crosses a line.
And, class act that he is, Jones is counter-suing the Pozner family for $100,000 in court costs.
I get that defending yourself from your own heartless incompetence is pricey, but he should've considered protecting himself with "asshole insurance." (Acts of God aren't covered, so he's on his own regarding whatever's happening to his face.)
Jones argues that the Pozner and Fontaine cases should be dismissed because they're just obvious attempts to silence him and restrict his First Amendment rights to free speech. Unfortunately for Jones, the version of the First Amendment that's in the actual Constitution differs significantly from the non-legally binding one he found scrawled on the back of a cocktail napkin at his local bar. Malicious slander isn't protected speech.
Jones isn't the only one suffering from the embarrassment of not having actually read the First Amendment, which appears all the way at the beginning of the Bill of Rights. Last week, Facebook smacked Jones's personal page with a 30-day ban for violating its Community Standards (they capitalize the words to show how seriously they take them). Ted Cruz, who consistently ranks as the least popular senator (even when you include McCarthy), made a play for the asshole vote by defending Jones's right to spout BS on someone else's platform.
Literal lawyer Cruz literally doesn't know the difference between a private company controlling its content and the government censoring citizens. Would it clear things up for Cruz if he just considered Facebook a Christian baking website where Jones had posted a lot of gay wedding cake pictures? He even mentions that Jones "has a habit" of "repeatedly slandering" his own father. (The JFK assassination claim is especially baseless because we all know the cigarette smoking man did it, except for Rebecca, who is a cuckoo who thinks it was George HW Bush.)
Jones's entire defense relies on not distinguishing between political speech ("Ted Cruz is a spineless prig") and slanderous speech ("Ted Cruz is addicted to boring online porn" -- as a purely hypothetical example). But even Facebook, which is often confused over what constitutes hate speech, understood that Jones is garbage.
Mr. Jones and his lawyers say in court filings that the Pozner family's suit is an effort "to silence those who openly oppose their very public 'herculean' efforts to ban the sale of certain weapons, ammunition and accessories, to pass new laws relating to gun registration and to limit free speech."
That stance echoes Mr. Jones's original false claims that Sandy Hook was staged by government-backed gun control activists. Mr. Jones's lawyer says in court filings that Mr. Jones's theories are opinion, which is more broadly protected by the First Amendment. He also maintains that Mr. Pozner and Ms. De La Rosa are public figures, because Mr. Pozner has created a nonprofit to combat the harm caused by online falsehoods and Ms. De La Rosa has advocated a ban on assault weapons, like the AR-15-style rifle used in the Sandy Hook shooting.
Hold up ... is Jones actually spreading slanderous lies to defend himself from the charge of having spread slanderous lies? His attorneys must've attended the Rudy Giuliani School of Law and TV Repair. Also, Madonna and Beyoncé are "public figures." I rarely refer to Mr. Pozner and Ms. De La Rosa solely by their first names, which I don't even know. Jones, of course, has done more than attack their reputations. He's set them up for harassment.
The Pozner family's story is recounted in the court filings: In 2015, after Mr. Pozner succeeded in having an Infowars video taken down from Mr. Jones's YouTube channel, "Mr. Jones went on an angry rant about me for nearly an hour," Mr. Pozner said in an affidavit. Mr. Jones "also hosted a call with an obsessed fellow conspiracy theorist who issued a threat to me."
"Mr. Jones then showed his audience my personal information and maps to addresses associated with my family," the affidavit says.
Sort of like the defense attorneys on "Law & Order" who cut to the chase and admit their clients are scum but just not guilty of this particular crime, Jones's lawyers insist that "no reasonable person" would believe anything that comes out Jones's leprous mouth.
Now, I want to see Jones sued into penury, but if this case could prove that Donald Trump, who claimed Jones had an "amazing reputation," isn't a "reasonable person," then maybe that finally triggers the 25th Amendment. I'm really torn.
Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.