On Monday, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones woke up to find that Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, and Apple had all banned his website Infowars. Apple removed five podcasts by Jones and Infowars, Facebook unpublished four of the site’s pages, YouTube terminated Jones’ account, and Spotify removed every episode of The Alex Jones Show from its platform. The only social media network that didn’t take action was Twitter, so Jones turned to the lone soapbox he had left and issued a “statement” regarding the sudden bans via Periscope. “Everyone must turn to Infowars as a standard to be saved,” Jones said, “Tell folks, ‘Hey, it’s the most censored thing in the world for a reason. Jones is dialed in, Jones knows what’s going on.”
But like Jones said in his so-called “world exclusive” Periscope response, there is a reason these major social media platforms have decided to take action against him and Infowars: He’s dangerous. His speech is not free speech, but hate speech. His theories are not political ideations that can be thoughtfully debated or knowledgeably discussed, but menacing speculations that have put real human lives in danger. As a nation—and especially now as we’re threading the treacherous waters of a political climate spearheaded by a president that has lied 3,251 times in his first 497 days in office—we must refuse to lazily “agree to disagree” with rhetoric that insights violence and baits vulnerable people into believing precarious claims.
As a politician (or even just as an adult human being with the ability to deploy cognitive thinking), Ted Cruz should know that claiming Sandy Hook was a hoax—and the grieving parents nothing more than well-paid crisis actors—is not “political speech.” According to The New York Times, Jones has long argued that the deadly 2012 shooting at an elementary school that left 20 children dead was nothing more than an elaborate scheme to enact stricter gun laws, and “to bolster his false claims, he often cites news reports and video clips from the hours after the shooting that turned out to be incomplete or based on wrong information.”
His speech is not free speech, but hate speech. His theories are not political ideations that can be thoughtfully debated or knowledgeably discussed, but menacing speculations that have put real human lives in danger.
Six more Sandy Hook families, including the families of two teachers and one FBI agent who responded to the shooting, have sued Jones for “creating and propagating loathsome, false narratives about the Sandy Hook shooting and its victims, and promoting their harassment and abuse.” In turn, Jones has argued that the parents of the murdered children are public figures, and is suing them for $100,000 in court costs.
The treacherous consequences of Jones’s so-called “political speech” don’t stop there, either. The provocateur backed the erroneous claims that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex-abuse ring in the basement of a Washington pizza restaurant. The consequences of Jones’s fervent support? A 28-year-old man bringing an AR-15 and other weapons into the restaurant and opening fire.
In many instances, and only after the devastating impact of his conspiracy theories have come to fruition, Jones has apologized for spreading falsehoods. In the case of Sandy Hook, Jones later admitted that he believes the shooting really did happen, and even invited the families on his show to discuss gun control. And in the so-called “Pizzagate case,” Jones apologized for perpetuating the conspiracy theory, saying, “I want our viewers and listeners to know that we regret any negative impact our commentaries may have had on Mr. Alefantis, Comet Ping Pong, or its employees.”
Here lies the problem: The man who claims he was “born in censorship” and “born being suppressed” believes he has the right to say whatever he wants regardless of the potentially deadly consequences. Because like many privileged cisgender white men, he truly believes a simple “I’m sorry” will suffice in the end.
But it won’t. Not anymore. Silencing Alex Jones isn’t an attack on free speech—it is a pivotal part of upholding it. If we lack the moral fiber and reasoning ability to decipher the freedom of the press from insidious rhetoric that foments hatred and violence, then we run the risk of becoming untethered to our shared humanity.