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‘They have broken Trump’: Alex Jones and the Trump Internet’s fractured response to the Syria strikes

(Alex Jones Channel on YouTube)

“I haven’t had Trump call me in six months,” Alex Jones said, his voice particularly hoarse. He was streaming live from the Infowars studio Friday night, because President Trump had just announced a strike on Syria. If Trump did decide to call Jones that night, he’d find that his longtime admirer was furious. “I will tell Trump that you really betrayed your family and your name, and everything you stood for with this horse manure.”

“They have broken Trump,” Jones said. Later, he promised again to deliver a message to the president: “If you ever call me again, I’m going to tell you I’m ashamed of you.”

With a Trump White House, Jones becomes a media headline regularly, like a next-generation Pat Robertson. Yes, he’s a viral, quotable voice from the extremes. But Trump has been interviewed on Infowars, a fact that has helped Jones’s words carry weight, on the possibility that the president might be hearing them. Infowars has previously promoted conspiracy theories about teenage survivors of a school shooting, and implied that the deadly white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville last year was a false flag designed to undermine Trump’s agenda.

Is President Trump’s strike on Syria constitutional?

With his response to Syria, Jones has become a headline for a very different reason: This time, the conspiracy theory that Jones is promoting has turned Trump himself into one of the enemies responsible for perpetuating it.

Alex Jones was a powerful underground voice for the alternative conservative media, but he became a more mainstream figure in December 2015. (Video: Erin Patrick O'Connor, Manuel Roig-Franzia/The Washington Post)

As the live stream continued, Jones went into an extended, often vulgar and sometimes difficult to follow monologue in which he tried to convey just how upset he was by Trump’s decision to authorize strikes against Syria. Jones, and many others in the Trump-supporting Internet, have long believed a conspiracy theory that chemical attacks in Syria are false flags designed to emotionally manipulate the United States into war.

Jones had his producers put up the headlines about Syria from the Drudge Report. As Jones read them, his voice began to break.

“I just feel like I just had my best girlfriend break up with me,” Jones said. “The left will make jokes, but this ain’t funny, man.”

“He was doing good, and that’s what makes it so bad,” Jones added, after trying to compose himself. “If he’d been a piece of crap from the beginning it wouldn’t be so bad.” At this point, Jones appears to be openly crying.

“We made so many sacrifices, and now he’s crapping all over us. It makes me sick.”

In an impromptu Periscope stream shortly before going live on his YouTube channel Friday night, Jones became another headline: “I’m not in a f—— cult for Donald Trump.”

“I shouldn’t even be live right now,” he said, before unleashing another sentence of expletives. After a couple of calmer (for Jones) sentences, Jones started to yell again: “F— Trump!”

Trump’s online base of support often feels like a machine, one that creates and amplifies narratives supporting the president into the mainstream and attacks anyone perceived as his enemy. The machine works so well that, as was the case in the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., its combative, conspiratorial tone has been absorbed by a larger portion of the right-wing Internet. But Syria has always been a dividing point between the pro-Trump Internet and Trump. Almost exactly a year ago, the United States responded to another suspected chemical attack with airstrikes, and the Trump Internet erupted in fury. “I’m officially off the Trump Train,” tweeted one Infowars correspondent.

from 2017: ‘I’m officially off the Trump Train’: Trump’s online base is furious about the Syria strikes

Mike Cernovich, an influential personality on the pro-Trump Internet who has since rebranded himself as not explicitly pro-Trump, was live-streaming during the 2017 attacks. “This is unbelievable. This is not what we voted for. This is definitely not what we voted for,” he told his audience. He, and other Trump Internet celebrities, helped to amplify the hashtag #SyriaHoax.

President Trump announced April 13 that the U.S. had conducted a military strike against the Syrian government in response to suspected chemical attacks. (Video: The Washington Post)

On Friday night and Saturday morning, Cernovich wrote tweets promoting a conspiracy theory that the chemical attacks in Syria were staged, and also what was read among Trump supporters as a pretty direct attack on Trump: “At least I won’t feel bad when he gets impeached,” the now-deleted tweet read.

But while multiple powerful figures in the Trump Internet were, at least temporarily, turning on the president, the response was not universal. Before Cernovich deleted his tweet, several #MAGA accounts pledged to unfollow him in response.

Alex Jones posted another video to Twitter on Saturday evening, where he responded to commenters who criticized his expletive-filled outburst against the president. In the hour-long, often rambling video, Jones said those questioning his theory hadn’t spent “15 hours a day” studying the deep state, as he says he has.

“I got so angry last night in that feed that I wasn’t even sure was live,” Jones said, speaking about another expletive he used about Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. “I was so angry I wasn’t even coherent. Because World War III isn’t coherent. It’s stupid!”

“Who needs deep state & enemies when there’s so called ‘allies’ like you,” one Twitter user replied in response to Jones’s extended explanation. Another advised, “You need a VACATION.”

And at least one major voice on the MAGA Internet, Bill Mitchell, appeared to subtweet Jones and others who were criticizing the president for the Syria strikes:

On r/The_Donald, a pro-Trump Reddit board, a wave of criticism of Trump’s announcement was largely outvoted by messages supporting the president and some self-aware comments about the expectation that they’d all be as upset as Jones by the news — a meme the board seemed determined to undermine. “Awful lot of concern trolls out tonight,” one top comment on the board’s main thread about Trump’s announcement read. “Trust in Trump, he’s not steered us wrong yet.”

This post, originally published on April 14, has been updated. 

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