Alex Jones treats all the tweets and news stories about him like kindling. They’re printed out and piled on his desk, where the headlines frame the issues that Jones wants to talk about on his live streams and radio show. This week, as it has been for many weeks lately, that issue is Alex Jones.
On Wednesday, Jones was talking about his removal from several major social media platforms — Facebook, YouTube, Spotify and Apple among them — for violating policies against harassment and hate speech.
The Infowars host read out a headline he liked, one that came from Breitbart: “INFOWARS APP OVERTAKES CNN ON CHARTS, CNN LOBBIES APPLE TO CENSOR.” Infowars was pushing its app hard to its audience as the best way to access its content now that it was off YouTube and Facebook. Jones saw his newly trending app as evidence that he was, once again, about to grow stronger from another attempt to silence his voice.
He also saw a conspiracy. “Google, because we’re also trending on Google, Google does not list us. It does not show that the app exists.” Jones showed a video that an Infowars staffer had tweeted out earlier. The video shows a phone displaying Google Play Store’s trending list:
Infowars said it was because Google didn’t want you to see the success of the app. However, it seems Jones and his crew neglected to notice that Google by default hides apps from the Play Store list that have already been installed on a user’s phone. Had they changed that setting to display all apps, their conspiracy theory would have fallen apart.
Jones has been mad the past few days, but no longer on YouTube, Spotify or Google. But this is a man whose conspiracy-laden empire is named Infowars, who speaks of a coming civil war with liberals so often that it feels like a mantra. Everything is always turned up to 11 with Jones. The stakes have perhaps never been higher for him, but it’s hard to distinguish Angry Jones from Really Angry Jones. And it is equally hard to tell what will happen in the long run to Infowars’s influence in 2018 after losing access to the platforms that fueled its growth. There is evidence that de-platforming can minimize reach. But Jones is also a person whose admirers include the president of the United States.
In Jones’s world, his removal from certain corners of the Internet had nothing to do with his comments on the survivors of the Parkland school shooting, or Muslims, or any other group that Infowars has targeted as enemies. It was part of a globalist conspiracy to silence him, because his show provided too much truth for the world to handle.
Jones is really good at overwhelming his perceived enemies by volume. For a full week before Megyn Kelly aired an interview with him on NBC, Jones mass-produced videos telling his viewers that the piece would be a hit job. He promised to air a secret recording of him and Kelly, one that would fully expose the mainstream media as corrupt. In the end, neither Jones’s exposé nor Kelly’s story turned out to break even a little bit of ground. But no matter: Jones managed to walk away with a week-long news cycle about himself.
Since President Trump’s election, Jones has pursued every opportunity and controversy to reach a bigger audience. When a mocking video recasting Jones’s wildest rants as a Bon Iver song went viral, he made a big performance of loving it, telling his audience to turn it into a meme. One of his more urgent calls to action in recent months has been the warning that he was about to be banned from YouTube as part of a conspiracy to censor him, as YouTube cracked down on the spread of viral videos promoting conspiracy theories targeting the survivors of the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting.
This news, that Jones was perhaps on the verge of a ban, played to the conspiracy theorist’s benefit. As critics and supporters alike waited for the other shoe to drop, Jones gained a week’s worth of national attention. But an actual ban might be a different story.
In 2016, Twitter banned Milo Yiannopoulos one day after promising to crack down on his racist abuse targeting actress Leslie Jones on the platform. At the time, some wondered whether the ban would just make Yiannopoulos stronger: He’d lost the platform that connected him most to mainstream reporters, but perhaps the ban would make him a free-speech martyr. It worked, at first, until Yiannopoulos’s history of controversial comments caught up with him: A series of remarks in which he appeared to defend pedophilia (Yiannopoulos said the videos were “selectively edited”) caused him to be disinvited from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and otherwise relegated to the fringe, this time without a megaphone.
For now, Jones is telling Infowars devotees to download the app from Apple and Google’s stores — where it is still accessible as of this writing. He’s telling them to spread the word to their friends. He’s appealing to the president to do something — Trump once appeared on Infowars, after all — and promising to cover the developments like a breaking news story, broadcast to a diminished audience on the platforms he, for now, controls himself.
For now, those platforms include at least one mainstream outlet, perhaps the best in the world for getting the attention of journalists: Jones, and Infowars, are still allowed and active on Twitter.