Infowars is a somewhat popular source for political news within the contemporary United States. What is less clear, though, is whether it deserves this kind of following. The purpose of the present sample critical essay provided by Ultius is to conduct an overview and critique of Infowars. The essay will begin with an overview of Infowars as such. Then, it will proceed to consider Infowars’ perspective on the shooting at Sandy Hook as a case study of the kind of perspective that Infowars provides. After this, the essay will turn to a discussion of the apparent emerging connection between Infowars and the presidential campaign of Trump. Finally, in light of these preceding parts, the essay will conduct a critical evaluation of Infowars and conclude that Infowars cannot be considered a credible source for political news.
What is Infowars?
Infowars was created and is run by a man named Alex Jones, who currently resides in the city of Austin, Texas. This is how Zaitchik of the Rolling Stone has described Jones:
“A stocky 37-year-old with a flop of brown hair and a beer gut, Jones usually bounds into the studio eager to launch into one of his trademark tirades against the ‘global Stasi Borg state’—the corporate-surveillance prison planet that he believes is being secretly forged by an evil cabal of bankers, industrialists, politicians, and generals” (paragraph 2).
This is quite the introduction; but it nevertheless accurately captures the flavor of the world perspective that is espoused by Jones and propagated through his news site Infowars. This is a perspective that falls within the camp of what common people are ordinarily accustomed to calling a conspiracy theory.
One of the things that can certainly be said about Infowars that it offers a perspective of the world that falls far beyond the bounds of the perspective offered by any mainstream news outlet. As one point made by Debate.org reads:
“Alex Jones can be radical and slightly crazy at times and make some conspiracy theory stuff, but mostly Infowars provides very good stories from different viewpoint than what most of mainstream media feeds people. Plus, Infowars has a fair share of very good journalists” (paragraph 1).
Infowars’ warped perspective on reality
The point could thus perhaps be made that Infowars can help open people’s minds to alternative perspectives of political reality—which, in fact, is the explicit purpose of the news site, with its characteristically menacing slogan that there is a war going on for one’s mind. In a day and age in which a great many people no longer trust the mass media, Infowars could potentially come to be seen as a refreshing breath of authentic fresh air from a source that is not beholden to the dominant interests of the powers that be within contemporary society.
The growing public distrust of the mass media is probably to a large extent justified. As Herman and Chomsky have shown in their magisterial study of the political economy of the mass media, the normal media outlets of society are becoming increasingly concentrated into fewer and fewer hands, with the result that value judgments based on politics and money are increasingly coming to shape the agenda of what is and is not reported by media outlets, as well as the perspective or “spin” involved in the content that is reported. In this context, there would seem to be a strong public demand for alternative news sources that can be trusted to tell the American people the truth. The popularity of Infowars is directly based on the fact that it presents itself as meeting this demand. However, just because a news source is alternative does not necessarily mean it is credible. A closer analysis of Infowars is thus clearly in order here.
A case study: Sandy Hook
One of the characteristic stories that has been propagated by Infowars is that the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, in Connecticut back in the year 2012, did not in fact actually happen. As Salazar has reported: after the event,
“Internet sleuths immediately took to the web to stitch together clues indicating that the shooting could be a carefully scripted false flag event, similar to the 9/11 terror attacks, the central tenet being that the event would be used to galvanize future support for gun control legislation” (paragraph 2).
Infowars has suggested that the American government itself was responsible for staging the massacre at Sandy Hook, because then the government would be able to use this as an excuse for pressing for gun control measures within the nation. According to Infowars, this would then be part of a larger scheme to seize power from the people. Moreover, the reference to 9/11 is not accidental: Infowars believes that 9/11 was an inside job, pulled off by the American government itself so that it could then take oppressive actions against the American people in the name of national security.
An impossible feat
Of course, from the common perspective, this story would seem to be tantamount to madness. Among other things, one could wonder how there could have been no murders at Sandy Hook, but this story was still kept under wraps all the same; such a state of affairs would seem to imply that the entire town in which the school was located must have in some way been paid off, or else succumbed to a collective hallucination. In short, the question of whether a mass murder did or did not happen would seem to be a relatively straightforward, empirically verifiable matter. However, this is not how Alex Jones or Infowars sees the matter. The article by Salazar has quoted facts, figures, and testimonies to support the idea that the shooting at Sandy Hook did not in fact happen, and that the entire event was thus nothing but propaganda generated by the American government.
Infowars and Trump
As of late, a recent development in American politics would seem to be a growing (and depending on one’s perspective, disconcerting) rapport between Alex Jones and the President Donald Trump. For example, Perlstein has indicated the following regarding a meeting between Jones and Trump:
“After about 30 minutes of mutual compliments, and Jones telling Trump that ‘about 90 percent of his listeners support him, the presidential candidate wrapped things up by telling Jones: ‘Your reputation is amazing'” (paragraph 10).
It is initially difficult to know what to make of this, as neither the reputation of Jones nor that of Trump could rightly be called “amazing,” according to any ordinary definition of the word. Indeed, the primary thing that these two figures would seem to have in common is simply that they are both derided by the mass media, as well as most non-fringe Americans, as propagated an insane perspective that has little to do with objective reality.
Trump’s disdain for facts would not even seem to be a point of contention anymore; rather, such disdain has been widely recognized as forming something of a core component of his entire campaign strategy. As Lund has reported:
“Trump regularly makes things up, then demands that his challengers prove him wrong. Most of the time, proving him wrong requires the impossibility of proving a negative, which gives Trump all the room he needs to maneuver” (paragraph 5).
Given that this is the kind of epistemological standard on which Trump relies, the fact that Trump and Jones admire each other is, to say the least, dubious. More specifically: the mutual admiration could be read as a kind of circumstantial evidence that Jones’s picture of reality as the same basic sources as Trump’s picture of reality—which is to say, a small fragment of objective fact, distorted by an enormous imaginary picture of the nature of contemporary political reality.
In order to properly understand the nature of Infowars, it will be necessary to rely on a kind of what could be called frame analysis. One of the main ideas of the philosopher Wittgenstein is that once a basic logical premise is accepted, almost any picture of reality could be made to look internally coherent, as one as the will and determination to interpret all facts in accordance with that original premise.
Unfortunately, however, such coherence does not necessarily guarantee sanity; rather, it could just mean that the system in question is a highly sophisticated delusion instead. For a person who has fully accepted the original premise and cannot even conceive of that premise being wrong, there could be virtually no external fact that could prove his picture of reality wrong. Indeed, he would sooner stop believing his own eyes than ever seriously doubt the original premise that grants coherence to his vision of the world as a whole.
The original premise of Jones and Infowars would be that there is in fact a conspiracy underway to turn the United States and the world into a kind of fascist police state. And they will interpret all events accordingly. For example, it is fact that President Obama actually has referred to the massacre Sandy Hook as a key piece of evidence in favor of the need for enhanced gun control. Moreover, this is a logical argument on the part of Obama.
Jones and Infowars, however, would suggest that: one, Obama wants gun control at any cost; two, a massacre such as the one at Sandy Hook would help the cause of gun control; therefore, three, Obama and his government were responsible for staging the massacre, so that they could get what they wanted. There is little in Obama’s empirical argument to support such extrapolations. Rather, it is clear enough that the missing ingredients are being provided by the imaginations of the followers of Infowars—by the preconceived vision of the political world that they already have in place.
In principle, it would seem that almost any political event would be subject to this sort of logical and rhetorical maneuver. Essentially, whenever anything at all happens that would help the enemies of Infowars, the followers of Infowars could suggest that the enemies of Infowars consciously made that thing happen; and this would circularly confirm the conspiracy theory underlying the worldview presented by Infowars itself. In short, the kind of “news” provided by Infowars has all the characteristics of paranoid delusion; and as with any delusion, only the people within the delusion are unable to recognize it as such.
On the other hand, however, the point must be admitted that however improbable it may be, it is also possible that Jones is correct that it is really everyone else who is suffering from the delusion, and that Infowars actually has a claim on the sole truth of the matter. Such a claim, however, quickly reveals itself to be almost religious in nature—which produces the final implication that Infowars would seem to have the character of a kind of self-contained religious cult. Like any cult, it claims to have sole ownership of the truth; and as with any cult, a sane person on the outside would be fully justified in treating such a claim with the utmost skepticism.
In summary, the present essay has consisted of an overview and critique of Infowars. After considering the nature of Infowars, its general perspective, and its political affiliations, the main conclusion that has been reached here is that Infowars cannot be trusted as a credible source of news. This is not because the news site’s perspective is highly unorthodox, but rather simply because the epistemological method utilized by Jones and Infowars is not compatible with the method that should be used when investigating political reality in a careful and objective way. Rather, Infowars seems to rely on a kind of almost quasi-religious thinking; and whatever else can be said about that, it disqualifies the website from being a source of real political news.
Debate.org. “Is Infowars reliable?” Author, n.d. Web. 1 Jul. 2016. .
Herman, Edward S., and Noam Chomsky. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. New York: Pantheon, 2002. Print.
Lund, Jeb. “Donald Trump Doesn’t Care What’s True, Just What His Base Feels to Be True.” Guardian, 23 Nov. 2015. Web. 1 Jul. 2016.
Obama, Barack. “Guns Are Our Shared Responsibility.” New York Times. 7 Jan. 2016. Web. 19 Jan. 2016. .
Perlstein, Rick. “Donald Trump Uses Alex Jones As an Actual News Source.” Salon. 4 Jun. 2016. We. 1 Jul. 2016. .
Salazar, Adan “FBI Says No One Killed at Sandy Hook.” Infowars. 24 Sep. 2014. Web. 1 Jul. 2016. .
Wittgenstein, Ludwig. On Certainty. New York: Harper & Row, 1972. Print.
Zaitchik, Alexander. “Meet Alex Jones.” Rolling Stone. 2 Mar. 2011. Web. 1 Jul. 2016. .