How Alex Jones became the ‘multiplatform prophet of paranoia’

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Alex Jones’ origin story: 4 moments that shaped the ‘multiplatform prophet of paranoia’

Alex Jones has had a strange career.

For instance, he interviewed filmmaker David Lynch about his skepticism about the events that took place on 9/11. He chatted with Charlie Sheen, who slammed the creator of CBS’ “Two and a Half Men.” He was arrested while crashing a Geraldo Rivera segment on Fox News about a Republican senator arrested for lewd conduct in a restroom.

But it is Jones’ penchant for misinformation that brought him mainstream recognition. It is also at the very center of the Sandy Hook defamation trial. He is being sued for defamation by the parents of a 6-year-old who was killed in the 2012 attack after he used his media platforms to loudly proclaim the tragedy was a hoax, including that the families were actors. The family is requesting $150 million in damages.

While his lies about the Newtown, Connecticut, tragedy certainly got a significant amount of media attention, they were, in fact, only a trickle in the river of conspiracy theories he has spread through his web show, “The Alex Jones Show,” and his website, Infowars.

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He was a loud supporter of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory (the false rumor that Hillary Clinton and prominent Democrats ran a child sex ring in a Washington, D.C., pizza shop), and he has claimed falsely that there are more homosexuals in the United States because the government has been “putting chemicals in the water.”

So how did Alex Jones turn into Alex Jones? And how did he end up the “multiplatform prophet of paranoia”?

Grid has used several profiles of his life to pull together a list of the four key moments that helped define not only who Jones has become but also how he achieved such a high level of infamy (or to those that follow him, just fame).

He learned conspiracy theories from a book on his father’s bookshelf

Jones was inspired by Gary Allen, whose book he found on his father’s bookshelf. Allen was a prominent member of the influential, far-right Cold War-era organization the John Birch Society, according to the New York Times.

“Mr. Jones was inspired, he has said, by ‘None Dare Call It Conspiracy,’ a 1971 book by Gary Allen that advanced the conservative theory that domestic decision making is not guided by elected officials, but international bankers and politicians,” according to the Times. “Mr. Allen also sold similarly-themed recordings by mail order.”

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And, as the Times says, “no one may have done more to popularize the idea of a globalist conspiracy than Alex Jones.”

His father helped him get his first media job with a good-sized audience

Jones had moderate success as a public access host, but he got his first real break that pushed him onto the public’s radar. His father, a dentist, according to BuzzFeed, happened to be cleaning the teeth of the manager for Austin, Texas, talk radio station KJFK and mentioned that his son might be a good fit for a job there.

“He said, ‘My son’s got some out-there ideas but I think he’d be perfect,’” Daryl O’Neal said. “The next week he brought Alex in for a meeting.” But to ensure the deal came through, Jones’ father was his son’s first on-air advertiser, according to BuzzFeed.

His commentary and fundraising following the Waco siege changed his status from commentator to hero to the extreme right

In 1993, when Jones was hosting that Austin radio show, a standoff took place between federal agents and a religious sect called the Branch Davidians. The apocalyptic group, which led by David Koresh, was in a compound at Mount Carmel Center ranch just outside of Waco, Texas. The 51-day incident ended with the compound burning, resulting in 86 deaths — all but four within the Branch Davidians, including Koresh himself.

After the incident, Jones said he believed the group was a peaceful, religious organization, and he sought to rebuild a church at the site of the razed compound. He was able to raise $93,000 from listeners for the project.

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The act landed him in “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno’s monologue — giving him even more publicity: “Use concrete this time,” the comedian reportedly said. The church incident also made Jones a celebrity among “patriot” militia members.

He mentioned elements of 9/11 before the tragedy took place and used his quasi-prescient words to further perpetuate his government conspiracy theories

On July 25, 2001, two months before the attacks on 9/11, Jones was engaged in one of his usual conspiracy theory rants on a local public-access channel when he mentioned Osama bin Laden (who had previously been linked to bombings at a pair American embassies in Africa in 1998) and the World Trade Center (which had been bombed in 1993). Jones suggested his listeners call the government and tell them an attack was imminent. “Call the White House and tell them we know the government is planning terrorism,” he said, according to Slate.

On the day of the attacks, according to an interview Jones did with Rolling Stone, he began his Sept. 11 broadcast by saying it was actually the government that bombed the World Trade Center.

“Those were controlled demolitions. You just watched the government blow up the World Trade Center,” Jones said.

His words cost him 70 percent of his radio affiliates, but they cemented his legacy with the far-right conspiracy theorists that were following him.

Thanks to Lillian Barkley for copy editing this article.