The first I ever heard of Alex Jones was about twenty years ago. A fellow who came into the library I worked at who often stopped to engage me in conversation told me I needed to stay up late at night and listen to this guy named Alex Jones. According to this fellow, Jones had insights into the misdeeds of the government and those who controlled it that no one else was talking about.
Now, I’ve run into my share of conspiracy theorists during my time on earth. Sometimes what I have heard made sense and most of the time it was just confusing. I did give Jones a listen one evening back then. In fact, I listened to his show for about thirty minutes hoping to find out why my library acquaintance was so enamored with Alex Jones and his radio show. It didn’t take me long to realize that Jones was not just a conspiracy theorist. Indeed, he was (and is) a champion of ideas that are ultimately fascist. His theories are not just looping conspiracy rants. Instead, they serve as substance for those in the US who believe that their world is being destroyed by liberals, Marxists, immigrants and Blacks (not to mention various threats to their masculinity from women, gays and others challenging traditional gender realities.)
So, I have to admit it doesn’t really bother me that the outreach of his propaganda machine is being curtailed by various corporate platforms. The irony that even Jones’s money can’t always buy him time on Facebook and elsewhere redefines ever so slightly the nature of free speech in modern day USA.
Do I think this action by those platforms may effect the ability of leftist and anarchist groups and individuals to provide content and share events on these corporate platforms? Yes, I do. At the same time, I can’t find it within me to support those liberals and leftists who think they need to defend Alex Jones.
In the same way that I cannot support the ACLU when it defends nazis and other fascists’ right to hold protests in places they are not wanted, I can also not call for Alex Jones to have unfettered access to spout his outright lies and hate. Just like I won’t defend fascist speakers supposed right to speak at college campuses behind police protectors or the use of police to defend their armed rallies, I won’t sign on to a call to oppose the removal of Alex Jones pages from internet platforms like Facebook.
I do believe he has the money to fight back against those platforms that have removed his program. I also think he will probably win his case. This will not change a damn thing for those supporting the rights of the Palestinians in opposition to Israel whose pages have been taken down by Facebook. Nor will it do much for those who post anti-fascist meetups and protests only to see their posts removed and their accounts suspended. The Facebook ministry of truth will still define truth as it sees it.
Jones will tell his lies in a less obvious manner. The primary result will be that hate-filled loudmouths like Alex Jones will be able to expand the breadth of their reach, spreading their proto-fascist propaganda without any ability by those who oppose the content of his rants to legally stop him. In other words, free speech will be further limited to those who can afford to pay for it. Just as it has in the past, this will mean those propagandists funded by wealthy (usually right wing) millionaires and billionaires will strengthen their control over the so-called free press. I don’t think that’s what Thomas Paine had in mind.
Defending rightwing hate speech is not going to prevent the powers that be from denying leftists and anarchists a forum in the public space. Nor will joining Alex Jones and his fans in demanding the corporate internet give him back his platforms. Let Alex Jones fight his battles without our help.