Alex Jones is under fire again. This time it’s Newsweek that attempts to draw first blood with their April 5th Alex Jones’s Threat to Congressman May Be Felony article. This is not the first time Jones has drawn heat from mainstream media. It will not be the last.
Talk radio host, Alex Jones, has fierce charisma and a "give zero fucks" attitude. The Alex Jones Show airs live three hours a day, five days a week and draws millions of listeners from around the globe. He is equally adored and despised on both sides of the political isle. Hours (and hours) of his thoughts are internationally syndicated to radio stations all over the country and via satellite all over the world, by the Genesis Communication Network (GCN).
That would be us.
I’ve never met Alex Jones but for a time I worked on his Sunday show. I use the word “work” loosely. The Sunday A.J. show is a “feed show,” which means all the work is done at the Infowars studio in Texas then fed to us remotely. All we do is broadcast it over our satellites. My job was to make sure the feed wasn’t interrupted and/or make sure the building didn’t catch on fire. Occasionally, but not often, I pressed buttons.
Despite the fact I work at GCN, I do not work for Alex Jones nor have I ever met him in person. I spoke with him once when he called in, as a guest, on a separate show. He was very polite. To me, Alex Jones is one of the hosts on one of our 70+ weekly shows that we syndicate.
It’s true, Alex Jones has a big show on the network. And he produces a lot of content — 17 hours per week for us at GCN. An additional 10 to 20ish hours of weekly video for his Infowars.com site is uploaded directly to YouTube. I don’t have the Bat-Alex-Jones-Hour-Counter on hand, but my fuzzy math skills tell me these add to, approximately, 30 or 40 hours of weekly content.
Every week after every week. Year after year. For decades. Point being, when you produce such a high volume of weekly content, inevitably, you’re bound to say something — no — a lot of controversial things. And that’s how you stay on the air for twenty years.
On March 31st, Alex Jones uploaded a video titled, “WATCH LIVE NOW! Plan to Assassinate Trump Leaked” to YouTube. In it, he and guest Roger Stone — um — “discuss” Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). Schiff is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is currently investigating possible collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia. Roger Stone has his own controversy with the Russians due to his contact with a hacker called Guccifer 2.0, who may (or may not) be Russian Intelligence. This has led Schiff to publicly call Roger Stone out as, you know, a Russian agent. Apparently, Schiff calls Jones a Russian spy as well, though, I was unable to find an actual quote about that. So that's what leads up to the "discussion" of Schiff, which isn't much of a discussion at all. Alex Jones goes off on Congressman Schiff. The video is more than two hours long but at the 33:00 mark Mr. Jones says:
“I’m not against gay people. OK. I love them, they’re great folks. But Schiff looks like the archetypal cocksucker with those little deer-in-the-headlight eyes and all his stuff. And there’s something about this fairy, hopping around, bossing everybody around, trying to intimidate people like me and you, I want to tell Congressman Schiff and all the rest of them, ‘Hey, listen, asshole, quit saying Roger and I’—and I’ve never used cussing in 22 years, but the gloves are off—‘listen, you son of a bitch, what the fuck’s your problem? You want to sit here and say that I’m a goddamn, fucking Russian. You get in my face with that, I’ll beat your goddamn ass, you son of a bitch. You piece of shit. You fucking goddamn fucker. Listen, fuckhead, you have fucking crossed a line. Get that through your goddamn fucking head. Stop pushing your shit. You’re the people that have fucked this country over and gang raped the shit out of it and lost an election. So stop shooting your mouth off claiming I’m the enemy. You got that you goddamn son of a bitch? Fill your hand.’ I’m sorry, but I’m done. You start calling me a foreign agent, those are fucking fighting words. Excuse me.”
Wow. Okay. That’s very, um, specific. BUT is it bombastic radio personality bluster or is it a legitimate threat? The hard working folks at Media Matters, a progressive media watchdog that monitors Jones’s shows, certainly thought it threat worthy and forwarded said diatribe to Newsweek.com. Newsweek, a tiny magazine that has been around for a year or two took it seriously. On Wednesday afternoon, April 5th, Newsweek.com publishes the “Alex Jones’s Threat to Congressman May Be Felony” article. Nina, for Newsweek, writes:
“Law enforcement officials are not saying whether they will charge broadcaster Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist ally of President Donald Trump, for publicly threatening to “beat” Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and telling Schiff to “fill your hand”—a reference to taking up a pistol.”
Then, Nina quotes Amanda Berman, director of legal affairs with Lawfare Project as, “It seems to be a clear provocation … I think there is a legal basis for a conviction based on Jones’s threat, which as made ‘with intent to impede, intimidate or interfere’ with Congressman Schiff’s exercise of his duties…”
Fair enough. I’m no director of legal affairs with anyone, but I have a common sense thought about this. I suspect law enforcement officials are “not saying anything” because law enforcement officials -- well -- don’t plan to do anything. As in, nothing. No charges. Nada. Because that would be silly.
I seriously doubt anyone in law enforcement believes Alex Jones is a credible threat to Representative Schiff. In fairly typical talk show host fashion, Alex Jones postures and face-anger gesticulates his way through the entire rant. Alex Jones responds to the Newsweek article and says the speech in question was, “tongue in cheek and basically art performance ... all protected by the First Amendment.”
He’s right. It is. But we should all know by now the First Amendment doesn’t protect one from consequences. Alex Jones has the First Amendment right to “Infowars Rant As Performance Piece” and Newsweek has the First Amendment right to call him out for possible consequences.
Speaking of consequences, Nina Burleigh writes, “It’s not clear whether the video was broadcast on the air before being posted to YouTube: If so, that would bring it under the purview of the Federal Communications Commission. Jones’s Infowars program is carried by Genesis Communications Network, which produces 75 shows aired on 830 radio stations ... The CEO and founder of Genesis Communications, Ted Anderson, also has not responded to messages.”
Whoops! Sorry, Nina. My fault! Someone at GCN absolutely, positively forwarded me your request for a comment, and I absolutely, positively ignored it. (Or, more accurately, with good intention to
“get to it,” I pretty much just forgot about it). Nina, since you ask and since I work here at GCN, it takes me all of three minutes to find out that the Alex Jones speech in question is not part of his weekly syndicated show on GCN and therefore did not go out over the airwaves. It was produced through Infowars.com and uploaded directly to YouTube. The FCC has no jurisdiction over YouTube so Alex Jones violated a total of zero FCC regulations.
Nothing will come from this. No charges filed. No violence against the Congressman. Nothing. You know how I know? Because this kind of thing happens all the time. Madonna said, “I want to blow up the White House.” Nothing came of that. Robert De Niro said he wants to “punch President Trump in the face.” Nothing came of that. Ted Nugent threatens to kill President Obama multiple times! Nugent was interviewed by Secret Service for his comments and nothing came of it. Nothing will come of this, either. Hoping for legal action is, frankly, a little absurd. Perhaps there will be (and should be) social consequences due to the anti-gay language in the speech. Starting a speech with, "I'm not against gays, I love them..." then immediately using a gay, male stereotype as a negative is ridiculous. Homophobia is homophobia. It doesn't matter if the comment is intended to be harmless. So knock it off.
Anyway, I’m surprised Newsweek even bothered. It’s pretty obvious the speech, like many of his speeches, is Alex Jones posturing for effect. He does have a reputation as a polarizing national radio personality to protect. He's controversial and has plenty of views that I don’t understand. And maybe you don’t either. Or maybe you think he’s a patriot and you love him. Or maybe you think he’s insane and you hate him. Whatever the case, Alex Jones has the right to express his views. Newsweek has the right to express theirs. And if there are consequences then there are consequences. But I really, seriously doubt Alex Jones poses a legitimate, credible threat to the Congressman. The March 31st Infowars YouTube video is, to snatch a phrase from Mr. Jones’s resident State of Texas, “All hat, no cattle.”