Photographs: Remi Benali/Getty Images (SWAT Team); Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/MCT/Getty Images (TSA security checkpoint); Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images (FEMA, Bush with Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud); Stuwdamdorp/Alamy (burning money); Courtesy of Alex Jones (Jones); J. Scott Applewhite/AP photo (Federal Reserve, CIA building). Richard Drew/AP Photo (World Trade Center, Beck); Mohammed Mahjoub/AFP/Getty Images (Saudi Royal Family); Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images (Obama); Justin Sullivan/Getty Images (Google); Getty Images (Teleprompter); Paul Sakuma/AP Photo (Facebook); Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images (Protest in Egypt)
Just who it is who’s dangerous is another question. The possible influence of Jones and other conspiracy-mongers became a subject of controversy after the attack on Representative Gabrielle Giffords and others by Jared Lee Loughner, who was said to be a devotee of a Jones-affiliated 9/11 video called Loose Change, as well as Zeitgeist, an online film by a freelance video editor who has worked for advertising agencies and shares a number of Jones’s interests, like the 9/11 Truth movement and the century-old conspiracy theory that the Federal Reserve is running the world.
“There’s this big storm blowing through, and it’s going to knock some trees over,” is how Jones explains the Tucson shootings.
"Okay, let’s do it,” intones Jones, preparing to go on air the day after his appearance on The View. “Let’s hammer them hard. Initiate primary ignition! We are launch! Go!”
Jones makes a laser sound, and the Star Wars imperial theme music starts up.
“The news is intensifying,” he begins. He takes the day’s events—upheaval in Egypt—and reframes them in JonesVision: Instead of the democratic revolution everybody else sees, Jones sees a covert disruption by globalist forces, probably the CIA, “to basically have some new hot spots to pour money into. The military-industrial complex isn’t gorged enough.”
For Jones, it’s not that conspiracies are getting more popular now but that the world is waking up to the reality that he and Ron Paul have known all along.
“Dollar devaluation, global banking cartels, out-of-control federal government, police state—all happened,” Jones tells me with certainty, sitting in his studio in Austin. “We’re just studying history. ”
Alex Jones has been broadcasting since the mid-nineties, when Ron Paul, during a run for Congress in 1996, became a frequent guest. Jones takes some credit for Paul’s rise to prominence, calling his radio show “part of the concrete slab that the Ron Paul rocket is fueling on.”
Paul doesn’t embrace the full Jones package, of course. And Jones’s views have grown to include conspiracy theories from the left as well—he’s a crossover artist. “They blew it up, period!” he barks, speaking of the Twin Towers. “The hijackers were trained at U.S. military bases! They were part of drills! They nerve-gassed them onboard the aircraft! They flew the damn planes into the buildings!
“I mean, the point is, you start trying to go over the evidence of 9/11, it will make your mind melt down if you actually sat there with the endless documented facts,” he continues.
“And you want to say our government wouldn’t do that?” he asks incredulously. “Look at Operation Ajax! Operation Northwoods! Gulf of Tonkin! I mean, gimme a break, man!”
The meme of 9/11 as inside job was, traditionally, a left-wing obsession. There are whiffs of it in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, and the further left you go, the more elaborate the conspiracy becomes. But it turns out that the world of paranoia is round, and 9/11, with its billowing smoke and miles of video and a cast of thousands, is the terra incognita where left and right meet, fusing sixties countercultural distrust with the don’t-tread-on-me variety.
Initially, Jones lost 70 percent of his radio stations when he began talking about 9/11 Truth, he says. It didn’t fit into the talking points of the right-wing radio audience. But if Jones lost one audience, he began to gain another, much larger one online. As he stoked the Truther movement, rebuilding his show around a new, even more amped-up audience, celebrities like Charlie Sheen started calling him. “That was right when he was breaking up with Denise Richards,” recounts Jones. Since then, Sheen has been on several times, including the appearance in which he made the infamous rant against the co-creator of Two and a Half Men that started his recent jihad against his corporate overlords.
As Jones expanded, he gained radio stations in even bigger markets, including Miami and Los Angeles. He kept cranking out his line of documentaries like Endgame, which explains the secret plan “to exterminate 80 percent of the world’s population while enabling the ‘elites’ to live forever with the aid of advanced technology.” That film attracted country singer Willie Nelson to his cause. Dennis Kucinich went on “The Alex Jones Show” as a guest to talk about impeaching George Bush. Jesse Ventura became a regular. The imprimatur of celebrities and elected officials raised Jones’s profile and grew his audience and bank account. By 2010, he was up to Police State 4: The Rise of FEMA, part of a series showing how the Patriot Act, TSA, and FEMA were part of a scheme to tag and enslave people in advance of the global lockdown.