It was Matt Drudge, whose obsessions with overreaching corporations like Google and his daily charting of the most granular signs of the Apocalypse add a nonpartisan element to his site’s right-wing cant, who did more than anyone else to make Jones more visible. “If you had to say there was one source who really helped us break out, who took our information, helped to punch it out to an even more effective level, he’s the guy,” says Jones. “Three years ago, there was almost no news coverage of Bilderberg [an elite conference] in this country; there was an electronic Berlin Wall. Drudge, every year, takes our reportage and links to it on our site.”
Jones says that it’s now “intensifying how much he links to us and promotes us,” recalling how Drudge, this past Christmas, made every link on the site green for the holidays—except links to Infowars, which Drudge published in red. “It was like a Christmas present,” says Jones.
If Jones had allies in Hollywood and Washington, populist anger was an even bigger ally, starting with the 2008 bailouts, which fanned paranoia on the Internet like nothing before them. “When Bush was getting out of office and Hank Paulson was talking about TARP,” explains Ted Anderson, CEO of Genesis Communications Network, which distributes Jones’s show, “a congressman came up and said, ‘We’ve been told we’ll run a risk of martial law if we don’t pass this TARP bill.’ That was a paradigm shift.”
The banking crisis looked, on its face, like proof that conspiracies were real. Goldman Sachs bankers worked in both the Bush and Obama administrations; the government bailed out AIG, which prevented big Goldman losses. As bankers took home enormous bonuses and unemployment shot to 10 percent, the leap to a “globalist” conspiracy was not very far.
One financial blog, Zero Hedge, run by a pseudonymous former hedge-fund analyst, drew a huge audience fueled by the same economic anger that eventually breathed life into the populist tea party. Zero Hedge even inspired Senator Chuck Schumer to call on the SEC to investigate the issue of electronic trading in Congress, even as the blog fanned the belief that an elite cabal of Goldman execs ran the entire country.
It was out of this wave of anger and data points that a film called Zeitgeist emerged. I first heard of this film from a day trader in early 2009 as it circulated in the financial community, where conspiracy theories flourished as the Dow plunged. It was posted on Google Video by a man who calls himself Peter Joseph, a composer and video editor. He pieced it together from video clips and still images and crafted the dark, moody music himself. The three-part movie synthesized the entirety of current events with three archetypal conspiracies: 9/11 Truth, the hidden secrets of the Federal Reserve, and the pagan origins of Christianity. It seemed to explain every aspect of global chaos in two hours.
“The idea was to hit people really hard with contrary information in an exciting way,” says Joseph. “I threw the work up on the Internet, and within a number of weeks, it started getting millions of views.”
His was a kind of New Age take on Jones’s pet conspiracies, co-opting them for a more apolitical, spiritual movement. In the surge of attention, Joseph had to work out licensing arrangements for the clips he used, then made two sequels, the latest of which, Zeitgeist: Moving Forward, was screened at Tribeca Cinemas in Manhattan.
Not surprisingly, Joseph and Jones became quick enemies.
“I can’t stand Alex Jones,” says Joseph. “I can’t handle all these people who are so extreme and dogmatic. People really misinterpret my work.”
Jones debated Joseph on his radio program. “All he talks about is reeducating everyone,” snips Jones. “If that’s not tyranny, I don’t know what is.”
Jones is buzzed by his appearance on The View. On his site, it says he “culture jammed” the program, and he gleefully mocks Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg on his show.
“You realize that people hold up these big TV people like they’re gods,” he says. “But it was like being with these shriveled, demonic harpies, these empty vassalswho between them couldn’t do a crossword puzzle.”
I ask him why he wants to be on mainstream media, amid the elite he claims to hate. “I want to have a communication with the Establishment and say, ‘Do you really like what you’ve done?’ ” he says. “ ‘Do you really want to keep going with some plan that Cecil Rhodes came up with 100 years ago? Do you really want the big megabanks making hundreds of millions of dollars per quarter while everything else goes bankrupt?’ ”