When I was in high school, I would occasionally buy a copy of “The National Enquirer”. For those who don’t know, the NE – which still exists, to my surprise – was known as a tabloid. It would have some real news but was known for outrageous headlines like “Fat Cat Owns 23 Old Ladies” and “Alien Bible Found! They Worship Oprah” (the Oprah part might be true). Nobody cared about the lies and ridiculousness of it all because it was obviously made up. The NE paid people to write what has now become known as clickbait to sell papers, and anyone who believed the fake articles had an appointment made with a mental health professional by a caring relative or friend. It was silly and fun, and the conspiracies they reported on were considered the same.
And then there’s Alex Jones. He is the conspiracy theorist who, among other painful lies, made people believe that the children and adults murdered at Sandy Hook were fake news. He was recently found guilty of defamation and ordered to pay the families $49 million. I watched his show once (I can’t talk about something I haven’t experienced), and found it disturbing, to say the least. What is more disturbing is how many people believe him. That is the difference between Jones and the National Enquirer; he is causing damage and, until now, had not been held responsible for it. He is obviously very ill and needs help.
Jones is the one who convinced people that the Hilary Clinton campaign ran a child sex ring out of a pizza place in DC. He convinced people that 9/11 was an inside job. There are countless lies he has told that random people have acted on and caused harm to others. For me, the question is “why?” Not why does he do it; why do people believe him? For any thinking person, Jones is deluded and dangerous and needs help. For some, though, he is telling, as the NE used to say, “the untold story.” I guess it’s like rubbernecking; you don’t want to look, but you have to. The problem, of course, is that rubbernecking is harmless (unless you do it too long); Alex Jones isn’t.
Jones isn’t the first of his kind and he won’t be the last. I hope he gets the help he needs, but that seems unlikely; he recently said that he is “tired of apologizing” for what he did to the Sandy Hook families. Thankfully, he will at least have to pay for what he has done, and maybe he will lose so much that he will have to resort to standing on a street corner like some apocalyptic preacher orating about the end of the world. Freedom of speech is our right; causing harm to others is not. Maybe God will have mercy on him; that’s not my job. I only hope that might find some healing for his tortured soul before it’s too late.
Prayer – Forgive us, God, if we have allowed lies to guide us. Teach us how to discern the truth. Help those who cannot. Amen.