What the Alex Jones trial means for the future of conspiracy culture


New York
CNN

The decision of the Texas jury last week have the face of Alex Jones punitive damages of more than $45 million in a lawsuit filed by the parents of Sandy Hook shooting victim Jesse Lewis was a “10-year account,” said CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter.

Two Chicago-based podcast hosts have spent the past 5 years holding Jones and his Infowars network accountable. Their program, Knowledge Fight, has produced over 700 episodes, and uses comedy to “cut the crazy lies,” Stelter told Reliable Sources on Sunday.

Hosts Dan Friesen and Jordan Holmes traveled to Texas to attend Jones’ trial. friesen said the most powerful moment in the courtroom was watching Jesse Lewis’ mother, Scarlett Lewis, give her testimony and speak directly to Jones.

“I think that will stick with just about everyone there for the rest of their lives,” Friesen said.

The co-hosts have been covering Jones since 2017, watching his transformation from a seemingly untouchable character to one who is now in serious legal and financial danger.

“Throughout this period, its content itself has been essentially hollow,” Friesen said. “Watching it from my perspective has become a lot less interesting.”

But despite Jones’ legal woes, Holmes said the culture he helped spawn has grown a lot.

“Conspiracy culture is something that is created through the cracks in our mainstream society,” Holmes said.

And although their podcast focuses on examining Jones and his tactics, Holmes said the trial is really about the victims.

“People would like to focus on Alex being some kind of explosive character that we can laugh at and make fun of, but it’s not about him,” Holmes said.

The podcast format allows hosts to go beyond Jones as a character and dive into the mechanics of what he does and why these conspiracy tales exist.

“We come into it knowing this is a serious matter,” Friesen said. “But also that to make it interesting for everyone to listen to, we need to make it something entertaining.”

Friesen has listened to countless hours of Jones’ program and calls it an “incredibly boring experience”.

“The reason I’m doing this is because I can handle this boredom,” Friesen said. He endures the task in order to help others better understand the phenomenon of disinformation. “So they could be in a place where they could better understand what Alex does and what he brings to the table.”

Many hope that the legal and financial danger that Jones currently faces will help reduce misinformation and the culture of conspiracy. But Friesen isn’t convinced it will be a blow.

“Plot producers and people who engage in the kind of conduct that Alex ends up getting a little more savvy,” Friesen said. “They eventually learn where the limits are…of what they can do and what they can do.”

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