Gazette-Mail editorial: Where the conspiracy thread frays

Most Americans probably have never heard of Rob Jacobson. He did video production for InfoWars for 13 years.

If you’ve never heard of InfoWars, you’re just plain lucky. It’s a multi-media platform run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. It’s more accurate to say it was a multi-media platform. Jones has been banned from almost every type of social media, and most web hosts refuse to give him a home for his content, let alone television or radio.

Jones’ persistent pushing of outrageously false and unsubstantiated information has had at least a hand in several incidents of devoted listeners inflicting harm on others.

Like, for instance, the man who traveled from North Carolina to a pizza joint near D.C. with an assault rifle and fired a shot once inside because he had heard high-ranking Democrats were running a sex-trafficking ring out of the basement. Fortunately, no one was physically hurt, although undoubtedly traumatized. For his trouble, the man was arrested and subsequently learned the restaurant didn’t even have a basement.

Of all of Jones’ tangled knots of conspiracy, the most notorious was his constant insistence that the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which left 20 children and six adults dead, was a hoax. The children were “crisis actors,” Jones declared. Their parents calling for gun control in the wake of the horrific tragedy were shills for left-wing puppet masters.

It’s not surprising that, as Jones beat the drum, his followers began to seek out these parents and harass or threaten them. Jones even published one parent’s home address on his show. The man began receiving death threats.

Could you even begin to imagine that, after losing your child in an unspeakable national tragedy, people would not only think you were lying, but track you down with malicious intent?

Jones has been sued by nine families of Sandy Hook victims. This is where Jacobson comes in, as a deposition he gave in March for one of the cases was released this week.

According to an article from The Huffington Post, Jacobson testified he frequently tried to warn staff at InfoWars, including Jones himself, that the content they were producing was baseless, harmed the survivors and families of victims and was going to get the company into legal trouble.

He testified he was often met with laughter and chiding for his concern. As for Jones, Jacobson said, “He just stared at me like a deer in the headlights; he had nothing to say. And then we just went on our way.”

Jones’ own depositions have been a series of catastrophes. He hasn’t been able to recall dates of events or reports. He says he didn’t make certain statements, then video clips are shown to him of himself making those very statements on his broadcasts. He doubles down on dubious claims and shifts blame for his actions.

We certainly hope Jones is held accountable for his willfully malicious behavior. Moreover, with so many questioning the news they see every day, it’s good to know that Jones has, for now, more or less been removed from the equation. But the damage he’s done both directly and indirectly will last for a long time.

We have to wonder why Jacobson, if he was so concerned, stayed on at InfoWars for five years after Sandy Hook happened, with Jones continually returning to the topic. It just goes to show there will always be those who follow seemingly charismatic leaders pursuing obviously nefarious goals.

Funerals for Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Ball, Sherman - 2 p.m., Spencer Chapel United Methodist Church.

Clay, Karen - Noon, Koontz Funeral Home, Hamlin.

Clonch, Daniel - 1 p.m., O'Dell Funeral Home, Montgomery.

Harvey, Joseph - 11 a.m., Donel C. Kinnard State Veterans Cemetery, Dunbar.

McClung, L. Bruce - Noon, Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Charleston.

Mills, Ambra - 1 p.m., Leonard Johnson Funeral Home, Marmet.

Pitsenbarger, Cindy - 7 p.m., Solid Rock Worship Center, Oak Hill.

Sowards, Teresa - 1 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Stilwell, Jason - 3 p.m., Strange Creek Cemetery, Strange Creek.

Vacheresse, Robert - 12:30 p.m., procession to leave Barlow Bonsall Funeral Home, Charleston.

Vaughan, Darlene - 10 a.m., Cross Lanes Baptist Church, Cross Lanes.