Far-right conspirator Alex Jones was sentenced on Thursday August 4 to pay more than four million dollars to the parents of a boy killed in the worst shooting ever in an American school, which he had denied was real. This sentence, pronounced by a jury after ten days of trial, is only the first of a series of proceedings brought by the relatives of the victims of the Sandy Hook school against the founder of the Infowars site.
The process could be synthesized by a particularly strong sequence. The scene, filmed by American media, takes place at the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas on Tuesday, August 2. A woman who has been grieving for almost ten years, Scarlett Lewis, stares Alex Jones in the eye:
“I wanted to tell you to your face, because I want you to know that I am above all a mother, and I know that you are a father: my son existed (…). [Le massacre de] Sandy Hook is a terrible truth. Terrible. No one would want to believe that twenty-six children could be murdered. I understand people who don’t want to believe it and, in truth, I don’t want to believe it myself. But [mon fils] Jesse was real. I am a real mom. There is nothing else. »
Scarlett Lewis lost her 6-year-old son Jesse on December 14, 2012. On that day, 20-year-old Adam Lanza fired at an elementary school in the small town of Newton, Connecticut, killing twenty children from 6 to 7 years old, as well as six school employees, before turning his weapon against him. It is the third deadliest school shooting in the United States. After this tragedy, Mme Lewis founded Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, a charity that works in schools to improve student well-being, understanding and compassion.
Far-right conspirator and influencer
Facing her, shirt collar wide apart on a bullfighting figure, graying beard and baritone voice, stands Alexander Emerick Jones, known as Alex Jones, 48-year-old Texan radio host and web entrepreneur, fierce conspirator since his high school days .
This obsessed with the theory of deep state (“the Deep State,” a phantasmagorically malevolent occult group that secretly pulls the strings of the White House, in conspiratorial mythology) has made a fortune selling survivalist products and disseminating its suspicious interpretations of every event online, through the most influential English-language conspiracy site, InfoWars.
From September 11 to SARS-CoV-2, Alex Jones fired all the paranoid counter-narratives to attract an ever-wider audience. Having become the figurehead of Anglo-Saxon conspiracy, he had 900,000 followers on Twitter and his Facebook and YouTube pages gathered more than 2.4 million followers before he was banned from it in 2018. The one who was qualified by Steve Bannon, the former director of the American far-right site Breitbart Newsthe greatest American thinker since the Founding Fathers, has long asserted that the Sandy Hook massacre did not really take place.
Among the first to deny the reality of the killing
In the days following this mass murder, Alex Jones called the attack staged, orchestrated by Barack Obama to abolish the Second Amendment, which guarantees every American citizen the right to carry a weapon. Its InfoWars site quickly contributed to spreading the idea, now commonplace in conspiratorial thinking, that “crisis actors” would be hired to play extras in tears during television reports on killings, themselves fictitious, in order to manipulate public opinion. Sandy Hook would be a vast manipulation; and bereaved parents, comedians.
In 2017, InfoWars accused, among others, Neil Heslin, the father of little Jesse, of lying when he claimed that he held his son in his arms, the skull crossed by a bullet. He takes up the argument, very widespread in conspiratorial spheres, that the bodies of the children would never have been shown. In 2021, the bereaved father is in despair:
“There was an open casket, 5,000 people saw Jesse. You realize ? So how does Alex [Jones] Where [son partenaire] Can Owen Shroyer say that I didn’t hold my son, that I didn’t see him? ».
Neil Heslin has since been harassed by Alex Jones’ followers, who accuse him of lying. Along with his wife, he is now suing the founder of InfoWars and his associates for defamation. The charismatic conspiratorial entrepreneur, a fervent Trumpist who has lost ground since the departure of the former president from the White House, faces a fine of more than 150 million dollars. If he had to pay this amount, InfoWars “would flow”, assures Alex Jones. At the end of July, he placed his parent company, Free Speech Systems, in bankruptcy.
A very ambiguous mea culpa
Since the opening of the trial on August 3, Mr. Jones has oscillated between provocative postures – chewing gum in his mouth, he repeats that this trial is an attack on his freedom of expression – and mea culpa. The Sandy Hook shooting was “100% real”, he now admits, assuring that he regrets having said for years that it was a deception. A sincere conspirator, he accuses the media of lying so often that it would have been impossible for him to trust them at the time, and explains that the meeting with the bereaved parents allowed him to admit the cruel reality.
However, his remorse seems to be only a facade. In court, between two testimonies, he associated the judge with infamous conspiracy theories, or even violently attacked Scarlett Lewis to tell her that she was “manipulated”.
Emails sent by mistake
Above all, in an incredible misfire, Alex Jones’ lawyers mistakenly sent a copy of all the work text messages and emails contained on his mobile phone for two years to the lawyers for Jesse Lewis’ parents. The handling error, revealed in court by their lawyer Mark Bankston, revealed that Alex Jones had repeatedly lied since the start of his trial.
The entrepreneur assures that InfoWars has never brought him more than 200,000 dollars a day? His correspondence evokes peaks at $800,000 in 2018. His audience has been falling since his accounts on mainstream platforms like YouTube and Facebook ousted him? In fact, it continued to grow. He assures that he has not spoken for several years of the conspiracy theories surrounding Sandy Hook? However, they appear in conversations on his phone. “Do you know what perjury is? »sharply questioned Mark Bankston, recalling that in the United States lying under oath is severely punished.
The businessman did not dispute the authenticity of the documents, but regretted having entrusted his phone to his lawyers. ” I made a mistake. You have the messages », he was content to recognize, annoyed. These documents should play an important role in his lawsuit for defamation linked to the Sandy Hook shootings, but not only. According to the website of the American magazine RollingStone, the committee of inquiry into the riots of January 6, 2021 in Washington is preparing to seize the correspondence of the influential American conspirator. She wonders, in particular, if he had contact with Donald Trump’s teams before the assault on the Capitol.