I support free speech, but I refuse to defend Alex Jones

Originally written for Minds.com on August 8th, 2018.

A few days ago, Alex Jones finally got kicked out of YouTube, as well as Facebook, iTunes and Spotify, just two weeks after he posted a video in which he threatened to kill Robert Mueller, the head of the ongoing Special Counsel investigation against Donald Trump, who he characterises as a "pedophile" and a "demon" and pantomimed his fantasy of shooting him as seen in the banner image above. Of course, this is not the only recent episode that might have provided the rationale for his deplatforming, but I'll get into that later.

Predictably, this was celebrated by normie liberals and those in the mainstream media circles, who have waited impatiently for the demise of his channel. Perhaps equally predictably, this prompted conservatives, libertarians, classical liberals and other assorted "free speech warriors" to leap to his defence, and in the process demonstrating their complete lack of understanding of freedom of speech (I say lack, it could easily just be a selective understanding). Just a few days ago, Carl Benjamin came out with a video entitled "First They Came For Alex Jones", itself a flagrant abuse of the famous "First they came..." poem, written by the German pastor Martin Niemöller as a call to action against fascists. You know, the sort of people that ultimately Alex Jones would come down on the side of.

Now I have been on record in my consistent support of freedom of speech, but, and I know this will likely be an unpopular position here on Minds, I don't see fit to defend Alex Jones, and I think "free-speech warriors" such as Carl shouldn't be defending him either. Why? Well let's examine the case for Alex Jones, which is riddled with bullet-shaped holes.

Firstly, the idea that Alex Jones, in addition to losing is 2 million-subscriber platform on YouTube, has been robbed of his ability to spread his extremely conspiratorial message. This is false. For one, the InfoWars website still exists (though you could make the argument that his hosting provider could try and take him down as Cloudflare did with the Daily Stormer last year), and also the InfoWars app wasn't banned, and in the wake of Jones' YouTube channel being deleted, there has been a significant rise in downloads for that app. Not to mention that videos and articles from the InfoWars website can be spread anywhere, including to YouTube, where an InfoWars supporter could upload clips from InfoWars that he downloaded from the website. In other words, being kicked off YouTube, Facebook, iTunes, and Spotify is at worst an inconvenience for Alex Jones. But at best, it's a golden opportunity to milk support from gullible conservatives and idealistic free speech absolutists.

Next let's get onto whether this qualifies as censorship. It doesn't, not according to US law anyway. What free speech warriors often forget is that the First Amendment to the Constitution says nothing about whether or not private companies are allowed to deplatform people. In case you don't believe me, I'll quote the text in full.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

If you read it strictly (which is the only valid way of reading it), the First Amendment only protects free speech from being abridged at the hands of the government. It says absolutely nothing about whether or not you can be banned from social media and video platforms that are privately owned. This is the detail that free speech warriors and absolutists tend to ignore because it doesn't fit into their narrative. Should the First Amendment apply to private companies? That's a debate that we could have, but let's not deviate from the topic at hand.

The people who defend Alex Jones also seem to be acting like Alex Jones did absolutely nothing wrong and that he's just a harmless conspiracy theorist, or if you happen to be Roger L. Simon over at PJ Media, a puny and irrelevant one. The fact that he had 2 million subscribers on YouTube alone makes the claim that he is irrelevant entirely laughable, but that's not the only reason. What apologists like Mr. Simon seem to conveniently forget is that InfoWars managed to get White House press credentials, and Alex Jones himself has had correspondence with both Donald Trump and Roger Stone. That is why the media and those on the left see him as a big deal. Not to mention the fact that a black activist was actually arrested by the FBI because of a protest he participated in, which they learned about from InfoWars.

As for whether or not he's done anything wrong, let's remember that the one exception to the right of freedom of speech, which even free speech absolutists will concede to when pressed on it, is any form of speech that incites violence. Basically the only time you should arrest someone for speaking is if what they're saying counts as incitement to violence. Alex Jones, meanwhile, has consistently skirted this line, and a few times he's sort of crossed it. Let me give you a few examples.

1. As I said earlier, he threatened to shoot Robert Mueller and acted that fantasy out on air.

2. In a uniquely deranged rant, he pledged to God that he would "battle" CNN's Brain Stelter, or that "God would destroy him" (incidentally, this is the rant that was so bad even far-right televangelists like Rick Wiles denounced him).

3. He called for drag queens to be burned alive in reaction to a show called DragTots (incidentally, this is the incident that led him to be banned from Facebook). Similarly, some months ago he lost his mind over a clip which showed drag queens reading to children (he didn't actually threaten anyone in that instance, but he was clearly so angered by the existence of drag queens that he threw a chair at his camera crew).

4. He challenged Alec Baldwin to a fight and remarked that he would break his jaw and his neck.

5. He called for supporters of Bernie Sanders to have their jaws broken.

6. He threatened to beat up California congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) in what is now a widely memed rant.

Of course there are probably more instances of the kind but I hope you get the picture. Given that sort of content, which would have been problematic even under the vaguest possible hate speech rules, Jones' banning was practically inevitable. But that's not even the worst thing he's responsible for. Remember when Alex Jones infamously claimed that the Sandy Hook massacre was staged by crisis actors as a ploy to justify the suspension of the Second Amendment? Since then fans of InfoWars have been hounding the parents of the children killed in the massacre, often sending death threats to them. Said harassment has persisted to a point where one couple in particular, De La Rosa and Leonard Pozner, have been forced to move away from their home seven times. They can't even visit their own son's grave out of fear of being harassed and threatened by InfoWars fans.

What's even more appalling is not only the fact that Alex Jones and InfoWars to this day have not apologised for any of this, they have not discouraged said behaviour, continue to make money from similarly false stories, and as he's being sued by De La Rosa and Leonard Pozner, Jones himself has the gall to ask them to pay him $100,000 in legal fees. This is the kind of spectacularly scummy behaviour that the defenders of Alex Jones are outright ignoring, whether because they genuinely don't know about any of this, or because they are ideologically compelled not to care.

What's truly telling about the Carl Benjamins, Paul Joseph Watsons and Dave Cullens of the world is that they will scream bloody murder when one of their own is kicked off a social media platform, regardless of the reason why they were kicked, or when a university campus exercises its right to exclude conservative thinkers like Ben Shapiro or Milo Yiannopoulos, but not one of them cares when leftists get similar treatment, or when they are victims of actual abridgements of their right to free speech. For instance, they were silent when Department of Homeland Security agents harassed and invaded the home of comedian Jake Flores because of a joke he made about killing ICE agents, despite loudly condemning the British government for doing the same thing to Count Dankula and arresting him for his joke about teaching his girlfriend's dog to the the Hitler salute.

And let's think on this for a moment. Conservatives, libertarians and classical liberals are willing to defend the rights of a well-known scumbag and con artist who has threatened violence on numerous occasions, but not a leftist comedian who jokes about killing ICE agents? What that tells you is that they don't actually care about free speech as a principle. They only care about making sure they have the right to say whatever they want, free from judgment or consequence, no matter how bigoted or even threatening their words may be. They basically want the rules set out by the terms of service of sites like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube don't apply to them. They couldn't give a damn what happens to leftists.

That being the case, I am not defending the social media platforms who banned Alex Jones. In fact I think it was actually a pretty stupid move, and the main reason is that all it's doing is validating the crazy worldview of Jones' fans, at the core of which is the kind of narcissistic persecution complex that underscores contemporary right-wing thought. As I speak, Jones' fans are flocking to platforms where Alex Jones remains uncensored, and in part because of Jones' banning, the InfoWars app is now the 4th most popular news app on the US iOSapp store (and the 11th most popular in Google Play). By the way, the app has pretty much the same content that Alex Jones broadcasted on his other platforms. In effect, banning InfoWars from certain platforms did nothing other than direct Alex Jones' fans to other platforms where he hasn't been censored yet, making the entire exercise pointless.

In other words, I disagree with how the tech companies handled him, but as I've said, I'm not going to defend Alex Jones. After all, this is clearly a case of him having violated the rules on the respective platforms he was on, and I suspect that the reason they took so long to ban him was that neither wanted to grapple with the implications of being the first to ban him.

Also, need I remind that people that are now defending Alex Jones that he is a proven scam artist? His entire career is based on peddling conspiracy theories and blatantly false stories, and also selling expensive pills that barely work (and much to Paul Joseph Watson's chagrin, are also made from soy).

Finally, I should address this myth that he's some daring anti-establishment personality, one that I think will be strengthened in light of him being banned. This should already be negated by the mere fact that he has connections with figures in the political establishment. The truth is that Alex Jones, ideologically speaking, is no different to your average far-right evangelical Republican. In fact, he constantly shills for Trump. Even after he pretended to cry when Trump bombed Syria, he immediately went back defending him. Granted, he may have had some anti-establishment cred when the Democrats were in power, but now that the actual far-right wing of the Republican party is in power, he worships the ground that the power walks on while pretending to oppose the "real" power. In fact, he is so much of an establishmentarian that when confronted with actual anti-establishment leftists such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, he makes the exact same arguments you would hear from people like establishment right-wingers such as Meghan McCain. Hell, on this front he is in full agreement with establishment Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, just that he's too stupid to realise it.

So, to the free speech warriors who are now defending Alex Jones, you're having the wool pulled over your eyes, and I'd argue that's a perfect description of the anti-SJW movement in general. Because of their poor understanding of freedom of speech as a concept, they have been tricked into not only defending what is ultimately an establishment brand of conservatism, but also aiding and abetting some of the worst actors of the harder right. They have been led to believe that their enemies are on the left, when really they are the conservatives that they have held up as "champions of free speech".

In summary, I'm all for free speech, but seriously, fuck Alex Jones.