At the heart of the Trump cult are devotees of Alex Jones, a classic American snake oil salesman who uses paranoia to peddle patent medicines over the internet while posing as a revealer of truths concealed by the secret cabals that really run the world with their creatures in the mainstream media.
On Monday, Google’s YouTube, Facebook and Apple told Jones that the frenzied fantasies he streams from Infowars.com were no longer welcome on their servers.
Trumpists went apoplectic. How dare these obviously biased behemoths refuse to keep amplifying Jones’ revelations that Hillary Clinton is the madam of a pedophile ring; that the slaughter of children at Sandy Hook in 2012 was faked to undermine support for Second Amendment gun rights; and that it wasn’t Al Qaeda that took down the twin towers on 9/11 but the US government?
Donald Trump Jr., whose father declared himself a Jones fan when running for president, tweeted: ‘How long before Big Tech and their Democrat friends move to censor and purge @BreitbartNews, @DailyCaller and other conservative voices from their platforms?”
Nicholas J. Fuentes, self-described as “an American nationalist media personality”, Republican and host of the America First nightly podcast, went further: “What happened to Alex Jones last night was a modern Kristallnacht…We are witnessing the beginning of a White Holocaust.”
From Stefan Molyneux, host of Freedomain Radio, whose 345 047 twitter followers include Jani Allen, this : “Many laughed when @RealAlexJones said that dark powers were out to get him. You’re not paranoid if you’re right.”
From Joel Pollak, the former Democratic Alliance speechwriter turned Trump mbongi: “This is a bullying campaign of censorship led by the same @CNN that complains it is threatened by criticism from the White House and protest from the public.”
Is “criticism” really the mot juste for what Trump is doing when he revs up the mob at his mini-Nuremburg rallies to turn on reporters as “enemies of the people”? Who, exactly, is the real bully here?
Not acknowledged by Pollak and his fellow splutterers is that the First Amendment’s free speech protections do not extend to speakers who incite violence or deliberately cause panic by shouting fire in crowded theatres where there is none.
Because of Jones’ ravings, Sandy Hook parents have received death threats. A gun-toting nutcase showed up to liberate Clinton’s sex slaves from the pizza joint where Jones said she was holding them.
New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, an anti-Trump conservative, quoted a call he’d recently received: “You’re worthless, the press is the enemy of the United States people and, you know what, rather than me shoot you, I hope a Mexican and, even better yet, I hope a n…… shoots you in the head, dead.”
Even if Jones, or for that matter Trump, were not inciting violence or shouting fire spuriously, social media companies would be entirely within their rights to deny them a soapbox. The first amendment says Congress may pass no law abridging the freedom of speech. Private businesses can do what they like, and the courts have so ruled when right-wing groups have tried to sue YouTube et al. for allegedly discriminating against their content.
In spite of Trump’s owing his 2016 triumph in large measure to his — and others’ — canny use of social media, Trump’s supporters are convinced that Big Tech is out to get their guy and tip the political scales again them. Even if this not just another of their fever dreams, what’s to stop them creating their own platforms? Why don’t they get Rupert Murdoch to relaunch MySpace?
Meanwhile, “censorship” doesn’t seem to be hurting Jones. Energised fans are rushing to his site to stock up on Infowars Life Brain Force Plus (“Supercharge your state of mind!”), now on sale at just $29.95 for 36 capsules, and Superblue Non-Fluoride Toothpaste, at $9.95 the tube.