It's just past 9 a.m. when Alex Jones pulls his Dodge Charger into a desolate parking lot in Austin. From the outside, the squat, single-story office complex that Jones calls his "command center" resembles a moon base surrounded by fields of dying grass. But inside, blinking banks of high-tech recording gear fill the studio where he broadcasts The Alex Jones Show, a daily talk show that airs on 63 stations nationwide. Jones draws a bigger audience online than Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck combined — and his conspiracy-laced rants make the two hosts sound like tea-sipping NPR hosts on Zoloft.
A stocky 37-year-old with a flop of brown hair and a beer gut, Jones usually bounds into the studio, eager to launch into one of his trademark tirades against the "global Stasi Borg state" — the corporate-surveillance prison planet that he believes is being secretly forged by an evil cabal of bankers, industrialists, politicians and generals. This morning, though, Jones looks deflated. Five days ago, a mentally disturbed 22-year-old named Jared Loughner opened fire on a crowd in Tucson, Arizona, killing six and seriously wounding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Loughner was reported to be a fan of Loose Change, a film Jones produced that has become the bible for those who believe 9/11 was an inside job.
All week, Jones has been twisting in the media crossfire. Now, his staff plays him a clip of a new attack by Limbaugh. In it, the conservative icon bemoans the social rot caused by three films that prominently feature Jones, including Loose Change.
"So a conspiracy movie," Limbaugh bellows, "appears to be the most influential media of this young man's life."
Jones begins to fume. "What a whore Limbaugh is," he mutters. "All of them. Just a bunch of whores for the Borg state. Get the clip ready. I wanna talk about this." Limbaugh's comments, Jones declares, are nothing but a "transpartisan McCarthyite attack on everything not 100 percent inside their little thought bubble." He points out that Loose Change has been viewed by at least 50 million people. "During these societal upheavals, it's messy," he says. "A lot of bad things happen. And yeah, you're gonna have paranoid schizophrenics that get set off by the crazy things corporations and governments are doing, and by those who are exposing it to them. But we can't allow ourselves to become paralyzed. If a schizophrenic takes three hits of acid in the forest and sees demons in the trees, and snaps, do you cut down the trees?"
Jones being Jones, he's not sure the Tucson rampage is as simple as a psychotic snap. Turning over the possibilities sends the tendrils of his anti-government imagination into wild motion. "The whole thing stinks to high heaven," he says. "This kid Loughner disappeared for days at a time before the shooting? My gut tells me this was a staged mind-control operation. The government employs geometric psychological-warfare experts that know exactly how to indirectly manipulate unstable people through the media. They implanted the idea in his head by repeatedly asking, 'Is Giffords in danger?'"
Jones doesn't stop there. The Gates Foundation? "Obviously a eugenics operation." The latest WikiLeaks dump? "All the hallmarks of an intelligence disinfo campaign." While urging his audience to wake up and smell the police state, Jones can sound thoughtful and intellectual, quick to quote Nietzsche, Plato, de Tocqueville, Gibbon and Huxley. Mostly, though, he defaults into machine-gun bursts of rage that crescendo with an adolescent snarl — Holden Caulfield playing Paul Revere.
"Government-lab-produced airborne Ebola?" Jones thunders. "It's comin' your way! Enjoy it, yuppies!"
It's just after 11 a.m., and Alex Jones is just getting started.
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