Alex Jones has been banned from the major social media platforms, but Trump has picked up the mantle with a recent tweetstorm that cements his status as the Infowars president.
Jones, of course, runs a media company that produces and distributes conspiracy-laden content through the website Infowars, the “Alex Jones Show” and a number of other shows. The site peddles misinformation and paranoia – “you are under threat,” Jones screamed on Monday’s show – while selling supplements and survivalist gear. Most political leaders would never lend credence to this type of content – but Trump has.
Over the weekend he embraced the Infowars brand by sharing videos produced by Jones’ proteges.
He also criticized Facebook for implementing bans against several extremist internet personalities, including Infowars editor-at-large Paul Joseph Watson.
Watson, who appeared with Jones on Monday’s Infowars webcast, is notorious for spreading misinformation. Watson denies being a conspiracy theorist, but in the past, he has shared unsubstantiated claims about the unsolved murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich, the September 11 terrorist attacks, and so-called “chemtrails.”
On Friday night Trump tweeted about Watson being banned, and on Saturday morning he retweeted a video Watson made criticizing Facebook for it.
He plugged another Infowars-produced video with the caption “So great to watch this!” The video showed African Americans expressing their support for Trump.
And he retweeted posts from a far-right activist, Lauren Southern, who has repeatedly appeared on Infowars and is well known to Jones’ audience.
“Trump has staked the prestige of the presidency on a gang of bad actors with shady histories who use social media to profit from deceit and the inflaming of racial and religious hatred,” The Atlantic’s David Frum wrote in response.
More broadly, Trump and Infowars promote a similar world view – an alternative universe in which people are under constant threat and where censors are out to get average Americans.
Given that he follows the terms of each platform, Trump is allowed to share and post whatever he wants on social media. But it’s unprecedented for the president of the United States to promote the views of conspiracy theorists and their ilk.
Jones and InfoWars have been banned my every large social media platform. Apple, YouTube, Spotify, and Facebook all banned Jones and InfoWars in August 2018. Twitter did so in September 2018. And last week, Jones and InfoWars were banned on Instagram after Facebook, the photo-sharing website’s parent company, declared him and his media organization to be “dangerous.”
Other users are generally free to share Infowars videos on Twitter and other sites, though Facebook is now taking steps to weed out such content on its platforms.
The president evidently believes Infowars is useful to him. Maggie Haberman of The New York Times said the tweets over the weekend were “reminiscent of candidate Trump in 2015, for whom folks who listen to Alex Jones were a solid group of supporters to his primary candidacy.”
She pointed out that Trump gave an interview to Jones during the primaries in late 2015.
“Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down,” Trump told Jones.
And Jones told him that “my audience, 90% of them, they support you.”
On Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” program, CNN Business’ Oliver Darcy said that the president’s legitimization of Infowars is dangerous
“Infowars might have been banned from Twitter, but it seems to have found a new home over on Trump’s Twitter feed,” Darcy said.
Trump is simultaneously “trying to tear down credible sources for news, The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN,” Darcy added. “He was questioning why these news organizations have the ability to be on Twitter – while saying that Infowars should be reinstated. It’s nuts.”
A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. Subscribe for free right here.