The Truth vs Alex Jones review – so viscerally wrong it will fry your mind | Television & radio

On 14 December 2012, an armed man entered Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. He shot and killed 20 children aged between six and seven and six members of staff.

It is impossible to imagine a worse thing, isn’t it? The massacre of children and those trying to protect them. And yet it did get worse, thanks to a rightwing bloviator with merch to sell. The Truth vs Alex Jones maps, in painful, unsensationalist detail, the additional suffering the bereaved families were caused when Jones began to call the shooting a hoax. This, he told viewers of his “alt-right” internet show Infowars, was the “false-flag operation” he had been warning them about – a fake shooting orchestrated by gun control advocates to give the left the leverage it needed to come for patriots’ weapons. Conspiracy theorists took everything he said and ran with it.

And he said a lot. Although most of us will be aware of the bare bones of the story – and appalled by even those – it is still shocking to see him spout his viciousness. It is so viscerally wrong that you want to reach through the screen and stop his mouth by force. He builds a world in which the nervous smile of a stricken parent, Robbie Parker, before he speaks to the press about the death of his six-year-old daughter Emilie, becomes proof that the parents are all “crisis actors”. A world in which the absence of helicopters landing on the school lawns proves that there was no shooting and in which a technical glitch in an interview by the US journalist Anderson Cooper with the mother of another dead child is evidence that they did the whole thing in front of a green screen. The madness of it, and the knowledge that Jones’s rants are giving a certain rabid demographic exactly what they want, the dizzying sense of unreality and the multiplying questions as you watch – about how and why any of this can possibly be – fries your circuits even at this remove of time and space.

What it was like for the families is described by a handful of them. They speak plainly and – unlike Jones, who must whip his audience into an unthinking frenzy – without histrionics about the death and rape threats they have endured, the years of terrible harassment and the simple horror of knowing that a large number of Americans – 24% according to one estimate – doubts that their children lived or died or that their grief is real. Six-year-old Dylan Hockley’s mother Nicole remembers being told only to touch his hands because “you won’t like what you feel” elsewhere – such is the impact of close-range bullets on a little boy’s body. Scarlett Lewis recalls holding her dead son Jesse’s hand until it got warm again and noting that he still had dirt under his fingernails.

The final third of the film deals with the various court actions the families eventually brought against Jones that ultimately resulted in various default judgments against him, after he failed to comply with court procedures. The juries awarded the plaintiffs damages totalling $1.5bn. The suit brought in Connecticut sees Scarlett take the stand and deliver the most beautiful, compelling, heartfelt speech directly to Jones. It is astonishing. Even if the film had no other merits, it would be worth watching for this alone. It is to see every piece of humanity that is missing in him and his followers embodied in one woman.

To date, Jones has paid nothing. And he continues to broadcast, untrammelled. Since the film was made he has been ordered to liquidate his assets to pay at least some of what he owes but, the world and the internet being what it is, even this is unlikely to put a spoke in his wheels for long.

The trials point to money as Jones’s motivation, adducing evidence that every time he ranted about the “giant hoax” in which “no one died”, his audience numbers and revenue (from the dietary supplements and other products that Infowars shills) spiked. But it does not – and perhaps no one can, though there should be film-makers who try – fathom an answer to the question of why people are so willing, so thirsty to believe lies. All the punitive damages in the world won’t remake society into a place where Alex Jones and his ilk can’t flourish. We live in a world built on shifting sands. We live in terrifying times.

skip past newsletter promotion

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *