when a conspiracy theorist runs away from his favorite conspiracy
Here’s a man bites dog story for you. Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist in constant fear of experts, loyal mouthpiece for pro-Trump conspiracies, and Putin cosplayer, has very publicly walked back from Pizzagate, apologizing for his role in fanning the flames. Jones walking back from a conspiracy is a new thing and he’s finally admitting his role in spreading it, because prior to this surprise apology, he was trying to scrub InfoWars of Pizzagate stories he did, and an editor for the site denied any coverage of it ever existed there in a stunning display of not knowing about caches and screenshots. Obviously, this didn’t go over well with the tinfoil choir which is accusing him of either selling out to some unknown cabal of elites, or backing down out of fear in their predictable manner, but it does raise the question of why he would be suddenly backing down from one of the conspiracies he spent hours ranting about all of a sudden. Maybe he’s trying to shield himself from an FBI probe into collusion with paid Russian trolls and propagandists which mentions his site as one of the potential culprits alongside Breitbart?
Pretty much all internet skeptics know about the conspiracy ecosystem that lives on the web, an ecosystem where InfoWars has been very prominent for a long time. It’s the same system into which Breitbart and other right wing pundit sites have deeply embedded themselves and have come to rely on an army of bots and each other to defend themselves from skeptics and serious fact checks from the media. Now that the FBI believes that this bot army has been heavily aided by Russian hackers and trolls to help push their narrative and help skew coverage from Trump’s numerous follies to conspiracies that centered around the Clintons, their advisers, and the DNC, where Pizzagate was one of the prominently featured and bolstered stories among those bots until it finally caught fire with Jones’ followers and on Facebook, he wants to keep his head down. None of this should be new to anyone keeping up with the news since last December, when intelligence agencies pretty much came right out said as much, confirming months of suspicions.
But again, why did he dismiss these discussions as nothing more than “the bitching left’s whining” and is now walking away from the fire he helped to stoke? Perhaps it has something to do with rumors that Flynn has flipped to the FBI and may be providing some nasty details about media coordination in the right wing conspiracy-sphere, and the FBI stating to Congress that it’s taking the bots seriously while the media has noted that some publications have switched from lambasting Trump to pro-Trump propaganda overnight. While the Flynn rumors are more speculation than fact, there’s no denying that everyone is looking at the inner workings of the populist right’s media campaigns much closer and more critically, and while Jones probably is not worried about being brought to court for anything, he wants to hide some of the more egregious stuff he does and says as the media spotlight on him has intensified, and is bound to get even more intense thanks to the FBI.
This leaves Jones in a weird spot. On the one hand, he’s preemptively trying to back down from claims he covered as explosive in one of his classic red in the face, screaming rants, so he can’t exactly claim to be the fearless speaker of truth to power after deescalating more than a few times. What conspiracy theorist keeps backing down on his own explosive discoveries? His formerly faithful are already riding him from abandoning Sandy Hook Truthism, so it will cost him fans in the long term. On the other hand, if he is indeed not a mere useful crank for Kremlin-ran RT but is actually coordinating his shows with Russian intelligence services, he’s actually part of a conspiracy and is a disinformation plant for a foreign government. How many of his fans would trust him after that? In fact, even the insinuation may be enough for some of them to abandon InfoWars as a pawn for the elites. Either way, it seems like Jones wants a little less sunlight on his operations, having enjoyed his share of media coverage right before and after the election…