Don’t Pretend Alex Jones Defamation Lawsuit Is About Fighting Free Speech

BAILEY T. STEEN | FRIDAY, MARCH 16, 2018

The fallout of the alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia has finally hit the doorstep of media provocateur Alex Jones, leader of the libertarian conspiracy website InfoWars — this time in the form of a defamation lawsuit.

The plaintiff, a man by the name of Brennan Gilmore, filed the suit with the U.S. district court of Virginia earlier this Tuesday, soon releasing his own article in The Washington Post to lay out his case. On the 12th of August of last year, 20-year-old neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. crashed his car into a crowd of anti-racist counter-protestors during the infamous “Unite the Right” rally. This lead to 19 people injured and the death of 32-year-old activist Heather Heyer, confirmed to have died of “blunt force trauma to the torso” according to the medical report obtained by Newsweek. This disastrous event was caught on video by Gilmore who, prior to the murder, was filming the protest from across the street and later uploaded the footage to Twitter:

Within 24 hours, Gilmore was plastered on every mainstream news outlet and print publication discussing the tragedy on Fourth Street in detail and condemning the alt-right, neo-Nazi and white supremacist presence in the town. Upon critical examination, Gilmore became the subject of right-wing conspiracy theories that are not entirely unfounded.

In his article to Politico, Gilmore admits he worked in Africa as a foreign agent for the State Department under former Democratic President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (he even said this was listed in his bio despite being currently scrubbed). Gilmore then admitted to having a connection to notorious billionaire and conservatives’ favourite boogieman George Soros, the man who donated to Gilmore’s former boss Rep. Tom Perriello when Gilmore served as his chief of staff.

All of which facts highlighted on Alex Jones’ program InfoWars:

Jones would have been fine to make speculations of these facts if it weren’t for his uncanny way of mixing in bullshit non-facts that poison the well of his talking points.

During his August program, Jones called Gilmore, without any shed of proof, a “high-level CIA asset” who was “on the payroll of Soros” for a price upwards of $320,000 a year, just for being on the news, who he said may have had a hand in orchestrating the attack the undermine President Donald Trump — none of which verifiable and most likely some high-level bullshit:

“They had known CIA and State Department officials in Charlottesville, first tweeting, first being on MSNBC, CNN, NBC. The mayor is involved. Everybody is a cut-out.

One guy is paid 320 thousand a year on the payroll of Soros. He doesn’t just get money from Soros, he personally is paid 320 a year, and then he is there — CIA, State Department — and he is on the news!”

If Jones’ claims look ridiculous compared to the actual connections, that’s because they are — prompting Gilmore to sue both InfoWars, owner for The Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft, former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), among others for what he described as “character assassination” and both “psychical and online harassment” following their reporting. According to The Huffington Post reporters who attended Gilmore’s press conference earlier this week:

“What we now see is a pattern of attacks that politically motivated outlets like InfoWars and The Gateway Pundit launch against witnesses and other victims of tragedies.

They twisted my service into a story that I was a deep-state operative who had a role in organising the violence that we saw in Charlottesville to undermine the Trump administration.”

Undoubtedly, Jones and company will play the lawsuit as an attack on the free press and their right to free speech coming from the big “deep state” government out to get them — and I don’t believe readers should get the situation twisted.

Journalists, media commentators, even ‘performance artists’ like Jones have a responsibility to question narratives if the facts are pointing us in the opposite direction. This, however, isn’t the same when you go full defamation, throwing out unverifiable stats and projecting both motivation and action that have no basis in the world other than some political smears. Jones and company should know this by now when he dipped in hand in the notorious Clinton conspiracy theory known as PizzaGate.

Jones, like all his theories, takes a grain of truth and turns it into a mountain. This all started from a creepy Wikileaks email sent to men in Washington from the official handle of Tamera Luzzatto saying Ruby, Emerson, and Maeve Luzzatto (said to be 11, 9, and almost 7 at the time) would be in a hot tub used for some unspecified “further entertainment”.

Once the crazy right-wing bloggers got a hold of that real, sexually suggestive email, however, the story developed into this overblown narrative that Hillary Clinton, John Podesta and company were in charge of some sort of child sex ring inside the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria — a place which does contain creepy, sexually suggestive art featuring what appears to be older men and very children, and was mentioned in the emails by Podesta.

Jones was among the most famous of people to promote the conspiracy theory, leading to the radicalisation of Edgar Maddison Welch, the 28-year-old man who invaded that same pizzeria with a gun trying to see if it was real. NPR reports Jones was forced to apologise twice for his promotion of the conspiracy or face potential legal action for the damages done. There is a precedent of Jones’ words leading to radicalised behaviour based on bad, downright defamatory evidence that doesn’t rise to the level of rumour. If their counter-narrative is we must protect free speech, regardless of whether their side is the one producing slanderous fake news, this staunch free speech advocate is not impressed by their case.

Gilmore concludes in his article for The Post:

“We’re all harmed when these outlets recklessly disregard plain facts, defame the innocent and use the power of social media to amplify a bogus narrative. With the help of Georgetown Law’s Civil Rights Clinic, I brought this suit because Americans cannot stand idly by while these people terrorize individuals and undermine the pillars of our society. One lawsuit won’t stop them, but I do hope that the legal process can expose them for what they are: snake oil salesmen who know full well that the conspiracy theories they peddle are full of lies.”

Thanks for reading!

Bailey T. Steen is a journalist, editor, artist and film critic based in Victoria, Australia, but is also Putin’s Puppet on occasion.

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