Alex Jones attempts to regain influence through anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry

Alex Jones remains a toxic influence on American politics and society, despite the fact that his audience is apparently shrinking and sales on his Infowars online store are declining, in addition to mounting losses in a series of lawsuits. After decades of spreading anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry, Jones now wants to stage a comeback by positioning himself at the forefront of a new wave of hate, with the help of powerful friends like Republican US Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

“Alex Jones broke the Groomer Gate scandal…in 2008?” he read a disbelievingly worded headline in a story published by Infowars in April. The post links to an audio recording of Jones, in which he claims elementary school teachers are giving sexually explicit instructions to 6- or 7-year-olds, to today’s “hairdresser” panic. “Grooming” refers to behavior by which pedophiles ingratiate themselves with a potential underage victim. But right-wing pundits, including Jones, Fox News host Tucker Carlson and the viral Twitter account @LibsofTikToknow they apparently want to expand the definition to include openly LGBTQ+ teachers or anyone who talks to young people about the existence of transgender people and gender diversity.

Jones got his start in the ’90s on public access television in Austin before moving to radio and, in 1999, an online presence on Infowars. Jones, 48, of the Dallas area, has routinely engaged in homophobia throughout his long career, sometimes with wickedly humorous results, such as in 2015 when he condemned “chemicals in the water” for “turning gay.” to the damn frogs.” ”More seriously, he also helped spread the dangerous and homophobic pizzagate conspiracy culminating in a shooting at a pizzeria. So far in 2022, Infowars has accused a wide variety of groups of grooming or sympathizing with groomers, including educators, former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, the Disney Corporation, the corporate media, and the “left ” usually.

Of course, Jones didn’t actually invent the Republicans’ current obsession with looking for a hairdresser in every liberal school teacher. That’s a lot bigger than Jones, according to Ari Drennen, director of the LGBTQ program at Media Matters for America.

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“Basically, this is a coordinated right-wing attack on LGBTQ acceptance,” Drennen said.

As with his infamous endorsement of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting-related conspiracies, Jones rarely starts these tendencies, but latches onto them and amplifies them. If anything, his talent lies in taking the pulse of the far right and then saying something strong and incendiary based on that to get attention. It has been enough to make him very rich at times. HuffPost estimated the Infowars store earned up to $165 million between 2015 and 2018, mainly from nutritional supplements and survival kit sales, but that figure appears to have dropped since then. Between April and May, a Anonymous donor sent Jones $8 million in Bitcoin.

The exact size of Jones’ audience is hard to gauge. He has been banned from major airwaves and streaming services, so his platform is largely limited to the sites he controls. Now, he primarily posts to the Infowars home page, along with a little-used YouTube alternative he created himself. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s analysis of traffic to Infowars online store it suggests that its reach has waned since these “platform takedowns” but that it still saw significant momentum around the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection.

But Michael Edison Hayden, a senior investigative reporter and spokesman for the SPLC, cautioned against focusing exclusively on numbers. “He still has the ability to be something of a ‘trendmaker,’ to use a crude term, in the realm of selling conspiracies because of who he is and the stature of him in the far-right swamp,” he said. Hayden. “He’s a fucking elder statesman.”

Alex Jones attempts to regain influence through anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry AP 20071372728385 scaled
jones in 2020 Images by Jeff J. Newman/AP

Drennen agreed that mingling with powerful figures, from Tucker Carlson to podcaster Joe Rogan, is a source of Jones’s power. Jones recently bragged about having dinner with Rogan and claimed that Carlson filmed part of a documentary about masculinity on his property. And she still gets great guests like Representative Greene, who in many ways launched her political career on her show. She appeared on Infowars at least three times in 2022, according to Media Matters. In February, the his first Infowars appearance of the year, Greene accused transgender people of manipulating children and called for vigilantes to target them, Drennen reported.

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“She accused mothers of transgendering their children as an accessory, which she likened to handbags,” Drennen said.

Returning in March, Greene denied calling for violence in his previous appearance, he insisted that he doesn’t “hate transsexuals [sic]”, then suggested that the majority of trans people are hairdressers. The barber meme has its roots in right-wing fear-mongering about gay and lesbian educators in the 1960s and 1970s, and even satanic panic But the barber scare may be more suited to the 21st century, when LGBTQ+ acceptance is high, as it allows people like Jones or Greene to claim that they don’t hate all trans or queer people, just the ones they hate. They take advantage of children.

jones, who comes from a Christian fundamentalist backgroundbelieves that pedophilia is so prevalent in the queer community that it has deployed the acronym “LGBTP,” with the final letter meaning “pedophile”. He often talks about demonic influences on political figures. Dan Friesen, who co-hosts the podcast knowledge struggle which dissects Infowars episode by episode, says that Jones has repeatedly compared gender transition to the forced sterilization of young children. While Jones was forced to apologize for spreading the Pizzagate panic and has lost multiple lawsuits related to spreading misinformation and conspiracy, he has done little to soften his rhetoric.

“He doesn’t think trans people are real, he thinks it’s a performance or a fetish,” Friesen said. jones regularly confuses transgender people on his show, or treat trans people and drag queens as equivalent. And those are just the moments where it doesn’t suggest that trans people represent a plot to undermine humanity. For example, in a typically bizarre tirade on his July 2, 2020 broadcast, Jones claimed that the ultimate goal of the transgender rights movement, which he likened to a “cult,” was to turn young children into “cyborgs” and “trans”. robots” by putting chips in their brains.

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Jones did not respond to a request for comment sent through the Infowars website.

Friesen thinks Jones helped set the stage for hairdressers’ growing concerns with one of her pre-pandemic obsessions: Drag Queen Story Hours. While many conservative media outlets used these events to create outrage, Jones returned to them over and over again, for months, falsely claiming that drag queens “get away with it” with kids at events. Actually, they just read storybooks to them. Tracy Shannon, the leader of the far-right organization MassResistance Houston, which successfully shut down multiple Drag Queen Story Hours, also appeared as a guest on Infowars.

In 2022, Friesen compared the use of “barber” by Jones and others to the right-wing fixation on “critical race theory”, which Jones has also accepted. “It’s a buzzword you can use to brand your racism as something different, and it’s the same with homophobia, transphobia and ‘hairdresser’.”

It’s also no coincidence that the barber label is often directed at school teachers, as Republicans are at war with public education these days using a wide range of pretexts.

With anti-trans and anti-queer rhetoric at a fever pitch from Jones and her friends, the danger grows every day. In December, law enforcement officials they arrested a man who threatened to kill en masse at the 2021 New York City Pride Parade. At least 14 trans women have been murdered so far in 2022, including Cypress Ramos, a drag artist in Lubbock who was found dead in a burning storage unit in February. After Republicans spread false claims that the shooter in the Uvalde school massacre was transgender, Men attacked a 17-year-old transgender woman in El Paso.

“I am very concerned that we are going to see more violence motivated by this rhetoric,” Drennen said. “When you have people like Tucker Carlson saying someone should come in and ‘thrash’ LGBTQ teachers, your audience is listening.”