Alex Jones and the Problem of Historic Speculation

While Alex Jones has faced widespread condemnation for promoting wild theories, Hollywood continues to embrace filmmakers who peddle fake history.

Texas-based conspiracy theorist Alex Jones recently appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience after the two alternative media personalities’ longtime friendship threatened to very publicly implode. Jones, whose accounts have been banned from multiple social media platforms, has found himself under attack from all sides, including a messy divorce. The Rogan podcast garnered over 7.5 million views in a few days.

Jones was incredibly forthright and honest during the interview’s first hour, admitting he had been wrong in the past, and that he had, basically, sold the rope his critics are using to hang him. His investigation into true conspiracies, like Operation Northwoods and the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, led him to believe everything is a conspiracy.

Conspiracies do happen, but conspiracy theorists take this concept to the extreme, alleging “false flag” operations and government coverups behind every major current event. Conspiracy theories are attractive because they often contain grains of truth, which when put together, the theorist uses to come to an incredible (and often incredibly false) conclusion.

For example, over the course of Rogan’s epic 280-minute long interview, Jones ranged from claims about morally dubious scientific studies, which actually took place, to allegations that “global elites” are in contact with (or at least believe they are in contact with) interdimensional beings who demand blood sacrifices in exchange for advanced technology.

That’s a pretty big leap.

Jones recently raged about alleged British pedophile Jimmy Savile, whose posthumous exposure sent shock waves through British society because of his influential position at the BBC and the years his crimes were ignored. Savile’s disgusting and reprehensible behavior is well-established, but Jones turned to British tabloid magazines to support the most repugnant accusations, including necrophilia and “thousands of tortured and killed children”. I only found one accusation that Savile killed a child, and the investigators found it to be groundless.

In this extreme example, Jones used allegations, both substantiated and unsubstantiated, to support his wilder theories about global elites engaging in pedophilia, child sacrifice, and blood rites.

Filmmakers often indulge in Jones’ style of reasoning. My biggest pet peeve when it comes to biopics and period pieces is when they dramatize events based on rumor and gossip, or simply make up things to fit their narrative. They use a grain of truth to present a fake or distorted image of historic events.

Vice (2018), for example, is purportedly a creative biopic of former Vice President Dick Cheney. The filmmakers took great care to transform their actors into uncanny likenesses of the real people they’re playing on screen, but Vice contains so many distortions and fake renditions of events it might as well be fiction.

In one notorious scene, the filmmakers strongly imply Lynn Cheney’s mother’s accidental drowning was the result of foul play, despite all evidence to the contrary. Alex Jones often draws wild conclusions from historic events. How is it any different for filmmakers to take an offhanded suspicion from Lynn Cheney’s autobiography and present it as fact?

The magnum opus of all historic conspiracy films, Oliver Stone’s JFK (1991), alleged Vice President Lyndon Johnson and elements of our National Security apparatus conspired to assassinate President John F. Kennedy using right wing proxies. It draws strong conclusions and powerfully dramatizes suspicions that when actually looked into, turn out to be flimsy at best. The Washington Post called it a “barely factual retelling”.

Oliver Stone was roundly attacked for playing freely with the facts, despite his film’s cinematic merits. The Telegraph described it as using “elaborate, often discredited alternative facts about the assassination,” and Tom Wicker, writing in the New York Times, called it “nightmarish visions of conspiracy” filled with “wild assertions.” He concluded, “…it does treat matters that are wholly speculative as fact and truth, in effect rewriting history.”

Yet the Motion Picture Academy awarded JFK with two academy awards and six nominations, and Vice won one and was nominated for seven more. You simply can’t condemn Alex Jones on one hand, and not condemn filmmakers like Adam McKay and Oliver Stone for doing the same thing.

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