Buy the truth, not what Alex Jones sells | Diary of Mike McNeill

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I’m no bettor, but if I were, I’d bet that despite being ordered to pay $965 million to the families of the Sandy Hook survivors he defamed, Alex Jones will still be wealthy.

Jones is the owner of Infowars, the media empire that peddles conspiracy theories. He used it as a platform to say that the 2012 massacre of 20 first graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax perpetrated by gun control supporters. The families said Jones’ claims fueled years of accusations and threats against them.

Jones was not in the Connecticut courtroom when the verdict was read. Instead, he streamed it live and responded with sarcastic, celebratory punches.

It’s impossible to know how much money Jones made from his specific Sandy Hook claims. They were part of a conspiracy-driven worldview that he sold to his audience.

Expert testimony in a previous case – where a jury awarded another victim’s parents $49 million – tagged his wealth between $135 million and $270 million.

Obviously, $965 million is a lot more than that, so simple arithmetic says Jones should be broke.

But he’ll probably be fine. In fact, he can get even richer.

These legal maneuvers take years, and things can change on appeal. In America, once people get rich enough, they tend to stay rich. Jones, who has filed for bankruptcy, can hire lawyers to move his money around and make free speech arguments. As The New York Times reported, he said in his livestream, “Do these people really think they’re getting money?”

The other reason Jones will stay rich is that he will use this jury award as proof that what he said is true – that he and his audience are victims. In his livestream, he urged his audience to support him financially to “save Infowars”.

Information is like any other commodity: it operates in a free market economy governed by supply and demand. Jones is fabulously rich because consumers buy what he sells.

Why? One of the reasons is that the world is changing faster than us. In a few generations, life has gone from relatively simple to inexplicably complicated. Instead of accepting our intellectual limits, we all try to explain everything.

In the process, we come to different conclusions, over which we argue. It’s both scary and infuriating, so it’s comforting when someone tells us that everything bad is someone else’s fault – others who are different from us, and who are mean and/or stupid. . Outrage is literally addictive.

This is why a newspaper that you read is so important. Journalists just go to the town council meeting or the football game and tell you what happened. Granted, it’s produced by flawed human beings who struggle to make sense of this world, just like the rest of us. But they try to overcome that so they can let you know what’s going on in your community.

As recent years have shown, the market for this type of information is limited. Its expansion will depend on the consumers who find themselves there. It’s up to all of us to resist the alluring charms of outrage and seek – and buy – the truth.

Consider another thing when making your news consumption decisions. First, no one makes $135 million or $270 million telling you the unvarnished truth. Someone making that kind of money is probably peddling something. Truth tellers tend to live much more modestly.

Finally, in a time when we can all have our own (social) media empire, we need to be mindful of the information we produce. An outrageous or outrageous tweet or message will often outshine the simple facts. In our face-to-face interactions between like-minded people, a baseless accusation can get more amen than an expression of grace.

Let’s take a look at what we put out there, online and in real life. We probably won’t be prosecuted for what we say, and we won’t get rich because of it. But the truth is its own reward.

Steve Brawner is a syndicated columnist published in 18 Arkansas outlets. Email him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @stevebrawner.

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