Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.
Far-right conspiracy theory outlet Infowars has been aggressively hawking bulk food packages at inflated prices while spreading wild conspiracy theories about the coronavirus outbreak. Since December, the price of bulk food at Infowars' online store has more than doubled with the biggest package costing nearly $3,000.
On December 31, China announced an outbreak of COVID-19, a novel coronavirus that started in Wuhan City, with the first known case dating back to December 1. The disease has since spread beyond China and is currently present in 53 countries, including the United States, and has stricken more than 83,000 people.
Infowars is selling bulk food at recently increased prices
As the virus continues to spread, and a pandemic becomes more likely, Alex Jones is using Infowars to panic his viewers while also trying to profit from them.
Infowars operates InfowarsStore.com, which sells dietary supplements, apparel, firearm accessories, and bulk food. The page for bulk food has been using the coronavirus outbreak as a sales hook. A video ad has appeared at times on the store's "emergency survival foods" page with the title, "EMERGENCY SURVIVAL FOODS: Coronavirus Clearance Sale." In the video, Jones urges viewers to buy Infowars bulk food packages, claiming that other sellers are sold out, but that Infowars can ship within seven to 10 days. (When accessed on February 28, the Infowars Store now says "Shipping WILL be delayed on many orders, potentially 6-8 weeks or more in rare cases.")
In the advertisement, Jones explicitly references coronavirus, saying, "I noticed there were reports that food prices in general were going to be going up because of the crisis in China and surrounding areas and with how deadly this coronavirus is" and claims, "This is the lowest price you're going to find anywhere, even when it's at its regular price." He also suggests that buyers should act before it is too late, saying, "You can feel it in your bones, big stuff is coming down, whether it's coronavirus or something else, now is the time to get prepared and I suggest folks get their storable food at InfowarsStore.com while you still can."
Jones urges buyers to consider large purchases, saying, "I personally have ordered more storable food just last week because I have to be able to take care of not just myself but my neighbors, because believe me, hungry starving neighbors are not a good thing to have and so it's simple: You better hide your food or you better have extra." During the video, Infowars packages with prices up to $2,987.00 are shown.
Since December, the Infowars store has more than doubled the price of its largest package, "Infowars Life Select: 1 Year." On December 21, the package was being sold for $1443.50. The price increased to $1,594 by January 23. By January 30, the price had increased to $2,987, and the page was displaying the "EMERGENCY SURVIVAL FOODS: Coronavirus Clearance Sale" video.
Infowars broadcasts are filled with aggressive sales pitches for bulk food
Coronavirus has been a near-constant topic of discussion on Infowars' various broadcasts. According to a search of Infowars' online streaming platform Banned.video, at least 145 videos have been posted since January 22 that reference the outbreak in their titles. Of these, 127 were published after Infowars released its "EMERGENCY SURVIVAL FOODS: Coronavirus Clearance Sale" ad for bulk food on January 27.
Sales pitches that appear in Infowars content are aggressive. They play on fears of food shortages, emphasize the need to make immediate and large orders, and fearmonger about the prospect of societal collapse and cannibalism. Among some of the on-air pitches:
- On February 27, Jones posted a video with an "emergency announcement about storable foods" in which he announced shipping delays and then said "the lord works in mysterious ways" before crediting the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent bulk food sales for helping Infowars' finances.
- During a February 25 broadcast, Infowars contributor Mike Adams pitched Infowars bulk food, telling viewers to buy Infowars bulk food right now because "if the CDC is briefing the Senate right now today — if they tell the Senate this is uncontained in America, that news could come out three hours from now and then it's too late. You won't be able to order anything." As Adams made the pitch, the camera cut to stacks of Infowars bulk food products displayed in the Infowars studio.
- In a February 18 video with the title How To Prepare For A Coronavirus Lockdown In The U.S., Jones raised the prospect of cannibalism during a food crisis, saying that "within about 15 days, most people become cannibals" immediately before pitching Infowars bulk food, which was shown stacked in the studio.
- In a February 12 video about "the natural components that can easily be used to combat viral infection," Jones pitched Infowars bulk food, saying, "I am very sad about this virus and very sad about the bioweapons and things that are going on, but it is an opportunity for people to take advantage of the products we have." During his pitch Jones said the Infowars warehouse is full of "safes with guns and folks trained to use them" and said, "We got food, we got guts, we got red blood, we'll kick your ass if you attack us." He also said: "With me, it's religious not to screw you over."
- In an Infowars bulk food ad that appeared on a February 2 video about "possible solutions for those who seek to prepare for the coronavirus pandemic," Jones said, "Last week there I was ordering masks and more food and then I didn't even come on air and do it myself, because there was that feeling of like, 'Well I'm pushing it during a crisis.' Of course we should promote this during a crisis, it's all more reason to get prepared and get ready." Jones urged viewers to order food within the next four or five days to avoid price increases.
- On January 29, Jones hosted Keith Bansemer, the president of My Patriot Supply, the company that provides Infowars with the bulk food that it sells under its own label. A video of the segment was published with the title "EXCLUSIVE: D.O.D. Buying Up American Food Supplies For Coronavirus Outbreak." Bansemer claimed that the Department of Defense is repeatedly calling him trying to buy food, but that he has refused. Throughout the segment, Jones and Bansemer promoted their respective bulk food products.
Infowars is seeking to instill fear in its audience
Infowars streaming platform Banned.video has been carrying a banner advertisement for Infowars brand bulk foods.
And the videos that are paired with this ad appear designed to maximize fear about the coronavirus outbreak. Here are some of the more sensational titles of Infowars videos related to coronavirus:
- "Violent Leftists In A Coronavirus Quarantine Would Collapse Society"
- "How Globalists Justify Releasing the Coronavirus Bioweapon"
- "Lancet Model Predicts Hundreds Of Millions Dead From Coronavirus Outbreak"
- "Was Coronavirus Intended To Be Primer For Chinese Invasion Of America?"
- "Bioweapons Expert: Coronavirus Is Super Biological Weapon Never Encountered Before"
- "MSM Tries To Suppress Evidence That HIV Delivery System Is Embedded In Coronavirus"
- "Countdown: Top Ten Ways Coronavirus Will Be Used to Usher In Global Government"
The conspiracy theories Infowars is pushing to sell its bulk food
Infowars has been spreading ever-evolving conspiracy theories about coronavirus, pushing other falsehoods, and making dire predictions about the outbreak. Initially, Infowars broadcasts pushed a conspiracy theory that coronavirus was designed in a lab and was accidentally released, but more recently the overarching conspiracy theory is that coronavirus is a bioweapon that was created by China and/or the "globalists" and was purposefully released in an effort to control and depopulate the planet. Here are a few of the various conspiracy theories and fearmongering:
- While guest hosting the February 26 edition of The Alex Jones Show, Infowars contributor Mike Adams claimed that the Centers for Disease Control is "setting a trap for Trump" by exacerbating the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. The end of the segment was an ad for Infowars bulk food.
- During the February 24 broadcast of The Alex Jones Show, a video was played which Adams claimed showed residents of Wuhan en masse screaming in terror. In fact, the residents were shouting encouragement to each other. Adams used his false account of the video to make claims about what would happen if there were coronavirus quarantines in the U.S., saying, "When you take these deranged lunatic violent leftists, who are already mentally ill … and you add a quarantine to that, what's going to happen to their state of mental health? What are they then willing to do in terms of violence or looting or murder or killing or rape or pedophilia or all the things that they do almost on an everyday basis anyway? Add the coronavirus to that, you start looking at the downfall of society." The segment included a coronavirus-themed pitch for Infowars bulk food.
- In a video published on February 21, Infowars contributor Greg Reese claimed "experts tell us the virus was weaponized in a lab, and while nobody disputes this fact, the mainstream media hide it." The video ended with an Infowars Store ad urging viewers to buy bulk food and other products.
- In a February 20 video, Adams said, "We're going to get into the heads of the globalists here to try to understand what they are thinking when they released this global pandemic and engineered this weapon against human beings, the Wuhan coronavirus."
- During a February 17 broadcast, Infowars host Owen Shroyer promoted the conspiracy theory that coronavirus was designed by China as part of a U.S. invasion plot. The segment ended with a promotion for Infowars bulk food.
- During the February 17 broadcast of The Alex Jones Show, Jones suggested that coronavirus was a bioweapon created by globalists so governments "can use the smokescreen of the crisis to expand their control." The segment ended with a pitch for Infowars bulk food.
- During his February 7 broadcast, Jones claimed that coronavirus is "a race-specific bioweapon" that was released by the Chinese government.
- During his February 6 broadcast, Jones devoted a segment to claiming that coronavirus is a bioweapon designed by China to attack the west. The segment concluded with a coronavirus-themed ad for Infowars bulk food.
- During a February 4 Infowars broadcast, Adams claimed that globalists designed coronavirus by combining HIV and SARs. Moments later, Infowars broadcast a coronavirus-themed Infowars bulk food ad.
- During the February 4 edition of The Alex Jones Show, Jones suggested that maybe even President Donald Trump was involved in the creation of the coronavirus, but that "maybe it's a complex false flag to blame America down the road." After Jones finished his comments, a coronavirus-themed ad for Infowars bulk food was broadcast.
- During a February 2 Infowars broadcast, Adams hyped a scenario in which people in Mexico become infected with coronavirus and then flee to "sanctuary cities" in the United States causing a massive outbreak. The segment ended with a coronavirus-themed ad for Infowars bulk food.
How Alex Jones is taking advantage of his audience
People are right to be concerned about coronavirus, but Jones and Infowars are attempting to profit from panic that they create. Writing in Scientific American, Zeynep Tufekci argued that the way to stop the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus is through practicing "community-wide isolation" where outbreaks are present and taking actions — including getting a flu shot, regularly washing your hands, using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, not touching your face, and, if in a position of authority, allowing workers to work from home or make up the time later. Such steps, according to Tufekci, reduce the risk for people to get infected — by coronavirus or other diseases like the common flu — and will lower the burden on the healthcare system, so it can better treat vulnerable populations such as the elderly.
In her article, Tufekci criticizes tactics like the ones used by Jones, writing, "There is no shortage of snake oil sellers who hope stoking such fears will make people buy more supplies: years' worth of ready-to-eat meals, bunker materials and a lot more stuff in various shades of camo." Instead, Tufekci says the way to prepare for the possibility of self-isolation is to "buy two or three weeks' worth of shelf-stable food that you would eat anyway, and be done; this could include canned food like beans and vegetables, pasta, rice, cereals or oats, oils/fats, nuts and dried fruits" and to have potable water on hand.
That won't cost you $3,000.