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Monday, December 09, 2019

Conspiracy Theories

Alex Jones testifying in the defamation lawsuit he lost

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones filed for personal bankruptcy in a Texas court on Friday after weeks on the hook for over $1 billion for pushing heinous and defamatory lies about the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting.

For years, Jones, a Trump-supporting provocateur, falsely claimed on his far-right disinformation podcast, Infowars, that the Sandy Hook massacre, a tragedy that claimed the lives of 20 elementary school children and six adults, was an “inside job” instigated by the government as a pretext for the mass seizure of guns.

According to the New York Times, Jones’ websites and social media commandeered 1.4 million daily visits before major platforms like Facebook purged his content –. as Vox reported, for “glorifying violence… and using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants.”

Incited by Jones’ lies that the grieving parents of victims of Sandy Hook were “crisis actors,” Infowars listeners subjected the distraught families to years of violent threats and harassment, according to court testimony.

Reckoning arrived in 2018 when a group of families sued Jones and Infowar's parent company, Free Speech Systems, citing the stalking, death threats, and harassment they had endured due to Jones’ falsehoods.

In his Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in the Southern District of Texas, Jones claimed insolvency due to the mostly business-related debts he said he owes to between 50 and 99 creditors, including Sandy Hook victims’ families, a value he estimated to be between $1 billion and $10 billion.

Jones said in his filing that his assets are worth between $1 million and $10 million, even though he earns up to $70 million annually peddling dietary supplements, quack cures, and other items including survival gear, reports the Times.

In a recent broadcast, the Infowars host pegged the amount at $2 million, telling his audience, "I’m officially out of money, personally,” even though a forensic economist estimated in court this summer that Jones and his business were worth up to $270 million.

An attorney for the Sandy Hook victims’ families, Chris Mattei, slammed Jones’ insolvency claims as a failed ploy to dodge accountability for his lies about the tragedy.

“Like every other cowardly move Alex Jones has made, this bankruptcy will not work,” Mattei said. "The American judicial system will hold Alex Jones accountable, and we will never stop working to enforce the jury’s verdict."

Jones' filing came a week after a Texas judge ordered him to pay $49 million in damages a jury awarded to the parents of a six-year-old killed in the shooting, a verdict Jones’ lawyer has publicly promised to appeal.

In October, before the Texas ruling, a jury in Connecticut awarded a contingent of eight Sandy Hook families $965 million in compensatory damages, the biggest penalty from Jones’ slate of legal woes.

A Connecticut jurist, Judge Barbara Bellis, pegged an additional $473 million in punitive damages to the tally early last month, bringing the bill up to $1.44 billion.

The Sandy Hook families challenged Jones’ insolvency claims, accusing the far-right fabulist of “systematically transferr[ing] millions of dollars” to himself and his relatives, according to a bankruptcy court filing in August.

“Alex Jones is not financially bankrupt; he is morally bankrupt, which is becoming more and more clear as we discover his plots to hide money and evade responsibility,” Kyle Farrar, an attorney for the Sandy Hook families, said at the time.

Jones funneled money from Free Speech Systems as the potential for damages mounted mid-trial, moving millions of dollars between August 2020 and November 2021 to business entities controlled by himself and his relatives, a Washington Postanalysis of Jones’ finances showed.

Jones claimed in his bankruptcy filing that Free Speech Systems, which filed for bankruptcy in July, owed $55 million to PQPR Holdings, a company he and his parents owned, a debt the Sandy Hook families called “fictitious,” per the Times.

Multiple media requests sent to Jones seeking comment on his filing have so far gone unanswered.

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Elon Musk

Twitter has stopped saving lives and is now actively engaged in helping to kill people. It took one year and nine months and the insane ego of one man: Elon Musk. He’s the difference between these two headlines from the Associated Press.

Dateline March 1, 2021: Twitter cracks down on COVID vaccine misinformation.

Dateline November 29, 2022: Twitter ends enforcement of COVID misinformation policy.

Lies are loose on Twitter about COVID, folks. Stuff like vaccines will kill you, the disease is a conspiracy against white people, wearing a mask is fascism. It was out there before, and it’s out there again, and people will die because of it.

As of this year, Twitter has nearly 400 million active users around the world, nearly 75 million of them in this country alone. What is Twitter? Well, it’s called a social networking app, one among many, including Facebook, Instagram, and yes, even Substack and Truth Social, the Trump-owned network that mimics Twitter, or tries to, anyway. It’s a way people connect with one another. It’s a way people share information and interests. It’s a platform that has been used by many to promote companies, political movements, ideas, conspiracies, and lies.

Is it essential? No. There are other ways to connect with people, other ways to obtain and share information. Is it powerful? Without a doubt. It’s fairly widely accepted that without his frequent tweets of lies and conspiracies and bragging and self-promotion, Donald Trump probably could not have been elected president in 2016. That’s power.

What the hell could have possessed the man who took sole ownership of Twitter about a month ago to have issued this order, that a social media platform reaching so many millions of people would throw out a policy that has actively sought to tamp down misinformation about a disease that has killed over six and a half million people around the world? Contrariness? Ego? Madness? A simple wish to join in the right-wing obsession with owning the libs?

Musk’s policy changes at Twitter, which have included re-enrolling people who were banned from the platform in the past for advocating violence, racism, sexism, and homophobia among a long list of other no-no’s of a rational, humanistic civilization, have not done much to help his investment. His abandonment of Twitter’s content moderation policies has made him lose half of the top 100 advertisers on the platform.

The list includes Chevrolet, Ford, Jeep, Merck, General Motors, Volkswagen, General Mills, and the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. According to Media Matters for America, collectively the group of advertisers has spent more than $2 billion advertising on Twitter since 2020 and $750 million this year alone. Seven additional advertisers who spent at least $255 million on Twitter since 2020 have cut their ads to almost nothing.

All that money is gone. More of it will be gone very soon. The European Union warned Musk today that he faces an all-out ban unless Twitter abides by the EU’s strict rules on content moderation. EU industry chief Thierry Breton made the threat in a video conversation with Musk today, according to Reuters. “Breton told Musk he must adhere to a checklist of rules, including ditching an ‘arbitrary’ approach to reinstating banned users and agreeing to an 'extensive independent audit' of the platform by next year,” Reuters reported.

That’s tens, maybe more than 100 million Twitter users in the EU. Advertisers aren’t going to sit still for losing that many eyes.

The Intercept reported last week that Musk’s new anything-goes policy at Twitter allowed a clearly anti-Semitic cartoon on the platform that depicted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with a grossly exaggerated nose. Zelensky is Jewish. The Tweet of the anti-Semitic cartoon originated from the Russian embassy in London.

What’s going on with this guy Musk? Story after story this week and last reported on tweets put out by Musk that featured right-wing conspiracy theories and other far-out nonsense. On Thanksgiving Day, Musk retweeted something from a white supremacist equating pedophilia and Antifa, a decentralized movement that has declared itself as specifically anti-fascist. The tweet came from Paul Ray Ramsey, who has called women’s suffrage a “cancer” and is a known Holocaust denier, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. Musk responded to another tweet calling “woke propaganda” a “Trojan horse” intended to “attack kid’s brains.” “Exactly,” tweeted Musk.

Elon Musk has cut loose the loons on Twitter, and they’re moving back into the platform for all they’re worth. Why he’s doing this is anybody’s guess. It’s not going to last. Regulators are not going to stand for the spread of COVID lies in the European Union. They’ll shut down Twitter in Europe before they allow Musk and his minions to cause deaths over there. There is no sane equivalent regulatory body in this country.

Is Elon Musk the Sam Bankman-Fried of the internet? Is Twitter on its way to becoming FTX, the crypto exchange that was worth tens of billions until overnight it was worth nothing?

Imitating the impulsive adolescent behavior of Donald Trump is no way to run a business, son. Even the dean of Faber University knew that much.