The Alex Jones Situation Was Handled Poorly By the Press and the Tech Companies


I do not want to single out any reporters as I don’t think any of them is actually malicious or bad at what they do. They’re actually very good and don’t want them harassed. But I have seen several good reporters noting that Facebook and the other tech companies only tossed Jones after the press pointed out repeatedly that Jones was violating the tech companies’ terms of service.

That sounds an awful lot like crowing about being an activist. In fact, it seems there has been an operation by reporters — not coordinated, but operating as a herd — to target Alex Jones and drive him off various platforms. They have used the Sandy Hook trial to do so. But in the past year we have seen numerous people lose jobs because of sustained harassment from and badgering by reporters. In some cases, it was people only ancillary to stories being covered, including a WWE employee whose significant other happened to be a Twitter troll.

Each story has a relevance in coverage, but the sustained and ongoing barrage is enough to make a lot of people, myself included, look at the stories and think they are willful and intentionally designed to silence someone.

Heck, just look at the mob of reporters bullying and shaming the Newseum into getting rid of a t-shirt with “Fake News” written on it, despite that phrase being specifically relevant to the media today. Somehow the media decided it was disrespectful and the Newseum is apparently a shrine, not a museum.

Conservatives see this happening with gun rights, Trump voters, etc. and it looks more like a digital mob of reporters than just reporting what’s happening. There is a striking level of activism and it seems very much to lurch left. It is a bad look for the press, but they will not change. They will just double down and defend it. That will give rise to President Trump attacking them even more as an enemy and there’ll be less of us willing to say anything as the press goes all in on leftwing activist like tactics to silence others.

On the tech company side, I think Facebook probably engaged the best (disclosure: Google and Facebook were sponsors of the Gathering and I own stock in Facebook and Apple). They gave warnings and ultimately booted Jones for not adhering to both their terms of service and past warnings and premised it based on personal attacks of other individuals. I certainly think they could have done better, but of the tech companies they seem to have been the most thoughtful.

Apple seems to have led the way on the full ban, with the other companies following suit. Apple says it banned Jones for “hate speech.” They left the Infowars app in their store, which will allow people access to Jones’s podcasts, etc., but blocked his podcasts directly from iTunes.

It is the “hate speech” label that is bad. We are already seeing leftwing activist groups demand the same happen to “climate change deniers.” We will see it happen to gun rights activists, Christians, and others. Hate speech is just too nebulous and the progressive leadership of these companies are going to have a hard time distinguishing between Alex Jones and the others, even if there are clear distinctions.

I say Facebook did best because it made it clear that Jones was tossed for “glorifying violence” and “using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants.” To delve further, Facebook was specifically focused on Jones’s targeting individuals. In other words, saying transgenderism is a mental health issue or that boys cannot become girls would be fine. But naming and shaming a specific person for harassment was bad. I can live with that.

Ultimately, I am okay with the companies tossing Jones because of libel and slander. I do not know anyone who is a fan of Jones, but I suspect his following will grow now as he casts himself as a victim with knowledge these companies are trying to protect people from. Jones has undeniably attacked the victims of Sandy Hook, claimed there were actors, etc. He did not engage in hate speech, but in libel and slander. That is something Facebook seemed to be getting at in its justification for the ban. And this is an ongoing pattern by the supplement salesman. The lawsuit, I should note, is another reason these companies should have waited. They should have a ruling from the judge in the defamation case to act to give actual legitimacy to their ban.

I think the companies should have been far more specific about Jones and that they should not have hidden behind “hate speech,” as Apple did. That is just going to open a bag of worms. I also think journalists went too far in patting themselves on the back over this. They really made it look like they were out to get Jones, not just report. That’s going to open the journalists and the press up to even more harassment and it’ll be harder, as they continue doing this, to defend their targeting of people and businesses for extended press coverage designed to get those people and businesses punished in some way.

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Erick Erickson
By Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson

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