When people find out you’ve written a book about conspiracy theories, they tend to start asking you questions. Often the same questions. One I’ve been hearing a lot lately is “What do you think Alex Jones will do now that his guy is president? Can a man who sees conspiracies everywhere adjust to being on the same side as the government?”
That question, as it happens, has relevance beyond the relatively small world of Jones and his fans. My answer is usually some combination of these three things:
1. I have no idea what Alex Jones will do over the next four years.
2. But many people have found it easy to slide from condemning a vast government conspiracy against the citizens to condemning a vast conspiracy against The One Man In Government Who Cares About You.
You don’t need to be a hard-core conspiracist like Jones or his staff at Infowars to take that kind of position. It’s pretty common to encounter Democrats who thought Barack Obama and/or Bill Clinton were outsiders hemmed in by a hostile establishment, and it’s not unusual to meet Republicans who have said similar things about George W. Bush and/or Ronald Reagan. Washington is full of intrigue, and it doesn’t take much work to interpret a battle between governing-class factions as a battle between the rulers and the people. With someone like Jones the narrative may get more baroque, but the underlying process will be pretty similar; so far, he and his writers haven’t had a hard time acclimating themselves to the new conditions.
3. The more interesting question isn’t “What will Alex Jones do?” It’s “What will people like Alex Jones do?” Jones is a fringe figure, but there’s a pretty big universe out there of Americans who tend to distrust both the government and the corporate world and who are particularly prone to embracing conspiratorial explanations of events. There’s going to be a split between the populists who see Trump as just the latest manifestation of a corrupt system and the populists who see him as their advocate in a world that’s otherwise stacked against them. But we don’t yet know how many people will end up on each side.
So with that in mind, check out The Daily Beast‘s report on a crack in the Alex Jones coalition:
Since his exit, [former Infowars writer Kurt] Nimmo has noticed the general framework and voice of the site shift into becoming essentially a pro-Trump propaganda outfit—something that he perceives as an abandonment of Infowars’ initial focus on the “New World Order,” or as Jones would call it, the establishment.
“I disagree with Alex Jones on Donald Trump,” Nimmo said in an email to The Daily Beast. “I believe Donald Trump is an enabler of crony capitalism, the same as his predecessor. I also believe he will not end the wars started by Bush and continued by Obama. I cannot support a man who will further war and murder. Alex Jones has more or less ignored this and considers Trump a patriot and a defender of the Constitution. This is clearly wrong.”
To read the whole thing, which includes some equally strongly worded pushback from Team Infowars, go here. There will be many rifts like this in the Trump years, and they won’t always take place in places as arcane as this one.
Bonus link: A broader look at these tensions in the populist tradition.