Alex Jones: Talk show host or performance artist?

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Alex Jones, the fiery conspiracy theorist and provocateur who commands an audience of millions based on the idea that he is one of the only purveyors of the unvarnished truth, is currently defending himself in a civil suit with an argument based partially on a claim that he is simply a performance artist, according to reporters who have been in the courtroom.

Conservative talk show host Alex Jones’s ongoing custody battle exemplifies “what has driven American political discourse into a ditch,” CNN’s Michael Smerconish argued Saturday on his show.

Jones, who broadcasts his radio show on 150 stations, as well as on his website Infowars, has stirred controversy and gained notoriety for his furious, ranting style and belief in conspiracy theories. Sandy Hook, he says, was a hoax. 9/11, the work of the government.

But recently, it’s Jones’s personal life that has hit the headlines, due to an ongoing custody battle with his ex-wife. Smerconish told viewers Saturday that he wasn’t interested “in the family dynamics” of the case. However, the CNN host says, if Americans want “to understand what has driven our political discourse into a ditch,” they should “pay attention” to it.

Of key significance, he explained, is Jones’s ex-wife’s courtroom claim that her former husband is “not a stable person,” and that his public rants each week are clear evidence of that. In response, Jones’s lawyer countered that his on-air persona was “performance art,” and said that that judging him as a father based on his public persona would be like judging Jack Nicholson’s parenting skills on his role as the Joker in the movie “Batman.” A claim Jones then, bizarrely, went on to dispute, filming a series of videos before his court appearances last week, in which he appeared to be undermining his lawyer’s argument by insisting that his on-air persona is real.

The videos were a cynical attempt by Jones, Smerconish said, “to preserve his audience.”

“The duality of the Alex Jones persona is confirmation of everything I’ve been saying about men with microphones, namely, that so much of it is BS,” he added.

Jones’s business model, Smerconish said, is built on “division” and “dissent.”

“People like Jones know that passion sells and they are far more interested with lining their own pockets, getting people to pay attention to their websites and talk radio shows and television cable programs than they are about bringing about good governance,” he explained.

“Ironically, that ex-wife is the best thing he has going for his media career insofar as she says that what you see on TV is the real Alex Jones,” he noted.

Though Jones’s show might be “performance art” to him, Smerconish noted, the talk show host’s views were nonetheless “real” to his listeners, and “therein lies the danger.”

“It’s another reminder that society suffers when we surrender our dialogue to the loudest voices with the sharpest elbows,” he said.

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