Right-wing anger over a defamation judgment reflects disgust at seeing the rules applied to them.
To many on the right, Alex Jones is a free-speech martyr. On Wednesday, the conspiracy theorist was hit with a nearly $1 billion defamation judgment, after having smeared the families of the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre as “crisis actors” in a government plot to ban guns. Twenty first graders and six teachers were killed in the shooting.
In response to the verdict, the second time a court has found Jones liable, prominent conservative-media figures began insisting that Jones’s free-speech rights had been violated. The right-wing personality Charlie Kirk tweeted, “This isn’t about calculating real damages from Alex Jones. This is about sending a message: If you upset the Regime, they will destroy you, completely and utterly, forever.” Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia called Jones a victim of “political persecution” because “all he did was speak words.”
Defamation typically involves words, and defamation is a long-recognized exception to the First Amendment’s protections. There is no dispute about the falsehood of Jones’s conspiratorial statements regarding the Sandy Hook massacre, that “the whole thing was fake,” that it was “completely fake with actors, in my view, manufactured.” After all, during the first defamation trial in Texas, Jones acknowledged that the massacre was “100% real.” There is also no dispute about whether he made the statements. As a result of Jones’s false claims, the families of those slain in Sandy Hook were subjected to years of online harassment from malicious idiots who believed his lies. Reasonable people can disagree about the size of the monetary award, but Jones’s liability seems a foregone conclusion. For his part, Jones faced default judgments because he refused to fully cooperate with the process, while also attacking the proceedings as “show trials.”
By Adam Serwer