Director: Dan Reed Cast: Alex Jones, Russell Dowden, Rob Jacobson Distributor: HBO Running Time: 121 min. MPAA: TV-MA

Alex Jones has made a living online as a provocateur. His empire of deception runs as deep and lucrative as that of the most corrupt TV ministers. He prays on the gullible with his loud rants about how he tells the truth that mainstream media won’t talk about. It doesn’t matter if he’s telling the truth. He is telling an audience exactly what they’ll want to hear and playing that edgy card hard enough to convince viewers to purchase his snake oil. To those not fooled by his supplements, Jones is a joke online, with his most notable rant being about how the water is filled with chemicals that turn frogs gay.

But there is no joke to laugh at it in his conspiracy theory bullshit that targeted the tragedy of the Sandy Hook school shooting. I remembered that horrific day in late 2012 when the tragedy struck me hard as a new parent. The film features interviews with the parents of these slaughtered kids, struggling to describe the final day of their child’s life when they dropped them off at school, never to pick them up again. The events are detailed in their grotesque details, and the names of those killed by the cowardly gunmen are revealed. The students and teachers are remembered, including the actions of teachers who tried to save students.

A portion of this documentary is reserved just for exploring that tragedy, almost in the form of a compelling short documentary. Having endured the details of that terrible day, the film shifts to the vile comments of Alex Jones. Ever the conspiracy theorist, Jones remarked that he believed the shooting was a false flag operation. He didn’t believe the children were killed and that they were alive and well because of a media hoax. This is not a new conspiracy theory, as there are similar theories about the victims of the Twin Tower attacks. Where Jones goes too far is how he tries to prove this by stating that the parents who gave press statements were actors and that Anderson Cooper was green-screened for his interviews with the grieving parents.

These conspiracies were widely believed to such a degree that the parents and community of Sandy Hook found themselves being harassed. Grieving parents endured years of being harassed by people telling them they were liars, cornering them in the street, and sending them threats over the phone. There’s only so long that this type of vitriolic campaign can continue before the victimized bite back. While it’s impossible to go after every harassing Alex Jones listener, it is possible to go after the source of this harassment. And Alex Jones had deep pockets with his broadcasting empire of lies, dubbed a most fitting title of Info Wars.

This film ultimately reveals that Jones is a huckster and not a very good one. He’s the type of online personality who will say absolutely anything to his gullible audience to buy his crappy supplements. But when he goes too far, he’ll fain innocence when not on his set. When brought to the courtroom, the loudmouth grifter shrivels. When placed on the stand, he’ll try to lie calmly about his financial statements or distract from the issue with a whataboutism, but that shit doesn’t fly in a courtroom setting. The judge grows increasingly frustrated with how Jones continues to skate around the issue and pretend that he’s innocent. Nobody is buying it because nobody in that courtroom is dumb enough to believe his fabrications for attention.

But who is, one might ask? Who’d be dumb enough to believe that a town of 28,000 people was all in on a conspiracy to stage a shooting? The film reveals these individuals who do the harassing, both online and in person. They’re misguided and awful individuals who might warrant pity until you hear their interviews. One avid listener remarks that they know they’re right and sincerely hope they’re not in the wrong for believing the Sandy Hook tragedy was fake. But that’s the problem: Nothing will convince them. They don’t listen to reason. They listen to Alex Jones, who continued spreading lies on Info Wars while the trial continued, only piling up more evidence.

The victims soon come to realize it’s impossible to reason with Jones or his zealots. After one of the trials concludes for the days, one of the grieving parents feels bad for Jones’s soar throat and gives him some cough drops. As she passes them to him, Jones remarks that he is deeply sorry for all this and tries to offer up an excuse that he might be autistic. The attorney doesn’t want to hear this and promptly tells Jones to shut his mouth. This pattern has been going on for so long that the prosecution knows what will happen. Jones will be refined enough to offer a mild apology in court, but that will all change when the Info Wars cameras go on. When payments for Jones’s slander were read off in court, Jones laughed about the guilty charges on his show in real-time. Why? Because he’s aware that these charges will convince his followers to buy more of his supplements and send in more donations. It’s all a grift. It was never about telling the truth.

There’s more to The Truth vs. Alex Jones than a trial of one slanderous online loudmouth who vomits lies. There’s a bigger question about how quickly conspiracy theories spread in the online age and the consequences of letting this power go unchecked. Alex Jones has yet to pay any of his charges. Info Wars continues spreading lies and selling junk. There are more like Alex Jones online, albeit to lesser degrees of financial success and spread. There tends to be a lukewarm defense for Alex Jones from the most disinterested and centrist of detractors, crying about how they don’t agree with what he has said but support his right to say it. The right of Jones to say what he said is not in question. Jones has profited from misinformation, and that can’t go unchecked. Jones’s attorney also offers the tired excuse of saying, “If they come for Alex Jones, they’ll come for you next.” Unless you currently run a lucrative online conspiracy theorist podcast that sells junk supplements, you won’t have to worry about anybody coming to take your rights away. You have a higher chance of being harassed by an Alex Jones listener than that level of success ever happening. Be grateful you’ll never be as grotesque as Alex Jones, and don’t run defense for the most shameless of edgy hucksters.

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