A media organization known for dealing in half-truths and complete falsehoods found itself on shaky ground this week after YouTube pulled one of its videos. Alex Jones, a purveyor of far-reaching conspiracy theories aimed at the right — and pills that apparently turn you red — received a warning from YouTube after portraying survivors of the Parkland school shootings as paid crisis actors.
The video focused on David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland massacre on Valentine’s Day that saw 17 of his classmates gunned down. Hogg, a 17-year-old senior fell into the spotlight over the past week after a shooter opened fire at his Parkland, Florida high school. He’s since found solace in using his newfound platform to advocate for gun control, a position he and his peers have proven to be remarkably adept at.
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Maybe too adept, according to Jones and his fringe news site, InfoWars.
Jones alleged that Hogg, a strong voice among the survivors, was perhaps too skilled at public speaking and alleged both he and his peers were paid crisis actors — a term that refers to those paid to play the victims in emergency drills.
The InfoWars channel is notorious for creating these sorts of conspiracies out of thin air, often offering little proof to accompany provocative headlines and pervasive rhetoric on its main YouTube channel, The Alex Jones Show. Previous stories offered up head-scratching spin on the school shooting at Sandy Hook (which Jones states was a false flag operation carried out by government operatives) and a train wreck carrying dozens of Republican congressmen (which Jones attempts to spin into a devious plot by democrats to kill congressional rivals).
Whether Jones believes the narratives he spins is unclear. His lawyer last year claimed it was all an act. “He’s playing a character,” attorney Randall Wilhite said during a pretrial hearing at a custody proceeding after Jones’ divorce last year. “He is a performance artist.”
The comments accompanied allegations by his ex-wife, Kelly, that “he’s not a stable person,” citing his broadcasts as proof that he’s an unfit parent.
YouTube though, has had enough. Sources familiar with the matter told CNN that The Alex Jones Channel had received a strike for his attack on Hogg, part of YouTube’s three strikes approach to dealing with misinformation, harassment, and hate speech — Jones has, at some point or another, been responsible for all three.
According to a YouTube spokesperson:
Last summer we updated the application of our harassment policy to include hoax videos that target the victims of these tragedies. Any video flagged to us that violates this policy is reviewed and then removed.
The video in question, titled “David Hogg Can’t Remember His Lines in TV Interview,” has already been removed, but more immediate danger looms for Jones and his 2.2 million subscribers. YouTube’s guidelines state that if the account receives a second strike in the same three month period, it won’t be able to post new content for two weeks.
Being unable to publish would be a blow to Jones and InfoWars, who produce a staggering number of videos daily — often a dozen or more.
If the channel receives a third strike, it’s removed from the platform entirely.
Jones, we expect, will play nice. Syndication is key for his particular brand of news, and limiting InfoWars’ ability to distribute content isn’t going to be kind on his wallet — money that, unlike his integrity, we’re certain he’d miss.