Alex Jones, the founder of InfoWars, is known for going on clamorous far-right rants that don’t always meet the expectations of being checked for accuracy.
Indeed, the fact-checking site Media Bias/Fact Check, which details how a number of sites across the web are biased or not, has a particularly strong ranking for InfoWars:
“Overall, InfoWars/Alex Jones is a crackpot, tin foil hat level conspiracy website that also strongly promotes pseudoscience,” the site wrote. “The amount of fake news and debunked conspiracy claims, as well as extreme right wing bias, renders InfoWars a non-credible source on any level.”
On Thursday, a former staff member at InfoWars published an op-ed in the New York Times, describing how sometimes the site just invented stories in order to get attention online. In one of his recollections, Josh Owens, who used to be a video editor for the company and says he now regrets it, pointed out how many of the more Islam-centered stories were entirely fabricated.
Owens cited a time that he was assigned to cover a story on a community called Islamberg, which is about three hours north of New York City. The community, which was founded by Muslims, had been the target of intense backlash and violent threats over the years. So when Owens and his crew arrived, describing themselves as journalists from InfoWars, it worried community members, who asked law enforcement to call the crew so that they could verify they were who they said they were.
At 23, Josh Owens quit film school to work as a video editor for Alex Jones. This is his account of the years he spent within the Infowars empire. https://t.co/VwDaoSGZ3l
— NYT Magazine (@NYTmag) December 5, 2019
Jones told Owens to use that call from law enforcement as a means to write a story about police harassment from Islamberg. This, in turn, would allow Jones to opine that the “community contained dangerous, potential terrorists,” Owens wrote in his op-ed.
“The information did not meet our expectations, so we made it up, preying on the vulnerable and feeding the prejudices and fears of Jones’s audience. We ignored certain facts, fabricated others and took situations out of context to fit our narrative,” Owens explained.
Owens later quit the organization in 2017, two years after doing to story on Islamberg. He did so with little notice after he took a different job with a substantial pay cut. He got a phone call from Jones the day he quit.
“Let me tell you a little secret. I don’t like it anymore, either,” Owens recalled Jones telling him. “I don’t want to do it anymore, and I got all these people working for me, and you know, then I feel guilty. I don’t want to do it.”
Still, Owens wrote that Jones wanted him back, and even offered him a pay raise and special projects to work on. Owens refused the offers.
In addition to inaccurate reporting from InfoWars regarding Muslims in America, Jones also incessantly peddled conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, which left six educators and 20 schoolchildren dead at the hands of a mass shooter. Jones alleged many times on his program that the shooting was made up, a plot to turn Americans anti-gun, in order to facilitate a means for the government to ban guns in the United States — allegations that landed him a lawsuit from victims of those families.