The fallout of the alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia has finally hit the doorstep of media provocateur Alex Jones, leader of the conspiracy website InfoWars — this time in the form of a defamation lawsuit.
The plaintiff, a man by the name of Brennan Gilmore, filed the suit with the U.S. district court of Virginia last Tuesday, soon after releasing an article in The Washington Post to lay out his case. On the 12th of August of last year, 20-year-old neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. crashed his car into a crowd of anti-racist counter-protestors during the infamous “Unite the Right” rally. This led to 19 people injured and the death of 32-year-old activist Heather Heyer, confirmed to have died from “blunt force trauma to the torso” according to the medical report obtained by Newsweek. This disastrous event was caught on video by Gilmore who, prior to the murder, was filming the protest from across the street and later uploaded the footage to Twitter:
Video of car hitting anti-racist protestors. Let there be no confusion: this was deliberate terrorism. My prayers with victims. Stay home. pic.twitter.com/MUOZs71Pf4— Brennan Gilmore (@brennanmgilmore) August 12, 2017
Within 24 hours, Gilmore was plastered on every mainstream news outlet and print publication discussing the tragedy on Fourth Street in detail and condemning the alt-right, neo-Nazi and white supremacist presence in the town. Upon critical examination, Gilmore became the subject of right-wing conspiracy theories that are not entirely unfounded.
In his article to Politico, Gilmore admits he worked in Africa as a foreign agent for the State Department under former Democratic President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (he even said this was listed in his bio despite being currently scrubbed). Gilmore then admitted to having a connection to notorious billionaire and favorite conservative boogieman George Soros, the man who donated to Gilmore’s former boss Rep. Tom Perriello when Gilmore served as his chief of staff.
All of which was highlighted on Alex Jones’ program InfoWars:
Jones would have been fine to speculate about these facts if it weren’t for his uncanny habit of mixing in bullshit non-facts that poison the well of his talking points.
During his August program, Jones called Gilmore, without any shred of proof, a “high-level CIA asset” who was “on the payroll of Soros” for a price upwards of $320,000 a year, just for being on the news, and said he may have had a hand in orchestrating the attack in order to undermine President Donald Trump — none of which is verifiable and is most likely some “high-level” bullshit:
“They had known CIA and State Department officials in Charlottesville, first tweeting, first being on MSNBC, CNN, NBC. The mayor is involved. Everybody is a cut-out.
One guy is paid 320 thousand a year on the payroll of Soros. He doesn’t just get money from Soros, he personally is paid 320 a year, and then he is there — CIA, State Department — and he is on the news!”
If Jones’ claims look ridiculous compared to the actual connections, that’s because they are — prompting Gilmore to sue both InfoWars, owner of The Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft, former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), among others for what he described as “character assassination” and both “psychical and online harassment” following their reporting.
According to The Huffington Post reporters who attended Gilmore’s press conference last week:
“What we now see is a pattern of attacks that politically motivated outlets like InfoWars and The Gateway Pundit launch against witnesses and other victims of tragedies.
They twisted my service into a story that I was a deep-state operative who had a role in organizing the violence that we saw in Charlottesville to undermine the Trump administration.”
Undoubtedly, Jones and company will play the lawsuit as an attack on the free press and their right to free speech coming from the big government and the “deep state” out to get them — and I don’t believe readers should get the situation twisted.
Journalists, media commentators, even “performance artists” like Jones have a responsibility to question narratives if the facts are pointing us in the opposite direction. This, however, isn’t the same when you go full defamation, throwing out unverifiable stats and projecting both motivation and action that have no basis in reality other than some political smears. Jones and company should know this by now, as the whole incident is reminiscent of when he dipped in hand in the notorious Clinton conspiracy theory known as PizzaGate.
Jones, like all his theories, takes a grain of truth and turns it into a mountain. Pizzagate started from a creepy Wikileaks email sent to men in Washington from the official handle of Tamera Luzzatto saying Ruby, Emerson, and Maeve Luzzatto (said to be 11, 9, and almost 7 at the time) would be in a hot tub used for some unspecified “further entertainment.”
Once the crazy right-wing bloggers got a hold of that real, sexually suggestive email, however, the story developed into this overblown narrative that Hillary Clinton, John Podesta and company were in charge of some sort of child sex ring inside the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria — a place which does contain creepy, sexually suggestive art featuring what appears to be older men and children, and was mentioned in the emails by Podesta.
Kim Noble’s “art.” She’s just like Marina Abramovic, expressing whatever she’s witnessing/participating and calling it art. It’s not ART. They need to be investigated. #PizzaGate #PedoGate #Podesta #PedoGateNews pic.twitter.com/z3yMDyDNFg— (@FenSmith2) February 11, 2018
Jones was among the most famous of people to promote the conspiracy theory, leading to the radicalization of Edgar Maddison Welch, the 28-year-old man who invaded that same pizzeria with a gun trying to see if it was real. NPR reports Jones was forced to apologize twice for his promotion of the conspiracy or face potential legal action for the damages done. There is a precedent of Jones’ words leading to radicalized behavior based on bad, downright defamatory evidence that doesn’t rise to the level of rumor. If their counter-narrative is we must protect free speech, regardless of whether their side is the one producing slanderous fake news, this staunch free speech advocate is not impressed by their case.
Gilmore concludes in his article for The Post:
“We’re all harmed when these outlets recklessly disregard plain facts, defame the innocent and use the power of social media to amplify a bogus narrative. With the help of Georgetown Law’s Civil Rights Clinic, I brought this suit because Americans cannot stand idly by while these people terrorize individuals and undermine the pillars of our society. One lawsuit won’t stop them, but I do hope that the legal process can expose them for what they are: snake oil salesmen who know full well that the conspiracy theories they peddle are full of lies.”