Above All Else, These Men Are Exploitative Grifters
And they’re taking advantage on their followers’ perfectly valid skepticism of power
I don’t think I fully grasped the similarities between Donald Trump and Alex Jones before the news forced me to pay more attention to the latter.
It’s not just that they occupy the same faux populist right political space. While Jones is clearly crazier — or plays crazier — than Trump, they both have attentional issues that make it hard for them to stay on track, they both have major impulse control problems, and they both like to tell long, unlikely stories about their own grandeur and about the dark forces conspiring against their greatness and soothsaying. You would not believe how many powerful people, operating in the shadows, are trying to take down these two innocent men.
And now they are both facing legal problems at the same time. Well, Trump has seemingly always been facing some legal threat, but the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago has launched what may be the climax of an apparently long-running investigation concerning his handling of “highly classified” documents. Jones, meanwhile, owes almost $50 million to the Sandy Hook parents he so disgracefully defamed. That particular amount is likely to decrease because Texas law is friendly to defendants in civil cases, but there are more damages trials to come.
Trump and Jones are both presenting themselves as victims of wildly out of control government forces. Both are using this as a fundraising opportunity and a chance to energize their audiences. In Jones’ case, one of his goals is surely to help keep his website and show afloat as a legal shitstorm rains down on him and his entourage, and in Trump’s case, he is likely to make his legal challenges — alongside the election “stolen” from him — central to a potential 2024 campaign.
There’s so much noise here, and so much politics, that I think it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that both these men are, above all, scam artists who relentlessly victimize their fans, and who have done so for a long time.
One characteristic of scam artists is that they channel energy toward themselves and their products. Sometimes this is a matter of redirecting preexisting energy — if you’re selling a Miracle Anti-Aging Tonic, your potential customers mostly will be people already plagued by fears of decay — and sometimes it’s a matter of energizing people further so as to motivate them to pay attention to you and your product. The more Alex Jones and Donald Trump rail against the Deep State forces targeting both them and average, everyday Americans who just want to be left alone — Deep State forces operating in league with mainstream media and both major parties (but more so the Democrats), of course — the more their audiences will come to distrust mainstream sources of authority and trust Jones and Trump instead. In the extreme cases, it really does get quite cultlike.
One of the grossest forms of this is the claim that they are being unfairly victimized in these ongoing legal proceedings. They are exploiting the fact that a lot of people intuit that the law isn’t quite fair or evenly applied in the United States. And this is completely true! Especially if you don’t have significant resources at your disposal. Surely a nontrivial number of Jones and Trump fans have themselves had run-ins with the law in which they felt like they were up against an implacable, inhumane machine.
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