Conspiracy theorist and human-body-in-search-of-a-soul Alex Jones is learning, at long last, there’s a price for lying. There’s a price for being a monster, for leveraging the pain of others to make a buck peddling deceit.
A Texas jury on Friday ordered the host of the notoriously noxious Infowars website to pay $45.2 million in punitive damages to the parents of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. That's on top of more than $4 million in compensatory damages ordered by the same jury Thursday.
Almost $50 million total. To me, that still isn't enough for the hell he put Neil Heslin, Scarlett Lewis and the other parents who lost children in the school shooting through.
But it’s a solid start. It’s a consequence of despicable lies, claims the shooting never happened, horrid assertions the parents were “crisis actors,” red-faced, blathered nonsense that they were participants in a “false flag operation” to rally people toward stricter gun control laws.
It’s a consequence of forcing parents who had experienced an unspeakable tragedy to go into hiding, to face death threats, to never be able to fully grieve.
'I don't think you can recover'
During the trial this week, Lewis, whose 6-year-old son Jesse was murdered at Sandy Hook, was asked by one of her attorneys: “How do you recover from someone saying your child wasn’t murdered?”
She paused and said this: “I don’t think you can recover. I don’t think you do recover. Unless it stops. Unless it’s retracted. Unless there’s accountability and there’s responsibility. And that hasn’t happened.”
Advocating for my mom: My mother was killed by a white supremacist. Now we need advocacy.
By the end of the week, it had happened. And Jones has been found liable in two other defamation lawsuits – one in Texas, one in Connecticut – by other families, so juries will continue to make him pay.
Alex Jones' lies were writ large
The parents’ attorneys in the Texas case had asked for $150 million. Jones' attorney suggested a piggishly insulting $8. The jury worried people at first by awarding relatively light compensatory damages, but it swung back hard Friday with punitive damages that should make the loudmouthed man hurt.
Here’s how I see it: Alex Jones lost. His horrific lies were revealed and writ large. He was publicly scolded, over and over, by Judge Maya Guerra Gamble, who called him out for his lies and made him look like the petulant, small, opportunistic brat he is.
At one point she told Jones: “It seems absurd to instruct you again that you must tell the truth while you testify, yet here I am. You must tell the truth while you testify. This is not your show.”
When Jones said he “believed” he was telling the truth, Gamble shot back: “You believe everything you say is true, but it isn’t. Your beliefs do not make something true. That is what we’re doing here. Just because you claim to think something is true does not make it true.”
A monster faces consequences
Jones is one of the most mendacious, malevolent public figures we have. The pain he put the Sandy Hook families through is only part of the staggering damage he has done to the idea of truth in this country, and to the standards of decency by which we should all abide.
Beyond the bile he spits, he has spawned an army of online trolls who treat his words as gospel and attack perceived enemies with dangerous vitriol. He feeds the id of lost souls, making himself rich in the process.
We see too many horrid lies these days. From politicians. From pundits. From like-minded hordes on Twitter. “Groomer.” “Communist.” “Baby killer.” “Pedophile.”
These words, slung by hysterics who believe they won’t face consequences for their prevarication, draw blood. They inflict deep pain, the kind of pain Sandy Hook parents have suffered since a Texas conspiracy babbler decided to worsen their lives for profit.
Jones penalty not enough, but a start
On the stand this week, Lewis looked directly at Jones and said: “In some way, you’ve impacted nearly every single day of my life, negatively, since Jesse was murdered.”
I hope, when all is said and done, Jones is buried in consequences. Buried in them.
This week was a good start. And more, undoubtedly, will come.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Alex Jones verdict: Infowars host pays price for Sandy Hook lies