Monday, March 28, 2011

A Strange Man Is Following You

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Shouting about mind-control assassins, the 9/11 conspiracy, and the Bilderberg Group, radio host Alex Jones has cornered the bi-partisan paranoia market.

By Joe Hagan

Published Mar 27, 2011

A shadowy group of elites—mainly international bankers but also George W. Bush, Barack Obama, the Clintons, most of the mainstream media, the Saudi royal family, and Google—is trying to enslave the Earth’s population through orchestrated terror attacks and revolutions, vast economic manipulation, vaccines and fluoride, and an ever-widening system of surveillance that includes Facebook.

That’s the truth—at least, the truth according to Alex Jones, a popular talk-radio host who is today’s leading proponent and marketer of political paranoia. “The globalists have stolen the world’s power,” he told me recently, with surprisingly abundant good cheer. “Their big dream, and all they talk about, is creating a super bioweapon, basically based on a mouse pox, and just turn it loose and kill almost everybody. It kills about 99 percent of whatever mammal you design it for. It’s their Valhalla, and they’re going to do it.”

Given these views, it was a little odd to see the thickset Jones, dressed in black, squeezed in between Whoopi Goldberg and Barbara Walters on ABC’s The View in late February, talking about Charlie Sheen. Goldberg, in fact, looked a little stunned when Jones, a close friend of Sheen’s through the 9/11 “Truther” movement, which posits that 9/11 was an inside job orchestrated by Bush and others, began steering the conversation away from the celebrity train wreck and into the wilds of political conspiracy.

“Charlie Sheen is tired of being judged as the ultimate demon in this world,” growled Jones. “He didn’t kill a million people in Iraq! He wasn’t involved with the takedown of Building 7 here in New York!”

At one point, Goldberg tried to lasso Jones—“You’re talking too fast for me, baby, slow down”—but Jones darted away.

“They’ve got the TSA putting their hand down people’s pants,” he insisted. “We’ve got the banks bankrupting the U.S.—”

“Let’s stick with Charlie,” interjected Goldberg again, “ ’cause that’s way too much for me, man.”

“He didn’t steal $27.3 trillion, like the Federal Reserve!” yelled Jones. “Torture! Secret arrests! America turning into a police state!”

The women of The View, having lost control of their program, looked relieved to cut to a commercial. But Jones was only starting his grand tour through the mainstream media: That night, he appeared with Joy Behar to talk more about Sheen. Matt Drudge linked to a story on Jones’s website,, spiking traffic. There were also appearances on A&E and the History Channel.

Large swathes of America now know that the fix is in. The current president is a foreign-born Muslim; the last one conspired to bring down the World Trade Center, then covered up his nefarious crime with a tale about some hijacked airliners. Why wouldn’t people believe something horrible is afoot, what with economic chaos and multiple wars and devastating earthquakes and tsunamis. In this era of information anxiety, it turns out that telling people they are right to be afraid, anchoring their fears in specific details, is an excellent business model—and in America now, the paranoia business is booming.

This is the wave Alex Jones is riding. Fifteen years ago, he was an obscure FM talker in Austin who gained a bit of notoriety ranting about Timothy McVeigh and Waco. Now the longtime friend of Texas congressman Ron Paul is whispered about in the halls of Fox News, where he could envision himself “if I could have 100 percent control,” he says. His popularity isn’t a fluke; it’s a barometer of the rise of paranoia in every crevice of the Internet and cable TV, where fact and quasi-fact are now blurred on a regular basis and often make their way right onto mainstream screens. There has always been a shadow or two on the grassy knoll of American politics. But it’s never been more crowded up there. Jones’s visions of elitist machinations (and, of course, the elite are machinating), far from seeming ridiculous, have plenty of echoes on both the left and right. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and the creator of the Academy Award–winning documentary Inside Job all traffic, to various extents, in riling up fears of secretive plots, some based in fact, some much less so. Fox News’s Glenn Beck can seem almost a carbon copy of Jones, and according to Jones, who does not believe in coincidences, this is not a coincidence. Jones says that Beck built his success on Jones’s act. “Glenn Beck climbed over my back,” says Jones. “He’s like a fiddler crab that grabbed the shell off my back and scurried over me.”

And besides conspiring to steal his show, Beck is part of the bigger conspiracy. “He’s got psychological-warfare operatives writing some of that teleprompter stuff,” says Jones. “I’ve watched it. It’s very sophisticated; it’s very dangerous.”

Photographs: Remi Benali/Getty Images (SWAT Team); Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/MCT/Getty Images (TSA security checkpoint); Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images (FEMA, Bush with Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud); Stuwdamdorp/Alamy (burning money); Courtesy of Alex Jones (Jones); J. Scott Applewhite/AP photo (Federal Reserve, CIA building). Richard Drew/AP Photo (World Trade Center, Beck); Mohammed Mahjoub/AFP/Getty Images (Saudi Royal Family); Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images (Obama); Justin Sullivan/Getty Images (Google); Getty Images (Teleprompter); Paul Sakuma/AP Photo (Facebook); Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images (Protest in Egypt)

Just who it is who’s dangerous is another question. The possible influence of Jones and other conspiracy-mongers became a subject of controversy after the attack on Representative Gabrielle Giffords and others by Jared Lee Loughner, who was said to be a devotee of a Jones-­affiliated 9/11 video called Loose Change, as well as Zeitgeist, an online film by a freelance video editor who has worked for advertising agencies and shares a number of Jones’s interests, like the 9/11 Truth movement and the century-old conspiracy theory that the Federal Reserve is running the world.

“There’s this big storm blowing through, and it’s going to knock some trees over,” is how Jones explains the Tucson shootings.

"Okay, let’s do it,” intones Jones, preparing to go on air the day after his appearance on The View. “Let’s hammer them hard. Initiate primary ignition! We are launch! Go!”

Jones makes a laser sound, and the Star Wars imperial theme music starts up.

“The news is intensifying,” he begins. He takes the day’s events—upheaval in Egypt—and reframes them in Jones­Vision: Instead of the democratic revolution everybody else sees, Jones sees a covert disruption by globalist forces, probably the CIA, “to basically have some new hot spots to pour money into. The military-industrial complex isn’t gorged enough.”

For Jones, it’s not that conspiracies are getting more popular now but that the world is waking up to the reality that he and Ron Paul have known all along.

“Dollar devaluation, global banking cartels, out-of-control federal government, police state—all happened,” Jones tells me with certainty, sitting in his studio in Austin. “We’re just studying history. ”

Alex Jones has been broadcasting since the mid-nineties, when Ron Paul, during a run for Congress in 1996, became a frequent guest. Jones takes some credit for Paul’s rise to prominence, calling his radio show “part of the concrete slab that the Ron Paul rocket is fueling on.”

Paul doesn’t embrace the full Jones package, of course. And Jones’s views have grown to include conspiracy theories from the left as well—he’s a crossover artist. “They blew it up, period!” he barks, speaking of the Twin Towers. “The hijackers were trained at U.S. military bases! They were part of drills! They nerve-gassed them onboard the aircraft! They flew the damn planes into the buildings!

“I mean, the point is, you start trying to go over the evidence of 9/11, it will make your mind melt down if you actually sat there with the endless documented facts,” he continues.

“And you want to say our government wouldn’t do that?” he asks incredulously. “Look at Operation Ajax! Operation Northwoods! Gulf of Tonkin! I mean, gimme a break, man!”

The meme of 9/11 as inside job was, traditionally, a left-wing obsession. There are whiffs of it in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, and the further left you go, the more elaborate the conspiracy becomes. But it turns out that the world of paranoia is round, and 9/11, with its billowing smoke and miles of video and a cast of thousands, is the terra incognita where left and right meet, fusing sixties countercultural distrust with the don’t-tread-on-me variety.

Initially, Jones lost 70 percent of his radio stations when he began talking about 9/11 Truth, he says. It didn’t fit into the talking points of the right-wing radio audience. But if Jones lost one audience, he began to gain another, much larger one online. As he stoked the Truther movement, rebuilding his show around a new, even more amped-up audience, celebrities like Charlie Sheen started calling him. “That was right when he was breaking up with Denise Richards,” recounts Jones. Since then, Sheen has been on several times, including the appearance in which he made the infamous rant against the co-creator of Two and a Half Men that started his recent jihad against his corporate overlords.

As Jones expanded, he gained radio stations in even bigger markets, including Miami and Los Angeles. He kept cranking out his line of documentaries like Endgame, which explains the secret plan “to exterminate 80 percent of the world’s population while enabling the ‘elites’ to live forever with the aid of advanced technology.” That film attracted country singer Willie Nelson to his cause. Dennis Kucinich went on “The Alex Jones Show” as a guest to talk about impeaching George Bush. Jesse Ventura became a regular. The imprimatur of celebrities and elected officials raised Jones’s profile and grew his audience and bank account. By 2010, he was up to Police State 4: The Rise of FEMA, part of a series showing how the Patriot Act, TSA, and FEMA were part of a scheme to tag and enslave people in advance of the global lockdown.

Alex Jones on The View in February.
It was Matt Drudge, whose obsessions with overreaching corporations like Google and his daily charting of the most granular signs of the Apocalypse add a nonpartisan element to his site’s right-wing cant, who did more than anyone else to make Jones more visible. “If you had to say there was one source who really helped us break out, who took our information, helped to punch it out to an even more effective level, he’s the guy,” says Jones. “Three years ago, there was almost no news coverage of Bilderberg [an elite conference] in this country; there was an electronic Berlin Wall. Drudge, every year, takes our reportage and links to it on our site.”

Jones says that it’s now “intensifying how much he links to us and promotes us,” recalling how Drudge, this past Christmas, made every link on the site green for the holidays—except links to Infowars, which Drudge published in red. “It was like a Christmas present,” says Jones.

If Jones had allies in Hollywood and Washington, populist anger was an even bigger ally, starting with the 2008 bailouts, which fanned paranoia on the Internet like nothing before them. “When Bush was getting out of office and Hank Paulson was talking about TARP,” explains Ted Anderson, CEO of Genesis Communications Network, which distributes Jones’s show, “a congressman came up and said, ‘We’ve been told we’ll run a risk of martial law if we don’t pass this TARP bill.’ That was a paradigm shift.”

The banking crisis looked, on its face, like proof that conspiracies were real. Goldman Sachs bankers worked in both the Bush and Obama administrations; the government bailed out AIG, which prevented big Goldman losses. As bankers took home enormous bonuses and unemployment shot to 10 percent, the leap to a “globalist” conspiracy was not very far.

One financial blog, Zero Hedge, run by a pseudonymous former hedge-fund analyst, drew a huge audience fueled by the same economic anger that eventually breathed life into the populist tea party. Zero Hedge even inspired Senator Chuck Schumer to call on the SEC to investigate the issue of electronic trading in Congress, even as the blog fanned the belief that an elite cabal of Goldman execs ran the entire country.

It was out of this wave of anger and data points that a film called Zeitgeist emerged. I first heard of this film from a day trader in early 2009 as it circulated in the financial community, where conspiracy theories flourished as the Dow plunged. It was posted on Google Video by a man who calls himself Peter Joseph, a composer and video editor. He pieced it together from video clips and still images and crafted the dark, moody music himself. The three-part movie synthesized the entirety of current events with three archetypal conspiracies: 9/11 Truth, the hidden secrets of the Federal Reserve, and the pagan origins of Christianity. It seemed to explain every aspect of global chaos in two hours.

“The idea was to hit people really hard with contrary information in an exciting way,” says Joseph. “I threw the work up on the Internet, and within a number of weeks, it started getting millions of views.”

His was a kind of New Age take on Jones’s pet conspiracies, co-opting them for a more apolitical, spiritual movement. In the surge of attention, Joseph had to work out licensing arrangements for the clips he used, then made two sequels, the latest of which, Zeitgeist: Moving Forward, was screened at Tribeca Cinemas in Manhattan.

Not surprisingly, Joseph and Jones became quick enemies.

“I can’t stand Alex Jones,” says Joseph. “I can’t handle all these people who are so extreme and dogmatic. People really misinterpret my work.”

Jones debated Joseph on his radio program. “All he talks about is reeducating everyone,” snips Jones. “If that’s not tyranny, I don’t know what is.”

Jones is buzzed by his appearance on The View. On his site, it says he “culture jammed” the program, and he gleefully mocks Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg on his show.

“You realize that people hold up these big TV people like they’re gods,” he says. “But it was like being with these shriveled, demonic harpies, these empty vassalswho between them couldn’t do a crossword puzzle.”

I ask him why he wants to be on mainstream media, amid the elite he claims to hate. “I want to have a communication with the Establishment and say, ‘Do you really like what you’ve done?’ ” he says. “ ‘Do you really want to keep going with some plan that Cecil Rhodes came up with 100 years ago? Do you really want the big megabanks making hundreds of millions of dollars per quarter while everything else goes bankrupt?’ ”

After the show, Jones sits in his studio and monitors hits of his own name on Google News, which seem to pop up every few seconds because of the Charlie Sheen media explosion.

Jones is an entertainer—he studied broadcasting at a community college—and hardly unambitious. At one point, he suggests we title this story “Duh—Winning!” He has a staff of 25 and recently built a TV studio for his webcast. He has big dreams of starting an online social network and even a newspaper distributed in major cities. His sense of the Internet, where he has a massive Google footprint of alarming news clips and full-length YouTube movies like The Obama Deception and Fall of the Republic, is that it’s a virtual feeding pond for his ideas.

“I’m just throwing pebbles in the pond, and over time it starts making bigger and bigger waves,” says Jones.

The pond is ready. The one-two punch of the financial collapse and the election of a man whose last name rhymes with Osama mainstreamed conspiracy in the form of Fox News’s Glenn Beck.

Jones couldn’t help but notice. After I asked for examples of how Beck ripped him off, Jones went ahead and created a YouTube video titled “The Glenn Beck Secret,” showing how Beck allegedly lifted Jones’s ideas, one after the other. In Jones’s view, Beck has repackaged his ideas to serve GOP talking points, a tricky way of keeping people tethered to the two-party paradigm that lulls the masses into believing government actually serves their interests (“a control grid used to manipulate the people”).

When Beck, for instance, talks about Google as overly close to government agencies and therefore in cahoots with “hard-core leftists,” Jones points out that he preceded Beck in reporting that Google was an “NSA-CIA spy center,” and Jones, the truth-teller, didn’t try separating it from Bush’s wiretapping, which Jones sees as part of the same manipulation machine. “Glenn Beck has ripped us off on the Google boycott and then spun it deceptively,” he says.

Jones takes Beck’s success personally. “It’s very, very painful to see this biological android, a complete actor, reading off teleprompters and singing and dancing around and prancing around, a fairy dancing and prancing around, using my material,” he says.

In the chaotic, largely leaderless media environment, truth standards are in the eye of the beholder, and this has consequences. Polls show that public faith in institutions like Congress and the media are at an all-time low.

“Eleven percent,” says Jones. “Gallup.”

“There’s been a total loss of confidence, to the point now that the public is awake,” explains Jones, “but almost in a twisted, psychologically drugged state where people don’t trust anything.”

And not coincidentally—remember, nothing in Jones’s world is a coincidence—the rise of Jones’s show tracks closely with the price of gold. In 1999, when the price of gold bottomed out at $252.55 per ounce, Jones had about 200,000 listeners on an average day; now the price is above $1,400, and he has upwards of 3 million listeners through radio and the Internet. Gold advertisers account for roughly 25 percent of revenue for Jones. “I grew up with gold,” he says. “It grew up with me.”

Another noncoincidence: Jones’s main sponsor is a gold company, called Midas Resources, owned by his longtime business partner, Ted Anderson. Midas, which literally sends its customers gold bars and coins in the mail, also advertises with Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh. In one sense, Jones’s whole program can be seen as an advertising front for Midas, urging listeners to find shelter in precious metals, the symbol of comfort and certainty for currency obsessives, as he keeps up the drumbeat of dark and forbidding news that paints the world as a place where survival gear and water purifiers may be necessary any minute now. As an investment, it was pretty smart: Midas has become one of the top five gold companies in the U.S., says Anderson, and the revenues for “The Alex Jones Show” have grown “a hundredfold,” Jones says, in the past decade.

Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law professor whom President Obama appointed as his “regulatory czar” in 2009, published a paper the year before about the dangers of conspiracy theories, and people who suffer from what he called “crippled epistemologies,” to public trust and the political system. Among his examples were 9/11 Truthers and the widespread myth that AIDS was spread by the government.

“They do not merely undermine democratic debate,” he wrote, with a co-author, Adrian Vermeule. “In extreme cases, they create or fuel violence. If government can dispel such theories, it should do so.”

Sunstein’s conclusions eerily foreshadowed the case of Jared Lee Loughner, who had marinated in online conspiracy theories before going on the shooting spree that killed six and badly maimed Congresswoman Giffords. Loughner’s case was much murkier than any white supremacist’s, and therefore scarier. His mélange of interests included Marxism, Mein Kampf, 9/11 Truth, and Zeitgeist.

Sunstein described conspiracists as being caught up in what he called “informational cascades,” in which a person accepts an explanation for an event when people he trusts offer up a conclusion with a high degree of confidence, even if they’re only speculating. Initial speculation “can start a process by which a number of people are led to participate in a cascade, accepting a conspiracy theory whose factual foundations are fragile.”

In this way, false information, augmented by fancy editing and music and narrated with authority, can travel fast, taking on greater and greater credibility the more it is linked to and e-mailed and posted by like-minded and trusted sources. “The conspiracy theory is initially accepted by people with low thresholds for its acceptance,” Sunstein’s paper argues. “Sometimes the informational pressure builds, to the point where many people, with somewhat higher thresholds, begin to accept the theory too.”

In a sense, Loughner, in his quest for answers to his own psychic confusion, was a person with a low threshold for acceptance, and he found himself buffeted by information cascades on the Internet, bouncing from political conspiracies to obscure language theories, a psychologically precarious man unable to distinguish fact from fiction.

To which Jones responded with a new cascade, interpreting Loughner’s actions as evidence of government mind control in action. “Well, see, that’s the problem with a question like this, is there’s so much evidence to it,” he says, rattling off what he considers proof that most of the major political assassins and domestic terrorists of the past 30 years were under mind control. “There’s encyclopedic amounts of evidence.”

Sunstein’s paper was roundly attacked, mainly because he proposed ways to deal with conspiracies that were academically and politically tone-deaf, like covert infiltration of conspiracy groups and collaborating with third parties armed with counterinformation.

Jones, in keeping with Sunstein’s warning that “efforts to rebut conspiracy theories also legitimate them,” pointed to it as proof that the government was trying to control people’s minds. But Jones wasn’t the only one who took umbrage: Glenn Greenwald, the liberal Salon columnist, argued that some of the most destructive conspiracy theories “emanated from the very entity Sunstein wants to endow with covert propaganda power: namely, the U.S. government itself, along with its elite media defenders.”

In the new media universe, where Jones and Greenwald (and Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh) are virtual allies in their distrust of institutional authority and in fact feed on it, a wormhole has opened from the most far-flung and seemingly insane corners to the precincts where most of us live—and it doesn’t seem likely to close anytime soon.

On a large TV screen behind Jones, part of his new set design for his webcast, are rotating images of Charlie Sheen, Egyptian protesters, Ron Paul, an ad for Police State 4, and Julian Assange.

Assange, the poster boy for the idea of government transparency, shares with Jones the belief that the powers that be are an elite cabal oppressing the masses. In a 2006 essay, Assange wrote, “We see conspiratorial interactions among the political elite not merely for preferment or favor within the regime, but as the primary planning methodology behind maintaining or strengthening authoritarian power.”

Both men view themselves as antidotes to secrecy. If all the information comes out, they maintain, the conspiracy will be proved; ipso facto, it will be eliminated and the righteous will be victorious, with Assange and Jones as insurgent heroes. As Jones says to his listeners: “If you are receiving this transmission—You! Are! The resistance!”

It’s an archetypal story, right out of ­Joseph Campbell or Star Wars. And some of it is even true: The events in the Middle East, for instance, were in part fanned by the release of WikiLeaks documents showing their leaders enriching themselves while suppressing their people. And open frameworks of information, like Facebook and Twitter, acted as pirate alternatives to state-run TV and newspapers. In closed political systems, conspiracies are the norm, often fomented by the governments themselves.

But the conspiracy market is so crowded now that real conspiracy may be harder than ever to spot. Jones, far from accepting the WikiLeaks documents literally, sees Assange as part of the conspiracy. And Assange sees people like Jones as adversaries. “I’m constantly annoyed that people are distracted by false conspiracies such as 9/11,” he has said, “when all around we provide evidence of real conspiracies, for war or mass financial fraud.”

I often wondered, talking to Jones, if he really believed this shtick. When I press him about the mouse-pox scenario—I mean, c’mon—his voice rises to radio-host volume while he insists that these “supertechnologies of genetic engineering … will make 1,000 Chernobyls look like child’s play.”

When I’m not convinced, Jones softens his argument a bit, saying the elites, as powerful as they are, are also ham-fisted and might not pull it off. “They’re only able to wreck things and dominate things like a 10,000-pound gorilla,” he says, “and the world is sinking because they’re jumping around on top of it.”

Jones is undoubtedly a new kind of talent, using cinematic imagery drawn from science fiction, informed by a deep knowledge of history, and grafting it all to a Google News feed. The show is a kind of poetry with an epic sweep. It’s his theatrical certainty, his ability to not blink, that glues the fiction to the facts. “In the general scope of history and common sense, and studying how humans operate, we’re Rome in 407,” says Jones. “A few years before Alaric sacking it.”

Perhaps. Or maybe that’s just what reality looks like in the Internet age, when information has broken the levees of mainstream interpretation and no one knows whom or what to believe anymore. Sometimes Jones seems like a pro wrestler, making a grandiose faux spectacle of global upheaval, political corruption, and natural disaster that was dangerous enough on its own. If Jones believes there’s fantasy in his presentation, he never lets on. But he does make one statement that pretty much everyone, wherever in the politico-cultural universe they may reside, can agree on: “The fact that Alex Jones is becoming widely accepted,” says Alex Jones, “that’s prima facie evidence right there that we’re in deep crap.”

Alex Jones tells a story: He was in the greenroom at CNN, waiting to go on The Joy Behar Show, when he ran into Fareed Zakaria, the Time magazine columnist and foreign-affairs analyst. Jones buttonholed him about the Bilderberg Group, the yearly conference of select leaders whom Jones believes to be an elite cabal of globalist conspirators.

“He knew exactly who I was,” says Jones of Zakaria. “I said, ‘I want to talk to you about the Bilderberg Group,’ and he actually shuddered. Like, with his imperial conditioning, he said, ‘Oh, it’s no big deal; other journalists go there, not just me.’ ”

In this anecdote, Jones was confronting the elites, calling them on their B.S. But if Jones can help it, he’s going to be hanging out in a lot more greenrooms soon. Ted Anderson sees Jones getting his own TV show any moment now. And the programming of Fox News, he believes, is moving in Jones’s direction.

“They’re loosening up a little bit about the types of things you can talk about,” says Anderson. “You are hearing about 9/11 conspiracies on Fox. There’s no doubt about it. One of these cable channels is going to come up with a bona fide offer with no gag on him and say, ‘Go get ’em,’ and Alex Jones will become popular on television.”

Jones calls Fox News “alternative media for old people,” which is why he believes Fox has begun aping his edgy take on the world, especially on the Fox Business Network, where libertarian views have more traction. “They’re taking the nomenclature I’ve used,” he says, “as they move toward the transition to more of what I’m doing. And I have that from inside. I’m not going to say any names, but I have multiple sources.”

Jones and Anderson are friends of Judge Andrew Napolitano, a Fox Business Network host who is a frequent guest on Jones’s program, not to mention a popular substitute for Glenn Beck. “And now Fox, more and more, if you watch Andrew Napolitano’s show—‘Fighting the Tyranny,’ ‘Restoring the Republic,’ ‘The Rebellion Is Here’—they’re trying to duplicate that,” says Jones. “Beck was the test, and now they’re bringing it all online. They know that’s the wave of the future.” (This is a wave Jones may not be riding. “I’m sure Alex, like many others, wishes he had a platform on Fox News,” said Fox News programming executive vice-president Bill Shine. “That’s not going to happen, so he should stick with trying to locate the black helicopters.”)

Jones is careful to give Roger Ailes, the Fox News chief, an out on the whole “globalist” agenda. “He actually knows all about this stuff,” says Jones. “His bodyguards keep him safe from the New World Order. And that’s a fact. Navy SEALS. Retired Navy SEALS.”

Jones isn’t a man for understatement. At one point in our conversation, he claims the governor of Texas, Rick Perry, told “a high-powered political strategist, very well known, you know him from national TV,” that “ ‘there’s two people that I fear: Alex Jones and Ron Paul.’ ”

Perry’s people say that’s not true, of course. But it makes some sense. Perry, like many Republicans, has courted the tea party and tacked right of the mainstream GOP, trying to get ahead of political currents in his own state. And Jones is tacking that way, too, following the audience, talking about Obama’s birth certificate, selling gold bricks. Advertisements on his site ask, “Is this the end of America?,” which is pretty much the same ­anxiety-producing message that Sarah Palin, if she runs in 2012, or Mitt Romney, for that matter, will try to exploit.

The difference between Jones and the rest of these people, says Jones, is, “I’m consciously trying to tell the truth.”

You can see why he might believe this. The more history unfolds, the more successful he seems to become. The scales, he says, have simply fallen from our eyes.

“And there’s more scales under those,” says Alex Jones.

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