Trump's Infowars agenda: Did conspiracy monger Alex Jones dictate the president's catastrophic first week?

Trump seems to get his policy ideas from Bill O'Reilly and Alex Jones. Both are dreadful — but the second is worse

Published January 30, 2017 9:59AM (EST)

 (Reuters/Lucas Jackson/Fox News/Salon)
(Reuters/Lucas Jackson/Fox News/Salon)

Among many other reactions to the Donald Trump presidency so far, the thought that keeps circulating through my head is this: I really, really hope I’m wrong about him. But I don’t think I am.

For example, in the aftermath of the April 2015 unrest in Baltimore, about a month before Trump announced his campaign for president, I made a rather ominous prediction about how he'd handle a similar crisis: "Trump also promised to 'fix it fast,' so I suppose that'd mean, what exactly? Using deadly force against looters? Declaring martial law? Shutting down the city like ‘Escape from New York'?"

Eighteen months later and just a few days after the election, I wrote about Trump's authoritarian tendencies and observed, "He’s also talked about solving crime during week one, which can only mean some form of augmented police force or full-on martial law packaged in some other politically friendlier term."

Fast-forward to this week: While watching Tuesday night's edition of "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox News, the president tweeted the following:

I assure you, "send in the feds" doesn't refer to census workers.

While we're reminiscing, you might recall how radio conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has spent most of his career exploiting the paranoia of his audience while screeching about incoming martial law. One of the most famous examples of Jones' martial law obsession came when he manufactured a theory about how the routine Jade Helm military exercises represented the early stages of a military occupation of Texas and other areas of the Southwest.

So where's Jones now that the president he endorsed and continues to support is apparently threatening to deploy military force in African-American neighborhoods in Chicago? Suffice to say, had it been president Barack Obama who threatened to send federal troops anywhere, Jones' head would’ve exploded. (His fanboys would claim the explosion was a “false flag,” I’m sure.) Incidentally, as of this writing, there's only one article posted on Infowars about the Chicago tweet, a syndicated post from The Daily Caller.

Realistically, we all know why Jones hasn't leaned on the panic button yet. Trump's threat involves cracking down on black people. If we were talking about white communities or maybe even Jones' home city of Austin, Texas, Jones would be literally bouncing off the walls, screaming the word, "Impeach!"

Perhaps it's also because Trump has decided to legitimize another conspiracy theory popularized by Jones. This, of course, is the ludicrous and provably false conspiracy theory that 3 million "illegals" voted for Hillary Clinton in California and New York. If it were true (which it's not), these conspirators apparently decided to augment Clinton's vote totals in states where she absolutely didn't need the help.

Even if we were to subtract 1.5 million votes from California, and another 1.5 million from New York, Clinton would have still won those states. In other words, these nonexistent conspirators aren’t very bright. Furthermore — and I can't believe we have to do this — why didn't these invisible enemies cast their votes in swing states like Florida and North Carolina? Hell, what about Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania? Clearly because it never happened.

The theory started as a pair of tweets by some guy. Seriously, just some guy — some guy named Gregg Phillips on Twitter fired off two tweets about how millions of "non-citizen" votes were cast for Clinton, apparently in California and New York. No evidence to back it up was ever posted, and the only further comment offered by Phillips was a promise to release the data at a future date. That was in late November and no data or evidence has surfaced —because it's all bogus.

Voter fraud, especially of this magnitude, simply doesn't exist.

A gigantic, gaping hole in the story didn't stop Alex Jones' "editor-at-large" Paul Joseph Watson, from writing a breaking news item for Infowars about the 3 million "non-citizen" votes. The article was quickly debunked by Snopes, which ruled it "unproven." It was also debunked by PolitiFact, which deemed it "false." 

It's germane to note that Watson has a history of posting articles that are quickly debunked as wrong or fake. Most recently, Watson was scammed by a Scottish prankster who texted Watson a completely made-up tall tale about the impending release of a damning Trump tape just before the inauguration. Naturally, Watson ran the story without confirming it, subsequently embarrassing himself and boss Jones. Augmenting the hilarity is this story: Some time way back Watson also posted an article about how a "Common Core teacher" (pro tip: there is no such thing) instructed her kindergarten students how to use strap-on dildos. It never happened — obviously.

This is where the president is getting his news about voter fraud (which doesn't exist) and who knows what other forms of hooey. Further augmenting the insanity is the fact that President Trump -- the leader of the free world -- directly tweeted to Phillips on Friday.

And then there’s Trump’s meeting last week with congressional leadership, during which he ranted in support of this ridiculousness. The president added supposedly new information about “the very famous golfer, Bernhard Langer.” Apparently Langer was not allowed to vote for Trump in Florida — because he’s a German citizen. But Trump didn’t mention that. He only mentioned that Langer was told he couldn’t vote, yet other voters in line — voters with darker skin — were allowed. According to The Washington Post, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus quickly changed the subject while the cadre of lawmakers sat in stunned silence.

We need to have a serious discussion about the president’s mental fitness to serve, and this voter fraud story is perhaps the only evidence needed.

I've resisted pulling an "I told you so" regarding my concerns about Alex Jones and, for that matter, Trump, but I can't help but recall how often I was told, pre-election, that I should just ignore Jones — and worse, that I shouldn't panic about Trump because he could never possibly win. It turns out Jones is far more powerful than the left anticipated, and Trump is now getting at least one of his policy proposals from a known flimflam artist whose entire shtick revolves around taking advantage of easily manipulated and possibly mentally ill followers. The latter description could very easily include the president.

This should terrify everyone — not just because of the way that Trump parrots Jones but also the threat of martial law and the inevitable restrictions on voting rights that are sure to follow Trump's voter fraud investigation, despite its bogus origins. All of this should also trigger a serious discussion about the 25th Amendment and the possibility of removing the president from office to due to mental incapacitation. Trump's devotion to Jones is all the evidence we need. Meanwhile, keep a close eye on whatever hits the front page of Infowars. It could trigger Trump's next executive order. 

By Bob Cesca

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon. He's also the host of "The Bob Cesca Show" podcast, and a weekly guest on both the "Stephanie Miller Show" and "Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Contribute through LaterPay to support Bob's Salon articles -- all money donated goes directly to the writer.