Some people listen to far-right conspiracy theorist/radio host and Infowars founder Alex Jones purely for the entertainment value; many of Jones’ hardcore followers, however, take him quite seriously. Former employee Josh Owens used to be one of them. But in a tell-all article for the New York Times, the Texas-based writer explains why he changed his mind and quit what he once considered a dream job.
Owens recalls that he first went to work for Jones in 2012. The writer explains, “Jones — wanting to expand his website, Infowars, into a full-blown guerrilla news operation and hoping to scout new hires from his growing fan base — held an online contest. At 23, I was vulnerable, angry and searching for direction. So, I decided to give it a shot. Out of what Infowars said were hundreds of submissions, my video — a half-witted, conspiratorial glance at the creation and function of the Federal Reserve — made it to the final round.”
Jones, according to Owens, was “unconvinced” that he could “cut it as a reporter” but gave him a full-time position as a video editor. The writer remembers, “I quit film school and moved nearly 1000 miles to Austin, Texas, fully invested in propagating his world view.”
Owens had been listening to Jones’ radio show long before 2012: Jones, Owens notes, first grabbed his attention during “the last days of George W. Bush’s presidency.” The writer explains that around 2008, he was drawn to Jones because “the American public had been sold a war through outright fabrications. The economy was in free fall thanks to Wall Street greed and the failure of Washington regulators. Most of the mainstream media was caught flat-footed by these developments, but Jones seemed to have an explanation for everything. He railed against government corruption and secrecy, the militarization of police. He confronted those in power.”
When Owens first went to work for Jones, he was delighted to be working for him and “believed that the world was strategically run by a shadowy, organized cabal, and that Jones was a hero for exposing it.” But over time, Owens recalls, he became seriously disenchanted with Jones and came to view him as an extremist.
“Jones often told his employees that working for him would leave a black mark on our records,” Owens remembers. “To him, it was the price that must be paid for boldly confronting those in power — what he called the New World Order or later, the Deep State. Once my beliefs began to shift, I saw the virulent nature of his world, the emptiness and loathing in many of those impassioned claims.”
Owens also grew tired of Jones’ angry outbursts.
“Working for Jones was a balancing act,” Owens explains. “You had to determine where he was emotionally and match his tone quickly. If he was angry, then you had better get angry. If he was joking around, then you could relax, sort of, always looking out of the corner of your eye for his mood to turn at any moment.”
One passage recounts:
Over time, I came to learn that keeping Jones from getting angry was a big part of the job, though it was impossible to predict his outbursts. Stories abounded among my co-workers: The blinds stuck, so he ripped them off the wall. A water cooler had mold in it, so he grabbed a large knife, stabbed the plastic base wildly and smashed it on the ground. Headlines weren’t strong enough; the news wasn’t being covered the way he wanted; reporters didn’t know how to dress properly. Once a co-worker stopped by the office with a pet fish he was taking home to his niece. It swam in circles in a small, transparent bag. When Jones saw the bag balanced upright on a desk in the conference room, he emptied it into a garbage can. On one occasion, he threatened to send out a memo banning laughter in the office. “We’re in a war,” he said, and he wanted people to act accordingly.
He also tells a story suggesting that working for Jones could be downright dangerous:
I remember one trip in particular. It was the summer of 2014, and I rode to the ranch in the back of a co-worker’s truck, surrounded by semiautomatic rifles, boxes of ammunition and Tannerite, an explosive rifle target. A few of us left early in the morning, arriving before Jones to film B-roll and load magazines; he had no patience for preparation. When he came hours later, after eating a few handfuls of jalapeño chips, he picked up an AR-15 and accidentally fired it in my direction.
The bullet hit the ground about 10 feet away from me. One employee, who was already uncomfortable around firearms, lost it, accusing Jones of being careless and flippant. This was one of the few times I saw someone call Jones out and the only time he didn’t get angry in response. He claimed he had intentionally fired the gun as a joke — as if this were any better.
April 7, 2017, was a turning point in Owens’ life: that day, he quit working for Jones — and he ended up taking another job at much lower pay.
Jones, Owens remembers, “offered to double my pay, suggested I work remotely and even proposed funding a feature-length film of my own. I said it wasn’t about money and turned him down. To this day, I still don’t know why he wanted to keep me around. He said it was because he cared about me, but if I had to guess, I would say his main concern was losing control.”
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