Let’s just get the title question sorted right up front. Of course you can sue Alex Jones. You can sue pretty much anyone for anything in the United States with a clever enough lawyer, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to win. The subject at hand, however, involves a lawsuit which is, at least on the surface, a far more plausible claim. The families of some of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting are taking Infowars host Alex Jones to court for defamation and endangering their lives after his repeated claims that they somehow perpetrated a… I have no idea. I generally try to tune out this entire discussion. But they claim to be able to show damages so it’s off to court we go. (NY Times)
On Wednesday in an Austin courtroom, the struggle of the Sandy Hook families to hold to account Alex Jones, a powerful leader of this online community, will reach a crossroads. Lawyers for Noah Pozner’s parents will seek to convince a Texas judge that they — and by extension the families of eight other victims in the 2012 shooting that killed 20 first graders and six adults — have a valid defamation claim against Mr. Jones, whose Austin-based Infowars media operation spread false claims that the shooting was an elaborate hoax.
The Pozner hearing is a bellwether in three cases, including another in Texas and one in Connecticut, filed by relatives of nine Sandy Hook victims. It comes as the social media platforms Mr. Jones relies upon to spread incendiary claims initiate efforts to curb him.
The day after the Pozner case, in the same courthouse, is a hearing in a separate defamation case against Mr. Jones brought by Marcel Fontaine, who was falsely identified on Infowars’ website as the gunman in the Parkland, Fla., school shooting in February. Mr. Fontaine, who lives in Massachusetts, has never visited Florida.
For his part, Jones is fighting the suit by claiming protection under the Texas Citizens Participation Act. That rule is supposed to protect both journalists and private citizens from ruinous, expensive lawsuits seeking to silence unpopular opinions. Jones is also fighting back with a suit of his own, seeking to have the Sandy Hook families pay $100K to cover his legal expenses in fending off their suit. (Daily Beast)
Infowars founder and conspiracy theory aficionado Alex Jones is reportedly seeking more than $100,000 in court costs from a Sandy Hook family suing him for defamation. A hearing will begin Wednesday in the lawsuit filed by Veronique De La Rosa and Leonard Pozner, a couple who lost their 6-year-old son in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. The couple argues that Jones’ claims of the shooting being a hoax led to a barrage of death threats against them, ultimately forcing them to relocate seven times.
I will, as usual, preface this by reminding you that I’m not a lawyer. (I don’t even play one on TV.) But with that said, there does seem to be a nagging question hanging over all of this. In order for the plaintiffs to prevail against Jones, wouldn’t they have to be able to prove that he’s actually, you know… a journalist? And yes, you’re free to ask the same question about others in primarily web-based new media. Am I a journalist or a blogger? Is there that much of a difference anymore?
The point is, we’re talking about Infowars here. As I said, I don’t actually listen to or read Jones’ material myself, but I’m told by reliable sources that there are plenty of days when Alex just tackles the normal roundup of political and government stories that the rest of us are covering. But then there’s… the other stuff. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the Sandy Hook families story, the latest alleged murder victims of the Clinton Cartel or the chemicals in the water that turned all the frogs gay or what have you. (As it turns out, the chemicals were actually making the frogs trans.) Let’s just say there’s a whole lotta crazy being packed into a small package.
If people have actually been stalking, harassing and threatening these families (which seems to be fairly well established), then the people doing the stalking should be held accountable to be sure. But isn’t suing Alex Jones more along the lines of trying to bring a lawsuit against The Onion, Mad Magazine or National Lampoon? Even if there are some people out there taking the most extreme material to heart, as far as the general public goes, is Infowars technically a news site or is it entertainment?
I suppose that’s at least one of the questions the court will have to wrestle to the ground now. But if Jones isn’t fighting the case by claiming the right to engage in satire he’ll have to defend it as responsible journalism. And in that case, the plaintiffs may wind up looking a lot stronger in their chances to prevail.