Ever since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the families of some of the victims have been involved in a seemingly endless parade of lawsuits. Most of them have targeted Remington Arms and their subsidiary company which manufactured the Bushmaster rifle used in the killings, though they have met with no success in the courts thus far. Now, however, yet another lawsuit is kicking off and this one has nothing to do with the firearms involved. The families are going after Alex Jones of Infowars, claiming that his conspiracy theories stemming from the shooting are “promoting the harassment and abuse” of the families. Full coverage comes from our colleague Beth Baumann at Townhall.
Last week, the families of Sandy Hook victims filed a class action lawsuit against Info Wars’ Alex Jones. The plaintiffs allege that Jones has fabricated conspiracy theories about the events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.
Here’s what the lawsuit claims:
Defendant Alex Jones is a conspiracy-theorist radio and internet personality who holds himself out as a journalist. He is the most prolific among these fabricators. But he does not work alone: along with his various business entities, Jones is the chief amplifier for a group that has worked in concert to create and propagate loathsome, false narratives about the Sandy Hook shooting and its victims, and promote their harassment and abuse.
Jones, along with these others, has persisted in the perpetuation and propagation of this outrageous, deeply painful, and defamatory lie in the face of a mountain of evidence to the contrary, and with no supporting evidence.
Not all of the families from the Remington Arms court action are involved. This suit is being brought by the families of four children and two adults who died and one first-responder who worked at the scene.
As we’ve discussed here on many occasions, the lawsuits against Remington never really made any sense to begin with. They manufactured a safe, functional firearm which was later sold to someone legally entitled to purchase it. But this case is something different. Can they take an author and broadcaster to court for posing his own theories about the shooting, no matter how improbable those theories may be?
The suit accuses Jones of making “tens of millions of dollars per year” by promoting ideas such as the claim that the families faked the deaths of their children. That’s some seriously gruesome material to have to deal with, but no matter how crazy it may sound, I’m not sure you can stop someone from speculating (or even accusing) in that fashion without running into a First Amendment issue.
It seems to me that you have to be able to prove some damages to prevail in such a case. The plaintiffs claim that Jones’ videos and articles at Infowars pushed the idea of a government conspiracy designed to promote calls for gun control laws which created, “a prime narrative for attracting, augmenting, and agitating Jones’ audience.” But what was the result of the alleged “agitation” in this case? If they can show that any of the families were being repeatedly attacked or harassed and the perpetrators were specifically citing Alex Jones as their motivating factor… maybe?
I’m not here trying to promote or enforce any theories from Infowars such as the ones mentioned in the suit. But Alex Jones deals in opinions and theories. Call them conspiracy theories or whatever you like, but he commands a sizable audience who eats them up and comes back for more. If Jones can be punished in a civil action suit for doing so it would seem to open the door to similar action against every site talking about paranormal investigations, UFOs or Bigfoot. While it’s easy to have sympathy for grieving families who have lost loved ones, this suit seems a bit poorly aimed.