The Truth vs. Alex Jones (2024)

Alex Jones stands trial in Waterbury, CT, for defaming the parents of Sandy Hook murder victims.

HBO’s ‘Alex Jones’ doc ponders meaning of truth

       It’s hard to pinpoint when the popularity of conspiracy theories gained a foothold in America. Some might say it was Roswell in 1947. Others will point to the Grassy Knoll in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. The genesis doesn’t much matter. What does, is the vast proliferation of these unsubstantiated theories in the wake of 9/11.  They swept the country like a plague, destroying rational thinking and sparking an us-versus-them mentality that threatens to derail our democracy.

     The fortunate thing about Roswell and Dallas is that the perceived “secrets” surrounding those events never physically or mentally harmed anyone. But that’s no longer the case. People have died and hundreds more are living in fear that they might be next, be it election workers, school board members or district judges. A particularly revolting byproduct of this hysteria is Alex Jones, spending his days flooding the airwaves with toxic bullshit in pursuit of profiting off the brutal murders of 20 first-graders in Newtown, Connecticut. 

    That’s not me saying that; it’s jurors in Austin (Jones’ hometown) and Waterbury who found the grifter’s actions so vile they awarded the parents of the slain children a combined sum of $1.5 billion. But is that enough to shut him up? The compelling HBO documentary, “The Truth vs. Alex Jones,” leaves you feeling like the answer is a resounding, “No.” That becomes clear as director Dan Reed (“Leaving Neverland”) splits the screen with Jones on the right half engaging in mock cheers in real-time while on the left side, the hefty damage amounts are being read aloud in court. 

     That’s hardly the most shocking moment. No, that would be a plaintiff’s attorney informing the court that a recent survey indicated that a full 25 percent of the nation believed Jones’ assertions that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was a false-flag operation staged by opponents of the Second Amendment, and that the devastated moms and dads were actors trained to cry on cue. To put that in perspective, a quarter of the U.S. population is 75 million.  How can so many people be fooled by the 21st-century equivalent of a snake oil salesman?

    If you ask Robbie Parker, father of 6-year-old victim Emilie Parker, he’ll tell you it’s because Jones is likable and charismatic. This from the guy who over the past 11 years has been the target of Jones’ most heinous attacks. He omits that Jones is also highly persuasive. Even when you know he’s lying, you’re tempted to believe him. That is what’s truly frightening. And there, I suspect, is the key to his sway over his followers. 

     I wish Reed had taken a deeper dive into this aspect of the story, but then his film isn’t as much about Jones as it is about the 40 people he’s viciously libeled for more than a decade – the parents. We don’t meet all of them, but the half-dozen you’re introduced to elicit genuine empathy as they tell their wrenching stories. 

    All of them begin with the morning of Dec. 14, 2012, when they had no idea that as they prepared to send their children off to school they would never see them alive again. There’s an eeriness to their recollections as if hindsight is telling them that particular morning was different, and only now are they recognizing it: a special kiss, hug, or a rare extra minute to say, “I love you.” It breaks your heart. Then comes the inevitable.  

     Reed never names the shooter, but he allows the crime’s chief investigator, Daniel Jewiss, to describe in haunting detail how the killer moved through the school, ultimately entering classrooms 10 and 8. The latter is where more than a dozen children took refuge inside a restroom, believing it safe. It wasn’t, and nearly everyone inside was killed. From there, the shooter returned to classroom 10 and took his own life.  In his wake, 26 were dead, 20 of them students, all of whom Jewiss affectingly names one by one, each seared into his memory. You choke up right along with him. 

    That sorrow rapidly evolves into anger as Reed begins tracing the origins of Jones’ drive toward the unthinkable, knowingly using his program, “Infowars,” to fabricate what Kellyanne Conway famously termed “alternative facts.” His first salvo was a video of Robbie Parker, tired of being hounded by the press, giving a press conference the night after the crime. Parker’s mistake was allowing the cameras to catch him flashing a nervous smile before approaching the microphones. 

     Defying context, Jones jumped on it. And his gullible listeners bought in – in more ways than one – by forking over cash to buy vitamins and other products from his online store to support continued efforts to prove Sandy Hook a hoax. Perhaps the most damning evidence produced by the attorneys for the parents was a line graph plotting the sharp rise in sales immediately after each new Jones fabrication. 

     It’s presented during one of the two trials held to determine the damages to be awarded. In both cases, the judges had previously declared Jones libel due to his failure to turn over evidence. It’s during these hearings that Jones finally faces his accusers. And it’s riveting. 

    What’s shocking is how Jones is his own worst enemy, behaving like a spoiled child, unleashing outbursts and disrespecting the sanctity of the courtroom. It’s revolting, but Reed permits us to see how even after all they’ve been through, some of the parents believe Jones sincere when – one day after court is adjourned – he admits to lying, telling them that Sandy Hook really happened. If an attorney had not stepped into the middle of this “Kumbayah” the parents would have walked away as snowed as Jones’ fans. 

     Reed’s film reaches its zenith when the court of public opinion clashes with the court of jurisprudence, where lying is not tolerated. You can see it’s an environment Jones does not handle well. Likely, because for once he is not directing the arguments. And it’s Jones, not his “victims,” who is under verbal attack. It’s cathartic. But that relief is short-lived once you discover Jones has yet to hand over a dollar to the aggrieved parents. Even sadder, things have only gotten worse. 

     Lies and fabrications are popping up almost daily. And they’re not just emanating from Jones and his ilk, but also cable news networks, members of the U.S. Congress and, worse, a presidential candidate. That’s why at the end of “The Truth vs. Alex Jones,” the win feels more like a loss, because if our legal system can no longer quelch these lies, who are we to trust? Does truth even matter anymore?  We should all fear the answer. 

Movie review

The Truth vs. Alex Jones

Director: Dan Reed

Runtime: 121 minutes

Where: Now on HBO and Max

Grade: A-

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