The characters on those shows feature some depth, and offer more anger (they at least got that part right) than outright madness. Compare that to the Jones we see barking into the microphone on “Info Wars.” This week, the question of whether or not Jones is actually playing a frothing-at-the-mouth, tinfoil-hat salesman became a centerpiece of the host’s child custody dispute.
“I’m concerned that he is engaged in felonious behavior, threatening a member of Congress,” said ex-wife Kelly Jones at a pretrial hearing, referencing a profanity-laced recent rant about Rep. Adam Schiff. “He broadcasts from home. The children are there, watching him broadcast.” However, according to Jones’ attorney, Randall Wilhite, “He’s playing a character,” Wilhite told the court. “He is a performance artist.”
That has forced Jones into a Catch-22: Admit he’s playing a role, and that bursts the bubble of his “Info Wars” persona. Stand by his crackpot statements, and he could lose his court battle.
Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter if that’s the real Jones or not. The very question of his authenticity proves that he’s more diabolical than any TV character we’ve seen playing an Alex Jones-like figure.
Any sane mind knows that Jones’ diatribes and conspiracy theories (including his sick claim that the Sandy Hook shootings, which killed 20 children, were a hoax) are complete fiction. (Jones recently even had to put out a public statement retracting his claims that a government sex slave ring was being run out of a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor.)
But millions believe every word he says — and now, apparently, so does the President of the United States, Donald Trump, who has frequently praised the host.
Contrast that to the recently concluded season of “Homeland,” where conspiracy host Brett O’Keefe (Jake Weber) does some despicable things — including editing a video to make it look like the President-elect’s son, a soldier who was killed while serving in the Middle East, died a coward.
Yet even O’Keefe shows restraint and even sympathy at times. And as he oversees a massive fake news operation, O’Keefe even apparently is on to something as he claims the new president is looking to curb certain freedoms. Ultimately, there’s a bit of nuance to the fictional O’Keefe that Jones does not have.
The real Jones might want to thank “Homeland” for creating a character that seems organized, determined and complex. But ironically, “Homeland” executive producer Alex Gansa said recently at an Emmy panel that “the minute [O’Keefe] got on the air, the real Alex Jones went on a bit of a tirade. First, he accused us of ‘stealing his identity,’ which I thought was such an interesting phrase. No, we didn’t have his credit cards, and no, we weren’t charging anything to his accounts. But then he challenged Jake Weber to a fist fight.”
Meanwhile, “The X-Files” revival character Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale) winds up being even more sympathetic. It turns out, after all, that much of what O’Malley reports on his show, “Truth Squad,” was a real government conspiracy.
Ironically, a character that really acted like Jones would probably get a flurry of network notes that he was “too over-the-top,” “too unbelievable” and “too unrelatable.” Both O’Keefe and O’Malley (why so many Irish-named conspiracy hosts?) are characters that feel like typical middle-of-the-road TV villains, rather than an actual alt-right firebrand who’s looking to blow things up without any consequences. These characters have strategy and structure. That’s not real life.
And perhaps we should be thankful for that; a more likable lunatic still would be a dangerous one. The real thing, Jones, can hardly be called “likable.” But he may be the most dangerous of them all. After all, he’s got the ear of the President. Real life has become so unbelievable that we can only hope for a rewrite.