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tv   Frontline  PBS  July 28, 2020 10:00pm-11:01pm PDT

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>> government orchestrated... >> narrator: the alliance between the conspiracy theorist. >> hdjust kept adding more an more outrageous lies to the story. >> narrator: the dty trickster. >> roger delivers legitimacy to alex jones, and jones delivers to trump a disaffected voter. >> narrator: and the president of the united states. >> i will not let you down. >> now those eas, which usedri to be on the fnge, are in the mainstream. >> conspiratorial thinking is a feature of this president. >> narrator: now on frontline, "united states of conspiracy". >> frontline is made possible bi contris to your pbs station from viewers like you.
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thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major suort is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, committedi toing a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information at the ford foundation: working with visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide. at additional support is prided by the abrams foundation, committed to excellence in journalism. the park foundation, dedicated to heightening public awaress of critical issues. the john and helen glessner family trust. supporng trustworthy journalism that informs and inspires. and by the frontline journalism fund, s with majport from jon and jo ann hagler.
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♪ >> ladies and gentlemen, it is 10:39 central standard time, 11:39 eastern. roger stone, who worked in four administrations, been involved in nine campaigns, he's here tonight. >> it's a moment of enormousio te i'm working the phones very aggressively.on working mycts. >> but i've gotta shake your hand. what a strong showing regardless. >> i was in the studio with ale jones ger on election day. heand the metrics were off charts about how many people re tuning into infowars, numbers that were comparable to the networks >> narrator: alex jones-- extremist conspiracy theorist-- had rallied his audience behind donald trump. >> saying trump is projected to win. >> as the night drew on,t became clearer and clearer that trump was lily to win.
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>> it is officially over,ee pennsylvania has bcalled. >> they had no idea whatsoever that trump w going to win. >> you've talked to the trump campaign... >> all of a sudden erybody was super elated. (people cheering) thwe had some staff member was just running around the fice in a big circle. i mean, people were like, "ahh!" i mean, going crazy that night. >> thank you.s >> hing to be speaking momentarily. >> cheers. love you. love you guys. love all of you. >> there was a combination of elation and confusion.d ey realized that, "oh my god, we just played a role in making the president of the united states." >> here goes trump. turn it up. donald j. trump. >> he's going up to the microphones. he's going to be... >> theolden toad! >> i assume he'll mention the phone call he received... >> get ready, i tell you, he charges into a goblin's nest. >> this is amazing. >> as long ahe doesn't... as
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long as he doesn't kiss a goblin, goblin's vomit, catch him in bed with a goblin. >> i don't think there's any danger of that. >> no. he defeated the goblins. he did it. (cackles) >> stone and jones believed that they had been instrumental in or that certainly they haded. driven successful narratives that helped to... thatelped to get him elected. i was exhausted, but euphoric. jones was exhausted, but he was downcast. >> it's almost 3:00 in the morning central time. and we now have president- elect donald trump. >> and i asked him why. and he said, "you don't understand. this is just the beginning." >> now we are bound forever. and if we don't deliver this plan, and freeumanity, we will be bound to the ninth circle of
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hell. i'm bound to this truth and iev will stop delivering. >> and in th moment it was visible that there was reaction, because he started crying. mo i mean hisons were evident. they were streaming down his face. >> i've said it. i've already runy course. i already know my entire life purpose has been completed. i will continue on, but now i realized, i've won.>> alex jones is part of a bigger phenomeno what people like alex jones, and others showed us, is that conspiracy theories are an effective political tool. they work. they help shape elections. they help shape public discussion. they help people decide what to believe. conspiracy theories work. will see a lot of constry, you theories out there. >> narrator: alex jones helped usher in a new and dangerousra in american politics. >> american conspiracy theories
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are entering a dangerous new phase. >> narrator: one where the truth doesn't matter. >> covid-19 is a chi-comm globalist bio-weapon. >> narrator: where politicalt opponents trch other as mortal enemies. >> hillary clinton is a (bleep) demon! >> narrator: where lies and conspiracies flourish. >> pizzagate is real. sandy hook, it's got inside job written all over it. >> narrator: "the united states of conspiracy. >> ...slew of deliberate disinformation... >> disformation is having a devastating effect. >> ...the same conspiracy theories... ♪ >> narrator: the story of how alex jones helped bringes conspiranto the mainstream began on the fringes of america in the 1990s. >> all right, austin, i... >> narrator: he was a late-night access tv psonality in austin, texas, an obscurepe voicling >> they are tryi to make you dysfunctional, they are teaching you false thought systems...
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>> he began... >> oka >> sort of an underground phenomenon. >> society is insane to me, so m insane to your average dumbbell. >> you know, people in austin the middle of the night and in watch this crazy guy vent about... crazy stuff. >> hillary clinton is a fascist worker of the rockefeller...>> arrator: unhinged conspiracy theory rants... >> biological attack is imminent. imminent! >> narrator: ...political stunts... >> they took me into custody anm were going to arree for disturbing a public meeting. it used to be you have to be eesomebody who was deep, dinto conspiracy culture to know who alex jones was. t you'd haknow things about lizard people, or teleportation pads, these crazy, crazy conspiracy theories. >> if you're a lunatic, alex, then i wt my sons and their sons to be lunatics just le you. >> that's what we need-- lunacy! yeah. >> you know the world is flat, didn't you hear? >> nrator: as a boy in texas jones was known as a
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troublemaker. >> alex inherently has a... defiance of thority. so i think it appeals to him. that he cod maybe change the o world in h way. (sirens blaring) >> the time to come out is now. >> narrator: as a teenager... >> david, don't do this to your people. >> narrator: he became obsessed with a government raid on a cult compound in waco, texas.g) (sirens blarin >> he says that that opened his eyes. that he came away from that feeling like you weren't getting the truth from mainstreamedia, and that the truth was out there, but it-- it wasn't being presented in the way it ought to be and he says that's what started him on his mission. >> from his central texas command center deep behind enemy lines, the informaon warjo continues-- it's ales and the gcn radio network. >> no longer is the new world order some foggy apparition over the next hill. >> and at the time infowars was broadcast from a chi's bedroom
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in his house, with littleoo hoo train wallpaper, and an "empire strikes back" poster on the wall. and alex is like, you know, rantindown a little microphone in his child's bedroom. >> what about me? because i'm a woman, i can't stay? >> narrator: british filmmaker jon ronson is a renowned expert on extremism. he has been following jos for more than 20 years. s >> he agnosed as having narcissistic personality disorder. and i thinthat's a factor because i think that people with npd don't need to care as much about the truth and about society as, as other people do. i think they consider themselves more importanthan the truth. (rustling) ("carmina burana: o fortuna" by carl orff playing)
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>> narrator: jones promote anti-government nspiracy theories in a series of homemade films.a he'd also use owing radio show to allege-- without evidence-- secret plots in crisis after crisis. >> the federal government financed and controlled thisn attacke world trade center. >> narrator: the 1993 world trade center bombing... >> multiple bombs ripped through the alfred p. murrah federal building. >> narrator: the 1995 oklahoma city bombing... >> ...and, as usual, federal fingerprints were all over thist tragic eve >> narrator: he called them "false flags." >> a big element of alex jones' show, and his theorizing generally, is that things are false flag attacks. edthat is, attacks perpetry the government or elements within the government to create fear, suspicion, division, or to bring us all under the sinister control of the new world order
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or the one world >> .reate yet another crisis, this time to usher in a police state...rh >> narrator: jonesoric resonated with people around the country who were looking for answers. >> conspiracy theory is a theory. it an attempt to explain a event. and it says that things are not as they seem. right? and you explain it by picking ua the dots, forming ern, and showing that that patterns indicalignant intent by powerful people acting covertly. ♪ >> narrator: then a moment of trauma on live television. >> on this tuesday morning, it's the 11th day of september, 2001. >> narrator: as a confused country watched. >> we want to go live right now and show you a picture of the world trade centerwhere i understand-- do we have it? no, we do not. we have a breaking story though. we're going to come back with that in just a moment. first this is "today" on nbc. >> narrator: that day, broadcasting from texas, jones would seize on t tragedy. ("the imperial march" playing)
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>> you want answers? well, so does he. he's alex jones on the gcn radio network. and now, live from austin, texas... >> alex was immediately on thes radio on all of ndicated shows. >> to bring you up to speed on what's happene at 8:50 a.m. e.d.t. a plane hits the world tradcenter. 9:30 eastern, second jet crashes into the world trade center. >> ...ying that, "this attack is an inside job. yes, the towers fell. but they were not felled by theydestroyed by the united states government as a pretext to impose martial law." >> narrator: jones and other believers became known as the "9/11 truther movement." >> alex became the world's leading 9/11 truther. and actually, everything just got worse and darker. 9/11 conspiracy theorists were vicious and brutal. >> they're either using them to do it or this is full
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lcomplicity with the fede government, the evidence is overwhelming to bring you up top d on what's happened. >> narrator: even for the radio stations that had hosted jones over the yrs, he'd gone too >> what you see after is aat country is really, really hurting. people were grieving. where it was a moment where people wouldn't have imagined that you were going to take that moment, this national moment of mourning, and turn it into a conspiracy theory. >> i'll tell you the bottom line. 98% chance this was a government orchestrated controlled bombing. i've been telling you this was gointo happe just two weeks ago i... >> overnight, something like two-thirds of all the genes stations dumped him. be a disaster for his career,g and at first it was. ♪ >> narrator: b it was 2001 and alex jones quickly found a new
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outlet, a new way to reach a like-minded audience-- the anarchy of the web. >> more terrorism is on the way. latest in a long line...e >> narrator: where the 9/11 truther movement was alive and well. >> it was the manipulation of that national tragedy that jones about how he could get aor hook into his audience. (keyboarkeys clacking) >> narrator: his website-- became a hub for conspiracy theories. >> we all know a conspiracy f theoristrom the days before twitter or facebook. op and those were sort of isolated and shunned. and everybody felt like they har their nu but with social media and the internet, they find each other. >> you know why thbush crime family and the c.i.a... >> and they can push that message to mlions of people. >> you know why e big cfr takeover isn't going to work? >> the interesting thing aboutat the internet is t builds community. you can find people who feed in to your negativity, or your
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fears, or your bigotry. and so that's what alex jones has beenble to do. i mean, he's been able to mobilize people based on their fears. for many their ignorance. >> narrator: as the tech giants grew-- facebook, twitter, spotify, instagram, ogle's youtube-- soid alex jones. have been very hard to getuld before and suddenly became easy. >> we're on the right side of history. >> he wasn't really my cup of tea; it was young men who liked him because he was wild and he was funny. >> nellies, going, "ah, kill everybody." >> narrator: his audience washi mostly men-- it became known as "dude radio."on every week milwatched his >> i mean, it's ike scum, nazi filth... >> narrator: ...and his conspiracy movies.: ("carmina buranao fortuna" by carl orff playing)
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it was the te of controversialer content that ged clicks. the more outrageous the better;t the bigg lie, the more and youtube's algorith of times.ed s videos billions >> in the near future, earth is dominated by a powerful world government. >> his films got out to millions and millions and millions of people. >> the dawn of a new dark age is upon mankind. >> hen we put out a film, i remember "endgame," within like something like six or seven daye ing like 30 million views. it was ridiculous. i just remember nstantly thousands every time i'dup by refreshed. >> but charlie's tired of being he up like the devil. we've got tsa putting their hands down people's pants, covers it all. we've got the banks bankrupting the u.s. >> narrator: spreading wild conspiracy theories had made jones a celebrity, but one g question would naway.
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>> how much of what alex says o the raes he really believe? and is alex reallyrazy? if he's not crazy, and he says crazy things on the radio, andtu on tv and on y every day in order to exploit other people who are crazy, to make money for himself, then that doesn't look goodt all. >> to announce dna force, ladies and gentlemen...ra >> nr: but it didn't matter to jones or his audience. he had found a winning formula. >> he is the exemplar of a conspiracy erepreneur. there's a whole new industry that's grown up. >> that's my second dose of that. t i netake it easy. >> he sells, y know, potency pills. he's into virility. ndand he sells body armor, gold, and other things. >> narrator: at, they sold gold, lls, and fear. .. radioactive contaminati >> he was smart, because he correctly realized that he had to sell a product. >> wars are not cheap...
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go check out the amazing specials... >> especially a survivalist product that people thought they would need under the coming, you know, nightmarish new world government, was very prescient., >> alevernight, made a huge amount of money. i mean somebody told me that hea bringing in like $100,000 a day. >> i will only give you the maximu.. >> narrator: it was rock star money. >> the maximum truth. >> narrator: he decided to live like one. >> we went from the little house, to the slightly bigger house, to a really nice house to multiple houses. and you get all this money, and and more.ys wanted more and more and i was like, "alex, what are you doing, we don't even do these ings?" >> somewhere along the line he started making an awful lot of and sothat started happening, even if he had stopped becoming a believer, there was a very powerful incentive to continue dog what he was doing. >> i will go to... i willo to hell before i sit here and i watch this country and the world turned over tova these s. >> narrator: jones' audience was
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insatiable and he delivered. >> let me tell me something, you filthy traitors of the government, you pieces of crap. >> narrator: more conspiracy, more controversy, more crisis. >> i've had enough of these people. okay, so i've been containing this since last week, that's why i'm in here sweating. i you are always on the radio, if you are always on television, you always have to top yourself. you have to create a more wild, ryre extreme conspiracy th to keep your audience engaged. you can't just keep coming out with the same line every single day. and so you force-- you are compelled to push urself to ever greater extremes. (phone dialing out, heavy breathing) >> 9-1-1. state your emergency. >> sandy hook school, i think there's somebody shooting in here. >> narrator: for alex jones, there seemed to be no boundary to his increasingly extreme theories. >> they're still shooting. (siren blaring)tr >> narrator: no edy too awful to exploit.
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>> sandy hook elementary school. i believe there's shooting at the front. >> ladies and gentlemen, it is friday. thank you so much for joining us. the 14th day of december 2012. and there is a reported schoolcu shooting in connec >> please! >> i need assistance here immediately! >> this is going to be a lot bigger than columbine.y and this is alre18 dead children. >> narrator: in e end, 27 killed, 20 of them elementary school children. jones seized on the deaths. , , itdn'swo s yic'tk.ul you can back in the last month, and i've said over and over again, and you watch, there's going to be giant school shootings. >> the moment you see a mass shooting event, the mindset finside is, it's probablyse flag operation.e, it might notut it probably is. >> if we start seeing tell-tale signs of it being staged, we'll let you know.
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you knowit has now come out that... um... it was a government program and that person was in a mind control program. >> and this is conspiracy without the theory that dispenses with... blatantly dispenses with any evidence or it ly sheer assertion. no evidence. no argument. >> ...and the doctor he s under was a head air force mind control doctor, and he was involved in darpa brain interface programs, and told people he was under mind control in the jail.e >>st kept adding more and more and more outrageous lies to the story. all the pictures of the children inside of it were fake. it was all a cgi construction. for jones, it didn't matter how absurd each new layer got. would put anything on t air, as long as it kept driving the sandy hook story. >> newtown destroys suspected sandy hook shooter's home... >> narrator: even inside infowars, some of jones' own staff worried about what he was
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saying. >> but the media still lies and says he did. >> jones had no evidence whatsoever to prove that that't diappen. and he said it many times because that's just what fitvi into his wor. that's what, i mean, on some level it feel like that's what he wanted it to be. >> narrator: one of jones' employees, longtime editor rob jacobson, brght his concerns directly to jones. >> i stopped him. i was like, "alex, man, they're going to come after you for sandy hook you know? i was like, "look, man, you... this is crazy." and he just stopped and looked at me with no reaction. he had nothing to say to me. like he just stopped like a deer in hdlights. ♪ >> narrator: and he wasn't ale. >> i think it's important to note the top editorial person inside of infowars desperately warned him, and tried to get employees to help warn alex jones that what he was doing was very, very bad. he didn't listen.
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>> i've looked at it and undoubtedly there's a cover up, there's actors, they're manipulating, they've been caught lying, and they were pre- planning before it and rolled out with it... >> narrator: jones spared no one. he even went after the families. >> and alex jones looks at thosi caskets... ♪ ...and these grieving parents... ♪ ...and decides that he's going to make their lives a living helly selling this conspiracne theory thaown is all a ese people are actors... all of ♪ >> narrator: six-year-old noah poer was killed by the san hook shooter, but his family became a victim of alex jones. >> my wife at the time, noah'sd
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mother, few interviews. and she became a... a target. he accused her of being an actor. >> that became one of all. cornerstone conspiracy points for sandy hook.go >> thank you, i'g to need it. >> the whole thing was fake. i mean, even i couldn't believe it. i knew they jumped on it. used the crisis. hyped it up. but then did deep research, and my gosh, it just pretty much didn't happen. >> narrator: as jones added fuel to the fire... >> we've sent reporters upla there, man, and that is like "children of the corn" or something. >> narrator: online conspiracy theorists were aacking the families. >> fm then on it was an absolute quest to destroy these rents. >> "what a loser!" "crisis actor trash." "oh lenny... you poseur." "take your life!" >> narrator: it spread on the web-- youtube, reddit and 4chan" at kind of (bleep) name is noah pozner?" >> "probably to a (bleep) kibbutz just outside of..."
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they're haters. they're fools. they're trolls.he anythingcan do to trigger trouble in my life they have done. >> narrator: pozner changed addresses many times, tried to hide his identity,till they found him. >> i got a call from someone and i had just moved into new... a new apartment. he read me the address that i had just moved into and he readm social security number. >> a woman began stalking pond his family in south central florida, started threatening their lives. >> narrator: she was an avidll er of jones and infowars. >> and she was soon sent to federal prison for what e was doing. mr. jones knew this, he understood this, he absolutely knew whawas happening. he wanted lenny pozner to suffer harm. >> narrator: pozner now lives in hiding. w tever is happening to these families, clearly it didn't mean anything to him.
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it's obvio that, that jones isn't remorseful or apologetic for any of the things that those families had to endure from the words that he spelled or the ideas that he spread. i genuinely dot think he cares. ♪ >> narrator: people close to jones were appalled about what he had done. it was the last straw for hi wife kly. >> i was very disgusted by what he said. i definitely told him, like, "what are you doing? why are you doing this?"th an were just so excited that they were getting so many views or whatever that they continued to do this. >> narrator: they filed for 2 divorce 3 and have been in a bitter sometimes public feud ever since. >> isn't it fortuitous... >> the king of conspiracy radio show host alex jones... >> alex jones the king of allsp internet cacies... >> narrator: the controversy over sandy hook had made jones bigger than ever.
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>> alejones is pushing a lot of buttons... >> narrator: he was now tapping into not just the conspiracynt world, but the c's culture wars and growing populist anger. slavery!he answer to their 1984 >> narrator: in hard-right politics, he was becoming a. play >> fraud, and the minute people are aware of it, it's over for you. >> i, barack hussein obama, do solemnly swear... >> narrator: and in the country's first black president, jones had another target >> and, you know, the first black president from kenya, born in kenya. boom. >> narrator: jones pushed the discredited rther theory, questioning president obama's citizenship. >> in birtherism what you see is a group of americans who resent african american president in the white house. >> boom. we're told there is no long-form, it doesn't exist. oh yeah, herit is-- it's fake. >> and alex jones, and all sorts of other people, they hand them this excuse thatt's, "well, he wasn't born in this country, and this is really all a lie, andy that he is actuat who he
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says he is." >> this is how they try to start the revolution. >> alex jos appeals to the worst parts of society-- and he looks for all the terrible things in society, racism,xi , misogyny, and he exploits them for his own benefit. >> this is what they'reng tro get going, this is a race war. this is exactly what we >>tor: jones unabashedly exploited race, stoking fear... >> of nothg but white peoples' cars being stopped by mobs of black >> nar sounding alarms... >> record numbers of muslims are being brought in from countries known to be radicalized and who want to attack... >> alex jones is able to tap into some real deep, dark fears that white americans explicitly have about the future of their country, who's in it, who's controlling it, and their placement in it. >> narrator: he was promoting a politics of conspiracy and lies that would find its moment >> resistance to tyrants is
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obedience to god. it's alex jones. >> narrator: ...when he invited a special guest on his program. >> he's written ew york times" bestselling book, "the men who killed kennedy," you've probably heard of,, good to see you again, buddy. alex, great to see you, thanks for having me. >> nobody had any idea at thatth poin this is somebody that would be coming back again andan agaiagain... >> well, alex, first of all, i want to thank you because nobody has been more effective in terms of revealing the secret game plan of the party kingmakers. >> narrator: roger stone was a notorious political operator. >> roger stone is a self-described dirty trickster. >> narrator: a career dating back to richard nixon. o >> he has a tattnixon on his back... >> that's the purpose of my tattoo... >> roger is siular in thepo litical landscape. he is a body-building,t-
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oking dandy swinger, who has had a profound impact upon shaping all of our lives tough his savvy and cunning as a political consultant. >> he was the chairman of donald trump's exploratory campaign. he talked to trump this morning, you we lling me off air, trump's for real. >> narrator: in 2015, stone had an insight-- that alex jones' audience could help donald trump. >> you can't buy trump, you can't bully trump... >> alex jones, um, is a character. and he has a very, very, large, very, very loyal following outre there in the blogosp >> and speak of the devil-- "hillary clinton for prison"ts shwe're only selling it, limited edition. >> his people are very dedicate they're very loyal. >> it just looks like a campaign shirt, "hillary for prison 2016." >> stone was getting a b platform out of jones. >> where do you want to start, mr. stone? >> stone could come on jones'
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show and talk to what ultimately be millions of i think that jas getting some type validation from stone. >> they can call us conspiracy y to try to discredit's a we speak from the hearllers. donald trump, we speak from the heart and let the chips fall where they may (whistles, cheers) >> narrator: as th republican primaries approached donald trump was a longshot. stone wanted him to ma an important connection. >> well, i don't usually get butterflies about a guest on the donald ts our guest, ladies and gentlemen, for the next 30 minutes or so. he is the leading 2016 republican presidential contende donald trump. >> it was a signal to jones' literally miions of followers that trump was the man to support inhe republican
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primary. >> and i've got so many questions but, but first off, donald, thank you for joining us. >> thank you, alex, great. great to be with you. >> trump recognized e power of alex jones' audience and alex jones' base and had mirrored a lot of alex jones' policies and nrhetoric in achieving... getting to that frontrunner status in the first place. p >> i know now from tple that you actually are for real. >> alex was only too happy to play sycophant. >> epic, it's george washington level, and you understand that office. >> and trump basked in the glow of his adulation. and so i think it was purely transactional, and it woed out great for both of them. >> i just want to finish byng saour reputation's amazing, i will not let you down, you will be very, very impressed, i hope. >> he said, "i have so much "admiration for you, you have such an audience i mean, this is what trump cared about, you have such-- you have such influen. we're going to be talking a lot.
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i'm going to be relying on you. >> i hope you can help uncripple america, thank you so much, sir. rat you will be attacked coming on, we know you know that, thank you. >> thank you very much. >> alex jones, like president trump, they come from this fringe, they come from a place that people maybe poked fun of them, they come fr ts place where people maybe didn't take them seriously. but they've, they claw their way to the center of american politics. >> they've destroyed our economy. >> roger delivers legitimacy tox alex jones, and ones delivers to trump a disaffected voter that trump desperately needed to bring to the polls in order to that was, i think, in a lot of ways, the difference maker. >> narrator: jones boasted about his impact on the candidate. >> and i'll te you, it is surreal to talk about issues here on air and then, word for word, hear trump say it two days later. >> i mean, sometimes it was like verbatim, like, really trump,
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really? you're taking his word fort? you don't have anybody else around you? >> as we've been saying for three years, hillary is e founder of isialong with obama. >> hfounded isis and iould say the co-fnder would be crooked hillary clinton. >> "was cruz's father linked to jfk assassination? cuban hired by lee harvey oswald bears strikingla resee to cruz..." >> you know, his father wa with lee harvey oswald prior to oswald being, uh, you know shot, i mean, the whole thing is ridiculous. >> i think it was a super power trip for alex that was irresistible. >> so he's going to use executive orders to go after our guns >> the president's thinking about signing an executive order where he wants take ur guns away, you hear this one? >> uh, someone in the mainstream, trump, using therd wos that jones had been using for decades, u.. i think that emboldened jones d it changed him as a personality. >> these people are not frickin'
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humans, okay? hillary clinton is a demon damned to hell! >> he made a deal with the devil, she's the devil. he made a deal with the devil. it's true. >> the big shock was alex having the ear of a president-to-be. that was the biggest shock. of all the people i've interviewed over 35 years, i can think of a, a lot of people i would rather have the presidency than alex jones. it's a bit of a shame that onehe of t most, um... spiraling people i've ever met is the one who's influencing trum >> natnal convention kicks off in cleveland, ohio, tomorrow... >> eyes on cleveland, the 2016 republican national convention. >> narrator: almost two decades after pedaling cspiracy theories on late night cable tv... >> all right, let's just coverhi this tng. >> narrator: alex jones arrivedt at republican national convention. >> that summer was particularly important for nes because he
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was on t rise at the time. >> i've come to see alex jones, put that on cnn. ha ha... >> g bless you, brother. >> god bless you, alex, thank you. >> normally you would expect alex jones to be outside the barricades with a bullhorn. but all of a sudden, there hehi was, makinway through, he was a part of things. because this was an administration that not only embres people like him and like roger stone, and people who were kind of, you ow, practicing the sort of conspiratorial dark arts... conspiratorial thinking is a feature of this president. (background chatter) >> narrator: inside the convention, jones immediately sought out controversy. he crashed the set of a liveft -wing television show. >> it's that it overcomes every other degraphic advantage... >> good to see you man...
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>> jones had a contentious relationship with the young turks. they both decided to interrupt their ve show. there were people everywhere and i remember trying to hold my camera up to film what was going on. there were people scrambling everywhere, people screaming at each other. >> i mean, it was spectacle. it was, it was ridiculous, but i mean, honestly, that was par for the course. that w daily life with jones. >> for him, it was always like, "let's cree chaos." >> (bleep)! >> because chaos is entertaining people are going to tune into that. (people shouting) >> and they just decided to go for it. a they hadreternatural senset that thawould be a big to-do. ob thctive is always to get clicks, to get eyeballs, and to convert that into financial gain.
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>> narrator: chaos, conflict, conspiracy. in 2016, jones and stone wereg rewrthe playbook of american polics. >> and that was another moment where you realize, this whole landscape has and thesdividuals that could so easily be dismissed have become a force to be reckoned with. >> i'm never a lesser of two evils person, but with hillary there's not even the same universe, i mean, she is an abject, psychopathic demon from hell... >> narrator: with election day looming, on infowars, nes went all in attacking hillary clinton.eo >>e loved this conspiracist claim. you needed more to lock her here was the more, but i was really a, a portrait of her as a woman who would do anything. anything. ou >> i will warnuh, this story that's been the biggest thing on the internet is a rabbit hole that is horrifying to go down.w, no this is tied into podesta
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with thousands of emails with, "we're gonna have the six-year-old, the seven-year-old..." i >> narrator: it was ernet conspiracy theory sparked by stolen emails from clinton's campaign chairman john podesta, claiming that references to "cheese pizza" were code forhy "child pornogr >> why did the podesta emails mention the code word pasta for either "little boy" or "sex" 78 times? code word "cheese" for "little85 girlimes? >> they we ready to believe just about anything about hiary clinton. >> do you think i'll do better playing dominos on cheese than on pasta >> the belief that evildoers are meeting in secret to abuse o children is real. it's the blood libel. the best known example of that is from the middle ages. it's the idea that jews were meeting in secret to murder christian children and use their ood in rituals. and we can see elements of the blood libel in a lot of rough the present day.n >> narrator: on twitter, they
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called thelood libel #pizzagate. >> pizzagate has elements of blood libel within it. >> narrator: the allegation: a child sex ring run out of thea ment of a d.c. pizza parlor... >> so comet ping pong... >> narrator: ...comet ping pong. >> wikileaks have come out with podesta going to rituals whereey rink blood and urine and >> oh my gosh, jones is having the time of his life. >> yes, i have a responsibility to cover it and yes it's important... >> iean, he was in high dudgeon. >> they hurt children, folks. >> he's crying. he's weeping, we're, like, this is pure evil. >> cover pizzagate, we have covered it, we are covering it, and all i know is, god help us, we're in the hands of pure evil. >> and it ran constantly, because it was a ratings-getter. >> when i think about all the children hillary clinton has personally murded and, and chopped up and, and ped... >> narrator: his profile raisedu
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by and stone, jones was known as a "super spreader," a megaphone for internet lies and misinformaon. >> i just can't hold back the truth anyme. hillary clinton is one of the most vicious serial kiers the planet's ever seen... >> a match was struck on alex jones' show. and it goes from zero to 100 on google trends. 96 hours. >> thousands of emails, i'm notc ready toe these pele of this, it's up to you to research tta... yourself, but you >> yeah, i mean, alex would always encourage people, like, "i can't do this alone." you know, he'd always encourage people to go out and do those things by themselves. >> narrator: somof them took matters into their own hands. >> a vunteer firefighter in north carolina, edgar madison welch, hears the stories about pizzagate being promoted by alex jones and others and, uh, decides somebody has tdo
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something about it. somebody has to save these kids. >> he's basically making a goodbye video... his two daughters, like, in the car, on the way, driving north on 95. >> i mean, he believed it. >> so this guy, welch... sault rifle, barges into the restaurant on a sunday afternoon, um... fires two shots as he goes looking for the mythical basement where the kids are supposedly being trafficked, um, and, of course, uh, never finds it >> narrator: welch discovered there was no basement. no pophile ring. >> get on the ground, lay prone
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one the ground!ar >> ntor: welch would later tell a "new york times" reporter "the intel on this wasn't 100 percent." >> these conspiracies, some mayy think, "well, th're harmless." th bu we have somebody who shows up at a pizza estaishment with a weapon. i mean, there... people will act on these things, we will see violence from this sort ofir ng up of hatred and division. and the pizzagate conspiracy theory is exhibit a. oi >> i'm to read to you from a statement that's also posted to, that i wrote yesterday... >> narrator: under legal threat from the owner of comet ping pong, alex jones would eventually retract his pizzagate clms.ry >> in our commenbout what had become known as pizzagate, i ma comments that, in hindsight, i regret anfor which i apologizto him.
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>> narrator: alex jones had erbecome a powerful and das voice, his infence confirmed with the inauguration in 2017. >> final preparations are iounderway f the inaugurn... >> set to becomemerica's 45th president today...>> beginning a new era, a new... >> nartor: he'd reached the center of american politics and power. >> live in washington c., here is alex jones. >> you make america great again and the whole rest of theve planet, and ha a new age of trade, low taxes andand, and, and peace. >> economic growth and peace. today is a victory for the revolution. let's get in there. >> this is a giant playground for fans of conspiracy theories. >> narrator: conspiracy theories were now emanating directly from the white house. >> he had a larger inaugural crowd than barack obama. >> if they spied on my campaign, it will one of the great... >> narrator: as president, trump veered from one unsupported n claim to tt. >> claed up to 5 million illegal votes cost him the
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popular vote.. >> facing the backlash tonig for his denial of hurricanede maria'h toll... >> president trump is someone who has realized that conspirac theories wr him. if he's going to be able to keep his base happy, he has to continue to feed them red meat. and that red meat consists, a lot of times, of, of conspiracy. theori >> if you have a windmill anywhere near your house, they say the noise causes cancer, you tell me that one... okay? >> windmills cause cancer.t r fact's sake, that is just not true. was no obstruction, everybody knows it. it's all a big ... i call it the witch hunt, it's all a big hoax. >> uranium deal to russia with clinton help and obama administration knowledge is the biggest story that fake media doesn't want to follow... >> narrator: jones was on a high. >> they write my stuff into speees and trump approves it it's like with trump, when he goes, "okay, yeah, yeah, that,," that, that's rig've had these conversations with trump, i start talking and he finishes the sentence, i finish thet' sentence--weird,an. it's weird.
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jones, who can come in with wild theories and, and donald trump you have newspapers printing it as fact. you ve media and television shows repeating it as though 's fact. and then you have donald trump tweeting it as though it's facti we aa position where many americans are susceptible to not just false information, but lies that they believe is truth. >> narrator: butith influence came a new level of scrutiny. >> will you raise yourhaight , please? do you solemnly swear that the will be the truth, thet to give truth and nothing but the truth? >> i do. >> narrator: those parents fromu sandy hook had beeuing him in court. >> i simply had enough, and tha. wahat needed to be done. >> i'm proud obringing theui la uh, it brought a lot more tention to who he really is,
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and what his show represents. >> can you now admit that you've ne an outrageous wrong t these parents? can you admit that? >> you know, the mainstreamta media is who always it and makes it a huge issue and then says that i'm saying it and gets me to respond. and it's lawyers like you and people that glom onto this for fame that then try to get the fame and then say that i'm the person that'promoting it. and it's obscene, in my view. s>> narrator: it was at t point that jones shocked pozner's attorney. >> mr. jones claimed that the reason that he said that sandy hook was fake isecause he was k suffering fromd of psychosis. >> that i've, you know, i, d, like, a form of psychosis back in the past where basilly thought everything wasi' staged, you know, no learning a lot of times things aren't staged. >> because it wasn't just abouto sand. what, what he was saying is that, "there's a psychosis i have, some form of psychosis, that makes me believe that every
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event is staged. >> my opinions have been wrong but ey were never wrong consciously to hurt people... >> in other words, for jones,ni it's arsal pass. >> narrator: under oath, jones a maeluctant admission. >> and, and, so over the years, i've... yoknow, especially as it's became a huge issue, had time to, you know, rlly retrospectively think about it. uh... and as the whole thing matured, y know, i've had, had a chance to believe that children died, uh... and it's a tragedy. >> as far as i'm concerned, i've already won. having alex jones admit under oa that noah did die the w it was reported, in s school, that's a victory for me. >> narrator:he lawsuits would continue. >> alex jones banned from facebook and from utube... >> narrator: but they were just the beginning of jones' problems. >> alex jones has been deleted, digitally de-platformed...
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>> apple, facebo, youtube, spotify, pinterest, and linkedin have all removed material... ca narrator: jones took hi to washington. >> they're gonna have the heads of facebook and twitter up there... >> narrator: he had been de-platformed, banned by theia social mediants, for dehumanizing language, eglorifying violence, hat eech. >> there was a backlash, there was a backlash where peopley started to really to examineth is person. >> they started to review, internally, you know, are we monetizing this guy? are we supporting the horrible things that he's doi? >> narrator: jones tried to portray it as a conspiracy byta the deep s and globalists. >> i am here because there is a concerted effort by the democratic party, multinational corporations, and big tech to silence conservative and nationalist and populist voicesh >> (inaudible)en targeted... >> so i can't have a press conference, as you can see, in america, cannot face m accusers. >> the tech giants were incredibly slow to respond to
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what mr. jones was doing. they were more than happy to allow mr. jones to make money for their platforms, causingte mayhem and ha. they were absolute happy to do it. s and e point, it became too much for them, and some of it became this lawsuit. some of it became mr. jones' conduct. >>sarrator: those around jo saw something el-- revenge from the left for jones' alliance with trump. >> my own view is that it has the fingerprints of an organize. attack within two years of trump's election, he faces an onslaught of lawsuits from all across thee country like the kinad never faced before. and he is completely removed from almost every social media platform. and his voice is csored or silenced, it'sn unprecedented attack on any individual that i've ever witnessed. >> narrator: by 2020, alex jones
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was exploiting another national tragedy... the coronavirus pandemic. >> gbalists inside our government to create the fea and allow the nation to never re-open. this is a chi-comm globalistme bioweapot to shut down our economy. >> narrator: fear, economic collapse, partisan division... >> crowd chanting): u.s.a.! >> narrator: and he was still in lockstep with the president. >> the democratic party, the bera, are cheering thi virus. >> now the democrats are politicizing the coronavirus,u ow that, right? coronavirus... they're politizing it. >> narrator: a soon, race would emerge again, too. >>lack live matter! >> george floyd, bombed out of his brain on fentanyl, died...
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so what's all this so-called rioting about? it'sot about injustice, it's about control and power. >> narrator: alluel for the fire stoked by trump and jones. >> but they want to keep us locked in our homes? >> it is a chi-comm laboratory expement... >> and guess what, after november 3, coronavirus will magically all of a sudden go away and disappear... >> conspiracism has become a recognized and accepted way of exercising political pow. >> a lot of people are saying it may have been a biogical weapon that potentially may have leaked out of wuhan. >> it creates a kind of polarization in the population that's much deeper than partisan polarition. >> george floyd was actually killed thr years ago in texas... >> white supremacist organizations as being responsible for some of e violence... >> it's a polarization about what it means to know something. >> total population control, it's what the national security agency... >> i think it's likely to spreat across the pal spectrum. >> a foreign government could
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try to steal the election by printing aentee and mail-in ballots... >> and whether it returns to the fringes or not will depend on whether people in office can resist using it. >> go to for more on how conspiracy theorists are fueling racial tension today. >> alex nes looks for all the terrible things in society, racism, sexism, misogyny. >> and listen to our podcast with director michael kirk on conspiracies in the time of coronavirus. >> there's been a concerted effort to knock down knowledge based information. >> connect with frontline on facebook and twitter, and watch anytime on the pbs video app or >> she was brought down tohe icu knowing that her oxygen level had gotten precariously worse. >> narrator: a new mother. >> she's 30 years old, she just had a baby. she's rely sick.
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>> narrator: the newborn at risk. >> was the baby going to be a extremely sick infected as a result of covid too? >> narrator: and their struggle to reunite. >> she said, "help my husband, help my son." >> nartor: "love, life, and the virus." >> frontline is made possible by contributions toour pbs statiofrom viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcastin major support is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, committed and peaceful world.just, verdant more information at the ford foundation: working with visionaries on e frontlines of social change worldwide. at additional support is provided by the abrams foundation, committed to excellence in journalism. the park foundation, ubdedicated to heighteningc awareness of critical issues. the john and helen glessner family trust.
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supporting trustworthy journalism that informs and inspires. and by the frontline journalism fund, with major support from jon and jo ann hagler. captioned by media access group at wgbh >> for more on this and other "frontline" progra, visit our website at ♪ frontline's, "united states of conspiracy" is available on amazon prime video.
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♪ ♪ you're watching pbs. ♪ - pbs american portrait is a platform where... - people can go to in order to share their experiences. - so join in. - go to pbs... - dot g. - slash "american portrait."
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- pnc has a choice to make: invest in the future. and that's in wind energy and renewable energies and alternative economies. i'vedeeen to countless nstrations and marches and protests and ralli in various places and, in my early days mostly wi my dad. what has that meant for me? i think it means it's a place i feel really comfortable. it's a place i feel pretty at home, and it's part of my belief of what democracy is about. it's part of my belief of what quakerism is about myad has tremendous integrity. he practices what he preaches, and he's willing to put it on the line. ramatic music] ♪ - "who are these quakers?" ♪ "is it that guy on the quaker box? "do you still wear the big hats, and do you have the big, burly beards?"