It was the fourth and final hour of The Alex Jones Show, the most popular conspiracy talk radio program in the country, and everybody in the Austin studio was getting a little weary. As they do six days a week, Jones and his four young producers were simultaneously turning out a nationally syndicated live radio show, a streaming webcast, and a Web television broadcast. Jones sat behind a large desk covered with stacks of articles, which he and his researchers cull daily from mainstream American and foreign newspapers, alternative publications, and obscure journals. A monitor over his left shoulder showed a constant loop of images: a fighter plane, a vial of vaccine, shots of an ominous-looking President Barack Obama. The “document cam” above his head periodically zoomed in on whatever piece of paper he was reading from, to establish its provenance. Jones was talking about climate change, which he believes is based on bogus science. But unlike most people who regard global warming as a hoax, Jones regards it as part of a plan to control the global economy through a World Bank–imposed carbon tax.
Suddenly Jones had a revelation. “This is exactly what Aztec priests did thousands of years ago,” he said. “The priests were the original con artists. They knew when an eclipse was coming, and they’d say, ‘Unga munga unga bunga!’ and the sun would disappear. And the people would say, ‘Make it come back, make it come back!’ And the priests would say, ‘Build me palaces, then! I am God! I am Migumbu!’ And that’s all Al Gore is doing. He’s saying, ‘I am Migumbu! Give me millions, give me Nobel prizes! Carbon dioxide is evil! The polar bears are dying! Give me world government! I will rule you!’ And the public is all”—here he began raising and lowering his arms and chanting like a native in a King Kong movie—“‘Miguuumbu, Miguuumbu.’ ” Jones caught sight of his assistants cracking up in the control room on the other side of the studio’s large window, and he began chanting louder. “Miguuumbu! Miguuumbu!”
“That’ll be a YouTube hit, I guarantee,” said thirty-year-old producer Jaron Neihart, who wore a red hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans. The show went to commercial, and Jones stepped out into the control room, where everyone was still smiling. “What?” he asked, grinning. “What’d I say?”
Then he turned abruptly serious. “This is real,” he told me, reverting to his booming on-air voice, which was oddly discomfiting in the close confines of the control room. “They are openly calling for global government. Somebody pull him up that Al Gore quote about Copenhagen.” (An international climate change summit was meeting in Copenhagen that week.) Neihart moved toward one of several desktop computers in the control room, but Matt Ryan, a heavyset 27-year-old with sideburns who had been running the cameras during the broadcast, knew the quote and had the segment cued up on YouTube in seconds. “One of the ways it will drive the change is through global governance,” Gore’s talking head said. Neihart shook his head.
Ryan was the new guy. He had answered a Craigslist want ad six weeks earlier looking for a radio producer for an unspecified program. “If I put my name in the ad, I’d have fans lining up out the door to apply,” Jones told me. (The location of Jones’ studio is a carefully guarded secret.) When he applied, Ryan was a casual listener of the show who enjoyed Jones’ style but thought the subject matter was “a little out there.” After a few weeks immersed in Jones’s world, however, he was a believer. “If you saw what we see every day—fifty to a hundred articles all calling for global government, for eugenics, mind control, and everything else—you’d believe it too,” he said.
Regardless of the day’s news, the big picture for Jones is always the same: A fascistic cabal of powerful corporate interests and politicians is secretly (or sometimes not so secretly) building a global government—the New World Order, for short—bent on controlling the world’s population. It’s an updated incarnation of an old idea, and the enemy has gone by many names over the years: the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Illuminati.
What really sets Jones apart is not the message itself but how good he is at delivering it. The 36-year-old Jones has a charismatic, commanding presence that belies his relative youthfulness and a booming voice that was tailor-made for radio. He is also a relentless and creative entrepreneur who has deftly managed to spread his brand across a variety of platforms. The Alex Jones Show is syndicated by more than sixty stations and heard weekly by 2 million listeners. Jones’s two main Web sites, Infowars.com and PrisonPlanet.tv, draw 4 million unique users, more than Rush Limbaugh’s site. Unlike Limbaugh or other talk radio stars, Jones appeals to a young demographic; he’s a cult favorite on college campuses, and his rants are all over YouTube. His documentary films, which he produces at the rate of nearly two a year, have been viewed millions of times online. After Jones announced a contest to see who could distribute the most copies of the infamous poster of Barack Obama done up as the Joker, the image became ubiquitous, appearing not only at tea party rallies but on T-shirts and street corners around the world.
At a time when the national conversation has expanded to include talk of government “death panels” and the legitimacy of the president’s birth certificate, The Alex Jones Show seems to have captured the national zeitgeist. The biggest hero of the tea party constituency is Ron Paul, the maverick Texas congressman who has long argued, as Jones does, that both the left and the right are corrupt. Suddenly Paul’s name is all over the mainstream media. But Jones has been singing Paul’s praises and interviewing him on the show for years, and that gives Jones grassroots credibility—though even Paul considers many of Jones’s views beyond the pale.