On Wednesday, a jury in Waterbury, Connecticut awarded parents of schoolchildren slain by a gunman's bullets an extraordinary $965 million in damages because far-right propagandist, conspiracy theorist and huckster Alex Jones publicly defamed them. He did so on U.S. radio stations which are licensed by the federal government to serve in the public interest. (The jury's award on Wednesday follows a $49 million award to Sandy Hook parents in a separate case decided in Texas on August 5.)
Jones and guests on his InfoWars show, broadcast as a radio program over our public airwaves and over the Internet, falsely and repeatedly claimed the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting was a hoax. He told millions of listeners no children were shot; that grieving parents were actually paid "crisis actors"; that the entire shooting, which took the lives of 20 first-graders and six adults, was staged by gun opponents to somehow further their agenda.
As determined by both the Texas and Connecticut cases, these radio broadcasts caused some of Jones' deranged listeners to threaten the grieving parents' lives. According to court documents, Leonard Pozner, whose six-year old son Noah was killed, received threatening voicemails: "You gonna die. Death is coming to you real soon." Pozner and his wife relocated seven times to avoid harassment based on Jones' remarks. Each time they moved, Jones' followers published their new addresses online. "Sometimes I lie awake at night worrying that despite our efforts at security, a determined conspiracy fanatic might gain entry to our home," said Noah's mother, Veronique De La Rosa.
Why is Jones allowed to use our publicly-owned radio airwaves to spread these dangerous lies? To encourage his listeners to cause direct harm to innocent individuals who have already suffered more grief than we can imagine? It should be against the law. It already, kind of, is...