In a third-floor courtroom in downtown Austin, the mask, if there is one, might come off of Alex Jones.
If it does come off, the more than 20 years he’s spent cultivating something of a cult following as the blowhard skeptic who skeptically blows hard about all manner of conspiracies could be out the window.
And if it doesn’t come off, he could lose custody of his three kids.
That — and the fact that Jones has evolved from cable access TV curiosity to national figure significant enough to get respectful participation from a successful presidential candidate and rueful parodying from Stephen Colbert — makes this high courtroom drama.
At stake in the battle between Jones and his ex-wife, Kelly, is custody of their three kids, ages 9 to 14, who are now in his custody. The whole world — at least the world that knows Jones as the blustery mastermind of Infowars — is watching as he tries to walk the knife edge between actually being the outlandish persona that’s brought him fame and fortune and being a performance artist playing that outlandish persona for fame and fortune.
His lawyer, David Minton, told jurors Tuesday that Infowars Jones “has a message.”
“He does it with humor. He has done it with bombasity. He has done it with sarcasm. He has done it with wit,” Minton said, adding that it’s something Jones can and does turn off.
That’s just what Daddy does at the office, I guess.
But Bobby Newman, representing Kelly Jones, told jurors that Alex Jones has spoke of being “superpowerful” and “superaggressive” and that he doesn’t shed his on-camera image when he is off-camera with his kids. “It’s who he is,” Newman said.
Throughout Newman’s comments, the always expressive Alex Jones was expressive, so much to that at one point Judge Orlinda Naranjo told him to cut it out. “Mr. Jones,” she said, “no bodily comments, please.”
It sounds as if we’re going to hear some very unattractive things about both Mom and Dad during this trial. One of these parents is going to prevail.
It’s easy — too easy? — to root against Alex Jones (unless, of course, you believe he’s the last guy in the world telling you the truth). Unattractive as it is, the nonsense he spews for a living is fully and properly protected by my favorite constitutional amendment, which, after all these years, remains No. 1.
Among the yarns Alex Jones has spun is one about the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Here’s some of what he said last November in asking viewers to reflect on what’s “so strange about Sandy Hook”; he harbors lots of suspicions about the official version of the tragedy.
“My heart does go out to all parents that lose children, whether it’s to stabbing, whether it’s to car wrecks or whether it’s to stranglings or whether it’s to blunt force trauma or murder, firearms, whatever the case is.
“I’m a parent and my heart goes out to parents that have lost children in these tragic events,” he said. “And so if children were lost in Sandy Hook, my heart goes out to each and every one of those parents and the people that say they’re parents that I see on the news.”
If children were lost in Sandy Hook?
“The only problem is I’ve watched a lot of soap operas and I’ve seen actors before. And I know when I’m watching a movie, and I know when I’m watching something real. Let’s look into Sandy Hook,” he concluded.
Back east in Connecticut, Leonard Pozner has heard about Jones’ attorney’s courthouse claim that what Jones does for a living is akin to performance art. Pozner’s son Noah, 6, was among the 20 kids killed at Sandy Hook.
“I wish I could be there in the courtroom to stare him down to remind him of how he’s throwing salt on a wound, and so he can remember how he handed out salt for other people to throw on mine,” Pozner told The Daily Beast.
Pozner lost his child. Now, in a Travis County courtroom, Jones could lose custody of his children.
Justice often is in the eyes of the beholder. But there can be consensus on karmic justice.
It’s easy to root against Alex Jones in this or any case. But we shouldn’t at this point. We shouldn’t because most of us are better than Alex Jones. We rely on logic and evidence, not surmise and suspicion.
And, in general, unlike Jones — and despite our periodic doubts, which pale next to his idiotic doubts — we have faith in our institutions, including the one now sorting out a sad child custody battle in a local third-floor courtroom.
Jurors will decide which of these far-from-perfect people is the better parent. Our proper rooting interest is that one of them is good enough.
“This case is about and only about three precious, beautiful, wonderful children,” Minton told jurors.
And anything we learn about Alex Jones in the process could be interesting, though potentially troubling to his band of Infowarriors.