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Lying isn’t as profitable as it used to be

Alex Jones. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Members of the reality-based community should cheer, gloat, and enjoy the schadenfreude after the jury’s decision yesterday in the Alex Jones defamation trial. Jones has been ordered to pay $4.1 million in compensatory damages and $45.2 million in punitive damages to the parents of a 6-year-old boy killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting. Jones had come up with the conspiracy theory that the shooting never happened and that it was staged by anti-gun activists.

Jones has made many millions of dollars as a professional liar: creating conspiracy theories and selling them to right-wingers. Jones, for example, helped spread the conspiracy theory about “Pizzagate,” the claim that a pizzeria in Washington was being used by Democrats for child trafficking and Satanic ritual abuse. Yesterday’s verdict should serve as a warning to all the other profitable outlets for right-wing lies.

Fox News, you’ll remember, has been sued for $1.6 billion by Dominion Voting Systems because of the lie that Dominion rigged the 2020 election against Trump. That trial has been scheduled to start April 17, 2023.

The market for lies has a supply side and a demand side. One of the most puzzling things for those of us who live in the reality-based community is that there is such a huge demand for lies. There are the big guys, such as Rupert Murdoch and Alex Jones. But for every big guy, there are a thousand little guys trying to get attention and make a buck. YouTube is full of them. As for the other places in social media where such types hang out, I don’t even go there.

As for the people who consume the lies, it’s no wonder that they do so poorly in the world and that they require “elites” above them and scapegoats beneath to blame for their sorry circumstances. Adaptation to a complex and changing world requires knowledge of that world and smart choices based on that knowledge. Those who try to live in that world by applying lies rather than knowledge are certain to do poorly, with only their grievance and rage for comfort. It probably would be easy to show that right-wing lies actually are a drag on the economy, on account of the millions of people who are poorly adapted to the real economy because of their consumption of lies. Those who profit are the people who require the disinformed hordes as a power base, and those who’ve figured out how to make millions of dollars selling lies.

It is incomprehensible to me why right-wingers (including some members of the U.S. Supreme Court) think that making defamation suits easier by overturning New York Times v. Sullivan would increase right-wing power by making it easier for right-wingers to sue what they call “the liberal media.” The liberal media sometimes make mistakes, but they don’t lie, and they don’t need to lie. Unless right-wingers completely corrupt the courts (they’re working on it), they can’t win in court, because courts won’t tolerate the kind of stuff that fuels the right-wing disinformation economy (such as Trump’s Big Lie about a stolen election). Without the huge economy of lies, the Republican Party as we know it would cease to exist. If it were easier to sue, outfits such as Fox News would either have to clean up their acts or get sued out of business. Alex Jones probably did just get sued out of business.

One Comment

  1. Dan wrote:

    Very thankful for this ending. Some people have it in their minds that he did nothing to the surviving family members of the victims when it is clear his words inspired many to terrorize them. Of course, now they suspect President Biden has weaponized the DOJ regarding the FBI raid on Trump’s resort. It’s impossible that Trump did anything wrong, obviously.

    Sunday, August 14, 2022 at 1:11 am | Permalink

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