Ted Anderson, a precious metals dealer, created a radio network out of a Minneapolis suburb a few decades ago in an attempt to drum up business for his gold and silver company. Alex Jones, a boisterous young radio personality, was signed by him soon after.
As a result, they helped to shape the disinformation economy of today.
Niche-targeted advertising, fund-raising activities, and marketing of subscriptions to media and survivalist products helped the two build a thriving business. While Mr. Anderson’s Genesis Communications Network prospered, Mr. Jones became a conspiracy theory heavyweight. Numerous more deceptive propagandists followed in their footsteps, earning a tidy profit off of spreading false information.
In the end, Mr. Jones was able to break free of his reliance on Genesis after gaining a big internet following in addition to his work on radio. In lawsuits accusing them of promoting a false narrative surrounding the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, they were once again linked.
In each of those instances, Mr. Jones was deemed guilty by default. Genesis was eliminated as a defendant by the plaintiffs’ attorneys last month. According to one of the attorneys, Christopher Mattei, the presence of Genesis at trial would have taken attention away from the case’s primary focus: Mr. Jones and the media business he founded.
While Mr. Jones is sure to face heavy fines, Genesis, which states on its website that it “has established itself as the biggest independently owned and run talk radio network in the nation,” was spared. When jurors begin deliberating on damages, the cases will provide further insight into how money drives misleading and inaccurate statements in all forms of media.
In the run-up to the next midterm elections, it’s easy to point the finger at gullible voters and a deepening party split for the rise in misinformation and outright lies. The corporations that host websites, sell adverts, or syndicate material in the background may likewise benefit from the spread of misinformation.
Drexel University media professor Hilde Van den Bulck investigated Alex Jones and stated, “Misinformation occurs for ideological reasons, but there is always a nexus to strong economic objectives – they always find one other.” A “small universe of networks of individuals who discover methods to assist each other out” is what I mean.
Requests for comment from both Mr. Jones and Mr. Anderson went unanswered.
Midas Resources, Mr. Anderson’s gold firm at the time, was a marketing tactic for Genesis, he has stated. To quote him: “Midas Resources needs clients; Genesis Communications Network needs sponsors,” he told the media watchdog FAIR in 2011.
Mr. Jones stated this year on Infowars that Genesis started syndicating him about the time he was sacked from an Austin station in 1999.
When Mr. Anderson, bespectacled and typically mellow, comes on to the programme to offer extensive pitches for safe haven commodities like gold, archival video shows Mr. Jones, pugnacious and inclined to pontificate, broadcasting apocalyptic statements about the dollar’s eventual doom. The pitching sessions were sometimes interrupted by Mr. Jones’ outbursts, such as the time in 2013 when he cut off Mr. Anderson more than 20 times in 30 seconds to cry “racist.”
As well as a group of “regular people with normal beliefs” discussing about sports, Genesis’s roster has featured a homosexual comedian; a former lawyer for the ACLU; Hollywood actor Stephen Baldwin; Dr. Joy Browne; a home renovation specialist known as the Cajun Contractor; and others.
On its website, it promotes its “conspiracy” material and tells the MinnPost that its sponsors “specialise in preparation and survival.” Eventually the network gained a reputation for a specific style of programming.
At least one programme was helmed by a weapons enthusiast. Some of the most well-known figures in the Christian music industry were anti-gay rights and anti-Obama politicians. One programme advertised classes on “storing food, learning the significance of valuable metals, or even surviving a shootout.” Jason Lewis, a Minnesota Republican candidate who came under fire for sexist on-air statements during the 2018 election season, had a syndication arrangement with Genesis and a campaign headquarters at Genesis’ location.
Mr. Jones and Genesis’s relationship started to deteriorate about a decade ago, when Mr. Jones negotiated a pact to have Genesis manage just one-third of his syndication transactions. After a review by Dan Friesen, co-host of the podcast Knowledge Fight, which was formed to track Mr. Jones’ career and provide analysis, roughly 30 stations have added him to their lineup. More than a third of them put him to work in the wee hours of the morning and early hours of the night. In his absence, conservative presenters like Sean Hannity and Dan Bongino have taken over.
After Midas was shut down by the Minnesota Commerce Department in 2015, Mr. Jones’s relationship with Mr. Anderson deteriorated even more. According to the regulator, Mr. Anderson was “incompetent” and Midas “frequently stole money,” therefore the firm was forced to pay back consumers.
The Midas website now links to a multilevel marketing organisation offering the same supplements that clutter Genesis’ online store. As well as appearing on Mr. Jones’ programme, the proprietor of the supplement firm has a Genesis-syndicated radio show.
As for Infowars-branded vitamins and other items, Jones has his own company selling them with bumper stickers proclaiming Covid-19 to be a scam, as well as Infowars masks. It’s believed that he made $56 million in profit last year, according to one of his attorneys.
For Mr. Jones and his ex-benefactor, Mr. Friesen said, “the inability to have that type of symbiotic link between the gold sales on the radio stations really harmed their closeness.” As a result, Alex felt a greater need than Ted to broaden the sources of his financing.
In the attorneys’ letter to the court, they said that the defendants “concoct intricate and fictitious paranoia-tinged conspiracy theories because it sells merchandise and they earn money.”