The Slatest

Has Alex Jones Gone Full Anti-Semite?

Alex Jones.

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Has Alex Jones gone full anti-Semite? That is the question raised by a rant on Tuesday from the country’s second-leading purveyor of conspiracy theories.

In it, Jones focuses most of his fire on the brothers Ari, Ezekiel, and Rahm Emanuel and the outsized influence he claims they have as a family over American policy.

“They’re always trying to claim that if I talk about world government and corruption I’m anti-Semitic,” Jones began, before calling the Emanuel brothers the leaders of the “Jewish mafia.”

“There’s mafias of all different stripes and groups but since you want to talk about it, the Emanuels are Jewish mafia,” he continued. “But, I mean it’s not that Jews are bad, it’s just they are the head of the Jewish mafia in the United States. They run Uber, they run the health care, they’re going to scam you, they’re going to hurt you.”

Superagent Ari Emanuel had a sizable investment in Uber, Ezekiel Emanuel was one of the designers of the Affordable Care Act, and Rahm Emanuel was a top figure in the Barack Obama and Bill Clinton administrations before becoming mayor of Chicago. None of them are known to be in any mafia.

Salon notes that you wouldn’t be alone if you thought these latest comments sounded anti-Semitic. Vox, meanwhile, has pointed to the latest tirade as a sign that Jones believes “Jews run an evil conspiracy.”

But again, is this stuff new? And how much of it is anti-Semitism and how much is just Jones expressing his insane conspiracy based worldview that happens to overlap with lots of anti-Semitic thought?

The first answer is that Jones’ Jewish mafia talk is not new at all. In fact, he has made similar comments in the past at moments when he’s tried to criticize explicit anti-Semites for personally attacking him for the ethnic Jewishness of some of his family members.

In a 2013 interview with Howard Stern, Jones described how the alt-right fever swamps have regularly attacked him as a secret Israeli and/or Jewish agent because he was married to a woman of Jewish heritage and thus had children of Jewish heritage (he and his wife have since divorced). Jones said he felt that he and his family had been the victims of anti-Semitism while also saying he believed in a “Jewish mafia” and explaining what he meant by the term:

Every group has mafias in it. There’s a Jewish mafia, there’s a Muslim mafia, there’s Irish mafia, there’s Italian mafia, so what’s happened is that some of the Jewish interest groups like [the Anti-Defamation League] and others they’ve gone way too far demonizing people that criticize [someone like Bernie Madoff].

They try to use the anti-Semitic label to demonize anybody who is standing up for the Palestinians. … But separately, [I am] experiencing the fact that because my wife’s part Jewish, then they go, ‘well, that makes your kids little hooked nosed Jews, we want to kill them.’ And that’s all over the web where they want to kill my kids. So my issue is the nastiest people I’ve run into, I’ve got to say, are the Jew-obsessed folks, who by the way, think that no one can be successful unless they’re Jewish. So now they say, I’m Jewish. And I’ve never had any success with working hard, I’ve been successful because the Jews have done everything for me.

So, there he sounds like someone who at least understands that anti-Semitism is bad from personal experience. In 2011, he was also harshly critical of an explicitly anti-Semitic caller to his show.

“To sit there and then say that all the ills in the world are then caused by Jews is wrong. Jews are a very diverse wide group of people who have a lot of different political ideas,” he says. “I am Jewish. Now I’m not, but with talk like that—you want to kill the Jews you’re going to have to kill me.”

Again, here he used the “Jewish mafia” formulation while confronting that caller:

When you sit there and say wipe out all the Jews, there’s so many Zionist documents that are public where they admit, ‘oh this is great, Jews will be persecuted’ and then basically the Jewish mafia can sit on top of them and suck off of them and get donations from them and use them for their own power. How do you think the Italian mafia operated… Or the Irish mafia… That’s how these mafias developed. So we have spoken out against the Jewish mafia, and that’s what it is.

It was really hard for me to suss out my own feelings about this language. Whether intentionally or not, he’s clearly using anti-Semitic dog whistles—and has been for a long time—to criticize Israel affiliated groups and institutions. But these are groups that Jews themselves sometimes criticize, and he hasn’t historically framed the argument as Jews being at the top of some global conspiracy theory.

Here’s what he said on Tuesday:

Well why are you labeling the TPP Jewish, I mean it’s got Jews involved in it just like it’s got everybody else. It’s communist Chinese, global government, Japan, I mean all these groups—but again, I’m gonna skip this break, it’s injected into it that you must be anti-Semitic. So, I was just sitting back and—let me then, I guess I better do some exposes on the Jewish mafia.

To Jones, everyone with power is a member of some sort of mafia and hence Jews with power are part of the Jewish mafia. Again, this language is ugly and plays to the worst sort of anti-Semitism, but it appears connected to a broader worldview about global power tied in with Jones’ general conspiracy insanity.

I did, however, find this speech from the start of the first Obama administration, again specifically about Rahm Emanuel, in which Jones seems to attribute some sort of control of United States policy to Israel.

I’ve just got to say it, it was one thing with the last administration and I was hoping it was a fluke and was going to stop, but come on folks, every key person in the Bush administration and now in this next administration just so happen to be the sons and daughters of the founders of Israel and Mossad chiefs and people, and they’re openly not even really U.S. citizens, and they’re openly are at the head of the table in anti-gun operations in the U.S.

“Is it not enough that Israel had fingerprints all over 9/11?” he then said. “The executive branch is nothing but a nozzle to suck up the wealth and the treasury of this country and offshore it.”

So, yeah, that was pretty anti-Semitic. But again, it’s all part and parcel of a larger worldview that attributes everything to some unseen hands that some Jews just happen to be a part of. Either way, it’s a great thing that Donald Trump has brought this totally reasonable political figure into the mainstream American political dialogue.