Fifteen years later, former InfoWars insiders are convinced that Watson is destined to seize Jones’ crown as the king of the conspiracy theorists.
It was obvious from the very moment he joined InfoWars that he would go far, according to Alex’s ex-wife Kelly. “The majority of stories that were ‘InfoWars’ were written by Watson,” she told The Daily Beast. “He’s a talented guy in that way; able to spit out these fake news stories very quickly.”
She said the relationship between the men had been rocky, and recalled long, heated, and tortuous calls where Jones would spew his latest ideas to Watson and expect him to convert them into plausible stories. Often it would work, generating hundreds of thousands of clicks.
Over the past decade and a half, this transatlantic odd couple has powered InfoWars to the very apex of the internet conspiracy machine in the face of widespread ridicule of outlandish conspiracies from the 9/11 attacks to the Sandy Hook school shooting.
They now count members of America’s first family among their millions of diehard followers. In the final month of the 2016 presidential campaign alone, Donald Trump Jr. retweeted posts by Paul Joseph Watson on more than 30 occasions. His pre-election video on the health of Hillary Clinton—which suggested that she was either suffering from brain damage or on the verge of a mental health breakdown—was viewed more than 6 million times.
While the life of Alex Jones has been tabloid fodder for years, virtually nothing is known about the 35-year-old Watson, who boasts more Twitter followers than Jones and almost twice as many as their sometime InfoWars colleague and notorious “Pizzagate” instigator Mike Cernovich. Watson also has over a million YouTube subscribers who tune in for his deadpan lectures on refugees from Islamic nations (“We’re importing a culture that’s absolutely horrific”) or in-depth societal explorations such as “Why Are Feminists Fat & Ugly?”
He’s spread conspiracy theories about chemtrails and Obama’s birth certificate; he claimed the FBI was involved in the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168; and said there was evidence that the Virginia Tech shooting was a black ops mass-murder of 33 people ordered by the government to justify tightening gun control.
Watson’s former colleagues warn that he has developed a harder, right-wing edge, in recent years—labelling him “Islamophobic” or even “a little white supremacist.”
“I think PJW is a smarter, more conniving version of Alex. He’s definitely better educated, more erudite, way more savvy,” Kelly said. “Paul has endured what he has from Alex because he is going to surpass him. He’s popular with the today crowd and I think he knows absolutely what he’s doing.”
Watson’s own fleeting accounts of where he came from conjure images of a somewhat spartan upbringing. He doesn’t do interviews about himself—at least not with the mainstream media—but he did take part in a Q&A with a young journalist from the Sheffield branch of a student media empire called The Tab in November 2016.
“By 18, I was virtually teetotal and exercised three hours every day,” he said. “I grew up on a council estate [public housing facility] and never had any money.”
He said something similar on Twitter a few months earlier: “I was born on a council estate.”
According to Watson’s birth certificate, Land Registry records, and Sheffield council, however, the story may have been a little more complicated; think stunning countryside vistas rather than the projects.
Watson was born on May 24, 1982, at Jessop Hospital in Sheffield to Philip and Hazel Watson. They registered their second son’s home address as School Lane in Grenoside, a suburb to the north of the city, which residents said had retained its traditional village atmosphere. Sheffield council said the house has never been in public ownership, so the records suggest he was not born on a council estate.
Over the next 20 years, the Watson family would live in a series of similar communities that run along the leafy northwest suburbs of Sheffield, separating the city from the picturesque Peak District National Park.
James Whittaker, now 36, said he lived in the suburb of Worrall on the same road as Paul—“a nice lad”—during his elementary school years. “I wouldn’t describe it as a council estate; no, no, no,” he said.
Just before Watson’s 10th birthday, the family bought a three-bedroom house in nearby Loxley, an even more sought-after location, with a stunning view over Loxley valley. Legend has it that this is also the hometown of Robin Hood, the heroic outlaw known as Robin of Locksley (or Loxley).
The family settled here for 11 years until 2003, when Watson’s father retired—he had been a universal grinder at an engineering works—and told neighbors they were packing up their caravan and moving to France.
Michael Simpson, 19—whose family bought the Watson house on Chase Road—said it was a wonderful place to grow up. “In summer, it’s fantastic. The sun arcs perfectly across the back so it lights the valley fabulously—there’s a beautiful view of Sheffield to the left and countryside to the right, so you get the best of both worlds.”
The modest brick-built house is semi-detached—its front door just a couple of feet from the neighbors’. Then and now, it’s the Butterells who live next door. Denise Butterell said she remembered Paul’s mother Hazel in particular as they both worked in child support in the area.
She recalled the music reverberating into her house through Paul and his brother Steve’s bedroom walls. Those muffled sounds included the heavy thrum of grunge and rock bands like Rage Against the Machine.
John Iles, who was in Watson’s year at Bradfield, said they had bonded over alternative rock, as there weren’t that many kids into the same music scene at their school. “R.A.T.M. was one of the first bands we started talking about and he even made a copy of their first album for me on tape,” he said. “He was heavily into Nirvana, and I think the grunge thing was a big part of his life back then.”
In the idealized origin story Watson had given The Tab, he said, “I didn’t have a particularly conventional adolescence, which obviously afforded me the time to think about what I wanted to do with my existence rather than spending it being wasted and desperately trying to be cool.”
When he discovered that the friends from his youth had been opening up to The Daily Beast, he opted for a different tack—drastically recasting his story in a Friday night tweetstorm.
“Full disclosure: I was a weirdo grunge kid who got kicked out of school for smoking weed, being drunk half of the time,” he wrote. “There’s your exclusive.”
Several school friends had mentioned that he left early, but—like everything else Watson publishes online—I can’t vouch for the authenticity of his statement.
“I’m actually looking forward to this hit piece now because some of these people he finds to talk will remember more about my teenage years than I do,” he wrote.
Iles, who now works in the construction industry, remembered Watson well and said he would have described him as a good friend. “He was shy, very clever, and was always quite political in his views… Rebelling with us, smoking at an early age, and just interested in playing guitar.
“Loved the Sex Pistols too,” he said. “The Sex Pistols were always anarchy in the U.K., fuck the system types, right?”
That may have seemed anachronistic at Bradfield, which must be one of the most beautifully located schools in England. It is set inside the borders of a national park, surrounded on all sides by rolling hills colored with rich purples and greens, in between there are neatly divided agricultural fields stretching to the horizon. Some of the students even arrive at the school on tractors.
Outside of their clique, plenty of people from Bradfield—in his year or the year above—didn’t remember Watson at all. Those who did know him saw the nascent debater and contrarian emerging.
Lee Hutton remembered a quiet kid with strong views. “Teachers liked him a lot and he always had an opinion,” he said. “Whether he was right or wrong, he was always right, if you know what I mean?... He always had the last word.”
Iles agreed that Watson had always been political, and said he wouldn’t be surprised if he had started reading less mainstream material—including conspiracy theory sites—when they were still at school. “To be fair I probably have his views on the conspiracies and he’s probably right,” he said.
According to Watson, he had indeed started to read the work of Britain’s granddaddy of conspiracy theories, David Icke, while he was a teenager.
Icke is a former professional soccer player who became a leading conspiracy theorist—with a unique sprinkling of magical realism—in the early ’90s. Like many of his colleagues, Icke believed there was a global elite conspiring to control the world, but in his version this “illuminati” was a hybrid master race of human–extraterrestrial reptilians.
“Don’t tell Alex [Jones] it was actually David Icke that woke me up,” Watson would later say.
Watson was beginning to look at more radical literature, but it hadn’t reached the point where he was shouting these views from the rooftops, or even to his friends. Iles said the theories he would go on to promote were baffling: “Paul seems totally different to when I knew him; the same intelligence but clouded somehow.”
At the age of 18, Watson watched a documentary about Alex Jones made by British filmmaker and author Jon Ronson. It was a pivotal moment.
In an interview with We Are Change, a conspiracy-oriented group of “patriot journalists,” he explained: “I saw a documentary on Alex Jones—Secret Rulers of the World—then obviously I got into Alex’s material. Actually, I was cleaning toilets at the time at a sports arena—I had a choice whether to go to the job cleaning toilets or watch an Alex Jones documentary—chose the latter option—the sports arena never called me back so I started my own website.”
That site, Propaganda Matrix, is still up—part of the network of sites that spread Watson’s alternative views to millions of people to this day.
At the time of the documentary series—and a book by Ronson on the same subject called Them—Jones was a fairly traditional conspiracy theorist. In the film, he infiltrates a secret meeting in the woods of Northern California where he believed ritual sacrifices were being carried out by members of the global elite who were plotting the New World Order.
Ronson accompanied him on the expedition. So what does he feel about the apparently decisive role he played in Watson’s path to notoriety? “Well, I’m not happy about it,” he told The Daily Beast. He fears Watson is “obsessed with Muslims” and “dangerous.”
Ronson, who now lives in New York, is a little skeptical about the true impact of his film, not least since he feels he did not offer a flattering portrayal of Jones’ journalistic techniques.
“I’m a bit surprised because whilst I think the documentary didn’t shy away from what were Alex’s positive characteristics—like the fact that he’s such a talented broadcaster—the documentary definitely concludes with us showing how he completely exaggerated everything that we saw inside Bohemian Grove and that his facts weren’t to be trusted, so I’m a bit surprised that somebody would see that and think, ‘That’s the gang I want to be in.’”
Despite the fateful introduction, which Watson has also alluded to on Twitter, Ronson continues to believe in the value of exploring the outer edges of mainstream society. “This gives me a moment’s pause but then I remember that our film, or the chapter in Them, is not in any way a piece of pro-Alex propaganda—not at all.”
Four months after the documentary aired in 2001, al Qaeda hijackers flew two planes into the World Trade Center towers in Lower Manhattan. The unprecedented attack on mainland America sparked an era of global conflict and bloodshed on almost every continent. It was also a watershed moment for a burgeoning generation of online conspiracy theorists.
Watson was 19 at the time. Over the next year or so, his website would become sufficiently well-established in certain circles to land an interview with his hero David Icke.
This is how Watson described his memory of 9/11 to Icke:
I had a strange experience on September 11, 2001. I was watching a BBC interview with a United Nations representative. The man was sitting in a studio with a wavy UN flag graphic behind him on a blue screen. About half way through the interview, a green snake wrapped around a thin brown pole materialized over the UN flag, remained there for about ten seconds and then faded away again. Suffice to say I have never hallucinated in my life and this thing was really there.
He went on to ask Icke if he believed Osama bin Laden was “firmly under Illuminati control or was he just a loose cannon that they used as a patsy?”
These ideas—which he recently admitted were “quite fruity”—were still being dreamed up from his home in Sheffield.
No matter how tough he makes his youth sound, Watson admitted to a moment of nostalgia after The Tab interview. One Facebook friend mentioned a favorite stone-built pub that was constructed in 1275 overlooking a sweep of hills that runs down to a reservoir near his childhood homes. “Strines Inn for the win,” he wrote. “I miss it.”
The author of that rare interview, Marie-Elise Worswick, said the reaction to her article showed just what a divisive figure Watson has become in his hometown. She was widely berated for giving him the publicity but she also found that lots of students came up to her saying, “Don’t tell anyone, but I actually watch all of his videos.”
“Over the last year or so,” she said, “it’s become really well-known here that he’s from Sheffield. It’s quite sad that people think he’s now a representation of Sheffield—we’re not all like that!”
This level of fame—or infamy—is a recent development.
Watson was living near the Meadowhall mall in northeast Sheffield in 2004. It was the address where he first registered Global Propaganda Matrix—the company that operated his website. Just like some of the students from his school, next-door neighbors on both sides of the house, who were also living there at the time, said they had absolutely no recollection of him.
But this was a young man determined not to remain anonymous forever. He told Worswick, “I guess the primary drive was to just be able to support myself, and then it gradually developed into an all-encompassing effort to force the world into acknowledging my existence.”
Among those who noticed his existence was Alex Jones.
Watson said he was first invited to contribute by the Texan in October 2002—when he was 20.
“Paul was very young but he analyzed the material in the same way that Alex did,” explained Kelly Jones, Alex Jones’ ex-wife. She was one of six former InfoWars insiders who spoke to The Daily Beast. “Basically it was a joint paranoiac enterprise from then on,” she said.
Kelly recently went through an acrimonious child custody case against Alex—prompting her to launch the campaign site CustodyWars.com—and she no longer has anything to do with InfoWars. In the early days, however, she says she was closely involved in InfoWars and Prison Planet.
She said one of her duties was helping out with the payroll. “Early, early on Paul Watson was making monthly what people make in a year,” she said. “We’re talking about the kind of money that would drop jaws.”
Watson was one of the more technically literate members of the team, designing an early version of PrisonPlanet.com, one of Jones’ stable of interconnected conspiracy sites. @PrisonPlanet is still Watson’s handle on Twitter, where he has 845,000 followers.
Conspiracy theories on Prison Planet included a joint byline effort—from Watson and Jones—claiming that the official accounts of 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing were both government cover-ups “contradicted by a plethora of eyewitness accounts as well as physical and circumstantial evidence.”
The 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting “could very well be another government black-op,” wrote Watson on the very day that a senior gunned down 32 people. A week after London’s worst terror attack—which killed 52 in 2005—he published “How the Government Staged the London Bombings in Ten Easy Steps.”
These theories don’t always remain in obscurity where they belong. When Devin Patrick Kelley killed 26 worshippers in a church last November, anyone searching the name of the shooter online was recommended links to Watson’s Twitter takes by Google.
Watson frequently falls for other people’s hoaxes and doctored photographs, including an image that appeared to show President Obama touching Melania Trump’s behind, and a faked story claiming Florida middle schoolers were being taught how to use strap-on dildos as part of the Common Core curriculum.
In one case, he was caught red-handed by a random twentysomething from Scotland who had messaged Watson from a spoof Twitter account claiming he worked for NBC and had inside knowledge of a Trump video that was about to shake up the 2016 election.
Watson rushed the story live, quoting liberally from the anonymous direct messages. The prankster was shocked as the story went viral, so he approached Jamie Ross, then a reporter at BuzzFeed and now a colleague at The Daily Beast, to confess to what he’d done. “It was all bullshit,” he said. “I made it all up.”
A long-term former InfoWars staffer told The Daily Beast that the company was motivated by generating traffic and profit rather than uncovering scandals, but he believes Watson “comes from a place of conviction.”
“I personally believe the InfoWars machine is toxic, but [Watson] is not speaking untruth in his eyes to the best of my knowledge. Part of what that media outlet is about is generating revenue. And I know the person at the helm is motivated by that over truth,” said the ex-staffer, who asked to remain anonymous for his own protection.
“It’s a disaster. The news is manufactured, not reported. What is the worst part is there are some important issues at the core. However, it is made a total mockery the way it is manipulated and spun. I can’t trust any information I get from InfoWars.”
The former staffer admitted that he too had “compromised my truth for many years for financial gain.”
Others who are still involved in the fringe media industry vouch for Watson’s intellect and vision. Russell Dowden, the former publisher of InfoWars magazine and Weird Magazine, which both printed Watson’s writing, said Watson was a huge talent in the world of alternative publishing. “PJW has always been held in high regard by me, as a publisher,” he said. “His intelligence is well studied, and his humor is charming.”
Most people who worked at the InfoWars HQ in Austin only met Watson a few times in person, as his visits across the Atlantic are relatively rare.
Walker Anders, who was an animator at Prison Planet until last year, said he had found Watson to be “a nice, respectful person.”
A former senior InfoWars staffer, however, who met Watson face-to-face on two or three occasions said “interactions with him were not good.”
Kelly Jones said she hosted Paul—and his brother Steve, who has also written for InfoWars and Prison Planet—during an early visit to Austin but did not find him to be charming in person. “He seemed like a kid off the street with a cigarette in his mouth, snarky and entitled—he seemed like he didn’t give a crap about anybody,” she said. “You see him on the clips—that’s who he is.”
Kelly said the relationship between Watson and Alex Jones—who has been known to shout, scream and rip off his shirt on camera—was often tense. She recalls aggressive phone calls to England. “Paul was the guy that Alex would call every morning—tell him what to write and mock and torment him,” she said, impersonating her ex-husband’s cod-English accent.
A second former staffer said he had heard regular phone calls in which Jones shouted, bullied, and abused Watson, including by mocking his voice.
Two ex-InfoWars employees filed a lawsuit against Jones for improper workplace conduct earlier this year. Ashley Beckford and Rob Jacobson alleged that they had been subjected to anti-Semitic, racist, and sexual harassment by Jones while working at InfoWars.
During a Reddit AMA (public Q&A session) in 2016, Watson gave his own account of off-air Alex Jones. “Alex Jones is exactly, basically exactly like the radio in person, which is—which is a lot of fun at times. But, yes, he’s a very intense person. But he can also have a laugh. I mean, that’s the good thing about Alex, he’s not, you know, constantly angry all the time. He can have a laugh, but that’s true about him. He is exactly as you would expect him to be.”
He was trying to speak carefully, but Jones still doesn’t sound like the calmest or most reassuring of bosses. As the months rolled on, and Watson grew better known in his own right, there would be further signs of distance between the two men.
On June 16, 2015, one golden escalator ride transported Donald Trump straight into the heart of a media maelstrom that would last to this day. Grappling with his indecipherable political history and policy contradictions threw every media outlet into confusion.
InfoWars was no different.
Two months after Trump announced that he was running, Watson posted a video claiming that Trump was running a false flag campaign on behalf of the Democratic establishment.
“Donald Trump is a stooge for Hillary Clinton. He’s a plant. He’s a ringer to sink the chances of Republican candidates who actually have a chance of defeating Hillary,” he claimed.
The following year, he explained what he had been thinking during the Reddit AMA: “This was back in August 2015, basically suggesting that Donald Trump could be a Hillary plant… and that there could be like WWE style reveal: It turns out that they’re both in cahoots!
“Obviously, I don’t think that’s gonna happen now,” he said. “I was completely wrong in that video.”
This discussion was taking place on the r/The_Donald Reddit page, which is a hotbed of impassioned Trump support. Watson explained that he still had issues with some of Trump’s political positions, but he said he had now realized that the renegade presidential candidate had come to symbolize a battle against the establishment that had energized millions of voters.
Watson didn’t say as much, but it was also clear that Trump had energized millions of potentially valuable readers.
One five-year veteran of InfoWars said the site had decided to follow the money—“more manipulation for gain,” he said.
Another former senior staffer said the site had abandoned its independent spirit in its race to embrace Trump and the hordes of followers who appeared in the wake of his campaign.
“Alex Jones decided to turn his operation into a pro-Trump cheering section. Watson got the memo. I didn’t agree, and that put me on the outs with the InfoWars crowd,” he said. “I do believe it will eventually come back to bite them on the ass.”
Trump himself appeared on the Alex Jones show in December 2015, joining an InfoWars greatest hits guest-list that includes alt-right provocateurs, conspiracy theorists, a former KKK grand wizard, and a chap who believes child sex slaves have been kidnapped and shipped to Mars.
During his half-hour interview, Trump told Jones “your reputation is amazing… I will not let you down.”
For Kelly Jones, the support for Trump was a betrayal of the libertarian, free-thinking site she believed InfoWars and Prison Planet had been at the outset.
“They have been reduced to the mouthpiece of the person who is going to go down as the most terrible president and the most destructive force this country’s ever seen—and for what? Because Donald Trump calls Alex on the phone and pats his head?” she said. “One of the reasons that I speak out is that I am appalled and actually terrified by the power of my ex-husband and PJW influencing the election and influencing the nation’s politics.
“I would never believe they could support Donald Trump. He’s a despot. InfoWars was always anti-tyranny, pro-constitution.”
Within the space of a year, Watson had gone from suggesting Trump was secretly working for the Democrats to becoming a favorite agitator in the Twittersphere of Donald Trump Jr. and his fringe media acolytes.
Watson’s hoax video alleging that Hillary Clinton may be a drug-addict suffering from an array of serious ailments ranging from syphilis to a brain tumor kickstarted a mainstream news cycle that reached tens if not hundreds of millions of voters.
Ben Collins tracked the unfounded claims for The Daily Beast on an unedifying journey that took him from Watson’s YouTube page to CNN, via the r/The_Donald Reddit, the National Enquirer, and Fox News’ Sean Hannity.
Within a few days, the No. 2 trending search about Hillary Clinton on Google was, “Is Hillary having health problems?”
Once Trump was safely ensconced in the White House, Watson’s contrarian nature sometimes bubbled to the surface. In April 2017, he lashed out when the president launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed 70, including children and babies.
“I guess Trump wasn’t ‘Putin’s puppet’ after all, he was just another deep state/Neo-Con puppet. I’m officially OFF the Trump train,” Watson wrote.
A few hours later, he remarked: “First time I’ve ever lost Twitter followers. Interesting.”
Before the day was out, he had skulked back into line. “I am off the Trump train in terms of Syria, which I will criticize, but I have not ‘turned on Trump’ as the media claims. Fake news.”
The Trump era has also ushered in a darker side to Paul Joseph Watson’s alternative news interventions.
Jon Ronson, who has kept a close eye on Jones and his colleagues in the 17 years since his documentary was broadcast, has noticed a shift in tone.
“I think the money and power and whatever proximity to Trump has changed all of them, Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, I think they’ve all got worse,” he said. “I’ve definitely felt over the last year or so that the relationship between them and Trump is that they make Trump more conspiratorial and Trump makes them more xenophobic.”
Watson has switched his focus from the snake hallucinations and far-fetched illuminati conspiracies of his youth to fulminating on the global refugee crisis, the supposed over-reach of political correctness, and what he calls the “horrific” Muslim culture that encourages “Islamic ghettos,” mass rape, and the destruction of Western democracy. “We Need Islam Control, Not Gun Control,” was one such offering.
He has become more popular with anti-immigration campaigners such as followers of the U.K. Independence Party. Nigel Farage’s right-hand man and spokesman, Dan Jukes, is among the members of the populist right who have become friendly with Watson, even though Farage’s former party, UKIP, positions itself as a far more mainstream political movement.
When I asked Jukes what @PrisonPlanet was like in person, he forwarded my message straight to Watson who posted it online.
Current InfoWars staff, including Alex Jones, declined to talk, and there was no response to an email sent to the company’s official media address, but plenty of former site-mates were more than happy to talk.
One long-time former colleague of Watson said the change in his approach toward Islam had been stark. “His current political stance is adversarial and, for lack of a better word, Islamophobic. It wasn’t always like this. Early on, he did quite detailed and researched work on geopolitical and foreign policy. This changed a few years ago,” he said, via email.
“Like Alex Jones, Paul Watson is primarily interested in audience. He is not an activist. He is an instigator, which makes him very popular with a large following on social media… I put him in the same camp with Richard Spencer and Pamela Geller and the anti-Islam faction of the so-called Alt-right. Several years ago, he was anti-war and libertarian. Now he is a racist.”
One of the hardline anti-Islam campaigners Watson has worked with is Tommy Robinson, the former head of one of the biggest anti-Muslim street-protest groups in Europe. They have recorded numerous YouTube videos together with headlines such “The Truth About the Koran.”
When Robinson’s Twitter account was suspended during the spate of terror attacks in Britain last year, Watson posted the agitator’s rant for him. In the video Robinson attacked “stupid, liberal wankers” opposing measures such as Muslim travel bans and internment that would keep Britain and the U.S. safe from “depraved, death-loving Muslims.”
Nick Ryan, a spokesman for Hope Not Hate, Britain’s largest anti-racism campaign, said the selective nature of Watson’s conspiracy theories showed that he was motivated by a far-right agenda.
“Paul Joseph Watson is one of the most visible far-right figures on social media, part of the so-called ‘alternative right’ and a flag bearer for anti-Muslim and hard-right conspiracy theories,” he said.
“His danger lies in his huge social media footprint and connections to other far-right figures like ‘Tommy Robinson,’ which allows conspiracies to spread rapidly. After the Westminster attacks last year, for example, Watson was the most mentioned person on Twitter.”
A few days before Twitter shut down Robinson’s account permanently last month, I asked why he and Watson were cutting through so effectively on social media. “It’s because we are the bollox,” he replied in a direct message. He was using a shortened form of the British phrase “the dog’s bollocks,” which—for reasons that remain obscure to etymologists—means the greatest.
Kelly Jones said the last few years of InfoWars output had been increasingly worrying. “They’ve transmogrified into little white supremacists which is alarming crap,” she said. “Paul’s white supremacy is growing—I know it’s a difficult issue, this refugee crisis—but they are actively encouraging white supremacy.”
A new army of alt-media journalists—inspired by the likes of Watson—are creating their own mini-empires online. One of them is Caolan Robertson, 22, a producer and commentator who has worked with former alt-right darling Milo Yiannopoulos, Tommy Robinson, and Lauren Southern, who was prevented from entering Britain earlier this year because of her alleged history of hate speech.
Robertson has also become a friend of Watson in real life.
“He is a great guy to hang out with, and the reason he does so well is because he is actually a real person who says what the majority of people in his country privately think every single day,” Robertson told The Daily Beast.
“I think he has inspired an entire generation of young people who feel disenfranchised by what is going on in their schools and universities. They feel represented by him and his message, the media does not represent young people at all. When they try to, it’s MTV ranting about far left nonsense, which everyone seems to hate.”
Robertson says he loves Watson’s work, but when I ask about the older conspiracy theories or Watson’s admiration for David Icke—he draws a blank. “I’m not sure. I don’t know much about that,” he said. “Never heard of David Icke.”
It’s his anti-PC message that resonates with many of Watson’s fans. After decades of manufacturing somewhat plausible narratives to suit his wilder fantasies, those skills are now being deployed to demonize populist targets, whether that be feminists, transgender people, or Muslims.
Watson said in 2016 that he had noticed a sudden uptick in younger followers: “I’m getting messages from people still in high school, and people in university, so it’s shifting, I’ve noticed a lot more younger people coming on board with the message.”
A former InfoWars staffer said Watson should leave Jones’ orbit as soon as possible if he wants to outgrow his mentor.
“Alex is cancerous and the longer [Watson] stays there the higher the likelihood that his reputation will be tainted,” the staffer said. “Is it smart to let someone of a lower level of intellect contaminate your message?”
There have been signs of Watson trying to distance himself from some of the more extreme positions taken by Alex Jones. Just as Jones is being besieged by a host of defamation lawsuits—including from the parents of murdered Sandy Hook children and an innocent Boston man accused of being the Parkland school shooter—Watson is creating a media profile that could be more readily accepted by a mainstream audience that was unaware of his past.
In the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting last year, Watson tried to downplay Alex Jones’ claims on air while his boss was reading out what appeared to be fake tips from law enforcement “sources.” Watson’s face was so overtaken by incredulity that the clip went viral.
Watson has also tried to distance himself from the vile conspiracy about the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, which Jones claimed was faked by child actors. With 20 young children dead and their parents begging him to stop, it may have been Jones’ most despicable conspiracy theory yet.
“I don’t buy into the notion that this never happened or that the parents, the family members involved, were actors which some people have claimed,” Watson said in the aftermath.
To many of his younger followers Watson has already laundered from his brand the most extreme conspiracy theories about the shape-shifting illuminati and some of Jones’ more obviously false claims.
If he were to rise above the buffoonish figure of Alex Jones, his calmer demeanor and more plausible manner mean he could become more influential and trusted than Jones could ever achieve.
“It’s like Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi,” said Kelly Jones. “The circle is now complete—the learner has become the master.”