Donald Trump’s campaign, an exercise in testing the limits of the American imagination, was inevitably going to find itself advertised beside Survival Shield X-2 super-high-quality nascent iodine droplets, now 30% off, and a cylindrical vault of Survival Seeds which promise a “robust and hearty garden, even in the toughest of times,” for just $29.95.
If you were “reading the tea leaves,” as Alex Jones might say, you would’ve felt deeply in your bones that it was just a matter of time before Trump’s courting of the nation’s foremost crackpots and conspiracy theorists went mainstream. The dog whistles would transform into shouts, the winking and nodding into bear hugs.
You would’ve seen this coming, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination getting chummy with a man who would, hours later, suggest that the most recent mass shooting to terrorize the country was “suspicious” like the Sandy Hook shooting had been “suspicious.” The writing has been right there on the wall for anybody paying attention.
Trump’s bid for the White House reached this obvious apex on Wednesday afternoon, when he Skyped into the Austin-based Alex Jones Show, 60 Minutes for the tinfoil hat electorate, from his office in Trump Tower in New York City.
Alex Jones is the Hulk Hogan of conspiracy theorists. A Texas native, he is big and loud and the color of a ripe tomato. He thinks the government was involved in the Oklahoma City Bombing, the New World Order is being run by “clockwork elves,” and shrimp are suicidal because of Prozac poisoning the water supply. He is the founder of Infowars.com, the sort of publication that peddles 9/11 truther propaganda and runs headlines like, “Subliminal Super Bowl Illuminati Secrets Revealed.”
“I’ve got so many questions,” Jones, who in October endorsed Rand Paul, told Trump. “But you are vindicated—this has gotta be the 50th time the last six months—on the radical Muslims celebrating, not just in New Jersey, but in New York, Palestine, all over! What do you have to say? They’re still attacking you!” (Jones didn’t reply when asked if he was switching his allegiance from Paul to Trump.)
From the unfortunate angle of Trump’s webcam, his neck disappeared into the collar of his shirt and his head looked sunburned and misshapen, like a wad of Silly Putty that had recently been set on fire.
“Well, I took a lot of heat and I was very strong on it and I held my line and then all of a sudden hundreds of people were calling up my office,” Trump said.
At a recent event in Florida, Trump explained to Jones, “the people were saying—many of the people from New Jersey—four or five people said, ‘Mr. Trump, I saw it myself! I was there!’”
A few hours later, Jones had moved off the topics on which he and Trump see eye to eye—Muslims cheering on 9/11, the Iraq War—and on to promoting the idea that the mass shooting at a San Bernardino, California, center for the disabled on Wednesday afternoon was “highly suspicious” and seemingly “geared to elicit widespread public outrage,” much like the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School had been.
Trump’s campaign did not respond when asked if he agreed with the assessment of his newfound kindred spirit, but the candidate should get used to answering questions about mass shootings being false flag operations.
Jones, like many conspiracy theorists whom Trump now counts among his supporters and friends, is no stranger to squinting skeptically at gun violence. There is a rich subculture of mass-shooting truthers who believe that attacks like Sandy Hook, or the more recent murder of a TV reporter and producer in Roanoke, Virginia, are hoaxes executed by government actors in order to elicit fear and ultimately result in the confiscation of guns and the rise of a dictatorial government or new world order.
Sandy Hook, Infowars reported in September 2014, was a complete myth because the “FBI says no one killed at Sandy Hook.” By July 2015, the site was claiming that Sandy Hook “doesn’t add up,” according to a “retired Navy Seal” it spoke with.
After white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine African Americans at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, Infowars asked, “False Flag?” because Roof’s Facebook page had only been created recently and showed that he had many African-American friends.
Still, the only surprising thing about the 30-minute conversation between Trump and Jones is that it took so long to happen.
The storied meeting was arranged by Roger Stone, a longtime friend of Trump’s who left the campaign, where he had served as an adviser, in August amid infighting.
Reached by phone on Wednesday, as Trump and Jones were still chatting, Stone said that he had “recommended” the interview to Trump after he had been a guest on Jones’ show himself on Nov. 9 to promote his new book, The Clintons’ War on Women.
Stone was adamant that he wasn’t working for Trump again, not in a “formal or informal” capacity, despite recommending interviews to him during their conversations and supporting his candidacy with the frequent employment of the Twitter hashtag #YUGE.
Trump’s campaign has been about yuge lies, exaggerations, and mischaracterizations.
It began in June (we were so innocent then) in the lobby of Trump Tower, with the claim that illegal immigrants from Mexico are “rapists” and “criminals.”
Trump soldiered on from there, speaking in semi-lucid stream of consciousness for the entire summer and fall.
Last week, in response to fears that terrorists could enter the country as refugees, Trump began promoting a long-debunked rumor from 15 years ago: that “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in Jersey City “were cheering as that building was coming down” on Sept. 11, 2001.
The thrust of Trump's case for his candidacy is this: The system is broken, the powerful (including himself) are exploiting it to their advantage behind the scenes with the help of a corrupt and complicit media that is concerned only with protecting the establishment and the status quo. Just what your average bros populating a comment thread on a YouTube video about false-flag operations suspect, but Trump may not know the full extent to which this new base of supporters he has tapped into has gone off the deep end. It’s one thing to suggest, as Trump does, that the government and the media are rigged to screw over the Everyman—lots of politicians say that. It’s something else entirely to say government actors are pretending to be the family members of slain Americans who never existed in the first place.
Then again, Trump has been making shit up for longer than he has been a candidate. It would be unwise to underestimate him.
In 2011, memorably, when he was pretending to run for president, he was our nation’s premier birther, not-so-subtly suggesting at every opportunity that President Obama wasn’t born in America. At one point, he claimed to have sent private investigators to Hawaii, Obama’s “birthplace,” to solve the case.
Jones and his loyal following of sheeple, in other words, are a natural fit for The Donald.
“We’ll be speaking a lot,” Trump optimistically told Jones on Wednesday.
UPDATE 12/1/2015 9:50 P.M.: This story has been updated to include Alex Jones’s promotion of shooting conspiracies Wednesday afternoon.