Doc ‘The Truth vs. Alex Jones’ Due on HBO, Max March 26

The HBO original documentary The Truth vs. Alex Jones debuts March 26 (9-10:55 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO and will be available to stream on Max.
Directed by BAFTA and Emmy-winning filmmaker Dan Reed (HBO’s Four Hours at the Capitol, Leaving Neverland, Terror at the Mall) and filmed over four years with unprecedented access, the documentary chronicles the courtroom drama of two defamation lawsuits brought by Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims’ families against Alex Jones and his website InfoWars. While exploring the scope and ripple effects of Jones’ brand of conspiracy-minded media, the film follows the families’ legal efforts to hold him accountable for spreading lies about them and their children. 

In December 2012, on the day of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were killed, Jones began raising questions about the veracity of the attack. His denial of the murders and further fabrications about a government coverup turbocharged traffic to his site, generating millions of dollars in advertising revenue. Jones would go on to share lies about the incident with his millions of viewers for years to come. Filmed over multiple years with the intimate participation of the parents who sued Jones for defamation, their legal teams, a defense attorney representing Jones and unprecedented courtroom trial access, the documentary tracks the families’ battle for truth and accountability following years of painful myths about the tragedy disseminated by Jones and his followers.

Bringing Jones to trial in Texas and Connecticut involved years of effort by grieving parents and their legal teams and culminated in two default judgements of liability after Jones’ team declined to comply with discovery and other court orders. In each state, jury trials were then convened to determine damages. Jones attended the two-week-long Texas trial and took the stand to testify, as did the mother and father of one of the children killed that day. The result of both trials was a combined awarding of nearly $1.5 billion to the families, the largest award for damages in a defamation case in United States history. Jones’ declaration of bankruptcy shortly afterward may thwart the ability of the plaintiffs to recover those damages, but the historic legal precedent remains a significant milestone in holding to account those who spread disinformation.   

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Featured articipants include Sandy Hook parents Mark Barden, Alissa and Robbie Parker, Neil Heslin, Scarlett Lewis, Nicole Hockley, Lenny Pozner, and Veronique de la Rosa; attorneys Mark Bankston, Chris Mattei, Wesley Ball and Andino Reynal; Connecticut State Police officer Daniel Jewiss; InfoWars employees Dan Bidondi, Rob Jacobson, Josh Owens and Christopher Jordan; former school security administrator and InfoWars contributor Wolfgang Halbig.


Freedom of Speech or Peddling Hate in an OTT World?

In the current politically toxic culture where “fake news” allegations and “enemies of the people” campaign rally cries by the POTUS against the media (except Fox News) continue to divide the country, bigotry and hate are now rationalized by many as differences of opinion between “good people on both sides.”

While the First Amendment prohibits Congress from making any law abridging the freedom of speech, or the freedom of the press, the Internet and over-the-top video has given those wishing to upend the country’s moral compass an unending bully pulpit.

Take Alex Jones, the radio host and conspiracy theorist loon who makes rightwing propagandists Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity seem normal.

Jones, who started website Infowars in 1999 as a platform to pitch irrational thought, is infamous for tearful rants (literally) decrying the 9/11 terrorist attacks as an inside government operation; and claiming the Sandy Hook school shooting – that killed 26 children and adults in Connecticut – was carried out by left-leaning forces aimed at implementing stricter gun control.

Apple Aug. 5 apparently wearied of Jones’ shtick. The tech giant pulled several Infowars podcasts off iTunes, citing the platform’s hate speech guidelines. Facebook and Spotify followed Aug. 6, with Facebook reportedly suspending Jones’ personal account as well.

Twitter, which has become President Trump’s unofficial press platform, chose not to ban Jones, saying he had not violated the company’s use guidelines.

“We know that’s hard for many, but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules,” CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted Aug. 7. “We’ll enforce if he does. And we’ll continue to promote a healthy conversational environment by ensuring tweets aren’t artificially amplified.”

But a quick look at Twitter’s rules against abusive behavior finds this: “We prohibit behavior that crosses the line into abuse, including behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear.”

But Jones did just that in 2016 during the run up to the presidential election when he promoted the fake story that Democrat Party officials operated a child pornography ring from a pizzeria in Washington, D.C.

A North Carolina man was later arrested after firing shots into the pizzeria due to the hoax.

But real-world incidents like this don’t seem to bother Dorsey, who doubled-down on his Aug. 7 tweet, suggesting it is the responsibility of the media and journalists to “validate” Jones’ claims.

“This is what serves the public conversation best,” he tweeted.

Apparently, the “enemies of the people” – not Twitter – should now be responsible for fact-checking hate peddlers, who you know, are still “good people.”


Activist Investor Group Wants Zuckerberg Out as Facebook Chairman

Heading into Facebook’s disastrous fiscal second-quarter that saw the social network behemoth’s stock plummet more than 20%, wiping out almost $150 billion in valuation, investment group Trillium Asset Management drafted a proposal seeking to remove founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg as chairman.

Trillium, which has about $11 million invested in Facebook, seeks an independent chairperson – a move that requires approval by Facebook shareholders and management, which is largely Zuckerberg.

“[Zuckerberg’s] dual-class shareholdings give him approximately 60% of Facebook’s voting shares, leaving the board, even with a lead independent director, with only a limited ability to check Mr. Zuckerberg’s power,” wrote Trillium. “We believe this weakens Facebook’s governance and oversight of management. Selecting an independent chair would free the CEO to focus on managing the company and enable the chairperson to focus on oversight and strategic guidance.”

The investor claims Facebook has resisted recent shareholder requests to separate the chairman/CEO roles. In 2017, according to Trillium, a similar proposal received 51% of shareholder votes cast when excluding the shares of 13 executives and board members.

“However, the board has not acted on this important signal from its non-insider shareholders,” said Trillium. “Google, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, and Twitter have separate CEO and chairperson roles. More broadly, 59% of the S&P 1500 separated these roles as of April 2018.”

Specifically, Trillium argues Zuckerberg dropped the ball on alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections; sharing personal data of 87 million users with Cambridge Analytica; and sharing user data with consumer electronics device manufacturers, including China’s Huawei, which has been flagged by U.S. intelligence agencies as a national security threat.

The investor said Zuckerberg has done little to curbthe proliferation of fake newson Facebook; propagating violence in Myanmar, India, and South Sudan; and allegedly enabling advertisers to exclude black, Hispanic, and other “ethnic affinities” from seeing ads.

When called to testify before Congress following the Cambridge debacle, Zuckerberg admitted Facebook hadn’t taken a “broad enough view” of its social responsibility.

Indeed, Facebook July 27 revealed it had suspended conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for 30 days after removing four videos by the “Infowars” founder. YouTube suspended Jones for 90 days.

“This broader view is what an independent board chair would provide, which we believe would benefit the company, its shareholders, and its global community of users,” Trillium wrote.