Alex Jones Willfully Misunderstands Barack Obama's Words

There is an interesting feature to the style of propaganda disseminated by Alex Jones, wherein he really does not have that much backing up his positions. That's not to say that other propagandists of the past have had much firmer footings in reality, but it is actually staggering how little Alex has, when you pull back the curtain even just a little bit.

You can tell he has very little to work with by how frequently he just blurts out the same "citations" to defend his assertions. They become his own little "Git Er Dones," and in the same way that Larry The Cable Guy's crowd reflexively laughs when they hear those words without realizing that there was no joke, so too does Alex's audience learn to assume that he knows what hes talking about when they hear Alex say one of his catchphrases.

Unfortunately, he is misrepresenting or flat-out misunderstanding pretty much every single source he tries to use on air.

Two of his favorites come from former President Barack Obama, and we will be looking at them in greater detail here.

"You Didn't Build Your Business"

Alex Jones drops this reference in whenever he needs to try and paint a picture of how the "Globalists" are trying to destroy small businesses. He uses it to say that the Liberals and the "Globalists" have no respect for the entrepreneur, the backbone of the American economy.

This is a tragic misrepresentation of what President Obama was saying.

The first, most important point is that Obama is not saying you didn't build your business. He very clearly says, "somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, you didn't build that, somebody else made that happen." When Obama says "you didn't build that," the "that" is in reference to the roads and bridges, and that point is indisputable, that everything in society exists in an ecosystem. No man is an island, and even if one was, it was still shaped by the tides.

The larger point is that there is nothing in President Obama's words that signify a disrespect for business owners. His only point seems to be that businesses do not exist outside of the common good, and that if a business does not give back to the community that provides it what it needs to exist (roads, police, a customer base, etc), that business is behaving in a really anti-social fashion, which is bad for everyone.

Realistically, I think that the reason Alex Jones feels the need to misrepresent this snippet of President Obama is because he knows that what Obama is saying is particularly true of his own life. He never would have been able to create InfoWars on his own, regardless of the "self-made" image he tries to project.

Alex was given his first show on radio because his father offered to purchase ad time for his dental practice on the show. For many years, Alex recorded his show out of an office owned by his dad. And then, there's just the matter of his dad just giving him tons of money:

None of this is in any way to delegitimize Alex because he had help. I have no interest in that. Having family that can protect you from failure is not a bad thing, but denying the difference it has made in your life, and how not everyone has those opportunities, is absolutely a bad thing. 

I believe that Alex knows his own past and how lucky he was. On some level, he recognizes that his career history very nearly mirrors what President Obama was saying (that he did work hard, that he was smart, but that his business would have never gotten off the ground without help), and that makes him furious. In order to save face, he takes Obama's quote out of context and tries to pretend it's creeping socialism. Anything to not feel like he doesn't deserve his mansion and boat.

"You Can't Have Cars And Air Conditioning"

Honestly, this is one of Alex's dumber pieces of business. It's just so transparent that he is giving Obama's words a completely different meaning than how they were spoken.

Here are some examples of Alex bullshitting on this talking point:

There are plenty more where these came from, but this should give you a good sense of how he uses the clip. The only takeaway Alex had from Obama's comments was "you cannot have cars and air conditioning," which Obama did not say.

He says that if the rest of the developing world takes the same path as the first world did, we will end up with the world "boiling over," which is absolutely in line with the thinking of pretty much every peer reviewed study in existence.

Alex believes that Obama wants to hurt poor people, or possibly more accurately "people in developing countries," and thus he goes into their sovereign land and tells them they can't have cars. Because he wants to keep them down.

But that makes the following quote hard to wrestle with:

...Obviously they [the developing world, Africa] should not be resigned to poverty simply because the West and Europe and America got there first. That would not be fair. But everyone is going to have to do something. Everyone is going to have to make some important choices here.

The entire point of his speech is about how we need to find ways to modernize that don't include the destructive effects the first world has experienced. Pollution is a big topic to get into here, but remembering that the Cuyahoga River lit on fire multiple times should give you all the mental image of "destructive western modernization" that you need for our purposes.

Modernization is an incredibly complicated process. The particular circumstances a country is in, in terms of population size, naturally occurring resources, or history of internal conflict, factor heavily into the prospects for future development. Even under ideal conditions, things do not always go according to plan, and one of the reasons for that can be found in the introduction to John Holdren's text Ecoscience:

The prosperity of the developed countries- awesome in comparison with the poverty of the lesser developed countres- has been built on the exploitation of the richest soils, the most accessible fossil fuels, and the most concentrated mineral deposits on the entire globe – a one-time windfall. As they now struggle to maintain and even expand their massive consumption from a resource base of declining quality, the developed countries by themselves appear to be taxing technology, social organization and the physical environment beyond what they can long sustain. And the lesser developed countries, as they try to follow the same path to economic development, find the bridges burned ahead of them. There will be no counterpart to the windfall of cheap resources that propelled the developed countries into prosperity. A Developed Country-style industrialization of the lesser developed countries, based on the expensive resources that remain, is therefore probably foredoomed by enormous if not insurmountable economic and environmental obstacles.

Even if Barack Obama were to have shown up in that speech and said, "hooray! Everyone should have two cars and all the air conditioning that they want," it wouldn't have made any difference at all, other than to give the audience an unrealistic and unattainable view of what the future holds.

Many resources are depleted, or quickly becoming so. Many of the means the first world used to modernize were cheap, but resulted in terrible disease, death, and environmental damage. There just is not a feasible way that the circumstances enjoyed by developed countries during their development can be provided to these countries who are on their way up.

The mission obviously does not become holding down the third world, but finding new ways to achieve the results the world needs while avoiding the dangers that the old ways create, as President Obama clearly says in his speech:

We’re investing in clean energy like solar and wind. And we actually want to share that technology, because we think that all countries need to benefit. And part of the opportunity for Africa is to see if we can leapfrog some of the polluting practices of America or Europe, and go straight to the clean energy strategies that will allow you to advance economic growth, but not corrupt the planet...

...if everybody is raising living standards to the point where everybody has got a car and everybody has got air conditioning, and everybody has got a big house, well, the planet will boil over — unless we find new ways of producing energy. And tomorrow, or the next day, when I visit Tanzania, I’m actually going to be going to a power plant to focus on the need for electrification, but the need to do it in an environmentally sound way.

As is so often the case, both of these pieces of rhetoric that Alex Jones employs so liberally just do not stand up to scrutiny. The lesson, as always, is that things need to be understood in their proper context, or else they are rendered meaningless. Alex Jones is incapable or unwilling to research what people mean when they say things, and thus, pretty much every argument he puts forth ends up ultimately meaningless.