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From humble origins as an Austin, Texas public access TV host, Alex Jones eventually became kingpin of a media empire based on conspiracy theories, general outrage at “the system,” bad faith allegations, and selling nutritional supplements.
But while Jones earned endless mockery with his random rants and wild accusations, he also built a huge following of fellow travelers. His social media outlets had massive reach, including 2.4 million subscribers to his YouTube channel, and 2.5 million followers spread over four different Facebook pages.
The Alex Jones Channel has been permanently DELETED by YouTube.
This is a coordinated PURGE.
This is political censorship. pic.twitter.com/gyYiSSYFwI
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) August 6, 2018
But that’s all gone now, as both YouTube and Facebook have permanently banned Jones, while Spotify and Stitcher have pulled his podcasts. While Jones will continue making videos, live-streaming, and podcasting to supporters on other platforms (Jones will still have 850,000 Twitter followers after his one week suspension is up), being banned for good from the two most prolific social media sites will likely have an adverse effect on his revenue from ads and merchandise sales.
It also leaves an opening for someone to step into Jones’ hyperbolic shoes as godfather of the right-wing conspiracy movement—someone who, as of now, hasn’t been banned from YouTube and Facebook.
Who that person is (or if Jones’ bans are eventually rescinded) remains to be seen. But here are some of the most likely candidates to pick up the millions of followers Jones had—a huge audience waiting to buy supplements and be screamed at about how the government is turning frogs gay:
Shapiro is probably the most well-known young conservative in the mainstream media, and has been a right-wing presence since publishing his first syndicated column at age 17.
He’s published seven books, spent four years burnishing his conservative credentials as an editor at Breitbart, and hosts one of the most popular daily podcasts in the country.
The right needs to excise the alt-right. The left needs to excise Antifa and the identity politics groupthink. https://t.co/j9eYI4RA7B
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 13, 2018
But Shapiro is almost too mainstream to take the mantle of Alex Jones.
He’s a vocal critic of President Donald Trump and considered himself part of the “Never Trump” movement of Republicans opposed to the nomination of the real estate tycoon. Shapiro went so far as to claim in 2016 he “will never vote for Donald Trump,” only to back down a few years later when faced with Trump’s potential re-election.
Shapiro is also vocally Jewish, and rather than embrace the alt-right as many conservative media figures have, has harshly criticized them. He’s also steered away from the conspiracy theories and outlandish accusations that power Jones’ media empire—while simultaneously finding himself mired in controversy over possible hoax stories and racially insensitive statements.
Plus, if he tries to sell supplements that promise muscle growth, well…›
Paul Joseph Watson
Watson is the closest thing Alex Jones has to a sidekick, serving as editor-at-large for Infowars, and appearing on Jones’ platforms constantly. Despite his omnipresence on InfoWars, Watson has so far avoided the purge on social media that hit Jones. He still tweets using the name Prison Planet, one of many interconnected conspiracy sites that Jones runs.
MSNBC: Another network that whines about Trump eroding freedom of the press while celebrating censorship. https://t.co/QJE0jB3Vqx
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) August 7, 2018
If Watson were ever to go off on his own, he’d have a powerful media presence in his own right. He’s piled up over 1.2 million YouTube subscribers, doling out straight-to-camera monologues against a generic world map, lecturing his fans about everything from false flags to NAMBLA conspiracies to Hillary Clinton’s constant near-death state.
And while Watson started working for Jones at the age of 20, his relationship with Jones has been rocky enough that the Daily Beast quoted Jones’ ex-wife as claiming Watson could steal Jones’ media crown. Despite distancing himself (sometimes temporarily) from Jones’ more outlandish theories, Watson seems content to serve as Jones’ attack dog – for now.
Owens is something of a unicorn in the far-right, a young African American woman who relentlessly spouts conservative dogma and conspiracy theories. She’s the communications director for conservative college student organization Turning Point USA, but also has a prolific media presence in her own right.
After all these years, white Democrats still believe that they own black people. When you go against how they desire you to think, they viciously attack you.
I was proud to stand with conviction alongside the minority police force today.
I escaped the leftist plantation.
— Candace Owens (@RealCandaceO) August 6, 2018
Her profile went up substantially when Kanye West took notice of her, and she’s responded with a steady stream of counterintuitive videos and tweets about how police brutality isn’t real, feminism harms women, only Democrats are racist, and that white privilege and white supremacy are myths.
No less than Donald Trump singled her out on Twitter as a “very smart ‘thinker’” and had a 20 minute face-to-face meeting with her.
But as Owens’ standing in the media has risen (she’s guest hosted on Fox News and appeared on “The View”) she’s distanced herself from Jones and InfoWars, which she had previously appeared on. She’s also gotten into Twitter spats with prominent conservatives, and freely admits she didn’t vote for Trump.
A frequent recipient of Trump retweets, Bongino has gone through a number of career changes and personas, landing on that of conservative provocateur. He was an NYPD officer in the late 90s, then spent over a decade in the Secret Service. That experience became fodder for several runs for office, including losing an election for the House of Representatives by just a few thousand votes.
— Dan Bongino (@dbongino) October 20, 2017
He then turned his Secret Service time into best-selling book, which got him on the radar of conservative media as something of an expert in legal procedure. Since then, he’s guest hosted for major right-wing radio figures, launched his own podcast, and became a spokesman for NRA TV.
Bongino doesn’t quite match up with Alex Jones’ penchant for conspiracy theories, though he’s been a vocal proponent of the non-evidenced idea that the “real collusion” of the 2016 election was between Hillary Clinton and Russia, as well as the debunked “Spygate” conspiracy.
Other than a few interviews with Alex Jones, Bongino isn’t much of a presence in the InfoWars sphere, and he mostly seems content to carve his own path as having one foot in far-right infotainment, and the other in more mainstream conservative news.
At this point, Jones is still chopping away at his bans, decrying them as censorship. He’s also demanding to appear in front of congressional hearings about his bans, according to an InfoWars story written by Paul Joseph Watson, naturally.
So while he might not ever go away entirely, he seems to understand that with his reach reduced, his status is at risk—and there’s a stable of people who could replace him.
Mike Rothschild is a writer who specializes in researching and debunking conspiracy theories and fringe beliefs. He also writes about politics, history, and breaking news.