InfoWars, the unhinged, conspiracy-focused “news” site run by the consistently level-headed reverse-minotaur Alex Jones, has always seemed like a shitty place to work. Whether it’s having to produce footage of Jones roaring his morally reprehensible Sandy Hook opinions, taking work orders from a guy who wants you to know Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton smell like demons, or figuring out how in god’s name to create effective sales pitches for supplements whose testimonials are delivered by a man with the physique and personality of a half-shaved, badly sunburned baby bear, nothing seems all that appealing about punching in at Jones’ bullshit factory for a living.
It isn’t all that surprising, then, that a newly published New York Times Magazine article by former employee Josh Owens about his old gig doesn’t exactly resemble a glowing Glassdoor job review.
Owens’ look back at his time working for Jones is absolutely stuffed with disturbing and wild stories, but most remarkable among them are his recollections of events like times when they would all head “to a private ranch outside Austin to shoot guns.” He recalls one trip in 2014 when Jones arrived later on and “after eating a few handfuls of jalapeño chips...picked up an AR-15 and accidentally fired it in my direction.” Owens remembers that “the bullet hit the ground about 10 feet away from me” and, after one employee got mad about their boss nearly killing Owens, Jones apparently claimed he’d “intentionally fired the gun as a joke.”
Amidst other tales of awful stuff—like an assignment to “visit Muslim-majority communities throughout the United States to investigate what Jones instructed us to call ‘the American Caliphate’”—Owens recalls one particularly vivid example of InfoWars’ office culture. “Late one night, after an extended live broadcast, Jones walked into my office shirtless,” he writes. “This was normal; he removed his shirt frequently around us.” Jones drank some vodka, put on a different shirt, then returned to the office and asked one of Owens co-workers to hit him.
“When the employee refused, Jones got louder, his face redder. ‘Hit me!’ He kept saying it, getting closer each time,” Owens continues. After goading the employee to hit him harder than an initial “weak tap on the shoulder,” Jones took his turn.
“Smirking, he planted his feet, reared back and lunged his body weight forward as his fist connected with the man’s arm. I could hear the dull thud of impact, then a wincing sigh. They traded a few more punches, each time seeming less playful. Jones became wild-eyed, spit flying from his clenched teeth as he exhaled. On his last hit, the sound was different. Wet. I thought I could hear the meat split open in the employee’s arm. Jones roared as he punched a cabinet, denting the door in. A few weeks later, I heard that Jones had broken a video editor’s ribs after playing the same game in a downtown bar.”
If you’re curious how Owens ended up working for InfoWars in the first place, well, he’s forthcoming about how, “at 23, I was vulnerable, angry, and searching for direction” and willing to drop out of film school after winning a contest for new hires because he was, at the time, “fully invested in propagating [Jones’] worldview.” Owens explains the “cinematic verisimilitude” of feeling like Jones’ work was exposing him to the secret forces that would explain the confusing sociopolitical landscape of the era surrounding the end of George W. Bush’s presidency. He also expresses plenty of regret for helping a man he once viewed as “a hero” and writes that the “black mark” left on his resume and “[banishment] into poverty as penance for my transgressions” is deserved.
The entire article is well worth reading for those interested in hearing firsthand accounts of what it’s like to work for a guy who reportedly throws goldfish into trash cans and once tried to “[ban] laughter in the office.” It’s also valuable for just about anyone who wants to know a bit more about how things function behind the scenes of a website that’s sadly become a prominent force in modern American culture.
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