Brexit party leader fails in chats to challenge Alex Jones’s conspiracy theories and airs some of his own
Nigel Farage is a skilled politician, and one would expect him to adapt his message to a particular audience. What is perhaps more surprising is to see someone who styles himself a mainstream figure adapt the message so readily to the toxic worldview of Alex Jones.
Jones, a burly, gravel-voiced Texan, has built a sizeable audience and achieved notoriety by broadcasting conspiracy theories and other falsehoods through his Infowars website and broadcast network, on which Farage has appeared at least six times.
Even in a UK inured to a post-Brexit, Trumpian world of “fake news” and political cynicism, many of Jones’s beliefs are shocking. Over the years, he has argued September 11 and the 7 July 2005 attacks in London, along with the Sandy Hook school massacre in 2012, were either faked or the work of “deep-state” plotters, prompting lawsuits and social media bans.
The thread that runs through many of Jones’s broadcasts is the idea – closely linked to antisemitic and far-right conspiracy theories – that a shadowy cabal of bankers, bureaucrats and politicians are trying to usher in an authoritarian “new world order” without nation states.
Listening fully to Farage’s six often lengthy interviews with Jones, dating from 2009 to last year, it is immediately obvious the Brexit party leader is not about to challenge his host on this.
Among the ideas stated as facts by Jones and not disputed by his guest are that the US government has been replaced by a private company board, that journalists who question climate change at press conferences are “dragged out at gunpoint”, and that the UN and EU are under the control of pharmaceutical companies.
But what also becomes evident is that Farage has conspiracy theories of his own: primarily that the EU is part of a wider plot to usher in world government. Here, the former Ukip leader regularly used terms closely linked to coded antisemitism, such as “globalists”, or references to the Bilderberg group and Goldman Sachs.
The most recent chat with Jones, in April 2018, was one of the most open on this front. Here, Farage argued the “deep state” could be behind chemical weapons attacks in Syria, and claimed leftwingers were in league with radical Islam to end the nation state and “replace it with the globalist project”.
Farage added: “The globalists have wanted to have some form of conflict with Russia as an argument for us all to surrender our national sovereignty and give it up to a higher global level.”
Similar themes emerge in every interview. In August 2016, Farage concurred with his host that the US-Hungarian banker George Soros – a common hate figure in online antisemitism – wanted global forces to run police and regulate the internet. In June 2010, Farage argued the “global warming/carbon tax scam” was a way to exert global control. In November 2012, he said the “banking system and politics became hand in glove” to subvert democracy.
The majority of the interviews took place when Farage either was a relatively fringe figure or had stepped down as Ukip leader. After the EU referendum in 2016, he cemented a second career on the US talkshow and punditry circuit, primarily with the pro-Donald Trump Fox News.
Even here, speaking on network TV, Farage’s ideas might seem eye-opening to some of the 85,000 people who have paid to become Brexit party supporters. In December, Farage told Fox the UN wanted to make all criticism of immigration illegal, while the year before, he told the channel that migration had made Sweden “the rape capital of the world”.
As Brexit faltered and Farage decided to return to UK party politics, such sentiments appear to have dried up. Certainly, Jones – now banned permanently from Facebook and YouTube, limiting his reach – seems set to wait in vain for a seventh interview.
Will this matter to Farage’s mass of new or returning supporters, as he promises to take on the Conservative-Labour duopoly in Westminster? Possibly not, especially when such ideas are increasingly common among Europe’s populist politicians, as well as via Trump.
One complication is the very pointed criticism of Farage by the UK’s two main Jewish groups and the Muslim Council of Britain, and by bereaved parents of people killed on 7 July 2005 and at Sandy Hook. This is condemnation that cannot just be brushed off, especially given Farage said he had left Ukip to escape extremism.
Whatever the reaction, the long and regular chats with Jones seemingly demonstrate one of two things about Farage: at best, he is a politician happy to fit in with even the most unsavoury opinions of a flattering host; at worst, he is one who genuinely believes a series of demonstrably false conspiracy theories of a kind most commonly propagated by the antisemitic far right.