Alex Jones, or how to derive revenue from conspiracy

American conspirator Alex Jones was ordered on Wednesday to pay nearly a billion dollars to the relatives of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre for defamation. A colossal sum which comes to punish the one who, for years, has prospered thanks to conspiracy. But, spreading infox, how much does it pay?

Text messages mistakenly sent by Alex Jones’ lawyer during his first trial in Texas revealed that Jones’ company, Free Speech Systemgenerated between 700,000 and 800,000 dollars per day since Infowars is no longer broadcast on Facebook and YouTube (Alex Jones was banned in 2021 for “inciting hatred”).

Called to the bar, the economist Bernad Pettingill estimated that Free Speech Systems had generated $65 million in revenue in 2021. He estimates that in all, the company is worth between 135 and 270 million dollars, an estimate rejected by the camp of Alex Jones.

Infox sites like Infowars would generate a total of 2.2 billion euros per year, according to a study by NewsGuard and Comscore.

But what’s special about Alex Jones is that it’s not just about ad revenue. On his site, he sells all kinds of products related to alternative medicine, wellness and “survivalism”. Products that have not been approved by the US health administration, the FDA. During the Covid-19 pandemic, for example, he claimed that his toothpaste “super silver“could protect against the coronavirus.

The trial of Alex Jones served to illustrate that conspiracies linked to dramas were particularly successful. During the time he was denying the reality of the Sandy Hook shooting, the viewership of the Alex Jones show and the sales of his website skyrocketed.

An economic model copied by conspirators around the world

In the United States, other platforms profit from conspiracy and alternative beliefs. Dubbed by some the “Netflix of spirituality”, the video platform Gaia primarily hosts yoga, spiritual awakening, and alternative medicine content. According to a survey of Business Insiderthere is also anti-vax misinformation and conspiracy theories, all for 11.99 euros/month.

Alex Jones’ methods have spread far beyond the United States. “His monetization of conspiracy has been a model in France. Today, any promoter will try to follow this model, like Alain Soral who has organic shops“, describes Tristan Mendès-France, of theObservatory of conspiracy.

The newspaper The world cites for example the derived products sold on the anti-vax site Qanon Francophone Human Alliancelike a mug bearing the inscription “adult and unvaccinated“.

No one got rich like Alex Jones, but he’s widely looked up to as a role model“, supports the British researcher Peter Knight, president of the European research project COMPACT on conspiracy theories. “An even more influential example than Alex Jones in the UK is David Icke, he specifies, but he mainly earns money by selling books or making public interventions“.

The economic model of conspiracy finds its limits in what is currently happening to Alex Jones. “It’s a real message sent to businessmen and promoters, that getting rich, lining your pockets with misinformation is risky.“, analyzes Tristan Mendès-France.

Alex Jones, or how to derive revenue from conspiracy