Podcast of the Week: MEDIA ROOTS
Traditionally, this column introduces podcasts in broad strokes to encourage potential listeners to take a dive into the entire catalog. Occasionally, however, I like to highlight specific episodes of a podcast that I think are worth tuning in to. This is one of those instances, because the independent news podcast Media Roots recently interviewed Kelly Jones, the ex-wife of infamous conspiracy blow-hard Alex Jones. The interview is wide-ranging, harrowing, and deeply humanizing; Jones comes across as desperate woman, but also remarkably sane. In short, the episode demonstrates the best aspects of podcasting, when people who would otherwise be marginalized and never given a platform get a chance to have their story heard.
In case you spend no time on the internet, Alex Jones is a peddler of conspiracy theories and supplements who delivers his lengthy radio/internet broadcasts in the style of a manic Evangelical preacher. Also, because we live on the darkest timeline, he’s a friend of the Trump administration and is routinely held up as a legitimate journalist. People familiar with Jones were probably aware that he went through a bizarre divorce, with such laughable headlines as “the chili incident”. I know I was guilty as anyone to laugh at the most outrageous moments from his divorce proceedings, but last I had heard, Jones’ wife had gotten custody of their children and that was the end of it.
Only it wasn’t, one of the Jones children is still living with Alex, and Kelly is struggling to maintain primary custody. She is near penniless and facing “aggressive litigation” from Alex’s legal team. Despite the clear evidence that Alex Jones is an alcoholic and a diagnosed narcissist, his influence as a media figure and his considerable wealth have made him able to outmaneuver his wife.
The story of Kelly’s legal woes would be compelling enough, but what really makes this interview remarkable is how Robbie Martin deftly explores Jones’ development into the meme and Trump propagandist we know him as today. Alex Jones has always believed the government is out to get us, but as Robbie and Kelly explain, he used to be at least somewhat more grounded in reality and principles of civil liberties. Kelly readily acknowledges her part in helping Alex become the monster he is today, but it’s also painfully clear that he is no longer the man she married. Most intriguing is the money Jones has suddenly come into in the past few years since he joined the Trump train, particularly through his connection to Sinclair Broadcasting.
There’s a lot more to the interview, I haven’t spoiled it for you by any means. It lays out a complex story of regrets and frustrations for someone who’s spent a large portion of her life in the shadow of a megalomaniac. It also carries the weight of a perverse injustice specific to the American legal system. Most importantly, it’s a sobering reminder that even easy punchlines like Alex Jones can have tragic, real world consequences. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I heard it, just listen to it.