“Liar, liar, pants on fire!” belongs on the list of things my mother taught me to never say.
Never tell somebody to “shut up.”
Never call someone “stupid.”
And finally, never accuse anyone of being a “liar.”
I consider that good spiritual advice. Most of you likely agree with banning “shut up” and “stupid.” The words are often used by frustrated people who are unable to tolerate debate.
Liar is a more complicated label. I prefer not to use that title without video proof, fingerprints and other forensic evidence.
When I hear something that sounds untruthful, I try to assume the person is repeating what they were told. I tell myself they truly believe what they are saying and are not trying to deceive me personally.
Some might call me naïve, but perhaps that’s why I didn’t become a prison chaplain. Every week, I’d be campaigning for a prisoner’s release. “Honest, warden, he promised me he didn’t do it.”
So I want you to know, I’ve been a good son and rarely if ever used the word for anyone — that is, until today.
Alex Jones is an unequivocal liar.
You may not know him, but he’s personally affected my life and perhaps yours, too.
Jones is a far-right conspiracy theorist whose prominent radio show, “Infowars,” is worth over $200 million. He first surged to fame as a “truther” saying that the Bush administration was behind the 9/11 attacks. Candidate Trump later lent him legitimacy when he made an appearance on the show.
Sadly, Jones showed a much darker side by promoting “Pizzagate,” the lie that said Hillary Clinton ran a child sex ring from a D.C. pizzeria. He was physically front-and-center in the attack on the U.S. Capitol and became the first to publicly blame Antifa for the attack.
But the most heinous lie he’s repeatedly told is that the killing of 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School never happened. Within hours of the 2012 event, he claimed that the parents were liars, just “crisis actors” who portrayed a role for the news cameras.
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Because of these atrocious, libelous statements, a Texas court last week ruled against Jones and awarded the first of three families $45 million. He’s now filed for bankruptcy, but he passed moral bankruptcy long ago.
Jones’s internet radio show demonstrates how anyone with a microphone can produce a “news show.” The liars can say nearly anything they want. They aren’t trained to find the facts nor are they disposed to telling you the facts.
They lie about who the liars are. They confuse us so much that it’s hard to know if our truth is true.
My dual training as a journalist and a chaplain has taught me to seek both spiritual truths and hard factual truths.
Real journalists aren’t liars and they sure aren’t stupid. Moreover, I know many of them to be of strong faith.
Please learn to trust your local journalists again. They report the news involving their families and yours. They live in your community. They were trained in your schools and their work is checked by their peers and editors.
As for people in the national news, I put my faith in American competition. If these folks lie, they’re quickly replaced by someone else. Notice how easily NBC’s Brian Williams and CBS’s Dan Rather were fired when they bent the truth.
Local and national journalists, like myself, are accountable to an editing team. People like Alex Jones are not.
Jones’s lies have personally affected my family. My late brother, Milton, believed every word Jones said.
When Jones disparaged doctors and promoted his own brand of health supplements, my brother threw away his insulin and blood pressure medicine, bankrupting his family to buy Jones’s phony snake oil.
Milton contracted COVID in December 2020. He died two weeks later, all the while repeating the Jones lie that COVID was only a hoax.
And because of that, I ask that you please join my mother and me in telling Jones and others like him to “Shut up, you stupid liar.”
For the past 21 years, my weekly column has been meticulously checked for grammar and truth by a few dozen people. Thank you to my volunteer proofreaders: Becky Burkes, Davalynn Spencer, Marcè Musser and Ed Kinberg.
My column runs in 35 papers nationwide. Special thanks to John Torres and Britt Kennerly of FLORIDA TODAY, who keep me accountable to you, the reader.
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