‘The Truth vs. Alex Jones’ Review: A Vivid Portrait of a Villain on Trial

Documentary filmmaker Dan Reed doesn’t shy away from unpleasant topics. Among the many films he’s either directed or produced are Leaving Neverland, a deep dive into the Michael Jackson sexual abuse allegations; Four Hours at the Capitol, about the Jan. 6 insurrection; and Terror at the Mall, relating the horrific events of a terrorist attack in Kenya that left 71 people dead. But the psychological demands placed on him by these efforts must have paled in comparison to the burden placed on him by his latest effort, The Truth vs. Alex Jones, which required him to stare at the face of its repugnant subject over the course of many months. Medals have been given for less.

The documentary receiving its world premiere at SXSW chronicles two trials resulting from defamation lawsuits filed by the parents of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. Justice of sorts was accomplished, with Jones ordered to pay nearly $1.5 billion in damages. But what these parents had to suffer in the process, on top of what had already occurred, was obscene.

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The film begins with a brief primer on Jones, who started his career on public access television in Austin when he was in his mid-20s. His penchant for sensationalism was evident from the beginning, as demonstrated by footage of broadcasts about supposedly radioactive water reaching the shores of California in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident, for which he handily had a solution in the form of iodine supplements he peddled on-air. He also trafficked heavily in conspiracy theories, including, of course, about 9/11.

A harrowing recap of the Sandy Hook events follows, including interviews with several of the grieving parents and audio recordings of 911 calls. Most powerfully, a police detective describes the events in detail, along the way painstakingly and heart-breakingly making sure to recite the names of each and every one of the 26 victims, both adults and children.

Within hours of the events, Jones was on InfoWars declaring that the mass shooting was a “false flag operation.” He mocked one of the victims’ fathers for the way he nervously smiled before stepping up to the cameras to make a statement, saying he looked like a “soap opera actor” and was clearly faking. He accused another father, Leonard Pozner, of lying when he said that he held his 6-year-old son Noah’s dead body.

After years enduring such lies and the harassment of Jones’ demented followers, Pozner had enough. He and his wife sued Jones for defamation. The documentary filmmaker apparently had unfettered access to the resulting trial held in Travis County, Texas, in which Jones, whose lawyer describes him as an “American hero,” testified that he was a “good person” and admitted under oath that the Sandy Hook shooting had actually occurred. That’s despite the fact that his years of lies had already caused some 24 percent of Americans to believe that the events had been staged.

Much of the footage proves fascinating, such as Jones’ father, who worked for him, admitting, “We like to emulate spikes,” referring to the sharp increases in sales that occurred depending on what his son talked about. Even while Jones apologizes on the stand, he manages to work in a sales pitch for his vitamin supplements. You can practically see the judge’s blood pressure rising in real time. During her testimony, Jesse’s mother attempts to plead directly to Jones, but it’s like talking to a stone. Nonetheless, she later brings him a cup of water and cough drops because of his constant hacking.

At one point, a lawyer asks Jones about an image from a recent broadcast. The judge asks, “Can I see it, please?” and chuckles nervously when she observes that it’s a screenshot of an image of her face in flames. Jones explains that it’s merely a depiction of the judge “consuming freedom.”

The crowning moment is when it’s revealed that Jones’ lawyer had accidentally sent opposing counsel Jones’ complete cellphone records for the previous two years, including texts definitively proving that he had repeatedly lied. The result was that Jones was ordered to pay the plaintiffs $50 million, which his lawyer describes as a “manageable number.”

The second trial, a result of another lawsuit filed by several of the Sandy Hook parents, is covered less exhaustively. Still, there are many disturbing moments, such as one of the parents testifying that he had received messages from people claiming to have urinated on their son’s grave and threatening to dig it up to prove that no one was buried there. Once again, Jones lost and was ordered to pay nearly $1.5 billion, representing the largest penalty in a defamation case in U.S. history. Not long after, Jones declared bankruptcy. As of this month, none of the monetary damages, which Jones is shown mocking on-air, had been paid.

At the end of the film, we see the graves of several of the young victims, the dates on their headstones testifying to the lives that were so brutally cut short. Jones, meanwhile, is still broadcasting. Tragically, The Truth vs. Alex Jones doesn’t deliver any closure. What it does provide is a disturbing reminder that the fight against evil will likely be never-ending.

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