The lawsuit surrounding talk show host Alex Jones is the perfect example of how nothing is absolute. Everything has its limits and free speech is no different.
Jones was ordered yesterday by a Texas jury to pay $4 million in damages for lies he deliberately and repeatedly told about the Sandy Hook School massacre being fake and all part of a government plan to mislead the public.
The parents of a 6-year-old boy who was shot and killed in the school massacre leveled the lawsuit against Jones and detailed from the stand the death threats they have received over the past 10 years from Alex Jones supporters.
The boy's father, Neil Heslin, said the lie pushed by Jones “resonates around the world." Heslin described being repeatedly confronted by those who believed Jones over the last 10 years, saying such interactions occur “right up to this day.”
“My life has been threatened,” Heslin said. “I fear for my life. I fear for my safety and my family’s safety and their lives.”
The boy's mother, Scarlette Lewis, showed a picture of her son from the stand.
“Jesse was real,” Lewis told Alex Jones. “I’m a real mom.”
Lewis then testified she knows that Jones never believed the lies he was telling his audience, lies his audience believed.
“But you keep saying it," Lewis said. "Why? Why? For money?”
In testifying in his own defense, Jones did what he does best. He lied. This earned admonishment from Judge Maya Guerra.
“Mr. Jones, you may not say to this jury that you complied with discovery. That is not true. You may not say it again. You may not tell this jury that you are bankrupt. That is also not true."
Added Gamble with emphasis, "This is not your show!"
One of the fundamental problems our society faces today is doing what is right. Intentionally going on your talk show and claiming children were not really murdered at school is not right.
It's impossible for me to imagine the pain experienced by the parents of those children. To send your first-grader to school and for them never to return is a soul-crushing event.
Just when you think nothing worse can happen, some nutso decides he's going to proclaim the whole thing a fairytale that never really happened. Parents not only have to deal with the pain of losing a child, they have to fend off threats because a talk show host is looking to exploit the tragedy for ratings.
Free speech does not provide the right to deliberately spread lies and harm others. That's perhaps the greatest problem with the internet and social media. Anyone can post anything, regardless of truth.
The lessons to be learned from this case are you can't hide behind free speech when deliberately harming others. And for the people who believed Jones based on internet chatter, do better at finding out the real facts.
Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.