Ted Anderson, a precious metals dealer, hoped to build business for his gold and silver dealer when he launched a radio network in suburban Minneapolis a couple of decades ago. Shortly thereafter, he signed a contract with a brash young radio host named Alex Jones.
Together they shaped today’s disinformation economy.
The two built a lucrative operation out of a tangled network of niche advertisers, fundraising and promotional media subscriptions, nutritional supplements and survival products. mr. Jones has become a conspiracy theory heavyweight, while Mr. Anderson’s company, Genesis Communications Network, prospered. Their plan to make money has been replicated by many other disinformation dealers.
mr. Jones eventually gave up his addiction to Genesis as he moved beyond radio and attracted a large following online. However, they were once again closely linked in lawsuits, accusing them of fueling a false story about the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
mr. Jones was found guilty by default those cases. Last month, attorneys for the plaintiffs expelled Genesis from the list of defendants. Christopher Mattei, one of the lawyers, said in a statement that Genesis’ involvement in the trial would divert attention from the main target: Mr. Jones and his media organization.
The move freed Genesis, which says on its website that it has “established itself as the largest independent talk radio network in the country,” from the harsh penalties likely to await Mr. C. Jones. But the cases, which were soon sent to jurors to determine damages, continue to shed light on the economy that helps propagate misleading and false media claims.
Spreading lies and misleading content, especially in the run-up to this fall’s midterm elections, is often blamed for a gullible audience and a widening party split. Disinformation can also be extremely lucrative, and not just for big names like Mr. Black. Jones, but also for companies that host websites, advertise or distribute content in the background.
“Disinformation exists for ideological reasons, but there is always a connection to very commercial interests — they always find each other,” said Hilde van den Balk, a media professor at Drexel University who has studied Mr. George. Jones. “It’s a small world full of networks of people finding ways to help each other.”
mr. Jones and Mr. Anderson did not respond to requests for comment for this article.
Genesis originated in the late 1990s as a marketing ploy, working hand in hand with Midas Resources. Anderson’s bullion business, he said. He told the media watchdog FAIR in 2011: “Midas Resources needs clients, Genesis Communications Network needs sponsors.”
Alex Jones and his bleak worldview fit nicely into that equation.
Genesis began syndicating Mr. Jones was around the time he was fired from the Austin station in 1999, said this year’s host on Infowars, a website he runs. It was a complementary, if sometimes unpleasant, partnership — “kind of a marriage made in hell,” Ms. Van den Balk said.
Archival footage shows G. Jones, pugnacious and prone to ranting, broadcasting gruesome statements about the imminent demise of the dollar before presenting Mr. Anderson, bespectacled and generally mild-mannered, to deliver advanced fields for safe haven metals such as gold. Occasionally, Mr. Jones interrupted performances with rants such as time in 2013 when he cut Mr. Anderson yelled “racist” over 20 times in 30 seconds.
Genesis also includes a gay comedian; former ACLU lawyer; Hollywood actor Stephen Baldwin; long-term psychologist on call Dr. Joy Brown; a home improvement expert known as “The Cajun Contractor”; and a group of self-proclaimed “normal guys with normal views” talking about sports.
But over time, the network developed a reputation for a particular type of programming by promoting it. “CONSPIRACY” content on its website and communicates MinnPost in 2011 that its advertisers “specialize in preparedness and survival.”
Several shows have been fronted by firearm enthusiasts. There was christian rocker who opposed gay rights, and a politician who held unsubstantiated theories about the participants in the crisis and the nationality of President Obama. One program promoted lessons on how to “store food, learn about the importance of precious metals, or even survive a gunfight.” Jason Lewis, a Minnesota Republican politician who faced backlash during the 2018 election season following his misogynistic speech on the air resurfaced, made a syndication deal with Genesis, and set up headquarters at Genesis.
The ties between Mr. Jones and Genesis began to fray about a decade ago when Mr. Jones struck a deal whereby Genesis would handle only one-third of his syndication deals. Now about 30 stations include Mr. Jones on his schedule, according to a review by Dan Friesen, one of the podcast’s hosts. Knowledge battle, which he and a friend created to analyze and chronicle Mr. Career Jones. Of these, more than a third transferred it to the late evening and early morning. Several stations replaced Mr. Jones with conservative hosts like Sean Hannity or Dan Bongino.
mr. Jones’ attitude towards Mr. Anderson continued to fade after 2015, when the Minnesota Department of Commerce closed Midas. The agency described Midas and Mr. Anderson as “incompetent” and ordered the company to compensate customers after “regular misappropriation of money”.
Now the Midas website redirects to a multi-level marketing company selling the same supplements as the Genesis online store. The founder of the supplement company hosts a show hosted by Genesis and has also appeared on Mr. The Jones Show.
But Mr. Jones has his own business selling Infowars-branded supplements, as well as products like Infowars masks and bumper stickers that declare Covid-19 a hoax. One of his lawyers calculated that the conspiracy theorist spawned $56 million in revenue last year.
“The impossibility of this kind of symbiotic relationship between gold sales at radio affiliates really harms their connectivity,” Mr. Wilson said. Friesen spoke about Mr. Jones and his former benefactor. “At that point, Alex had a slightly greater need to diversify his funding options, and Ted took a backseat.”
But in 2018, the families of several Sandy Hook victims sued Mr. Sandy Hook. Jones and named Genesis as a defendant. Lawyers for the families referred to Mr. Anderson’s frequent appearances on Mr. Jones and said that Genesis is distributing Mr. Jones helped get his lies across to “a hundred thousand, if not millions of people.”
mr. Jones, Genesis, and the other defendants “think up complex and false conspiracy theories with a touch of paranoia because it promotes the product and they make money,” the lawyers wrote.
After the lawsuits were filed, both Genesis and Mr. According to court documents, Jones was denied coverage for liability claims by West Bend Mutual Insurance, which began working with Genesis in 2012. After Genesis was expelled as a defendant, she continued to solicit donations, claiming online that her “freedom of speech is in the balance.”
The trial shows increasingly prominent roles or lawsuits as a cudgel against those accused of spreading false and misleading information. In 2020, Fox News settled on millions of dollars with parents Seth Richa murdered Democratic aide whose death was falsely linked online to an email leak on the eve of the 2016 presidential election.
Smartmatic as well as Dominion sued Fox News and other conservative publications and figures last year after tech companies were targeted at unsubstantiated claims about voting fraud and are seeking damages worth billions of dollars. When Smartmatic and Dominion were still threatened with legal action, several or the shops broadcast segments that attempted to clarify or debunk conspiracy theories about voting systems companies.
“This seems to be the first time in a long time that this is a very tangible way to hold people accountable for the harm they cause and the ways they profit from that harm,” said Rachel E. Moran. , Fellow at the Center for the Informed Public at the University of Washington.
In a lawsuit last year, Genesis told the court that it was simply accused of being “a radio distributor – the radio equivalent of a paperboy, not an author, publisher, or broadcaster.” The filing claimed that the company “has no brains; he has no memory; it cannot form intention.”
Lawyers for the families responded that the network should be “treated the same way as a newspaper or book publisher” with a high degree of awareness of “the false narrative that Genesis has broadcast to a wide audience repeatedly over the years.”