BROOKE GLADSTONE: Among many others, his article cites Alex Jones - a syndicated radio host and editor of the website InfoWars.com. That site offers links to a variety of articles that support what Popular Mechanics would regard as conspiracy theories concerning such topics as 9/11, the New World Order, and the annual meeting of powerful men at Bohemian Grove. Jones's website charges Popular Mechanics with unfairly taking aim at what he calls "the 9/11 Truth Movement." Alex Jones, welcome to OTM.
ALEX JONES: Well, thank you for having me on the broadcast.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Why don't you tell me first what's your principal beef with the Popular Mechanics article.
ALEX JONES: Well, they build up a straw man, and for those that don't know what a straw man is, you can't defeat the real arguments, so you go in and either misrepresent what your opposition's arguments are, or you construct false arguments and then attack, basically, a false theory that you can then destroy and discredit. So they build up these straw men, and then they knock it down.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Of the 16 items that Popular Mechanics claims to have debunked, how many did you subscribe to in the first place?
ALEX JONES: Oh, that's a great question. I've actually criticized many of the things they criticize, and much of the body of the 9/11 Truth Movement actually debate with each other. We're just asking questions. And so they would go out and find the wildest conspiracy theories, and then they would attack those areas, and then mix it in with other serious research, and, and that's what they did here. That's another part of this straw man argument.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Now Meigs told us that he found that many popular conspiracy theories have sprung from early 9/11 reporting - things that were said that were never really backed up and were later corrected. Do you ever post corrections?
ALEX JONES: Oh, absolutely. We go back and post new developments, post new articles. We're looking for the truth, and what we do know is that it wasn't just misreporting. We had a lot of government officials putting out lies, and then that's caused a lot of this. But some of it's new. I mean Rumsfeld, last year, has twice in press conferences - and I'm looking at the AP article in front of me - said that they shot down Flight 93 over Pennsylvania. His head envoy to Canada - it's in the Toronto Star this last Thursday - came right out and said that they ordered F-16s launched to go shoot down that flight, and then the official story is, is that they hadn't done that.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Those are all respectable news sources that you quote, but what kind of filter do you use? I mean you link to articles from the New York Times and the Washington Post and the BBC, but also to sites that are far more out on the fringe. How do you decide what's worthy of a link on your site?
ALEX JONES: Well, generally alternative news that we link to is citing other mainstream sources or congressional testimony.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And they often misquote that testimony. Those aren't journalists who necessarily have a responsibility to the truth but maybe just to prove a point.
ALEX JONES: The body of what we cover is mainstream news and kind of the things that fall between the cracks, and our track record is excellent on deciphering and exposing 9/11. Really, what we do, is we put everything out there except the most extreme government propaganda or the most extreme, you know, conspiracy theories. You can find sites out there that say no planes hit the towers - they were holograms. I think that's government dis-info. We've tracked those individuals back to government employ.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So you're saying that some conspiracy theories are actually being disseminated by the government.
ALEX JONES: Yes, we in some cases have actually tracked it back to people working for the government, and disinformation is classic. There's been a lot of different congressional hearings back in the late '70s about the government infiltrating the Peace Movement and putting out dis-info or radical information. Yes, on purpose, trying to radicalize the debate so it looks so ridiculous real, rational, serious people won't even pay attention to it.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Do you object to the terms "conspiracy theory" and "conspiracy theorist?"
ALEX JONES: I really do, because that conjures up images of UFOs and chupacabras, and it's a label, it's a stereotype for anybody that questions authority. I mean our Founding Fathers told us to question the government. Common sense in history shows us that the government is more apt to lie to the people than any other institution. And so, I think that the muckrakers - call me a muckraker. I mean, I'm out there investigating and cross-checking and really having a memory when it comes to different government stories, and so really what I do is point out their inconsistencies and how their official story has holes in it you can fly a 747 through.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Alex Jones, thank you very much for talking to us.
ALEX JONES: Well, thank you for having me on.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Radio and TV host Alex Jones also edits two websites called InfoWars.com and PrisonPlanet.com. [THEME MUSIC UP & UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: That's it for this week's show. On the Media was produced by Megan Ryan, Tony Field, Jamison York and Mike Vuolo, and edited by me. Dylan Keefe is our technical director and Jennifer Munson our engineer. We also had help from Susanna Dilliplane and Nick Gilewicz, Ed Haber and Neva Grant. Our webmaster is Amy Pearl. Katya Rogers is our senior producer and Dean Cappello our executive producer. Bassist/composer Ben Allison wrote our theme. You can listen to the program and find free transcripts, MP3 downloads and our podcasts at onthemedia.org -- and email us at email@example.com. This is On the Media, from NPR. Bob Garfield will be back next week. I'm Brooke Gladstone. [THEME MUSIC TAG]