The evidence is clear, as the jury decision on Wednesday shows. Big publications need to start calling Jones for what he is.
It’s such a pretty little word, isn’t it? It’s even nicer when you say it out loud. Try it: fab-u-list. So nice. So sweet. Gosh, it’s just one syllable away from “fabulous”. The word doesn’t seem unfriendly at all.
The word also has an air of childish innocence. Perhaps that’s because a common definition describes a “fabulist” as “a person who writes or tells fables.”
The ancient Greek author Aesop heads the pantheon of fable writers. The German Brothers Grimm and celebrated Honduran short storyteller Augusto Monterroso are among a litany of literary icons in this fantastical genre.
Like most people with even a shred of decency and an understanding of the difference between fact and falsehood, I never associated the quirky word “Fabulist” with Alex Jones – a marauding banker who turned his malicious mouth to money and made fame.
Instead, the word’s other simple and blunt meaning immediately springs to mind when I suffer the sickening affront of reading or hearing its foul name: “liar.”
On Wednesday, a jury ordered Jones to pay nearly $1 billion in damages to families of victims of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, about which he lied, dismissing it as a hoax.
Fact: Jones lies like a human cone. His lies are not only dark, they betray the figments of a mind detached from facts and empathy.
He lied when, hours after the shooting, he said the Sandy Hook massacre was “staged.” He lied when he said the killing of 20 children between the ages of six and seven and six teachers and staff was “as fake as a $3 bill” and “stinks to high heaven”. He lied when he said the carnage “looked like a drill”. He lied when he said on his Infowars show that the parents of all dead children are “crisis actors”.
In this grotesque context, I was amazed to read that the New York Times (NYT) and Washington Post – the stubborn bastions of editorial gentility – have chosen to call Jones a “fabulist” in recent weeks.
This is how a Sept. 13, 2022 NYT story described the testimonies of several families of Sandy Hook’s dead children before a jury that considered the harm Jones owed them for the damage his barrage of humiliating lies had caused.
“In harrowing testimony Tuesday, the families of eight Sandy Hook victims began telling a jury about years of agony and threats they endured after Infowars fabulist Alex Jones claimed the school massacre was a government hoax in which they were ‘actors,'” the NYT wrote. Jones was also identified as “Fabulist” in the subheading attached to the story.
No, a “fabulist” was not responsible for the “torment” and “threats” endured by the families of the murdered elementary school children. Nor was a “fabulist” responsible for insisting that the parents of these murdered elementary school children were “actors.”
A malicious liar it was.
To her credit, the NYT reporter referenced Jones’ Sandy Hook “lies” four times in the main part of her story.
However, this raises some confusing questions. If the evidence is clear and compelling that Jones repeatedly lied, why not call him a “liar”?
Is the word too harsh, too open, too judgmental to use – even though it’s accurate?
The NYT – predictably – resorted to the ever-reliable euphemisms “false claims” and “theory” in the same article, proving that camouflaging the truth behind polite-sounding language is still in fashion at the newspaper.
A more egregious example of this annoying tendency—even in the most obvious cases—to not use a “liar” when requested to do so comes courtesy of a Washington Post opinion and editorial writer.