The first time I saw Alex Jones on my computer screen, I was transfixed.
He spoke with such passion and such force that it was impossible to pull your eyes away from him.
It was clear that he was a charismatic performer.
It was clear he was accustomed to having an audience hanging off his every word.
It was clear he was bark-at-the-moon out of his mind.
To listen to his rambling descents into madness were to watch the very fabric of the universe split at the seams, disgorging a stream of gibbering half-formed monstrosities into our world.
Conspiracies piled upon conspiracies piled upon conspiracies until nothing was what it appeared.
Everything was a “false flag” attack, set in motion by the government to allow it to take another nefarious step in some dark overarching plan that Jones would screech about into his microphone.
Jones was the one who knew all the answers. He could see it all. There were multiple dimensions and demons and “literal vampire pot-bellied goblins” climbing out of the sewer coming after us.
Jones has played to a segment of the crowd that’s so unhinged and disconnected from objective reality that it’s become a danger.
Mass shootings have been labeled as crisis actors and shams with no actual loss of life.
Jones is at the center of a lawsuit over things he said about the Sandy Hook shooting.
Those types of conspiracies have been among the worst, because it so frequently involves actual grieving family members facing people who yell, scream and spit, demanding that they prove not only that their loved ones died, but that they existed at all.
That brand of illness does not solely belong to Alex Jones, to be sure.
There are plenty more who have followed in his footsteps, realizing the more outlandish their claims, the more they play to fear and uncertainty, the more attention they got — the more money they stood to make.
What in our culture is allowing such madness to fester? What seems to encourage it to spread?
One mechanism it relies on in our connected world is social media. Jones harnessed the power of both Facebook and Twitter to gather a legion of followers who would heed whatever he said — and would often buy the supplements and other products he would hawk.
This week, Twitter said it had enough and banned Jones and his InfoWars brand from the platform.
That follows similar moves from Facebook and YouTube.
Some have tried to make this a free speech issue, but all of those platforms are private companies, not public squares.
They’re acting in their best interest — excising a cancer before its cost comes home to roost.
This isn’t a left or right issue — conservative or liberal.
It’s about disempowering an enraged carnival barker before he can do more harm.
Chris Lykins is the editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at email@example.com.