Who’s Afraid of the Alex Jones Documentary?
A new doc about the polarizing Infowars star is being quietly censored according to the filmmakers
Alex’s War, a new documentary about Alex Jones that attempts to penetrate the mystique of the polarizing founder of Infowars, faces an additional challenge. The film, which chronicles Jones’ involvement in the Stop the Steal movement and how his paranoid populism and manic charisma influenced American political culture, is running into some of the same restrictions that have confronted its subject, albeit on a smaller scale.
Rather than just being panned by critics or rejected by the public, the film’s producers and director say that they are facing something more like a coordinated blackout. Reviewers and distributors are scared to take on the documentary, they claim, fearful of the potential backlash, while online platforms are using their opaque rules for content regulation to prevent the film from reaching an audience. Of course, there have always been challenges in making difficult art that challenges viewers—that, in itself, is nothing new. But the reception of the documentary, which attempts to be a balanced portrait, not a celebration of Jones, suggests that even journalistic efforts to depict controversial subjects now face soft censorship pressures.
Presales for Alex’s War were trending in the top three slots on the iTunes Store this week, competing with (and in some cases beating) blockbuster films like Top Gun and Green Lantern. This happened without, as Hadrian Belove of Play Nice Ltd., the production company behind the film, shared, “Any editorial attention from the iTunes store.”
But that’s not to say that there’s no enthusiasm for the film. When it was announced that Glenn Greenwald would be interviewing both Jones and the film’s director, Alex Lee Moyer, at the premiere on Saturday, tweets about it went viral not once, not twice, but multiple times. Before it even came out, the film was nothing if not an attention-generator. But according to Moyer and Belove, they’ve experienced several attempts to sabotage Alex’s War’s release.
Before shooting had started, the documentary was already hitting snags in production. When I spoke to Moyer about her experience hiring a crew, she said that it had been “really hard to find people.” Potential hires had to be put through extensive vetting to weed out people with political, as opposed to artistic, motivations, including those who might want to sabotage the film.
Nothing about this film has been straightforward, according to Belove. There have been issues with distribution—par for the course for movies that a theatrical distribution company hasn’t acquired—so Belove has been booking theaters himself with the help of an independent booker. He shared some of the responses he received from venues, many of them to the tune of this one, which read: “Alex Jones is not someone we would want our organization associated with in any capacity whatsoever.”
“Almost no one in Austin would rent us a theater for the premiere,” Belove said of the film’s reception in Jones’ hometown of Austin, Texas, a city once known for its tolerance of eccentricity and “live weird or die” ethos. “We were turned down by the Austin Film Society after telling them what it was, and Alamo Drafthouse stopped answering inquiries. We experienced the same nationwide.”
The Angelika Film Center in Manhattan, one of the theaters Belove did find willing to screen Alex’s War, briefly pranked them, switching out the trailer on the preview page with a link to the January 6th hearings. The video has since been replaced with the trailer.
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Despite the film’s topicality and the fact that Jones has been a media fixture, Belove alleges that “much press has refused to review,” the documentary. Belove claimed that The New York Times and Deadline said they wouldn’t cover the film because of the “subject matter and approach.” It’s certainly plausible that reviewers would be reluctant to write about the documentary, lest they be seen as “platforming” a film about Jones, let alone betraying any sympathy for its subject. But there are also plenty of nonpolitical reasons an independent feature seeking distribution might get overlooked. As a freelance journalist, I receive dozens of weekly requests to review books and movies—staff writers often receive many more. Competition for these types of placements can be fierce.
The clearest case for the documentary being censored is taking place on content streaming sites and social media platforms.
“We almost didn’t get on Amazon at all because Amazon has a rule that doesn’t allow independent short films or documentaries,” Belove told me. “I call it The Plot Against the President rule,” Belove said referencing a February 2021 change to Amazon’s licensing agreement stating they would no longer accept unsolicited documentary submissions, which he suggests was adopted after the independent documentary based on Tablet columnist Lee Smith’s book of the same title became massively popular on the site. The point of the rule, Belove suggests, was to give Amazon an indirect way of banning potentially controversial counterestablishment content. According to their site, however, the rule is now more nebulous, stating that it’s at the company’s discretion whether a film can be streamed on Amazon.
Despite the rule, Belove has, for now, found a way to get the movie on Amazon. “I eventually found a service deal with a larger distribution company willing to get us through the embargo, but only after a large Christian distributor said yes, and then backed out after Alex Jones made the news again.”
Across other platforms, Alex’s War has been accused of multiple violations. Google claimed that the marketing for the film violated their advertising policies and community guidelines for “inauthentic behavior.” A separate violation from YouTube—Google and YouTube are both owned by the same parent company, Alphabet—claimed the film’s marketing was engaged in “suspicious banking activity.” On some platforms, like TikTok, they’ve been unable to advertise at all, while on others it appears that they’re only prevented from doing sponsored ads.
Belove also alleged that the trailer had been “shadow-banned” on YouTube. In his account, the trailer was buried as the 19th result, and the only way to easily access it was through a direct link. This is a controversial and documented tactic used by large tech companies to disappear certain kinds of content (though often disputed by the companies themselves).
On Facebook and Instagram, posts about the film were removed because they “mention politicians or [are] about sensitive social issues that could influence public opinion, how people vote and may impact the outcome of an election or pending legislation,” according to a statement from the platforms’ parent company, Meta. At one point, Facebook also flagged marketing material about the movie as a “political ad,” forcing its producers to prove to the company that they were not a political entity or running advertisements on behalf of a politician before they could have the flag lifted. Belove also alleged that their digital marketer had his personal Facebook account banned from promotions after attempting to post about the film. On TikTok, they could not post videos from the film because they contained “hateful behavior […] content that attacks or incites violence against an individual or a group of individuals on the basis of protected attributes.”
What lends credibility to Belove’s claims that this has been coordinated censorship are reports that CNN experienced something similar with their Alex Jones special. Megaphone for Conspiracy was briefly canceled after too many complaints that it gave Jones a platform. Like Alex’s War, Megaphone was eventually released. Just not without a fight.