Elon Musk has won the hearts and minds of many free speech advocates lately, after he recently purchased Twitter and reinstated several high-profile accounts that had previously been banned. The most notable of those newly reinstated accounts is that of former President Donald Trump. Kathy Griffin, Jordan Peterson, and the Babylon Bee were also welcomed back onto the platform.
But Musk ran afoul of other free speech purists when he adamantly refused to reinstate controversial “Infowars” host Alex Jones. Jones infamously denied the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 and openly discussed his skepticism of police and news reports about the shooting on his radio program shortly after it occurred.
Though Jones later apologized for that denial, he still faced daunting lawsuits from outraged members of the victims’ families. Several lawsuits filed on their behalf accused Jones of profiting from the deaths of their loved ones by denying on his popular radio program that they ever occurred. His radio program is supported by lucrative deals from corporate sponsors, so the lawsuits alleged that he had, in essence, monetized their grief. Juries sided with the families in the lawsuits, and Jones has since been ordered to pay the families nearly a billion dollars in restitution.
For his Sandy Hook statements and other controversial arguments, many social media platforms — including Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, and Twitter — banned Jones permanently in 2018. At the time, Facebook claimed that it had banned Jones “for violating our hate speech and bullying policies.”
Though Facebook, part of Meta, has not yet relented and reinstated Jones or Trump, Musk and Twitter initially appeared interested in restoring even controversial accounts in deference to free speech. With Trump’s Twitter account restored, many clamored for Jones’ to be restored as well. But last Friday, Musk flatly refused to consider doing so.
Then in a series of tweet replies late Sunday night, Musk finally explained his reasons why Jones will not be restored to Twitter.
When neuroscientist Sam Harris asked why Jones should not be restored, Musk dodged the direct question and instead cleverly referenced the Sandy Hook shooting to Harris, an avid atheist, by quoting Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew: “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
— Sam Harris (@Sam Harris)
However, that answer did not satisfy the beleaguered online entrepreneur known as Kim Dotcom, who defended Jones by reminding Musk that Jones has apologized for the Sandy Hooks claims, that Jones’ so-called “conspiracy theories” have often been proven right, and that other “serial liars” are allowed on the platform. For these reasons, Dotcom argued, Jones should be reinstated.
At that point, Musk admitted that the decision to continue the Jones ban is also personal for him: “My firstborn child died in my arms. I felt his last heartbeat. I have no mercy for anyone who would use the deaths of children for gain, politics or fame.”
— Sam Harris (@Sam Harris)
In 2002, Musk’s first child, Nevada Alexander, died of sudden infant death syndrome at just 10 weeks old. Though medical teams resuscitated the child temporarily, little Nevada spent three days on life support before Musk and his then-wife, Justine Wilson, decided to remove him from the machines.
Wilson and Musk had five more children before they divorced in 2008. Musk also has two children with the singer known as Grimes and twins with Shivon Zilis, one of Musk’s business associates.
For his part, Jones said that he understands Musk’s reasons for continuing to ban him on Twitter. He also claimed that he has little interest in ever returning to the platform.
“I understand why Musk did this,” Jones said in a video posted on Sunday. “He’s got the [Anti-Defamation League] and the Democratic Party on him. He’s got the EU on him trying to shut him down right now.
“Now, do I blame Elon Musk for this? No, ladies and gentlemen. And quite frankly, I don’t care if I get brought back to Twitter,” Jones continued.
“I’m the most controversial figure in the world,” Jones added, “because I’m the most threatening to the new world order. So don’t expect him to bring me back day one when he has to first get control of the platform before he can even think about that.”