My High School Was Full of Boys Like Alex Jones
On fact, fiction, and the origin stories we claim as our own
Cleaning the kitchen with a baby in the house requires a two-pronged strategy. First, I make a pile of unbreakable objects. It’s an installation of plastic plates, spatulas, and novelty cups that only a one-year-old can truly appreciate. My daughter and I have a deal. She’ll keep from climbing into the dishwasher as long as I let her take the installation apart and throw it, piece by piece, across the room. The plates and cups bounce harmlessly across the floor and she laughs.
Second, I turn on This American Life. Housework feels less like drudgery when I’ve got Ira Glass leading me through America, one act at a time.
This week’s episode featured a piece on Alex Jones’ origin story by Jon Ronson and Lina Misitzis. If comic books have taught me anything, it’s that all super villains have origin stories. So Alex Jones must have one too. Jones himself has claimed his origin story is dramatic—as a high school student, he uncovered corruption in the police department and was brutally attacked by the police because of it.
The origin story his Texas high school peers recounted to Ronson is slightly more pedestrian: Jones was a malevolent bully who eventually got a taste of what he’d been dishing up.
What had he been dishing up? According to everyone from classmates to coaches, it was a hearty helping of satanic flexing in the halls (complete with a blackened tongue and rolled-back eyes, which all seems a little overdone) and at least one exhaustive pummeling in the classroom. Even 20 years later, the man he beat to the point of unconsciousness in a geography class still needs to, as Ronson put it, “be careful with his skull.”
As I listened, I kept thinking, “What kind of high school was this?” I got my answer when Ronson introduced a woman using a pseudonym. “Ellen” wanted listeners to know she isn’t afraid of Alex Jones, but she chose to be anonymous because she is afraid of the people who follow him.
Ellen said that Jones sat across from her in art class and rubbed his hands back and forth while he told her in graphic detail how he would rape her. He was flagrantly aggressive even in a classroom…