The Big Lie: InfoWars Distorts San Antonio’s Care and Feeding of Migrants

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Congolese migrants walk from Travis Park Church to the Resource Center.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Congolese migrants walk from Travis Park Church to the San Antonio Migrant Resource Center.

Alex Jones, founder of the Austin-based InfoWars conspiracy website, sent his pseudo-reporters and their video cams to San Antonio last week to promote a disinformation campaign that Ebola-infected Congolese migrants were passing through the city even as Central American migrants were left to wander downtown streets through the night.

For locals, it’s hardly news anymore that a coalition of church, nonprofit, and City workers has been working tirelessly for months to humanely assist thousands of mostly Central American migrants families released by the U.S. Border Patrol and sent north to San Antonio on Greyhound buses and private shuttles.

The families are welcomed here at a City resource center located one block from the bus station. After being fed, clothed, and treated medically, if necessary, they spend a single night in area shelters such as Travis Park Church before boarding flights or buses the next day to travel legally to live with sponsors and await asylum hearings. The migrant crisis has taxed the resources of the City, Catholic Charities, and the Interfaith Welcome Coalition, but that has not deterred the coalition or its dozens of bilingual volunteers.

It’s another example of San Antonio opening its arms to people in need. That’s not the story InfoWars came to tell, especially when it learned the Border Patrol had released up to 350 Congolese migrants who had made their way from Africa to Brazil and then north to Mexico and across the border.

Infowars host Owen Shroyer is filmed in the San Antonio Migrant Resource Center along Saint Mary's Street downtown.

Courtesy / Nick Longo

Infowars host Owen Shroyer is filmed in the City of San Antonio’s Migrant Resource Center downtown. The identities of the individuals inside the center have been blurred to protect their privacy, as requested by the City.

Jones, some readers will recall, was deposed in March in response to lawsuits filed by families who lost children in the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre. The mass shooting took the lives of 26 people, including 20 first graders. For years, Jones has promoted his claims the shootings were a hoax involving staged actors, a campaign he now justifies, he told lawyers, because he suffers “a form of psychosis” induced by the government and mainstream media.

Therapy must not be helping. Jones’ admission hasn’t stopped him from peddling other phony stories and conspiracy theories. Last week it was San Antonio’s turn in the crosshairs.

Here are two of InfoWars’ headlines, each 100 percent false. Don’t believe me? Try PolitiFact.

“EBOLA IN SAN ANTONIO –  San Antonio Concerned About Ebola in Migrant Shelters,” tops an InfoWars video that features a brief interview with an unbalanced homeless man well-known to downtown aid workers.

“MIGRANTS LOITER ON DOWNTOWN SAN ANTONIO STREETS – Dozens of illegal immigrants with nowhere to go hang out on San Antonio streets overnight,” also is false. Migrants arriving in San Antonio for overnight stays are provided secure sleeping facilities at area church facilities and shelters.

The headlines, of course, are deliberate lies. The interviews conducted by the InfoWars team, including a lengthy on-camera conversation with a remarkably patient and composed Colleen Bridger, the City of San Antonio’s interim assistant city manager who previously ran Metro Health, directly contradict these sensational claims.

“I feel totally confident that there is no threat of Ebola at this facility,” Bridger told InfoWars. “I am totally confident there is no threat of Ebola in the City of San Antonio.”

There is a greater chance, she noted, of someone in San Antonio being exposed to measles in New York, where there has been an outbreak among unvaccinated children.

City of San Antonio Health Director Colleen Bridger.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Interim Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger

Truth, facts, and accuracy are not tools of the trade at InfoWars. The real goal for Jones has always been to turn a buck by trading in disinformation and propaganda, using deliberate deception to arouse his like-minded InfoWars readers, many of whom can be expected to spread fake news through their own social networks.

Another far-right website, the Las Vegas-based Conservative Daily Post (CDP), offered its own false version of the story: Border Patrol Surprise: Disease Ridden Congolese Migrants Dumped in San Antonio. I dislike linking to these sites, but I do so lest anyone challenge the accuracy of this column and attempt to introduce his or her own “alternative facts.”

Jones, and members of the InfoWars team that spent time here last week, know very well that none of what they published is true, yet their videos are promoted prominently on the website, which regularly traffics in lies and deception.

After years of turning a blind eye to Jones’ harmful disinformation campaigns dressed up as reportage, Facebook, YouTube, Apple, and Twitter have banned Jones and his videos. The complicity of social media sites in the proliferation of such deceptive content is irrefutable. Again and again, the sites have ignored fake news until public pressure has forced their hand.

Why does it matter? For starters, many people who vote only consume content that plays to their own prejudices and fears. Do they really believe what they read? Some certainly do, while others probably conclude such falsehoods justifiably convey a larger truth, such as the evils of immigration, racial diversity, or sexual identity. Either way, what once were clear lines between fact-based reporting and extremism disguised as news are now so distorted, the civic culture of the nation has been affected for the worse.

The only recourse is to resist it at every turn, starting at home.

28 thoughts on “The Big Lie: InfoWars Distorts San Antonio’s Care and Feeding of Migrants

  1. It’s confounding that Alex Jones is still on the air after the Sandy Hook incident. There will continue to be alternate facts when it comes to immigration. Our city and charities have done so much for so many asylum seekers. Keep up the good work. We need more independent, non-partisan news outlets outside the mainstream media in San Antonio.

  2. Alex has been kicked out of England, taken off of Facebook, etc., etc.,..WHY even respond to him, or his crazy reporters? Just ignore him- however, like trump, ANY news about them is GOOD in their eyes! They are a cancer on our society…don’t give them FREE PR!

  3. I wonder what motivates a person to spread such vicious lies?It’s mind-boggling. He must be a very sad, unhappy, empty person. I am proud that my church, Travis Park, steps up to ALWAYS to care for those in our community who seek basic services, refuge, respect, and acceptance whether it’s homeless individuals, unemployed individuals, the LGBTQ community, or immigrants. The world would be a MUCH better, happier, healthier place if there were more Travis Park Churches and fewer Alex Joneses.

  4. Nobody cares about Alex Jones. It’s a non-story. I don’t even know about it unless Rivard decides to “bravely” cover it. The bigger stories are why do politicians not change our asylum laws and at what point do social media platforms get designated as media companies and come under FEC regs. Both opportunities have much more to do with our democracy and future than nut jobs like Jones who by the way deserve to have their first amendment rights protected. If I have to listen to Graciela Sanchez, listening to Jones is no different.

  5. Must of us want to protect our freedom of speech, and a free press, but if yelling “fire” in a theatre, or a whole slew of defamation laws are accepted exception to the first amendment, then BS like InfoWars puts out should also be considered against the law.

  6. Hahaha, nice call out! I watched most of the videos & when Jones was like Ebola has an incubation of a year or more… Nope!!! 21 days! There has been evidence of it remaining in the body but no evidence of transmission unless you have active infection.

    Not a single one of the SA citizens that got the most air time were credible. Not even the health info systems or w/e girl.

  7. Alex Jones is a snake oil salesman, and there will always be people who want to believe crazy conspiracy theories. I am struck though that there is no significant follow up to domestic violence against women and children, one issue that was front and center in the recent mayoral race. One reader with whom I disagreed pointed out that this was simply a campaign play. Please, please, please—follow up on this issue. Find out what the city, social agencies, etc. are doing to educate, prevent, and police this terrible plague our society faces. Don’t let this issue die because an election is over!

  8. There is an EBOLA epidemic in Africa! So how can anyone be certain that these ILLEGAL ALIENS from Congolese aren’t carrying any EBOLA virus?
    I am a native of San Antonio and I have been using the public transit transportation, in the San Antonio downtown area, for years!! I can tell the difference between an AMERICAN, POOR HOMELESS person and a POOR HOMELESS ILLEGAL ALIEN!!!! It is not a lie, that these ILLEGAL ALIENS are all over our downtown area, roaming our streets!!!
    How can they say differently? Are they being locked up in the church facilities?
    Furthermore!! Our San Antonio City Council has approved for our tax dollars to be funding these NON CITIZENS AND NON TAX PAYERS!!! FOR HELP IN HOUSING!! FEEDING!!! CLOTHING!!! AND GIVEN AIRLINE AND BUS TICKETS!!!!
    They are being rewarded for breaking our immigration laws and transgressing our BORDERS!!!!!!!!

    • Your obviously not a Christian, but then NO trumpie is one! MAGA = we are cursed as a nation because of conservatives like YOU! BTW, if you don’t like immigrants, then LEAVE the US of A, ASAP!

  9. I agree with some of the other commenters, that Infowars thrives on publicity, whether it is good or bad. if good, it brings new people to its site, if bad, it encourages those already there to believe even more.

    I think of the old song “The Streets of Laredo”, where the dying cowboy says, “But please not one word of the man who had killed me. Don’t mention his name and his name will pass on.” I t”But please not one word of the man who had killed me.
    “Don’t mention his name and his name will pass on.” I think this could be applied to people like Jones and his Infowars (as well as mass killers).

  10. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Thank you to members of Travis Park church, volunteers, and the city of San Antonio for the courage to live their faith and humanity towards all those in need.
    I have to add that I have travelled to Madrid, Spain and other cities in the US and my observation has been that our City cares for the needs of our homeless above and beyond what most other cities choose to provide. I am greatful.

  11. This story is fake news. Jones talked about how these migrants have come from Ebola stricken countries, and by not having proper screening these migrants could have Ebola that could spread. Another reason we need the wall and proper screening so that if there is an outbreak of something you and your family aren’t caught up in the midst of it.

    • Reread the above article. There is nothing about what was specifically reported on infowars. It mentions interviews in regards to the content. What it does call out is the false headlines Infowars uses as Clickbait.
      I find the Rivard Report the best source for local news we have. We need to support – call out what is factually wrong if it’s a news story and say what is correct.

  12. InfoWars trafficks in lies? Next you’ll be telling me Fox News isn’t fair and balanced! Do I breathe air? Really hard-hitting stuff, Robert.

  13. Its times like this you realize the scope of the Russian disinformation campaign – two replies above have several key “Russian” tells. Much like we saw in some responses to the Brockhouse articles.

  14. Ebola can stay dormant for 21 days so how would you know if they have it if they are not screening anybody?

    • Migrants were screened as they passed through other countries before reaching our border. Since they all have been traveling for more than 21 days and none are symptomatic, health officials are confident Ebola is not a threat.

      • Understood, but what do those screenings consist of and are they to the same standard than that of the UA? There are dentists in other countries and if I had no other choice by living there, I would go, but being from the US, I trust our dentists and doctors here. You sound incredibly biased and agenda driven.

        • Also, if they screened in those other countries, then why are there still those affected with chickenpox, measles, TB and other flu-like symptoms?

      • If they were screened in those other countries, why didn’t they seek asylum in those countries?

        Or are you going to tell me that there are not safe countries South of our border?

        I agree that Inorwars and the like are disseminating lies, but the tendency of the left to equate ILLEGAL immigration to legal immigration is just as bad, and yet you never call out that practice.

  15. I dislike Mr. Jones as much as the next person but the call for his silencing is shocking to me. I don’t see the ladies on the View any different than Mr. Jones.
    So many in the mainstream media, social media, and politicians call for silencing, censoring, or punishing those with whom they disagree. This will not end well for all of us.

    People have always turned to media, and politicians that feed our views whether they are right wing extremism or left wing extremism. Those of us wanting a balanced approach are out in the cold.

  16. Who made Politifact arbiters of truth? Oh, wait, the far left! You might as well get your unbiased information from Snopes.

  17. Yet all we’ve heard from “real” media over the last couple of years, is story after story that’s turned out to be nothing more than a Russian hoax.

  18. What has happened to this country? News reporters are supposed to report the truth and leave their personal feelings and opinions out it & not be a bunch of liars. We have allowed this to happen in this country and it’s up to us to stop it. Alex Jones is no worse than the women of the View. If we just stop listening to them they will all slink off & never be heard from again.

  19. To all those who hated on Celia, I would have to agree with her. While I do not agree with Alex Jones and Inforwars, it makes no sense to be a troll when it comes to her opinion. She did not attack any other person who shared their opinion. Shame on the trolls. Now, my wife worked for an ORR contracted facility here in San Antonio. So many of the immigrants that did come in from our southern border did have to be quarantined and many of them were exposed to chickenpox and other flu-like symptoms. Moreover, when they process with ICE, the report that their trek takes weeks and months, but when they build rapport with the staff at their holding location, they reveal a different scenario. They admit that it merely takes days. This is the concern with Ebola. When it some to the Congolese immigrants, just how long have they been traveling and how can this be confirmed? What does the medical screening process really consist of? We can take the word of politicians and leaders, but there are some who like to think for themselves since too many leaders have let us down and have lied.

  20. Why hasn’t anyone mentioned the treatment the reporter received when he was in the restaurant? He had something thrown at him and another person in Spanish was yelling for someone to get him out of the restaurant. That is so sad. To be here from another country and demanding for someone to remove a citizen from here out of that restaurant.

  21. A good article. Thanks. Further inspired to sign up to help. Reading the comments causes me to wonder! Why does anyone support Jones? Hooray for the maligned mainstream media!

  22. I would agree with you Mr. Rivard only and only if you can assure me and my family that all immigrants from the Ebola stricken country of Congolese have all been screened and all appropriate steps have been taken to protect the public in general. In these times of identify theft, hacking of secure computer systems (including medical records metadata) and corruption, my confidence level is very low when it comes to government officials giving us assurances regarding life or death circumstances.

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