InfoWars is popular in America

For the most extreme emergencies there is the "Grab & Go Emergency Kit" escape bag in the Kopp Verlag online shop. The contents of the red travel bag promise to ensure the survival of four people for three days. Emergency rations, glow sticks, plasters, tea lights. What you need when the system collapses. Kopp Verlag publishes books with titles such as "The Destabilization of Germany", which warn of a conspiracy intended to instigate "civil war-like unrest". For the apparently imminent struggle for survival, in addition to escape luggage, there are also pepper spray guns, water treatment systems and umbrellas that can be used as baton in the publisher's shop. Customers who fear the end of the world also bought ...

Conspiracy theories are no longer just a quirky hobby, but a perfidious political instrument and a gigantic market in which millions in sales are made. To interlink them with the associated merchandise is not an exclusive idea of ​​the Kopp Verlag. The great role model for this business model is the media empire that the American Alex Jones built around his website infowars.com. Jones proclaims there and on his daily radio show the theory of an occult world conspiracy, which Hillary Clinton is also said to belong to. The media, the economy, the pharmaceutical companies, all belong to the same gigantic conspiracy at Jones. "Everything that happens can somehow be integrated into this narrative," writes German American studies professor Michael Butter in his book "Nothing is as it seems. About conspiracy theories". If necessary, Jones just makes something up. For example, that the Democratic Party in a pizzeria in Washington D.C. run child pornography that the American government was behind the attacks of September 11, 2001 or that the rampage at Sandy Hook High School was only staged so that the gun laws can be tightened. Infowars reaches millions of Americans every day with its riot news, and more than 60 radio stations spread Jones' messages across the country.

Infowars also offers accessories for the apocalypse. In addition to respirators and bottle openers in cartridge design, Jones mainly sells drugs. For $ 70 a bottle, a health-promoting increase in masculinity is promised. The "Brain Force Plus" tablets are used to defend against the evil agents that the members of the world conspiracy allegedly mix in their food and drinking water. Two thirds of Infowars' sales are to come from such products, Jones claims in the media.

Facebook, Spotify and Apple are creating headwinds for the first time

If the branch of business is stripped of its apocalyptic fuss, above all a productive example of the cultural capitalism described by the philosopher Slavoj Žižek remains. Companies like Starbucks don't work any differently. Starbucks doesn't just sell coffee, it sells a narrative behind the coffee mug. The coffeehouse chain aggressively advertises the alleged sustainability of its products and explains in detail that the coffee farmers are not being exploited. The coffee is enriched with a good deed. In addition, the coffee shops with their seating areas offer a kind of public living room, which Žižek calls a "substitute community". According to the company's own story, customers at Starbucks don't just consume their cappuccino, they are doing something of global importance and something good for themselves.

The marketing of conspiracy theories works in a similar way. Sites like Infowars don't just offer a podcast or YouTube video or pills for government brain toxins. They let the customer participate in the big story that stands behind the individual product, and with which all complex world events can be explained very easily. The customer of such products then belongs to the circle of the enlightened, who are the only ones who have recognized the truth behind world events. The water treatment system in the garden is proof of the supposed perspective and the elitist status of the conspiracy theorist.

However, the channels for the stories of Alex Jones are just getting fewer. Facebook, Youtube, Spotify and Apple have started restricting its activities on their platforms. His accounts have been deleted and several Infowars podcasts are no longer available.

Offers such as the Infowars app are still available, but a restriction of these distribution channels creates problems for the business with the conspiracy theories, because the social platforms are an important instrument for their dissemination. "Everything is connected with everything", writes Michael Butter about the affinity of conspiracy theories to digital media. "The logic of meaning of conspiracy theories corresponds to the ordering principle of the World Wide Web. With just a few clicks you get from Barack Obama to the New World Order and from there to the Ukraine crisis, so that the impression can easily arise that there are real (and not just virtual) connections here. "

The algorithm turns out to be the greatest accomplice of the conspiracy theorists. In the 2016 American election campaign, Macedonian hackers copied well-known news sites and filled them with texts that were as controversial as possible (SZ from December 23, 2017). Everything works best against Hillary Clinton or conspiracy theories of all kinds. They had Google advertise on the replica website and share the articles with a small army of fake accounts on Facebook as often as possible in order to artificially generate page views. Soon advertising revenue was bubbling up, tens of thousands of euros per month, or so they claimed.