After this week’s Connecticut jury’s order, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is now on the hook for over a $1 billion in damages for his lies about the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The jury in Connecticut awarded eight families and a first-responder $965 million in damages. Earlier, a jury in Texas had found him liable for $50 million in damages to a separate pair of Sandy Hook parents.

Immediately after news of the $965 million award broke, the Internet lit up with outrage over the jury’s action. Many saw the award as an attack on Jones’s right to free speech.

Let’s be clear, Alex Jones is no victim. His First Amendment rights were not abridged. The First Amendment’s assurance of free speech in no way guarantees the right to slander and defame, which is exactly what Jones did to the Sandy Hook families.

For the sake of making money through his website Infowars, he propagated the ugly, vicious falsehood that the Sandy Hook shooting, which claimed the lives of 20 six- and seven-year-old children and six adults, was a hoax perpetrated by the government. Parents and relatives of the slain children and adults became victims of years of harassment and threats from Jones’s devotees. One woman testified she had to move five times to escape threats and harassment. The father of a slain 6-year-old boy said people came to his door demanding to see his son.

Imagine being the parent of a murdered child, and then being told your child never existed. In fact, you are nothing more than part of an elaborate government scheme to chip away at gun rights.

It’s one thing to maintain a healthy skepticism about government – local, state and federal. Examples abound throughout the land of malfeasance, incompetence, deceit and graft at every level.

It’s quite another to slurp up unfounded conspiracy theories simply because they nourish a suspicious nature or feed an insatiable appetite for contrarianism.

In America today, lies and conspiracy theories such as those peddled by Jones and other prominent public figures continue to flourish, often enriching and empowering the purveyors and poisoning the national discourse.

Despite the jury awards in Connecticut and Texas, it’s highly doubtful Sandy Hook families will see anything close to the dollar amounts to which they are entitled – if they see anything at all.

Still, Jones has been held accountable for his lies. The best we can hope for is that perhaps he and others of his ilk will think twice before they attempt to profit from shameless falsehoods.

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