The Pizzagate conspiracy theory epitomizes the term conspiracy theory: a story based on little evidence, spurious connections, and "facts" that are completely made up. Debunking the viral Pizzagate conspiracy theory proves to be fairly easy, as most of the "facts" behind this controversy came in November 2016 from the same 4chan geniuses who gave the world the Chester Bennington conspiracy. The issues surrounding Pizzagate began when Wikileaks (via Russian hackers) exposed emails from Hillary Clinton staffer John Podesta. Among his emails were messages between Podesta and James Alefantis, owner of Comet Ping Pong pizza parlor in Washington, DC. Tensions arose regarding Alefantis, which ultimately stemmed from his own work with Democratic fundraisers and his ex-boyfriend, another prominent Democrat.
However, when the Pizzagate emails arrived, theorists on Reddit and 4chan spun a story that Comet Ping Pong (and later, other nearby DC establishments) were the sites of an underground ring that unlawfully transports children for sexual services. Then, social media sites and YouTube helped proliferate the idea, promoting a connection between the alleged Wikileaks FBI document depicting predatory symbols and the suspect logos of DC businesses, including Comet and Besta Pizza.
Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the scandal took off, igniting conspiracies about Barack Obama, the Clintons, and even talk of Satanist involvement. Government officials from the US all the way to Turkey pushed the theory as fact. Despite multiple media sources and local police debunking the allegations, the "fake news" lead to one armed citizen, in December 2016, actually walking into Comet Ping Pong in DC, and firing.
Useful Propaganda In Turkey
Conspiracy theory: The Pizzagate fantasy became a reality in Turkey when news outlets promoted it as a real scandal. State media discussed the scandal and said that it provided evidence of a conspiracy against the country of Turkey. Re-dubbed videos of Democratic politicians surfaced to support the conspiracy.
Why it's nonsense: Aside from the fact the Turkish media cited evidence from a subreddit banned in the country, a wider political context in the country played into the coverage. The conspiracy came only months after a failed coup in the country and Turkish President Erdoğan sought to shore up his support. Coverage of Pizzagate overwhelmed negative press against Erdoğan, who proposed giving amnesty to child abusers if they married their victims. Amplifying the Pizzagate conspiracy in the US gave him political cover while ignoring the problems in his own country.Agree or disagree?
Sources For The Story Are Internet Tabloids
Conspiracy theory: One of the constant features of the 2016 Presidential campaign was the notion Hillary Clinton might be jailed for using a private email server while acting as Secretary of State. While it's true that the FBI and Congress investigated Clinton, she was never charged with a crime. However, the suspicion around Clinton was enough to lend the slightest bit of credibility to the story. Those links provided just enough fodder for sensationalist blogs and Internet tabloids to publish outlandish stories about Clinton's links to the supposed child ring.
Why it's nonsense: Hillary Clinton was never linked to an underground ring by the FBI. At best, the bureau only suspected she improperly used an email server, while allegations of trafficking came straight from the backwater of Internet chat rooms.Agree or disagree?
There Is No Link To Hillary Clinton
Conspiracy theory: Conspiracy theorists believe the Comet Ping Pong's illicit underground ring reaches the highest rungs of power in the Democratic Party. In fact, they claim it leads all the way to 2016 Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. As evidence for this, conspiracy theorists refer back to emails (always the emails) from campaign manager John Podesta after his account was hacked. Podesta exchanged emails with James Alefantis, a frequent donor to the Democratic party and owner of pizza restaurant Comet Ping Pong; from there, an army of trolls, pranksters from 4chan, and Alt-Right Internet personalities attributed a wide variety of crimes and depraved acts to Alefantis and linked him with Clinton.
Why it's nonsense: The fact remains Alefantis has never met Hillary Clinton, and none of the leaked emails give any indication whatsoever that he did anything wrong. What's more, nothing links the pizza shop owner to Clinton aside from emails to one of her employees.Agree or disagree?
A Hardened Follower Of The Theory Changes His Story
Conspiracy theory: The Internet and real world intersect at strange points when it comes to the Alt-Right. Trolls who joke about being Nazis or support Donald Trump for the memes get a dose of reality when they bring their beliefs into the open. Pizzagate became a physical thing when Edgar Maddison Welch, a noted Infowars listener, traveled from North Carolina to Virginia to investigate the Pizzagate case. His method for investigating was to dress like a member of a SWAT team, complete with an assault rifle, and open fire in Comet Ping Pong on December 4, 2016.
Why it's nonsense: Welch recanted his belief in the theory after surrendering to authorities. After he left the online world and went to Comet Ping Pong, Welch learned the hard way that no underground ring existed. In addition, if the rumored ring was so powerful it kept itself a secret for years, why was the security around it lax enough to allow an armed man waltz right inside? These are things Welch can think about during his four-year prison sentence.Agree or disagree?