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.
The Restaurant Doesn't Have A Basement
Conspiracy theory: Believers of the Pizzagate conspiracy assert that a Democratic donor named James Alefantis had relations with children and operated an underage ring for sexual services from the basement of his pizza parlor, Comet Ping Pong. As evidence, theorists cite photos from Alefantis's Instagram showing kids in the restaurant along with modern art he hangs in the establishment.
Why it's nonsense: No basement exists at Comet Ping Pong. With no basement to speak of, the entire plot of the conspiracy - a man with connections to the Democratic Party runs an illicit ring out of his basement - really falls apart.
A Fake Re-Dubbed Video Circulated By Turkish Media
Conspiracy theory: As the theory picked up steam in the United States, it also found traction in Turkey, where a whole new wave of "evidence" about Pizzagate came to light. According to conspiracy theorists, then Vice-President Joe Biden admitted to having forced relations with a senator's young daughter, and, allegedly, there was a video to support the claims.
Why it's nonsense: The video that supposedly shows Biden's confession was actually a swearing-in ceremony for Senator Chris Coons. Originally, the video was in English but Turkish media outlets dubbed it into Turkish to claim Biden abused children, which he obviously didn't.
Associating Comet Ping Pong With Satanism
Conspiracy theory: Comet Ping Pong, the pizza restaurant at the center of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, is owned by a Democratic donor and was a stop for Clinton and Obama campaign manager John Podesta starting in the 2008 campaign. In order to establish a link between the restaurant and unauthorized transportation of children, 4chan posters postulated the moon iconography seen on the parlor's logo stood for Satanic symbols.
Why it's nonsense: If you give it a little thought, a simple explanation exists as to why a restaurant called Comet Ping Pong has a moon in its logo: comets are found in space, where the moon and stars also exist.
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.