The TL;DR on #Pizzagate, the Alt-Nazi Conspiracy Theory with F*cked-Up Real-World Consequences
#Pizzagate didn’t start entering my social media timelines until a couple of days ago. It’s a right-wing conspiracy that predates election day but that has inexplicably picked up steam since, and it’s wreaking havoc on the lives of a lot of innocent people.
The TL;DR is this: The Alt-Nazis, in an attempt to offset all of the sexual assault charges against Donald Trump, sought to find connections between Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, and Jeffrey Epstein, the man accused of pimping out underage women to powerful politicians, like allegedly Bill Clinton and Donald Trump (the lawsuit leveled against Trump for raping an underage woman is connected to Epstein).
These conspiracy theorists attempted to find this connection in the trove of Podesta emails released by Wikileaks. They weren’t able to find any connections between Podesta and Epstein, but they were able to find a lot of references to ordering pizza. Rather than take it at face value — that Epstein likes pizza, or that a lot of pizzas are ordered during the course of a campaign for staff events — these conspiracy theorists idiotically surmised that pizza was actually code for pedophilia, and that every time Podesta ordered a pizza, he was actually ordering an underage girl. This theory was fueled by the Alt-Nazis and fake news, and spread through 4Chan and Reddit.
It spread so much on Reddit, in fact, that an entire subreddit was dedicated to #pizzagate. Reddit banned the subreddit, and when they did so, the Alt-Nazis attacked Reddit’s CEO Steve Huffman, who made the mistake of editing some of their comments attacking him in order to turn it back on the Alt-Nazis (that did not go over well on Reddit).
The truly troubling part, however, is that Reddit, 4Chan, and Twitter ended up targeting a pizzeria in Washington D.C., Comet Ping-Pong, fingering it as ground zero for this fictitious pedophile ring. Since then, employees of Comet Ping-Pong have been subjected to a steady stream of harassment, while the owner of the pizza joint has received numerous death threats (via the San Diego Tribune):
Alefantis told Washington City Paper that photos of the children of friends and employees from Instagram and Facebook are being plastered across the web by people as being evidence for their theories.
“Yes, it’s scary to be attacked, it’s dangerous for business, but it’s disgusting and filthy of these people to be posting photos on these websites,” he said.
The comments and attacks got so bad that Yelp has temporarily issued an “active cleanup alert,” on its page for Comet Ping Pong because comments have been flooding in since the rumor hit the internet.
The story got so out of hand that the New York Times has published an article on #Pizzagate, which the Alt-Nazis have taken as further evidence that the liberal media is attempting to cover up a child-sex ring.
The fake news story has even ensnared Kanye West, who mentioned it in his 40-minute tirade before he was admitted into a psychiatric facility earlier this week.
More recently, there are even rumors from fake news sites suggesting that Clinton and Podesta, in response to #Pizzagate, had Wikileaks founder Julian Assange assassinated.
Again, none of this is true, but it’s a testament to the power of fake news in this country that not only has this ridiculous, debunked theory led to real-life consequences in America, but pro-government newspapers in Turkey are actually reporting it as fact.
Where is the reset button?
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