There is no RationalWiki without you. We are a small non-profit with no staff — we are hundreds of volunteers who document pseudoscience and crankery around the world every day. We will never allow ads because we must remain independent. We cannot rely on big donors with corresponding big agendas. We are not the largest website around, but we believe we play an important role in defending truth and objectivity.
If everyone seeing this today donates $5, we will meet our goal for 2018.
| Fighting pseudoscience isn't free.|
We are 100% user-supported! Help and donate $5, $20 or whatever you can today with !
| Some dare call it|
|What THEY don't want|
you to know!
| Guide to:|
|Hail to the Chief?|
|Persons of interest|
Pizzagate is the (admittedly rather silly) name of an actual conspiracy theory which claims that Hillary Clinton is secretly involved in a pedophile ring centered around
Alex Jones' overactive imagination a pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C.. This outlandish theory spawned from a highly peculiar pattern-analytical reading of the Wikileaks-leaked hacked emails belonging to John Podesta, then-manager of the Hillary campaign because the highly suspect code phrase "cheese pizza" figured among said correspondence. The fact that the mention of cheese pizza was much more interesting to some people than the actual emails of any possible importance whatsoever says something about the conspiracy crowd.[Note 1]
The conspiracy theory was initially promoted and popularised on the notorious Poe-nest 4chan and on Reddit, spread quickly over various fake news websites as well as via social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and culminated in an armed man — arguably acting on the suggestion of one Alex Jones — entering the
lion's den pizza parlor in question, rifle in hand, to "self-investigate" the claims in early December 2016.
- 1 Origin and spread
- 2 (Mis)infographics
- 3 "Reputable" sources
- 4 Lessons and conclusions
- 5 See also
- 6 External links
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
Origin and spread
The foundations of Pizzagate were laid by 4chan trolls scouring Clinton-related emails released by Wikileaks looking for dirt.[Note 2] They found a series of emails which mentioned Comet Ping Pong[Note 3] having seen occasional use as a venue for DNC fundraising events. Its owner, James Alefantis, was for some reason named the 49th most powerful person in Washington DC by GQ magazine out of DC's top 50 most powerful people.[Note 4]
Because life is random, the phrase cheese pizza happened to be an in-joke refering to child pornography on 4chan.[Note 5] Thus, users started to fabricate a conspiracy theory around the mention of this generic food item in the Podesta emails, soon
shitposting speculating up a storm. Based on this diligent research, they quickly concluded that John Podesta, Clinton, and others were all part of a clandestine pedophile ring operating out of the innocent-looking Comet Ping Pong. The conspira-trollery eventually flooded Reddit. On /r/The_Donald/, a redditor by the name of "DumbScribblyUnctious" collected all the dubious conspiracy theories into one giant screed entitled Comet Ping Pong — Pizzagate Summary.
For the simple reason that speculation this daft inherently borders on actual absurdist comedy, the popularity of the Pizzagate manufactroversy increased exponentially, with theories about the supposed conspiracy quickly growing ridiculously complex and lengthy. Professional insanity dispenser Alex Jones fanned the flames by adding his own conspiratorial twist, posting an actual InfoWars bulletin called Pizzagate Is Real: Something Is Going On, But What? in which he told viewers "You have to go investigate it for yourself", neglecting to factor in that his viewers might actually be impressionable enough to take his suggestions to heart.
Social media frenzy
As Pizzagate blew up on the internet, the hashtag #pizzagate began trending on Twitter. Comet Ping Pong suddenly gained a massive amount of followers on Instagram — along with numerous death threats.[Note 6] The conspiracy theory was actively spread on Twitter by a number of Trump supporters, a mob apparently still consumed by Trump's (later completely abandoned) "crooked Hillary" narrative, desperate for any scraps of controversy that could realize their wet dream — to "lock her up".[Note 7]
Meanwhile, in Turkey
Turkish media outlets loyal to
sultan president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan responsibly decided to publish articles promoting the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. Aside from the goal of generally stirring anti-American sentiment in Turkey, the stories were likely meant to deflect from a sexual abuse scandal implicating a charitable foundation with ties to Erdoğan's ruling party, and to distract from crackdowns on dissent after the attempted coup of July 2016.
“”Help me, [armed redneck listener]. You're my only hope.
As Pizzagate propagated across social media through various fake news outlets, with strategic command in charge of Hillary bashing operations taking the hysteria to a new level, many people — lacking the apparent ability to tell fact from fiction — took the whole production for a real news story.
One such misguided individual (a 28 year old man from Salisbury, North Carolina) named Edgar Maddison Welch decided to respond to Alex Jones' impassioned pleas for
general Kenobi someone to take matters into their own hands and "personally investigate".
Like a modern day fake news-fueled Travis Bickle, Welch omniously stepped inside Comet Ping Pong on the 4th of December, 2016. A Sunday afternoon at around 3 p.m., the pizza parlor was packed with customers. And Welch hadn't come alone, either — making his entrance brandishing a loaded rifle — supposedly on a mission to "self-investigate" the Pizzagate conspiracy.[Note 8] Understandably, employees and diners alike made like a tree a fled the scene. In a sense, Welch had successfully managed to drain that particular NWO swamp. According to his own post-arrest words, Welch "fired off some rounds". Thankfully (though oddly; perhaps battling some kind of Pizzergeist?), Welch only fired his gun once he was alone inside the pizza parlor. Soon thereafter, Welch was promptly arrested after surrendering to police. Welch later stated that:
“”I just wanted to do some good and went about it the wrong way. I regret how I handled the situation.
Interestingly, while Welch first heard of the Pizzagate conspiracy through word of mouth, he himself confirmed that it was the barrage of nonsense on the Internet that led him to believe his actions were warranted.[Note 9]
Team Trump responds
As it happens, even Michael G. Flynn, son of Trump confidante and retired lieutenant general Michael T. Flynn, promoted the conspiracy theory, tweeting on December 6:
“”Until #Pizzagate proven to be false, it'll remain a story. The left seems to forget #PodestaEmails and the many 'coincidences' tied to it.
His comments attracted national attention, going so far as causing him to get fired from Trump's transition team forthwith. Even after his sacking, Flynn shared several of Gamergater and lawyer Mike Cernovich's tweets, showing continued support for the conspiracy theory and tacitly implying that Flynn believed the gunman incident might have been a false flag operation.
Several images circulating on twitter claim to reveal the "truth" about Pizzagate. These collages are indistinguishable from displays of batshit insanity commonly known as "crazy walls" or "serial killer walls".
Podesta email "code words"
|ice cream||=||male prostitute|
|walnut||=||person of colour|
“”BREAKING [NEWS]: PEOPLE WILL LITERALLY FIND EVERYTHING IN ANYTHING
My friend texted me that he had fries at the bowling alley last night. Now I'm like 95% sure he's smoking crack behind the Arby's.
Cranks speculated that words and phrases used in leaked Clinton-related emails were pedophile codewords. (Of course, these words could also be used normally in normal conversations, but apparently cranks feel the pedophile meanings are somehow more "believable".)
"Pizzagate: Just The Facts"
One infographic features an explanatory paragraph that speculates on the extent of the conspiracy and who's involved in it:
It is becoming increasingly clear that many of "the elite" including high ranking politicians, celebrities and very wealthy people are operating a global sex trafficking ring. They are doing it under the guise of helping children in need (fostering, rehoming, mentoring etc). Big money is changing hands. Big players are heavily involved. Satanic rituals are involved. Freemasons are involved. The people who control everything you see, read and hear are involved.
Of course, every politician is part of the conspiracy — with the exception of Donald Trump, because Trump "isn't really a true politician, even as president".
- Proponents claim that the owner James Alefantis changed his name to signal a hidden message, "J’aime L'enfants" or "I love children" in French. Such a message would be lost to illicit clients who don't know French. It also is grammatically incorrect in French (though it can still be made to fit).
- An infographic claims that codewords used by pedophiles are used in Clinton-related emails. But aside from "chicken", terms like "sauce", "pasta", "pizza", "handkerchief", and "pillows" are not documented terms used by pedophiles; they were pulled out of thin air.
- The restaurant Besta Pizza's old logo just happens to look similar to the official "Boy Love" symbol. This has been interpreted as Besta Pizza's being involved with trafficking children.[Note 10]
- Adherents believe that the supposed pedophile ring also worships Satan, citing as evidence a jokey email signature used by retired Foreign Service officer Lewis Amselem: "With fingers crossed, the old rabbit's foot out of the box in the attic, I will be sacrificing a chicken in the backyard to Moloch …"[Note 11]
The alleged cornerstone of Pizzagate is an attachment found in a forwarded 2009 email from Bill Clinton advisor Doug Band called "pizza.jpg". The attachment contains a photo of two Asian adults enjoying pizza with a kid, which is supposedly evidence of child molestation. However, the email and its attachment were completely misinterpreted. What "Pizza.jpg" actually shows is American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling along with a young girl, possibly Lee's daughter Hana. The three are eating pizza after Clinton secured their release from captivity in North Korea in August 2009. "As John said, it doesn't get any better than this", Band comments to Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, Podesta, and others. "Nice", Podesta responds.
“”also Podesta sent this pic with this email. Obviously Asian sex slaves
Some extremely reputable pizza-gate-pushers include:
- Alex Jones: "PIZZAGATE IS A DIVERSION FROM THE GREATER CRIMES IN PODESTA WIKILEAKS" (Well yes it is, since he's the one who made it an issue in the first damn place)
- The Daily Stormer (neo-Nazi), headline: "Massive Cover-Up of Pizzagate Child Sex Ring Allegations"
- The Right Stuff (neo-Nazi), opening paragraph: "Make yourself aware of the information, use it to prepare memes and to make the lives of Leftists miserable. Do not run headlong into Illuminati conspiracy, that has been a failing tactic in the past, so we must exercise extreme caution around this topic."
- What Does It Mean (conspiracist), headline: "Assassination Of Finnish Reporters Investigating Bizarre 'Pizzagate' Plot Puzzles Russia"
- YourNewsWire (clickbait), headline: "Pizzagate: BBC Cover Up Another Huge Pedophile Scandal"
- The New Nationalist (neo-Nazi), headline: "Will General Flynn Bust the DC Pizzagate Pedophile Ring?"
- We Occupy Earth, headline (conspiracist), headline: "BREAKING !!! Julian ASSANGE Dead man SWITCH goes off after Exposing Hillary CLINTON !"
- WebLine News (clickbait), headline: "Triggered Reddit CEO Shuts Pizzagate Community Then Alters User Comments"
- Before It's News (All of the above), headline: "'Pizzagate': How 4Chan Uncovered the Sick World of Washington’s Occult Elite"
When the unified Nazi-tinfoil-clickbait front is on your side, you know you're doing it right.
Lessons and conclusions
Crème de la Kremlin
“”Taking one campaign manager's email account and releasing it with zero curation in the last month of an election needs to be treated as what it is: political sabotage, not whistle-blowing.
|—Sociology professor Zeynep Tufekci, commenting on the Podesta e-mail leak|
Pizzagate was confirmed in Senate intelligence committee hearings by Clint Watts to be part of a Russian "Active Measures" online operation pushing fake news, ludicrous conspiracies, and a general pro-Russian agenda.
These findings lent support to what Glen Caplin, spokesman for the Clinton campaign, had argued previously:
By dribbling these out every day WikiLeaks is proving they are nothing but a propaganda arm of the Kremlin with a political agenda doing Putin's dirty work to help elect Donald Trump.
This is why we can't have nice things
Thanks to Pizzagate, something called "Cybersteria", i.e. public hysteria caused by internet trolls, is now a thing. That means BS (like Pizzagate) brainstormed by assholes on 4chan or 8chan, picked up by the Alex Jones Infowars crazy train, amplified and spread by fake news sites, and then kept alive by Twitter trolls is something we're all going to have to live with.
Facebook is now taking the problem of fake news — and its own role in perpetuating it — much more seriously, and looking into ways to identify fake news and stop treating it like any other trending topic in the future. Thanks, Facebook — too little, too late!
A large fault with the story surrounding the Pizzagate situation is the nature of the allegations. In short, all of the "evidence" is circumstantial, and it's not even good circumstantial evidence either. Even if Comet Pizza does have a pedophile ring (which it does not), self-investigators are doing an extremely poor job pushing their case.
- Satanic panic − We'll have you know that Gen-X perfected the child sex conspiracy, thank you very much. And we didn't use memes or pizza, we did it with cocaine and hard work.
- Hillary Clinton
- Fake news
- Snopes on Pizzagate
- "The PizzaGate Gunman's Paranoid Rescue Fantasy Comes from a Long American Tradition": because Pizzagate isn't the first time something like this happened (link to Reason).
- "A Moral Panic for the Age of Trump".
- Forget the rest; the man mentioned pizza! Quick — to the kookmobile!
- Keeping in mind that looking often means finding.
- Like your typical Washington DC area pizza restaurant, only featuring
NWO sacrificial altarsping pong tables.
- As such, placing him ahead of hundreds of senators, house members, agency and department heads, lawyers, lobbyists, judges, etc.
- Because Cheese Pizza, get it?
- Since if someone said something on the Internet, it must be true, right?
- Because any negative story about crooked Hillary must be true, no matter how outlandish!
- This about marks the definite point in the story where extreme concern is warranted.
- If only
Alex Jonesfake news peddlers had a damn conscience.
- Quite a jump when you consider the widely known Boy Love symbol would be the last symbol someone would choose to use for a secret pedophile ring.
- We've all seen much stupider email sigs. Who would take this one seriously? Oh wait, Christians would!
- archive.is Wikileaks Bombshell Reveals Clinton Email "Where They Are Literally Pricing How Much It Costs to Transport Children." Posted on November 6, 2016 by Admin Resurgence Media Network (archived copy from November 23, 2016).
- The Saga of 'Pizzagate': The fake story that shows how conspiracy theories spread (2 December 2016) BBC News
- Pizzagate shows how fake news hurts real people Washington Post
- Alex Jones Deletes Video In Which He Had Told His Audience To Personally "Investigate" "Pizzagate" Restaurant. Deletion Came After Listener Seeking To "Self-Investigate" Comet Ping Ping Fired Shots Inside Media Matters
- Podesta emails Wikileaks
- Reid Cherlin, Rob Fischer, Jason Horowitz, Jason Zengerle The 50 Most Powerful People in Washington GQ Magazine, February 2012
- Pizzagate Comet Ping Pong Fake News Vox
- Pizzagate Summary Reddit
- Open thread for night owls: Alex Jones scrubs 'pizzagate' content cited by lunatic gunman Daily Kos
- #pizzagate Twitter
- How the alt-right's PizzaGate conspiracy hid real scandal in Turkey by Efe Kerem Sozeri (Nov 23 at 4:47PM) The Daily Dot.
- Edgar Maddison Welch: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know Heavy.com
- Here’s What We Know About The Alleged "Pizzagate" Gunman: Edgar Maddison Welch was arrested after police said he came to investigate a ludicrous conspiracy theory that a popular restaurant secretly provides underage prostitutes to top Democrats (Originally posted on Dec. 5, 2016, at 7:06 a.m. Updated on Dec. 5, 2016, at 2:22 p.m.) Buzzfeed
- Fake news, real violence: 'Pizzagate' and the consequences of an Internet echo chamber by Brian Stelter (December 6, 2016: 9:30 AM ET) CNN Money.
- Washington gunman motivated by fake news 'Pizzagate' conspiracy: Washington restaurant Comet Ping Pong was target of fake news reports it was operating a child abuse ring led by Hillary Clinton and an aide (Monday 5 December 2016 07.51 EST) The Guardian.
- Kenttouch Twitter
- The Comet Ping Pong Gunman Answers Our Reporter’s Question New York Times
- Trump Fires Adviser’s Son From Transition for Spreading Fake News by Matthew Rosenberg, et al. (Dec. 6, 2016) New York Times.
- Crazywalls Tumblr
- Politics Gamefaqs
- JaredWyand Twitter
- Pizzagate infographic
- Disturbing Phrases In Podesta Emails Point To Hillary Crew Speaking In Code by Dawn Parabellum (November 6, 2016) Mad World News.
- Figured it out — Podesta Pizza logo Reddit
- Forum thread Above Top Secret
- Clinton emails Wikileaks
- DNC leaks Reddit
- Original email containing "pizza.jpg" Wikileaks
- What on earth is Pizzagate? DCist.com
- Disturbing Phrases In Podesta Emails Point To Hillary Crew Speaking In Code by Dawn Parabellum (November 6, 2016) Mad World News.
- Conspiracy Reddit
- OmsToTheWorld Twitter
- Triggered Reddit CEO Shuts Pizzagate Community then Alters User Comments WebLine News
- What We're Missing While We Obsess Over John Podesta's Email New York Times
- Watts, "Clint Watts' Testimony: Russia’s Info War on the U.S. Started in 2014", Daily Beast (30 March 2017, 6:44 AM ET).
- Hacked 80-page roundup of paid speeches shows Clinton 'praising Wall Street' Politico
- With Pizzagate, Is Cybersteria The New Normal? Forbes, December 7, 2016