Post-Truth and How To Shut Down #Pizzagate

EDIT: Since this was posted, an armed gunman visited Comet Pizza. This isn’t about people’s right to read what they want.

Where do the most gullible people on the internet go once Trump gets elected? We now have the answer: #Pizzagate.

There are a number of explainers as to what the #Pizzagate theory is, so here is a nutshell version:

#Pizzagate is a conspiracy theory predicated upon a joke made on 4 Chan that was later picked up as a narrative to tie the Podesta e-mails and the Instagram of a pizzeria owner to “a secret child sex ring” supposedly run out of the basement of the pizzeria (where no basement exists.) It’s the way less fun version of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

The barrier for “proof” of #Pizzagate is embarrassingly low, even coming out of an election that gave us such stories as “Hillary Clinton Spirit Cooking.”

#Pizzagate might go down in textbooks as an excellent example of the power of conjecture and confirmation bias.

The “screenshots” used as evidence include an Instagram of a child whose hands are masking taped to a small table. This supposedly added to a Podesta email about a napkin plus a Dan Brown novel’s worth of paranoid narrative later, you have “proof” of a “child sex ring.”

#Pizzagate is so preposterous, Fox News debunked it. It’s so ridiculous, Reddit has banned the subreddits discussing it (subreddits discussing other fake news stories still exist) but the true believers are very, very convinced.

And this is a huge problem for actual victims of child abuse.

None of these “very concerned” people on the #Pizzagate hashtag seem to want to actually help victims or contribute to victims’ causes. They don’t seem to care that the President elect was a good friend to a convicted pedophile, Jeffrey Epstein, who actually did run a child sex ring. (If you raise this point with them, they are quick to retort that Bill Clinton was also a friend of Jeffreys, as if that somehow insulates or exonerates Trump.)

Pizzagaters seem to be divisible into 2 factions: The Trolls and The Believers. The Trolls are the ones who are pretending they care about kids while not actually spending their time, energy, or effort on helping actual victims, or contributing to charities that help victims. Their sole purpose is to keep this hoax going for as long as they can bring new Believers into the fold.

The Believers are driven by their own feelings about child abuse and their own distrust for authorities. This seems to be all that is required to not look at what is being called “evidence” critically.

The Believers may be true in their desire to help, but they are blinded by the misinformation, and are unable to cogently ask questions and think critically.

They are still dangerous. They are actually causing damage.

Every time you “cry wolf” over something like child abuse, you’re enabling and emboldening abusers. You’re putting a newer, better gun in their hands.

Being complicit in the spreading of misinformation is to victimize people who are affected by that misinformation.

You’re hurting kids, and it needs to stop.

Pizzagate Trolls will tell you their evidence is incontrovertible. These are some of the same people who famously misidentified the Boston Bomber.

They are not trained professionals.

These are people who live in a bubble and seem to have a lower than average capacity for critical thinking.

Here’s how you can help interrupt the echo chamber:

  • Ask #Pizzagaters directly for evidence.
  • Ask them to explain the evidence you’re being provided.
  • Ask them why they believe that the evidence proves their claim
  • Ask them if they’ve taken their evidence to the authorities
  • Ask them why not if they haven’t
  • Ask them why they don’t take this evidence to a criminal lawyer for review if the evidence is so damning

They likely will have a few canned responses to these questions.

“Do your own research” is a popular one. Tell them the burden of proof is on them to provide the evidence to back up their claim.

Remind them that if there isn’t evidence for something, it’s not usually because “someone’s in on it.” It points to a simpler conclusion: it does not exist.

“Pedophilia rings exist/Jimmy Savile, etc.” Tell them that yes, Pedophilia does exist, but that doesn’t mean #Pizzagate does. Ask for specific proof for specific claims.

“We can’t give the evidence to the authorities. They are in on it” is a common refrain. Ask them to take their evidence to a criminal lawyer for review.

“I can’t afford a lawyer” is another common dodge. Ask them why they can’t take up a gofundme with their fellow #Pizzagaters to pay a lawyer.

Do not answer questions these people ask of you. Ask only for the evidence they have and whether they’ve done anything with it. Point out any diversions from your line of questioning. Deny diversions like “Jimmy Savile” as not being proof of #Pizzagate. Repeat.

The common thread is the feeling on #Pizzagate’s part that “the evidence is overwhelming” but for some reason not worth actually putting into the hands of anyone who can actually do anything.

This is important. This is exactly what used to happen to James Randi when he used to invite paranormal practitioners to demonstrate their skills in scientifically controlled environments. 100 times out of 100, their “powers were failing them that day.”

Except, this isn’t about some rube paying 20 dollars to a dime store psychic to find out if she’ll marry her beau. This is about child abuse.

It cannot be overstated the kind of fucked up game these people are playing. Real victims will be discredited because of this. People will stop listening to claims of child abuse because “crazies” and “hoaxers” made these claims which were groundless.

It is important to ask these critical questions and to try and push these people off places like Twitter.

Hurting kids is not “an opinion.” It is the most base, craven, disgusting thing a person could do while wearing a veneer of being ‘a concerned citizen.’

This isn’t a stupid story about Hillary Clinton you can just ignore.

It’s important to fight this any way you can.

People tried the ignorance and laughing route when instead of #Pizzagate, it was Vaccine Denial. KIDS DIED FROM VACCINE MISINFORMATION TAKING HOLD.

You can take steps today to help curb this and prevent its spread.

Ask the questions.

Frustrate the Trolls.

Appeal to the well meaning Believers.

Kids’ lives are at stake.

A New Development

In the days since this article has been posted, an interesting shift has taken place on Planet Pizzagate. Facing ever increasing resistance from the media and people online, Pizzagate has pivoted to say that “the scandal is now a worldwide scandal.”

There are likely a few reasons for this:

  • It gives them a bigger feeling of being crusaders
  • It allows them to dodge repeated questions demanding law enforcement case numbers
  • It allows them to draw in other pedophilia cases as “proof” it’s real

Jimmy Savile is not proof Pizzagate is real

Remind them of this.