In short, it’s the latest completely fake news story being pushed by some members of the racist, far-right fringe movement dubbed “alt-right.” #PizzaGate is a conspiracy theory that alleges that a pedophile ring involving high-level members of the Democratic Party is being run from the basement of a pizzeria in Washington, D.C., explains the BBC. Here are the main points:
• In November, some users on extremist boards on the site 4chan started posting speculation about the people mentioned in John Podesta’s emails, which were leaked by WikiLeaks. Podesta was Clinton’s campaign chairman.
• They honed in on one name in particular: James Alefantis, the owner of Comet Ping Pong, a pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C. He is also a big Democratic donor.
• Alefantis’s pizza restaurant has modern art on its walls, of which Alefantis sometimes posted pictures on his Instagram feed. Some of the art has images of children in it.
• From this, 4chan users fabricated a conspiracy that claimed a pedophile sex ring was being run from the basement of the pizza shop.
• After the conspiracy grabbed the attention of some users on 4chan, it spread to other similar extremist websites and then to Reddit. In November alone, the #PizzaGate hashtag was tweeted more than a million times.
• Since then, Alefantis and the Comet Ping Pong staff have received serious threats, including death threats.
• Yet, as the BBC points out, no “pizzagate” victim has ever come forward. There’s no investigation into Alefantis or Comet Ping Pong. And there is no physical evidence of any kind. The New York Times and Fox News have also debunked the conspiracy theory.
• As Alefantis told the BBC: “They [the extremist conspiracy theorists] ignore basic truths. We don’t even have a basement. Sometimes an innocent picture of a child in a basket is just an innocent picture of a child in a basket and not proof of a child sex trafficking ring.”
• Sadly, just hours ago, a 28-year-old man entered Comet Ping Pong and pointed a rifle at an employee, who fled, reports the BBC. The gunman fired a shot but no one was injured. When arrested by police, the gunman said he went into the restaurant to “self-investigate” the “pizzagate” theory.
[Photo: Flickr user Bala Sivakumar]