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Pizzagate “researcher” arrested after firing an assault rifle in DC pizzeria

Guns: Worse than anchovies as a pizza topping
Guns: Worse than anchovies as a pizza topping

Comet Ping Pong, a Washington DC pizzeria, has been the central obsession of some of the Internet’s most, well, creative conspiracy theorists for several months now.

“Pizzagate” theorists have convinced themselves, on the basis of weird conjectures and bizarre leaps of illogic, that the pizzeria is the front for an international pedophile ring involving Hillary Clinton, John Podesta, and other political bigwigs. The owners and staff of Comet Ping Pong and several nearby businesses have been harassed and threatened by Pizzagate true believers since the theory first took form on 4chan.

On Sunday, one of these true believers showed up at the restaurant with an assault rifle, firing off several rounds before being taken into custody by police, who said he told them he was there to “self-investigate” Pizzagate. (Why his “investigation” required a rifle I don’t know.)  No one, thankfully, was hurt — most or all of those in the building apparently fled before the shots were fired — but the incident is a troubling reminder of the ways in which fake news can have real-life consequences. Sometimes involving guns.

The Pizzagate theory seems to be an almost pure product of “apophenia,” the tendency of human beings to find seemingly meaningful patterns in random data. In this particular case, Pizzagaters have convinced themselves that references to “pizza” and “hot dogs” in the giant pile of Podesta emails leaked by Wikileaks are actually coded references to child sex trafficking. The more baroque versions of the theory, harking back to the “Satanic Panic” of decades past, posit that there are Satanic rituals involving human blood and child rape taking place in secret tunnels beneath Comet Ping Pong.

But this is a Satanic Panic with a decidedly Trumpian alt-right twist. The theory has been pushed hard by a motley crew of alt-rightists and fellow travelers — from Infowars to the Daily Stormer, from Mike Cernovich to Theodore “Vox Day” Beale.

Somehow I doubt this will be the last time someone with a gun goes after an enemy of the alt-right.

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Weird (yeah, it CAN happen here) Eddie
Weird (yeah, it CAN happen here) Eddie
5 years ago

The floor? What did that floor ever do to him? It was just lying there, minding its own business, when someone comes along and shoots it for no good reason. Perfectly innocent floor!

Sounds unintentional.* In ALL the movies, when the good guy is posturing, they shoot into the CEILING!!!

*(… what word to use here?? “unintentional” works, but sounds like they spit on their shoe instead of on the floor, rather than fired a military-caliber weapon when they did not intend to… “accidental”?? no, you take a weapon where it doesn’t belong, NOTHING that happens afterword is an “accident”… “inadvertant”?? Pay the fuck some attention, fool, you have a deadly weapon in a fucking pizza joint! So, it’s got to be, either they MEANT to shoot the floor or they had so little situational awareness that they forgot to keep their finger off the trigger.)

losername
losername
5 years ago

I looked through a “primer” on pizzagate out of morbid curiosity and jeez, I couldn’t stop reading it.

Someone left a black and white checkered handkerchief somewhere, and black is code for S&M while white is code for virginity. The pizzeria, which is named frickin’ Comet Pizza, has a moon and star on it, so that’s a Muslim symbol. The owner is named James Alefantis which sounds sorta like “J’aime les enfants”, which is French for “I love the children.” A family member posted a baby pic with the caption “Cuteness is serious business” – aha “business”!

The “proof” just keeps going on like that. And they are claiming that this gunman is “confirmation” that pizzagate is real, since he is “obviously” a plant by Clinton to discredit the accusations.

When I see the way they’re thinking, I’m starting to wonder if these people are seriously mentally ill and in need of help and treatment. :-S I’m not a mental health professional, so I can’t assess whether mentally healthy people would think like this or if this is a symptom of a condition. I don’t know what to think about it. It’s bewildering.

Falconer
5 years ago

@Weird Eddie: He was apparently looking for tunnels. Maybe he thought he’d found one? Or that discharging his weapon could help him find one?

Scildfreja Unnýðnes
Scildfreja Unnýðnes
5 years ago

When I see the way they’re thinking, I’m starting to wonder if these people are seriously mentally ill and in need of help and treatment. :-S I’m not a mental health professional, so I can’t assess whether mentally healthy people would think like this or if this is a symptom of a condition. I don’t know what to think about it. It’s bewildering.

(no internet diagnoses pls :p)

nah, losername, you get that sort of blinkered logic in the standard model human. Everyone can be wrong in that sort of way. Real logic is counter-intuitive to how the brain works.

The people chasing the pizzagate tail see evidence, and stack that evidence up into a huge heap, and go “look at all of my evidence!” without really questioning the validity of that evidence. They don’t critically examine their beliefs on the small scale of “am I right about this checkered napkin?” so all of the little bits of evidence add up into the festering mound of wrongness which is – well. Most of the internet, really.

In the brain, evidence is additive – if you’re 25% sure of the checkered napkin and you’re 25% sure of the crescent and star, then that’s 50% sure of the whole thing. You add it up. In reality, evidence is multiplicative – your two 25% pieces of evidence turns into 6.25% sureness of the whole thing. That little quirk is responsible for so much of the deep fractal wrongness out there in the world – oh, hi, @miggy, didn’t see you there, was just talkin’ about you.

I feel so bad for the owners and workers there. It sounds like a great little restaurant, and they don’t deserve any of this at all.

Lea
Lea
5 years ago

Want to fight child molesters? Volunteer for CASA. Speak out against rape culture. Believe and support survivors.

JSun
JSun
5 years ago

@Lea

Want to fight child molesters? Volunteer for CASA. Speak out against rape culture. Believe and support survivors.

Sadly it’s not about stopping child abuse or trafficking. If it had been trumps name on the conspiracy they would have shown up with guns to shoot the people protesting the place.

They just use that as a cover for their overwhelming desire to murder anyone who in any way kind of sort of might on some small scale oppose even their most tiny of beliefs.

Neremanth, 329 year old Contributor to Society
Neremanth, 329 year old Contributor to Society
5 years ago

The owner is named James Alefantis which sounds sorta like “J’aime les enfants”, which is French for “I love the children.”

Wait, they seriously think that when his parents named him, they said to themselves “Our little boy is going to grow up to be a paedophile! We should definitely give him a name alluding to that so we can congratulate ourselves on how clever we are!”?

Falconer
5 years ago

@Lea, yeah, but in this case the child molesters would be sort of incidental. He’s not fighting child molesters, he’s taking down The Woman, which is kind of like The Man except in a pastel suit.

Which, I mean, you gotta admire the chutzpah on this guy. He was going to go beard Hillary Clinton in her den, believing to his very core that she was responsible for countless deaths and uber-mega-powerful to boot, and he walks in there on his lonesome like he believes he’s ever going to see the light of day again. Some serious (and seriously misdirected) Sir Galahad shit goin’ on in that man’s mind.

“My strength is as the strength of ten, because my memes are dank.”

losername
losername
5 years ago

@Scildfreja Unnýðnes

Identifying that someone is showing symptoms of an illness and may be in need of help is not diagnosing someone. Witnesses have to do the former, so that a professional can do the latter.

You could be right, that these symptoms are basically like headaches or tiredness, just everyday stuff that everyone experiences. It looks so extreme though, like it could be as serious as if you saw someone having a seizure. It’s not just the leaps of logic, but the obsessiveness that worries me.

Wait, they seriously think that when his parents named him, they said to themselves “Our little boy is going to grow up to be a paedophile! We should definitely give him a name alluding to that so we can congratulate ourselves on how clever we are!”?

I think they’re claiming that it’s a sort of code name he adopted, but it’s still a bizarre belief. So much of this conspiracy theory stuff is about overanalyzing logos and names and things. It’s weird how they seem to think that conspirators are going to intentionally broadcast clues everywhere.

Falconer
5 years ago

Wait, they seriously think that when his parents named him, they said to themselves “Our little boy is going to grow up to be a paedophile! We should definitely give him a name alluding to that so we can congratulate ourselves on how clever we are!”?

Why not? They buy the birth certificate lie.

weirwoodtreehugger: communist bonobo

Now can we* stop looking at threats and violent rhetoric as fake if they take place online? Can we start taking them seriously? No? Thought so.

* We as in the culture at large. Not we as in the people here.

Hu's On First
Hu's On First
5 years ago

JSUN:

Actually, Jeffrey Epstein (the man who many pizzagators claim is at the center of the conspiracy) DOES have strong ties to Donald Trump, just as he does to Bill Clinton. That’s not something the conspiracy theorists seem to care about, though.

mechazawa
mechazawa
5 years ago

i wonder if there was a scandal suffix before Watergate that got supplanted because “-gate” was catchier. “-dome”?

Axecalibur: Middle Name Danger
Axecalibur: Middle Name Danger
5 years ago

@losername
Don’t argue about the rules. It’s one of the rules. Thanks

JSun
JSun
5 years ago

@Hu’s On First
I’m well aware of those connections.

I’m just saying that they don’t actually give a flying donut hole fuck about child abuse or the trafficking of children. They just put that on as a mask to hide the fact that they really really really really really want to kill Clinton because she opposed [sarcastic voice] The One True God Emperor Of All ManKind, The Donald Trump [/sarcastic voice] during the election.

Lea
Lea
5 years ago

I read a collection of essays ages ago and I wish I could remember the author’s name, but two of his essays stuck with me and always will.
One was about how his at night he went through the house turning off lights and checking locks before bed and how he always secretly fantasized about saving his family from intruders by fighting them like a manly man. Then, one night he tripped on a toy in the dark and fell hard, wrentching his back. As he laid in the dark he had an epiphany. Being a good dad would never come down to one moment of macho glory. It would be a day in, day out slog of minding the details and being tired, bored, distracted and older every day.

That’s life. That is how every battle is won and goal achieved. It isn’t a movie with a predictable arch where the white dude is the star and solves all his problems with violence and quips. Work by many people that is tedious, unpleasant and constant is how progress is made and maintained.

Leftwingfox
Leftwingfox
5 years ago

Agreed with Scildfreja Unnýðnes.

It’s the major difference between science and pseudoscience; the scientific method relies on experimental testing that controls for bias and alternate explanations. Pseudoscience just piles all the evidence for a belief without vetting the quality of those arguments, or weighing them against contrary evidence.

That’s common. There are plenty of people, even skeptics, who believe wacky things due to confirmation bias, peer reinforcement, or post-hoc justification of un-examined beliefs.

Where this gets dangerous is when conspiratorial thinking is mixed with widespread demonization of a person or group. A large number of people are primed to believe anything about the Clintons. For years ridiculous lies were spread by the far right, then trickled into public thought by repetition from relatively mainstream conservative through, and validated by elected officials within the Republican Party. It’s bred the ground in which conspiracy theories might seem plausible, especially if you don’t look at them too closely.

By the time it gets through the rumor mill, the rambling paranoid conspiracies of a lone crank become “I heard it from a friend on Facebook and everyone’s talking about it, so it must be true.” and the original justification suddenly becomes a false flag hoax to try and discredit people who Know the Truth.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Henry Ford was circulating “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” as if it were the minutes of a Secret Jewish Meeting, rather than some Russian’s fevered imagination.

Being wrong is more dangerous and far more common than insanity.

Lea
Lea
5 years ago

That’s how I know these fascists cannot succeed. They want a shining moment of glory to change the world for them. That’s not how things change.

Scildfreja Unnýðnes
Scildfreja Unnýðnes
5 years ago

If you’re in a position to actually reach out to these people, @losername? Then I have no complaints with you making an observation and trying to help (though I don’t think you should do so here, and you shouldn’t do so with strangers either). If you aren’t actually going to take that step, then all you’re doing is reinforcing the idea that mental illness is dangerous and scary and bad. All you see is their behaviour on a forum. What looks like obsession may be (terrible) entertainment; what looks like obsession may be an hour or two per day. Forums and imageboards are terrible at presenting context.

I get your sentiment, though!

You could be right, that these symptoms are basically like headaches or tiredness, just everyday stuff that everyone experiences. It looks so extreme though, like it could be as serious as if you saw someone having a seizure. It’s not just the leaps of logic, but the obsessiveness that worries me.

It’s not even like headaches or tiredness – it’s not flawed thinking that results in coming to bad conclusions like this. This is normal, healthy, top-of-your-game thinking. That’s how brains work.

This should worry you, deeply, because it’s how your brain works too. You’re just fortunate enough to have had experiences which have taught you a few tricks of self-criticality.

Or have you? How would you know that you’re not just as wrong as these people?

This should worry you, deeply, because there are no clear signs for being this wrong. The signs are small and subtle, and everyone misses them. We’re apes, evolved to handle social situations involving a dozen or two at most. We have no built-in tools for handling the world today, and few learned tools to fill the gaps. This should worry you.

AsAboveSoBelow
AsAboveSoBelow
5 years ago

Yeah, shoot into the floor, under which you think the tunnels full of abused kids are. Brilliant.

I fear this won’t be the last such incident.

Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
5 years ago

Blah blah ableism blah blah.

… Or, more likely, they started at “Gay Hillary supporter with a scary foreign-sounding name BAD” and just worked backwards from there.

Because that’s how all their conspiracy theories work.

Subtract Hominem, the Renegade Misandroid
Subtract Hominem, the Renegade Misandroid
5 years ago

Weird (yeah, it CAN happen here) Eddie:

*(… what word to use here?? “unintentional” works, but sounds like they spit on their shoe instead of on the floor, rather than fired a military-caliber weapon when they did not intend to… “accidental”?? no, you take a weapon where it doesn’t belong, NOTHING that happens afterword is an “accident”… “inadvertant”?? Pay the fuck some attention, fool, you have a deadly weapon in a fucking pizza joint! So, it’s got to be, either they MEANT to shoot the floor or they had so little situational awareness that they forgot to keep their finger off the trigger.)

Negligent – behaving in a way that would likely endanger other people or property, and not realizing it.

Reckless – behaving in a way that would likely endanger other people or property, realizing it, and not caring.

Either may be applicable as more information becomes available.

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
5 years ago

Their gates are getting less and less inspired. I’m tempted to start a few #gates myself. Some really really really bland ones.

#BulgeGate – If Donald Trump’s penis is really as big as he says it is, how come we never see any decent size bulge in his pants?

#kGate – Ivana and Ivanka, same person?

#LoveGate – Does Melania really love Donald?

#TimeGate – Are Republicans deliberately making time pass slower during Trump’s presidency, so as to make his term longer than normal?

#FarmerGate – Do farmers really exist? Did Trump get 12 million votes from farmers who don’t really exist?

#RoofGate – Why are Trump’s buildings so tall? What is he hiding on the roofs?

AsAboveSoBelow
AsAboveSoBelow
5 years ago
dlouwe
dlouwe
5 years ago

“Just because someone doesn’t like what someone says, doesn’t make it hate speech…

No, the content of the speech is what makes it hate speech, and I would bet long odds that the hateful nature of the speech is what prompted the invitation.

Yeesh, could they maybe strawman a little harder?

“Just because you don’t like how I’m waving my fists around doesn’t make it assault!”

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