For weeks now, some of the internet’s most out-there conspiracy theorists have been “investigating” Comet Ping Pong, a pizzeria in Washington DC. They’re convinced, despite no evidence whatsoever, the restaurant is the center of a child prostitution ring that is connected to former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Now, the absurd conspiracy theory is spreading to pizzerias in New York and Austin.
Eater New York reports famed Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s is the latest target of “Pizzagate” believers. People are calling the restaurant with threats like, “you’re going to bleed and be tortured.” Considering someone walked into Comet Ping Pong with an assault rifle and fired at least one shot over the weekend, this is a troubling development. As with Comet Ping Pong, there is no evidence to support the conspiracy theory surrounding Roberta’s (because it is not based in reality).
Meanwhile in Austin, East Side Pies is now wrapped up in the conspiracy theory, according to the American-Statesman. The pizzeria has been targeted with online harassment, and one of its delivery trucks was vandalized in recent days.
Pizzagate was born online by supporters of then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who was trailing in national polls and largely written off by the media before winning the presidency last month. They pointed to leaked Clinton campaign emails as proof of an illicit child sex ring. Comet Ping Pong owner James Alefantis was a Clinton fundraiser who had sporadic communication with Podesta, and conspiracy theorists became convinced email exchanges between the two were filled with secret code.
Daniel Sullivan, a professor of psychology at the University of Arizona who has studied the psychological motivation behind belief in conspiracy theories, says the Pizzagate story likely gained traction among Trump supporters because they felt disenfranchised and saw their sense of control as threatened.
“Thus it makes sense that Pizzagate began to spread prior to the election,” Sullivan said in an email to Eater. “Now that Clinton supporters have lost the election and their own sense of control, it also stands to reason that conspiracy theories directed in their favor (such as the biasing of vote counts in swing states) may become more popular.”
While supporters of the losing side in an election, no matter their worldview, may be prone to falling for conspiracy theories in general, Sullivan hypothesizes Trump’s style of rhetoric may be the reason his supporters have become particularly infatuated with something as outlandish as Pizzagate.
“Specifically, it is a style that does not emphasize the development of logical arguments, but rather the quilting together of a patchwork of negatively charged ideas, individuals, and code words designed to enhance anger and conspiratorial thinking,” Sullivan said. “For many Trump supporters there are a set of concepts — Hillary, Benghazi, regulation, abortion, Taliban, Obama — that represent the forces of evil and corruption. In many of his speeches and debates, Trump would string together these ideas and phrases with very little logical argument or even intervening words to connect them.
“But while this type of rhetoric sounds almost confusing to Trump opponents, I would suggest that to many Trump supporters it matches their psychological perspective and hence makes intuitive sense. The strange way in which Pizzagate ‘reports’ seemed to string together a variety of poorly connected concepts — corruption in DC, Hillary Clinton, child abuse, Anthony Weiner, sex scandals, food — is not altogether different in form from the style of Trump’s speeches. Hence it is not surprising that this particular form of conspiracy theory would gain popularity among some of his supporters.”
• Roberta’s Is Getting Death Threats From People Who (Falsely) Think Clinton Runs Child Abuse Ring [ENY]
• How Austin’s East Side Pies Became Target of Fake #Pizzagate [AAS]
• Pizzagate Conspiracy Theorist Fires Gun Inside D.C. Restaurant [E]
• Internet Crazies Think This DC Pizzeria Is the Center of a Clinton Sex Ring [E]