By Christopher Douglas
Perhaps one of the strangest instances of fake news that proliferated in the final months of the 2016 election was the conspiracy known as “Pizzagate.” Supposedly, a D.C. restaurant housed a pedophilia ring involving members of the Democratic Party, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta. Podesta’s emails—released by WikiLeaks, and probably hacked by Russia—revealed phrases like “cheese pizza” and other code words for child sex-trafficking. Hillary Clinton herself may have been involved. The ring seemed to include Satanic rituals. The Clinton campaign was engaged, on the side, with running a child sex-trafficking business.
As German Lopez noted at Vox.com, the story seems to have begun on 4chan and spread through news aggregation websites and social media. The restaurant quickly “got hundreds of death threats on their phones and social media.” Then a North Carolina man decided to investigate the pedophilia ring himself, bringing an assault rifle that he fired in the restaurant. (No one was hurt.) As the man later explained about the absence of child sex slaves there, “The intel on this wasn’t 100 percent.”
As we’ve moved from an election dominated by fake news to a new Trump administration run on the principle of “alternative facts,” it’s worth taking some time to ponder what seems to be contemporary conservative credulity. We should certainly be reminded of the term “truthiness” that Stephen Colbert invented in October 2005 to capture some of the pronouncements of the George W. Bush administration. As he explained then, truthiness was the truth that “comes from the gut,” not from actual facts—“the truth we want to exist,” that feels right.
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