Friday, June 23, 2017


    For those few readers who still remember Pizzagate, the suspect in the only act of violence that grew out of that short-lived hysteria was sentenced to four years in prison today. Edgar Welch faced 35 years maximum for a botched vigilante raid on the Comet Pizzeria in Washington, DC. During the trial, Welch ended up pleading guilty and the general consensus of the Court seemed to be that he was nothing but a dupe; hence the judge issued the mandatory minimum sentence and a near $6,000 fine to pay for damages to the pizzeria. So Welch fades into history---a sadder but wiser man.

       Pizzagate was really one of the strangest Conspiracy Theories that ever gripped the Prozac Nation. The theory alleged that high-profile members of the Deep State were operating a child sex-trafficking ring out of the Comet Pizzeria in Washington, DC. This was based on some e-mails released by Wiki Leaks which referenced DNC staffers ordering pizza. Pizzagate proponents bypassed several actually incriminating e-mails to imagine that these e-mails were coded messages related to sex trafficking.

       As we noted at the time, it's actually not that uncommon for political campaigns to communicate in codes---especially when dealing with campaign strategies or dealing with false allegations. Given the number of insider leaks, it's actually a prudent policy. It's something that's always gone on in American politics; one can find among Thomas Jefferson's letters coded campaign messages. There's even a decoding machine which Jefferson himself invented on display at Monticello.

       That aside, Pizzagate was remarkable for having not one piece of tangible evidence to support it. Unlike other Conspiracy Theories, there was never anything like video footage, recorded tapes, eyewitness testimony---nothing beyond speculation. The theory that holds Sandy Hook as a hoax has ex-law enforcement and criminologists who question the official narrative, Pizzagate never even had that.

      In fact, common sense alone would tell one that the Comet Pizzeria would be one of the worst possible locations for a large-scale criminal enterprise---especially one involved in human trafficking. President Obama used to eat there and the FBI Headquarters are less than 10 miles away. We're talking about a restaurant that was likely frequented by police, military, security, and intelligence operatives on a daily basis. When Welch attacked the Comet Pizzeria, the entire block was surrounded by police in less than five minutes.

      Welch's actions led to the ongoing national debate about censoring so-called 'fake news'. Theories like Pizzagate themselves aren't especially dangerous; the problem is that they are fanned by people with national platforms who intentionally are trolling to incite actual violence and harm to others. What Welch's case really shows us is that the demagogues and trolls aren't the ones who get punished for acting on their advice. Their tools are the ones who end up dead or in prison while the demagogues sell books and go on radio shows and rake in the loot.

       Don't be an Edgar Welch. Question what you hear and don't be afraid to discuss it; but don't go shooting up pizza parlors for no reason. If there's any truth to these stories, there are legal venues for addressing them.

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