The New York Times & Snopes: Was Pizzagate Debunked?

In the wake of the scandal known as Pizzagate, several major publications have released articles debunking the phenomenon, including The New York Times and Snopes.

The New York Times article’s headine originally included the phrase “Fact Check,” a detail which has now been altered in their online editions. This may be because editors realized that someone might notice the article didn’t actually bother to check any of the claims being made. Their headline now reads without the “Fact Check” preface, simply saying “Fake News Onslaught Targets Pizzeria as Nest of Child Trafficking.

The implication, of course, is that any online coverage or investigation of the claims involved automatically qualifies as “fake news,” a meme that I believe has been weaponized in order to associate reporting that counters mainstream narratives with faux-reporting and tinfoil hattery, creating cognitive dissonance in readers who are exposed to ideas that run against the established orthodoxy. By looping in news that is actually fake with news that merely runs outside the mainstream, a “guilt by association” response forms in news consumer’s minds when faced with articles on certain topics, effetively banishing them from qualifying for further examination without the burden of having to present logical counter-arguments or genuine rebuttals.

So if it doesn’t check facts, what is the content of the New York Times piece? It primarily discusses the (indeed very unfortunate) threats and abuse that have been lobbed at James Alefantis, owner of Comet Ping Pong, since Pizzagate took off. It references claims that the research never made (such as that Hillary Clinton is personally “kidnapping, molesting and trafficking children in the restaurant’s back rooms”), without actually addressing any of the actual research.

Shockingly, a Telegraph article reports that during the Jimmy Savile trials, then-head of the BBC Mark Thompson allegedly lied to help cover up the crimes of the legendary pedophile. Mark Thompson is now the CEO of none other than the New York Times Company. Legendary rocker Johnny Rotten, AKA John Lydon, even claims he was banned from the BBC after unaired comments from a 1978 interview where he alluded to Savile’s crimes, commenting that “We’re not allowed to talk about it.”

Whether or not he lied to protect Savile when the BBC was embroiled in a pedophilia scandal involving one of their own, reports show, at the very least, that the BBC turned a blind eye. Are Thompson and his organization, The New York Times Company, similarly protecting dangerous pedophiles in the American political and media scene? Given those questions and the NYT’s lazy coverage of Pizzagate, it calls into serious question the New York Times’ credibility in covering such scandals.

A recently published NYT Op-Ed declares pedohpilia a “disorder” rather than a “crime.” It’s true that pedophiles who resist their urges are not guilty of criminal activity. Fantasies are never crimes, and I wouldn’t want to live in country where they were. Pedophilia might also legitimately be classified as a psychological disorder. However, the implied apologism for pedophilic preferences would rightly strike any non-pedophile as at least a bit shocking, and just as a clinical psychopath wouldn’t be forgiven for committing fraud or assault merely as a result of their diagnosis, any pedophile who victimizes other individuals should be held similarly accountable.

A visual summary is below:

new-york-times-pizzagate

A Washington Post piece, though less egregiously lazy than the New York Times one, carries similar endemic issues, with claims stating that Comet Ping Pong “was the secret headquarters of a child sex-trafficking ring run by Hillary Clinton and members of her inner circle.” This is not a claim that the researchers have made.

We’re left with several “fact check” type articles with basic factual issues, that do very little fact checking, all referencing each other as evidence that the claims have been debunked.

The BBC published an article decrying Pizzagate as “fake news” as well. In the piece, when referencing theories about a basement in Comet Ping Pong, Alefantis claims the restaurant has no basement. However, it seems that Alefantis himself is guilty of confusing basic facts about his own restaurant: in a 2015 interview with Metro Weekly about celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s visit to Comet Ping Pong, Alefantis specifically references a basement in the restaurant that he now claims, in the wake of Pizzagate, does not exist:

alefantis-basement-cometpingpong

The Snopes piece that attempts to debunk pizzagate uses the New York Times article and other similarly-written pieces, such as this one from the Washington City Paper, as sources.

The langugage in the Washington City Paper suggests it was written by someone with a similarly pre-determined conclusion but, to its credit, it does link to some of the actual research so that its readers can dig deeper. However, with the definitive declaration that Pizzagate has been “debunked,” most news consumers will simply take the article at face value.

The author of the Snopes piece is someone named Kim LaCapria. Her bio lists her as a “Content manager and longtime Snopes.com message board participant.” A content manager is someone who works either creating, curating, and/or directing the development of articles, listicles, media galleries, or other content for websites.

One might wonder how, exactly, this background qualifies her to definitively rule the Pizzagate claims as “False” with a capital F — a claim that not even Aceloewgold.com‘s own summary makes. At this stage, as an opinion blog populated with opinion articles, this writer’s claim is merely that more research and digging seem geniunely warranted. Such a definitive answer at this point does not seem particularly journalistic, and suggests a rush to conclusions to prove it false–which is exactly what Snopes et. al are accusing the researchers of doing: seeking information to confirm their own pre-existing conclusion.

A cursory examination reveals that LaCapria’s piece contains basic factual errors. She writes about images from James Alefantis’ personal Instagram page, confirmed by Alefantis himself to be from a genuine account, as coming only from third parties. She writes:

“…the photographs that the Instagram account purportedly hosted were instead, apparently, taken from the pages of various people who “liked” the restaurant’s page on Facebook:”

The NYPD statement specifies that the Instagram posts came from Comet Ping Pong’s social media pages and other pages in their social media networks, without specifically discluding Alefantis’ personal Instagram page.

Indeed, if she had done 2-4 minutes’ worth of basic research  rather than contriving her own desired conclusion based on a vaguely-worded NYPD statement, she might have found interviews in major news outlets where Alefantis confirms that reseachers had indeed discovered pictures from his personal Instagram page. Multiple other sources show that Alefantis does not dispute that the Instagram profile is his own — merely that the pictures it contains are innocent, and are being taken out of context. It seems that LeCapria reviewed only the NYPD statement and several articles declaring Pizzagate debunked, without bothering to look at any of the research itself. This lack of due diligence should give pause to anyone considering LaCapria’s overall depth of research, reporting, and qualifactions.

Ask yourself: are claims and research actually being checked, or are articles simply leading readers toward a pre-set conclusion with Straw Man fallacies, regurgitation of memes like “fake news” to create an instant negative association, active avoidance of concrete rebuttals, emotionalized assumptions, and other manipulative techniques?

Don’t let the declaration of something as “fake news” replace your own ability to think and research independently, or you’ll ironically fall victim to the same tricks that actual fake news achieves: a rush to conclusions during which you have surrendered your own critical thinking to someone else. Look at the actual claims, spend some actual time researching, and then when you make your decision — whatever it may be, right or wrong — it will at least be an informed one.

Regardless of who tries to debunk the claims, it appears that the researchers have no plans of stopping their work, and that debunking-type articles only serve to increase interest in the topic of Pizzagate. Whether or not anything legally  actionable is ever discovered, only time will tell.

22 comments

  1. I appreciate you very much. you seem on the level. people don’t like evil, it scares them, they’d rather believe it’s not true. So they buy into the “debunked” articles, even if the article is a cheap illusion, because they don’t WANT to know. I refuse to avert my eyes.

    the powerful are powerful, but the vampirarchy cannot withstand intense suspicion and heat forever; i believe social media will pierce their shadows in a drastic and final way before long.

    thanks again😀

    1. Thanks for your kind words. I’m thrilled you find my coverage of the phenomenon helpful!

  2. […] blog Aceloewgold actually raised some salient questions about the mainstream media’s reporting on PizzaGate, […]

  3. Actually people do want to believe the worse as long as it’s about someone else and preferably someone they already have contempt for. We are becoming an internet driven lynch mob and when they come for YOU because you promoted and accepted mob mentality I will have absolutely no sympathy.

    1. I fail to see how my coverage promotes a mob mentality, but to each their own. I think if you take a look at the research going on on Voat, the investigation is clearly not being conducted as a lynch mob, though maybe you’d disagree. If you haven’t taken a look at it, frankly, you don’t really have any basis for that claim. Thanks for your comment!

  4. Why doesn’t someone just *go to the restaurant* for 5-6 times and see what happens there? Good God it’s not like the Kennedy assassination, where all that can be known is now known – just, go!

    1. Thanks for your comment. I think the answer is, whether or not there is anything on there, the result would be 5-6 fairly unremarkable lunches. If a restaurant functions as a front for illegal activity, the entire point is that the day-to-day business is legitimate and that all appears normal.

  5. Okay, then if an investigation of the place would be unavailing then talk to the victims. Or get one of the perpetrators to turn on the others. The best way to determine the actual facts would seem to be to go discover the actual facts.

    1. If victims have not come forward or cannot be identified, one can’t just go and talk to them. And I’m not sure how someone could get one of the perpetrators to turn on the others, as you suggest. I’m not sure you’ve taken into account the basic limitations that are at play here.

  6. So – no victims, no perpetrators, investigation of the site wouldn’t be availing. There is no direct evidence of a crime and no apparent way to obtain it. Assuming just for a moment, an instant, that there’s nothing to any of this – and take into account the basic limitations that are in play. How does the restaurant clear its name, at all? Or is it just game over for them now, they should shut their doors before someone *else* with a gun comes in and, this time, shoots up the place full of (by your own postulate) innocent patrons, their children, waiters – ?

    1. Cases have been tried and convicted based only circumstantial evidence. Others have been declared innocent. For those that were declared innocent, those who uncovered the evidence aren’t guilty of wrongdoing by default. They aren’t responsible for making sure the accused can also clear their name in the court of public opinion, which says nothing of whether or not the original investigation was warranted.

  7. You can’t even *bring* a case without actual proof of a crime, let alone win one. That’s what we have here. No evidence of a crime (no victims, no perpetrators) and evidently no way to get it. Even the Salem witch trials had victims.

    Still I wonder, if the restaurant and its owner are completely, utterly innocent (a distinct possibility, you have to admit, since we have no victims or people confessing to the supposed crimes) then how are they supposed to clear their name? How is it even possible under the standard of proof you’ve laid out here?

    1. If you read my original summary of Pizzagate, you’ll see that I agree readily that innocence is a possibility. As far as them being to clear their name, my previous comment addresses that. question.

  8. Still I’m left unclear on what facts the Times, or Post, or BBC should have or could have found that would leave you comfortable in saying, “there’s nothing to these allegations” rather than repeating them along with, in effect, the tepid disclaimer, “hey, I don’t believe them, just wondering about all this.”

    Already we haven’t got victims or perpetrators or anything visible on the premises, but that’s meaningless because pedophile rings are secret and you never find direct evidence of them. So here are some other things that I thought might be exculpatory – but along with the explanation of why, like the absence of victims or perpetrators or physical evidence, they would also probably be deemed insufficient.

    – Podesta explains the unusual context, between friends, in which the e-mails were written. (Unpersuasive – Podesta is a pedophile and would of course deny and camouflage it; also whatever possible explanation he may offer for those e-mails, coded pedophilia remains the most likely explanation.)

    – The recipient of the e-mails explains them. (No – same thing.)

    – Long time local customers of the restaurant, accompanied by their children who’ve been going there the entire time between the ages of 2 and 10, attest that there is nothing going on. Or waiters or cooks or other present or former employees. (Unpersuasive. If they are in on it then of course they deny it; and if they are innocent, well, the ring is secret and so of course they’re unaware of it.)

    – An armed gunman who’s read about this drives up from North Carolina to investigate it himself, and, after shooting the lock off a door inside, finds no evidence of a pedophile ring and turns himself in. (No, unpersuasive, he is a shill of the Clinton machine sent to discredit the investigative efforts of the Internet; or, he isn’t a trained investigator and wouldn’t know where to look.)

    – A TV crew gets access to the basement and shows pictures of it filled with nothing but anchovies & cheese. (No, because 1) it means they lied about there being no basement; 2) three weeks is plenty of time to cover up the operation and 3) “anchovies and cheese” is a well-recognized code phrase within the pedophile community signifying, “all is well, we’ll be back in business after this all blows over”.)

    I’m really struggling to imagine what facts, what actual provable observable *things* might be sufficient to counter the supposition and speculation that’s been rampant on these issues. What *facts* can counter *stories* – what facts should the media have dug up that would have made any difference at all?

    1. I go through verifiable facts in my original piece summarizing the phenomenon. I spent considerable time doing so, so I’m not interested in re-typing them here when the info is already available on this blog. Go and read it for your answer. I didn’t say “I don’t believe them,” but what I do say — specifically — is that whether or not they are true, I believe there is enough here to warrant further scrutiny, and if not, then at what point is that level of scrutiny earned?

      Whether or not the facts I summarized are enough to compel anyone is another issue, but none of those media outlets bothered to report any of the verifiable. Not only did they include *basic factual errors* regarding what the research was claiming, but they ignored the verifiable facts — which, though are only circumstantial in terms of being “evidence”, are still the facts of the case. The fact they they were ignored — along with basic errors in the articles themselves — implies lazy reporting and shallow research, with a regurgitation of the “fake news” meme to remove the journalists from having to face the burden of real reporting and research to come to an independent conclusion, rather than a predetermined one — which is exactly what they accuse the “fake news” publishers and readers of doing.

      I’m ending this thread, as I’m finding it unproductive, particularly given that you are requesting I summarize information for you that can be found elsewhere on this blog. Regardless, thank you for your comments!

  9. Thanks for your answers – even though I’m left in the end with the unshakable sense that even if this is all just vile invention, there’s nothing in the world that the restaurant, its owners, its patrons, or law enforcement could ever do or say that would convince anyone of their innocence. They’re just – screwed. Welcome to the 21st century I guess.

    1. Sure thing, thanks for keeping it civil and thoughtful throughout!

  10. Well, it’s been dispiriting to see, based on the mysterious and opaque reading of entrails by self-styled internet “sleuths”, such vicious attacks on what those of us nearby know to be a simple, well-liked local pizza restaurant that is (blessedly and for God’s sake don’t read something vile into it) kid-friendly. They have ping-pong tables in the back where families kill time while waiting for tables, and the food’s good, and the drinks are fun, and they don’t seem to mind a bit of chaos and noise. How someone can read something sick and sinister into all this is just flabbergasting. (And I say this as the father of two girls who, if someone molested them, I’d cut out his / her intestines with a box cutter while forcing them to watch. Sick fucks.)

    I really wish that more people would come and investigate it for themselves (no guns though, thanks) and come away understanding that there’s nothing going in here, rather than repeating repeating repeating rumors and far-fetched speculation as fact. The facts are here, ready to be seen. Nothing is stopping anyone from doing it except – I dunno, the risk that facts may get in the way of a story they like to tell.

    Thanks too to you for the civility.

    1. Agan, I disagree that helpful facts could be derived from the activities you suggest, and from your wording, am wondering if you read my summary piece, as I think it demonstrates clearly why they would read something sick and sinister into it — whether or not that is a warranted conclusion, it clearly answers the “why.” Your comment suggests you haven’t looked into the “why,” so if you are so curious, go ahead and read up on it and you’ll have your answer.

      Just as you say the investigators are seeking to fulfill a pre-determined conclusion, your language suggests you have done the same, albeit with the opposite conclusion. I do agree that it is highly unfortunate when rumors and speculation are relayed as fact and then re-published elsewhere as fact, as is happening on many sites discussing Pizzagate. However, the media’s debunkings of Pizzagate are guilty of this same phenomenon, speculating on the theses, conclusions, and motivations of the researchers without verifying any of it, journalistically, for themselves. I’m sure you see the problem with this.

      You continually come back to the vicious attacks upon the pizza owner and others, which I have repeatedly condemned, so I’m not sure why you keep coming back to it — it’s a dead horse. Again, this thread has become unproductive, as we are repeating ourselves and repeating points that have already been covered, so further commentary doing so will not be published — I’m sure we both have better things to do with our time than repeat what’s already been said😉

      You’re very welcome!

  11. You are one sick puppy and another part of the fake news…you want to sound legitimate yet you hide behind some nom de guerre. Shame on you for being another old lady at the back fence spreading your rumors without any FACTS whatsoever….Is this what you call professional journalism?…I call it sedition and rhetoric from the extreme right. Get a life.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Johnny. I considered not publishing it since it doesn’t not contain logical counter-arguments and is just a string of ad hominem attacks, but it felt like a good opportunity to mention that a number of verifiable facts are, in fact, cited in the piece, including information showing that the debunking articles got basic facts wrong in their own reporting.

      We don’t claim to be professional journalists on this blog, and make no revenue from it, so no, we do not actually call this professional journalism. Not sure where you got that information, but you might want to re-check your source. We call it opinion blogging. Maybe if you were able to tell the difference, you would be more adept at separating fact from fiction in your preferred news outlets.

      The critique of our anonymity is a legitimate one, but since we have day jobs, it’s helpful to keep our blogging hobby compartmentalized. Thanks again for pitching in your thoughts.

      Take note that further comments consisting primarily of personal attacks will not be published as a matter of policy, as they are intellectually unproductive for both writer, commenter, and our readers as a whole.

  12. Staci Sprout · · Reply

    This is a fantastic story and you are being trolled – I’d ignore it and keep up the awesome work!

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