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, effectively 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 Thompson 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 pedophilia 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:
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:
(Note: It has since been discovered that the basement in question is at Alefantis’ other restaurant, Buck’s Fishing & Camping.)
The language 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 genuinely 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 researchers 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 qualifications.
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.