In 2009, the Cartoon Network show "South Park," skewered the "political commentary" style of Fox News luminaries like Glenn Beck, who sometimes made outrageous accusations with no basis in fact, couched in their defense, "I'm just asking questions." The character Cartman accuses student council president Wendy Testaburger of, among other things, committing genocide against Smurfs. Several students, believing that the questions wouldn't have been asked if there wasn't truth to the allegations, form a mob and demand Wendy face justice.
It seems like a ridiculous scenario, the kind of thing that can only happen in the cartoon world. But in the real world, a bunch of people have started the same behavior--"just asking questions"-- and it's already causing real world violence.
Is Hillary Clinton covering up a worldwide pedophile ring? Is the Clinton Foundation cover for an international pedophile syndicate? "I'm just asking questions." To a lot of people, these questions sound ridiculous. But to a growing number of self-professed sleuths gathering on internet message boards, these are questions worth investigating... and the more questions they ask, the deeper down the rabbit hole they go.
If you want a taste--and believe me, you don't--check this nutbar fever dream out.
It boils down to this. First, some white supremacist on Twitter made up a story about Anthony Weiner's emails revealing a Clinton pedophile ring. Then, among the thousands of embarrassing emails uncovered by Wikileaks in the days leading up to Donald Trump's election, there were a few in Clinton adviser John Podesta's gmail account that referred to pizza. For example:
John -- Hosting pizza party at Belmont for HFA on April 10. Maya Harris is joining, but need you. Can you come? Thanks much, TonyNow, this looks totally innocent, to some people. The people who don't ask questions. But some of the other pizza emails seemed strange to people who have never left their basements or had a social life. A bunch of staffers joking about how to split up the last slice from an office party. An email from a realtor asking if John had left a handkerchief with a "map that seems pizza-related" on the kitchen island at a rental property. Just look up the word "pizza" in Wikileaks and you'll find 149 results. Is it possible that these emails were all just about pizza?
Yes, but no. Because, get ready for this... the site 4chan proposed that some of the words in these emails are actually code words. The source for these code words is.... well, unknown, but this 4chan user figured it out. By plugging in the code words for innocuous words like "pizza," it turns out that Podesta, the realtor, a dozen staffers, a pizza parlor owner and everyone else in the emails were actually talking about the cutie underage minors they were going to kidnap, torture and rape.
If this seems like a stretch to you, these good-hearted internet citizens would tell you that you're not asking enough questions.
Snopes did a pretty thorough teardown of why the "evidence" uncovered is most certainly bullshit, but all the debunking has done nothing to dissuade people from threatening the owner of a pizza parlor in D.C. and neighboring businesses.
Lest you think this is just fun and games, yesterday, a man with a gun walked into that same pizza parlor and fired a shot.
But of course, if your one who "asks questions," then you're already suspicious of the timing. What a coincidence that just when people are starting to believe pizzagate, a guy walks in with a gun?
Well, what if the gunman was just a "crisis actor?" HE HAS AN IMDB PAGE!!!!!
You can see a pattern in anything. If you look hard enough, everything is a conspiracy. Just because some things look alike or some people know each other or some places exist side by side doesn't mean they have a nefarious connection.
I believe in facts. Not speculation based on what art someone owns or whose party someone's brother once attended. Find a victim, find a crime scene, find forensic evidence, find one iota of proof that isn't an attack on someone's character or something you found that originated on 4chan. Nothing here would stand up in a court of law... that should tell you something.
These are real people that are being accused of gruesome, terrible things. They're not abstract cartoon characters. John Podesta, Hillary Clinton, the pizza guy, etc. You may not like their politics. You may not like them personally. But an accusation of pedophilia is pretty heavy. An accusation of running child trafficking is even heavier. That's pretty big weight to be throwing at someone based off of conjecture. Even an accusation is something that sticks with someone. You put it out there, you give it a semblance of validity, you might convince someone, not just that you're "asking questions," but that it's true. And that has consequences. False accusations can have real life negative effects. Especially something like this that gets people rightly fired up. You want to encourage some righteous wannabe hero to engage in some vigilante justice? Intelligent people don't make charges without real solid evidence. Find it, tell the world! But engaging in witch hunts based on circumstantial (to be generous) evidence, guilt by association tactics, and pure speculation doesn't help anyone. It hurts people.
That's my view. But it isn't the view shared by those whipping up pizzagate hysteria, the "just asking questions" crowd. Unfortunately, it seems to be spreading like a sickness. Now this same crowd is saying that the fake news sites that proliferated this election cycle weren't fake at all.
How many people who voted for Donald Trump did it because they believe Hillary Clinton runs a pedophile ring? You can laugh that off, but you can't laugh off the fact that there were millions of people who thought that there was something about her emails that made her more untrustworthy than a man involved in a fraud lawsuit he would later settle for $25 million dollars.
We're taught to question what people tell us. That's a good thing. But when the truth itself becomes a question, when there's no such thing as "fact," only the level of "digging" you've done online, reality itself becomes distorted. It's one thing to question the bias of the media.... its another thing to claim all media is in on one big conspiracy to protect a pedophile ring. Again, the media is not a bogeyman, it's made of individuals, many of whom actually have children they'd be interested in protecting.
Consider this... if the Clintons were running a pedophile ring, wouldn't some media outlet want that story? The Boston Globe won a Pulitzer for outing the Catholic Church for protecting abusive priests. Wouldn't there be some intrepid reporter going undercover, finding that dungeon below the pizza parlor?
I'm just asking questions.