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Here's what you need to know about Pizzagate

At the tail-end of 2016, a snow-swept America dealing with the victory of Donald Trump was consumed by two hysterias. One, the threat of Russia having stolen the election from Hillary Clinton, compelled a great terror that Trump was a foreign plant at the worst, and a collaborator with Vladimir Putin at minimum. This theory is still alive, but its mad counterpart, which spread online in right-wing circles from Reddit's r/thedonald to 4chan and YouTube personalities, died months ago.

The conspiracy theory, titled Pizzagate, emerged from two different strands of bizarre 'evidence'. The first came from authentic Wikileaks emails, leaked from Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, John Podesta. In these emails, Podesta makes reference to pizza in bizarre ways, which led many to believe he was using a code language. Making someone a "pizza", designating a meeting as "pizza-related", or getting "pizza for an hour" certainly sound out of place.

The second strand of evidence came from a DC pizzeria's Instagram account, featuring photographs like this, interpreted as signs of child abuse:

 

alt Credit: Instagram

The conspiracy zeroed in on Comet Ping Pong, the Washington DC pizza store where this photo was taken, as a secret pedophile sex ring run by John Podesta. Indeed, the word 'pizza' was deduced to refer to pedophilia. Connecting the dots was James Alefantis, listed as the 49th most powerful person in Washington DC, the owner of Comet Ping Pong pizza and alleged to be a close friend of Podesta and Hillary Clinton.

So the theory goes: John Podesta and Hillary Clinton used Comet Ping Pong as the site for a pedophile sex ring, frequented by the elites of the Democratic Party. The theory culminated in a gunman named Edgar Maddison Welch marching into Comet Ping Pong in December, armed, and firing multiple shots to attempt to rescue the "sex slaves". He was sentenced to four years in prison.

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The theory only gets spookier as it evokes Satanic connections. What's worse than a pedophile ring? A Satanic pedophile ring, of course. Leaked emails between John Podesta and artist Marina Abramovic mentioned a 'spirit cooking' dinner in July 2015, which Podesta was invited to.

Spirit cooking is a Satanic ritual where blood, milk and semen are used in the food.

Yet, Abramovic was infuriated by the connection of her spirit cooking to Satanism. She took it up as an art project in 1996, and said: “It was just a normal dinner. It was actually just a normal menu, which I call spirit cooking. There was no blood, no anything else. We just call things funny names, that’s all.”

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Michael Fynn, a former member of the Trump administration, even tweeted about Podesta's spirit cooking, and his son, Michael Fynn Jr., tweeted that Pizzagate had not been proven false.

Of course, no pedophile sex ring was ever found in Comet Ping Pong, nor any links to pedophilia between Podesta and Clinton. None of it was ever substantiated, and even conspiracy theory high-lord Alex Jones backed off from it and denied that he ever cosigned it.

Pizzagate remains fascinating as an example of what mass internet sleuthing and hysteria spread across 4chan, Reddit and YouTube can amount to. Pedophile Satanist cults can materialize out of thin air.