Reply All: #83 Voyage Into Pizzagate
December 8, 2016 12:22 PM - Subscribe

A conspiracy theory, a pizza related map, and a website fighting for its very soul.

Further Reading from ReplyAll

Bryan Menegus’ great article, “Reddit is Tearing Itself Apart.”
An interview with Edgar Welch, the Pizzagate gunman.
The Donald Subreddit

Additional Links
Top Minds of Reddit, a reddit community highlighting the worst of conspiracy theorist culture
The saga of 'Pizzagate': The fake story that shows how conspiracy theories spread
posted by the_querulous_night (11 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I also avoided learning about Pizzagate knowing it would sadden and infuriate me. And I was right!
posted by maxsparber at 12:38 PM on December 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

PJ: "I dunno how we got here."
Alex: "Uh, well, I've actually been doing reporting on how we got to this point."
PJ" "Like where everything's broken?"

Including my soul, PJ.

(I think Rachel Maddow covered pizzagate and that's how I knew about it already?)
posted by giraffe at 12:45 PM on December 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

What I guess is telling about this year is I thought for the first five minutes that this had to be a rebroadcast because it sounded so familiar. I had to self-investigate multiple times to make sure this wasn't an episode that already aired.

Like, that Reply All had done enough episodes about goddamn awful, conspiratorial, racist and ignorant things already, that it felt that way.


(It was a good episode, but after the first few episodes of Startup this season I'm concerned that Alex is still doing so many Yes Yes Nos.)
posted by General Malaise at 1:43 PM on December 8, 2016

East Side Pies is an established pizza joint with a couple locations in Austin, and they've recently become a Pizzagate target.

East Side Pies started getting harrassment via social media. Then a day or so ago someone was arrested in conjunction with the case. The reason they were arrested was for firing their hand gun in the air in their front yard.

I found the person's Facebook page and scrolled back, and wow, it's full on Pizzagate crazypants starting from about late November. Before that it's just your usual "Libtards are so stupid they believe X, hurr durr". But around November the guy talks about how he's getting a gun, going to the "toy store" to pick up his Walther P99 and extra mags. He posts videos of someone going in a couple East Side Pies locations and secretly filming. He posts about how the artwork inside the restaurant is full of "pedo code". He talks about how he's reached out to the Austin Police Department and they seemed dismissive of his investigative work. He posts about inviting people to the gun range before they "slay the pedo fucks".

Then a couple days later East Side Pies is vandalized, harrassed, and the dude is arrested for shooting his gun in his front yard. The guy mentions at some point in his Facebook screed that he was a victim of child abuse, so maybe his obsession with Pizzagate drove him to look for evidence locally.

It doesn't help that just before this happened, an "reporter" started uploading videos and podcasts about East Side Pies. From an article in the Austin American Statesman:
"In the broadcast uploaded to YouTube, Shroyer said he was “weirded out and creeped out” by his visits to East Side Pies. What he saw, he says, left him “gripping my gun tighter every night.”

The “weird stuff” he encountered? Employees with large-gauge piercings and blue hair, a “weird locked-up grate in the back” of one location, disturbing rock music and band fliers with “satanic” symbols. The “coup de grace,” according to Shroyer: two children playing dominoes in the presence of an adult.

He also thought the restaurant’s logo, a pizza in the shape of an eye, with the catchphrase “We know what you want,” was a nod to the Illuminati.
This fucking bullshit. It's so irresponsible and it's going to get someone seriously hurt or killed.

Article about initial harrassment of East Side Pies.

Article about the arrest of the person of interest.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:48 PM on December 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

I guess I'll have to listen to this and stop avoiding this giant steaming pile of shit of a news story.


They could use some support.

And these assholes.

Jesus Christ.
posted by bq at 8:38 PM on December 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

Alex's conviction that everyone should surely know what 'all ages' means made me laugh - I had basically the same reaction to stepping back from a familiar phrase and trying to see how it might look when it's new in this bizarro context.

I thought this was kind of great, in spite of/maybe because of the very unlikely timing of the story being worldwide right as it comes out.
posted by carbide at 12:25 AM on December 9, 2016

Interesting how a YYN turned into a much bigger story/episode. Count me in the "I was trying to avoid this topic" camp, but I'm glad I listened to the episode. The interviews with the subreddit mod and the head of reddit were really interesting.
posted by radioamy at 9:54 AM on December 9, 2016

The interviews with the subreddit mod and the head of reddit were really interesting.
That's one word for it.

I'm getting tired of Gimlet giving a platform for horrible people to spread their ideas. The CEO in particular went from sounding mostly reasonable to parroting "But, of course we're not going to do anything about the constant undercurrent of hate and harassment that makes us so much money."

...and PJ and Alex give him a pass for it. Reddit has absolutely no obligation to be any kind of democratic system, and its owners should not get a pass for enabling the horrible behaviors that they've facilitated.

And yet again, Gimlet disappoints.
posted by schmod at 1:11 PM on December 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

The Reddit CEO is remarkably blithe about /r/The_Donald, considering that Digg was basically destroyed by right-wing upvote brigades ten times less malignant than what we have now.
posted by theodolite at 4:32 PM on December 9, 2016 [6 favorites]

The Reddit CEO is remarkably blithe about /r/The_Donald, considering that Digg was basically destroyed by right-wing upvote brigades ten times less malignant than what we have now.

From the sounds of it, the Reddit CEO nearly lost his job over fucking with /r/The_Donald, so I can see him not wanting to say anything non-conciliatory on the record.

And, TBH, what reddit needs to do is: fix the algos that allow subreddits to dominate the site, create and enforce rules to punish actual harassment (doxxing, some types of brigading, incitement to violence), and ban the worst offenders. And it seems like they are moving in the right direction on all of those fronts. Was it shitty of them to not take action sooner? Possibly, but I also understand the impulse to err on the side of permissiveness, because not every community site needs to be moderated like Metafilter is -- especially one in which users can choose to only engage in the well moderated subsites.

As for the conspiracy theory stuff...I previously had the impression that the subject of #pizzagate was of gross, but #pizzagate itself was mostly harmless, along the lines of #illuminaticonfirmed. Like if people want to get all worked up assuming that an entire district in the nation's capital is a front for some of the vilest possible crimes, fine. At least it's not racist or sexist per se and literally no children were harmed in the making of this (particular) conspiracy theory. I also wouldn't be surprised to learn that a lot of the proponents of the craziest pizzagate theories were just trolling -- there is something funny about getting idiots to believe nonsense. Overall, it kind of made me think of the D&D/satanism panic of the 80s and 90s.

As far as I could tell, the worst that would come of it is that the types of people who wouldn't be caught dead in the type of area where pizza parlours host all-ages shows would boycott a business and people with brains would make up the difference by ordering MOAR PIZZA. My brain just never even went to the place where this could actually lead to real-world violence, because dude... it's a pizza parlour. And that's a problem, because I've been underestimating the crazies of the world.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:38 PM on December 13, 2016

An excellent episode. I love how the goofy/funny Yes Yes No format turned into a deadly serious story about a dangerous situation and a political scenario where some part of America has lost its fucking mind.

I'm a big fan of Reddit. I'm really torn about their policies around right wing bullshit. Spez's quote about providing a place because "there’s about half the country that feels alienated and unheard" seems like so much crap to me. Let hateful racists and misogynists hang out on the Daily Stormer or Infowars or Voat, Reddit has no obligation to them. OTOH I also am committed to free speech as a principle, even for private companies, and also to a culture with diversity of opinions. /r/The_Donald's content walks a careful line where the visible content there is mostly not worse than other subreddits (a low bar, to be sure.) But they're also gaming Reddit's social systems and to me that makes it clear it should be excised. And /r/pizzagate should never have been allowed; it sounds like Reddit shut it down as soon as it was clear it was a problem.
posted by Nelson at 8:02 AM on December 16, 2016

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