During my usual check of fetid fever swamp QAnon subreddit r/thegreatawakening (I read it so you don’t have to), I stumbled upon this meme related to John Podesta’s hacked emails and pedophilia:
It seems like a waste of time to debunk a dumb meme, but it’s the hottest post on r/greatawakening right now, and likely will get more traction in the QAnon movement.
It’s also a good example of how to manipulate words and numbers to make them tell whatever story you need them to tell, as well as of the logical fallacy known as “proof by verbosity” – hoping that dozens or hundreds of dubious examples will outweigh their individual dubiousness.
A few contextual things: The hacked Podesta emails, the first of which were released hours after the Trump Access Hollywood tape hit the media (no coincidences, right?), are still available on the Wikileaks website. Or at least they will be until Julian Assange gets an indictment dropped on him.
The various food references were the core of the pizzagate conspiracy theory, accusing Podesta of running a child sex trafficking ring out of Washington pizza place Comet Ping Pizza, and signaling his evil deeds to the public through a complex series of codes and symbols.
As part of that, a supposed FBI “pedophile code” started circulating, claiming that innocuous mentions of things like pizza and ice cream were actually codes for trafficked children.
“hotdog” = boy
“pizza” = girl
“cheese” = little girl
“pasta” = little boy
“ice cream” = male prostitute
“walnut” = person of color or brain/pineal gland
“map” = seme
“sauce” = orgy
This code was not created by the FBI, and the source for it is an anonymous post from 4chan (the somehow less insane version of 8chan) right around when the emails dropped. So it has no real weight other than what conspiracy theorists have attached to it.
Despite being completely debunked over and over again, and no evidence of any link between the pizza place, John Podesta, Hillary Clinton, and trafficking rings, Pizzagate is still going strong on social media. Hence the popularity of this meme.
So I went to WikiLeaks and looked at the numbers for myself.
And sure enough, there are exactly 149 mentions of “pizza” in the emails.
The other numbers are exactly right, as well. 84 mentions of “ice cream,” 73 mentions of “hot dog,” etc.
That’s weird, right? Why is the manager of a presidential campaign spending so much time talking about pizza and pasta and sauce? I mean, who talks about walnuts and pasta that much – unless they’re really saying something else?
Here’s why “proof by verbosity” comes in, and why conspiracy theorists love using inflated numbers to back up their claims.
These are ALL of John Podesta’s emails comprising multiple accounts. Many of them are extensive quote trees of previous emails, while others are just spam or newsletters.
There’s also no attempt to contextualize the words themselves, so “Hillary Clinton ice cream social” gets lumped in with “bring the ice cream to the party.”
One email, “Dinner in DC” is a long chain trying to schedule a dinner that makes a reference to a pizza oven, getting quoted over and over again as it gets replied to. Other “pizza” references are in circulars from Safeway, bulk fundraising letters from the Obama re-election campaign, references to Georgetown alumni events, and emails detailing volunteer expenses.
Are we really supposed to look at a lobbying firm tracking expenses as part of some grand conspiracy to traffic children for sex?
The other food code words go the same way. Of the 47 references to “walnut,” 17 are bulk emails from the Congressional campaign of California Democrat John Garamendi, based out of Walnut Grove, CA. Many of the “hot dog” emails don’t even use the term, instead just using the two words at some point, often from @hotmail.com email addresses.
13 of the “cheese” mentions are advertisements from Safeway.
At this point, there’s no point in going any further. It’s obvious that whoever put the meme together did it in bad faith, with no effort made whatsoever to denote the context of these mentions.
It’s not even clear why the meme calls these “coincidences,” except because in the parlance of QAnon, there’s no such thing as coincidences – only hidden connections.
Of course, it doesn’t matter, because there is no pedophile food code and because Pizzagate has been completely debunked over and over.
But the true believers are still out there, doing what true believers do – believing.
So not only is the meme inaccurate, it’s pointless. The only purpose it has for existing is confirmation bias – reinforcing the beliefs of those who already think John Podesta is some kind of world-class child trafficker.
This is how easy it is to make numbers and words lie. Assign a meaning to a word, look for it in the correspondence of someone you don’t like, and proclaim that person is doing whatever that words means – even if it means nothing.
Pizzagate is a debunked conspiracy theory. At this point, it exists only to reinforce its own existence. But that doesn’t mean those who believe it will suddenly stop. And they use memes like “149 coincidences” to reinforce to themselves and others what they already know to be true.
Even if it’s not.