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Where did the Pizzagate conspiracy come from?

Where did the Pizzagate conspiracy come from?

by digby


This is the best article I've read about the propaganda/fake news phenomenon I've seen yet. It attempts to unravel the inane Pizzagate conspiracy and it's fascinating. The article talks about the first twitter message about the conspiracy and traces it back to a right wing nut in Joplin Missouri who unconvincingly claims her account was hacked. She's a piece of work but it's pretty clear that the whole thing didn't originate with her.

That's where the story really begins:

On a pair of anonymous message boards, we found several possible seeds of Pizzagate. On July 2nd, 2016, someone calling himself FBIAnon, who claimed to be a "high-level analyst and strategist" for the bureau, hosted an Ask Me Anything forum on 4chan. He claimed to be leaking government secrets – á la Edward Snowden – out of a love for country, but it wasn't always clear which country he meant. At various times, he wrote, "Russia is more a paragon of freedom and nationalism than any other country" and "We are the aggressors against Russia." FBIAnon's secrets were about the Department of Justice's inquiry into the Clinton Foundation, which federal prosecutors never formalized. "Dig deep," he wrote. "Bill and Hillary love foreign donors so much. They get paid in children as well as money."

"Does Hillary have sex with kidnapped girls?" a 4channer asked.

"Yes," FBIAnon answered.

Another possible germ of Pizzagate appeared online about 10 hours before Katz posted her story on Facebook. TheeRANT describes itself as a message board for "New York City cops speaking their minds." Virtually everyone on the site uses an identity-masking screen name. Favorite topics include police body cameras (bad) and George Soros (worse). On October 29th, 2016, someone calling himself "Fatoldman" posted that he had a "hot rumor" about the FBI investigation.
"[T]he feds were forced to reopen the hillary email case [because] apparently the NYPD sex crimes unit was involved in the weiner case," Fatoldman wrote. "On his laptop they saw emails. [T]hey notified the FBI. Feds were afraid that NYPD would go public so they had to reopen or be accused of a coverup."

Someone posted the news to a law enforcement Facebook group. From there, a user called Eagle Wings (@NIVIsa4031) posted it to Twitter. Eagle Wings' profile picture shows a smiling middle-aged woman above the description "USAF Vet believes Freedom Soars." Among her more influential followers are former deputy assistant to President Trump Sebastian Gorka and former national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn, who actually shared a separate Eagle- Wings tweet last year. Eagle Wings' enthusiastic following likely has something to do with membership in "Trumps WarRoom," a private group of online activists who share and amplify political messages. Participants told Politico's Shawn Musgrave that hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of pro-Trump rooms coalesced during the campaign. "The members aren't stereotypical trolls," Musgrave tells me. "Most are baby boomers." A lot are women from the Midwest.

But Eagle Wings is not a typical political enthusiast, says Woolley, who directs research at the Institute for the Future's Digital Intelligence Lab. She tweets too often (more than 50,000 times since November 2015) to too many followers (120,000 as of November 2017). "Without a shadow of a doubt," he says, "Eagle Wings is a highly automated account [and] part of a bot network" – a centrally controlled group of social-media accounts. To explain how they work, Ben Nimmo, a fellow at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, uses a shepherding analogy. "A message that someone or some organization wants to 'trend' is typically sent out by 'shepherd' accounts," he says, which often have large followings and are controlled by humans. The shepherds' messages are amplified by 'sheepdog' accounts, which are also run by humans but can be default-set "to boost the signal and harass critics." At times, the shepherds personally steer conversations, but they also deploy automation, using a kind of Twitter cruise control to retweet particular keywords and hashtags. Together, Nimmo says, the shepherds and sheepdogs guide a herd of bots, which "mindlessly repost content in the digital equivalent of sheep rushing in the same direction and bleating loudly."

Whether Katz repeated something a herd of bots was bleating, or repackaged tidbits found on other parts of the Internet, her Facebook post was the "human touch" that helped the fake news story go viral. The "tell," says Watts, was what happened next. Most of us post into Internet oblivion. But about 12 hours after Katz shared her story, a Twitter user named @DavidGoldbergNY tweeted a screenshot of her post, twice – adding, "I have been hearing the same thing from my NYPD buddies too. Next couple days will be -interesting!"


It's literally unbelievable and yet we know what eventually happened. Aside from that cretinous moron getting elected, some kook took his AR-15 and went to the Pizza parlor looking for Hillary Clinton's kidnapped kids and shot the lock off of a storage door.

The fact that millions of people are trafficking in theselies is a huge problem and I haven't got the faintest idea about how to fix it. People believe what they want to believe and there are some actors in this world who are ready to give them what they want in order to advance their own agenda. Indeed, a whole population has been primed by talk radio and right wing media to accept a certain kind of propaganda with no questions asked. We are all susceptible to confirmation bias but this is on a level that approaches brainwashing.It's very, very disturbing.

Read the whole thing or listen to the Reveal podcast discussing it here.