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Beware The TikTok, My Friends

With all the high-fiving about the TikTok kids punking the Trump campaign, I had to wonder if this meant that TikTok was an unabashedly great thing for politics. It's not.
Beware The TikTok, My Friends

With all the high-fiving about the TikTok kids punking the Trump campaign, I had to wonder if this meant that TikTok was an unabashedly great thing for politics. It’s mostly a teen-age platform and while I’m sure the kids are all terrific I’m not sure they are equipped to know what’s real from what’s not when it comes to political propaganda.

It literally couldn’t be worse. This is the most disgusting, outrageous conspiracy theory out there. And it’s taken off like wildfire on the platform. Will Somer who covers the right wing at the Daily Beast reports:

Get ready for Pizzagate, Round 2.

While YouTube has tried to root out the conspiracy theory about a Democratic child sex dungeon in a Washington pizzeria by attaching a warning to those searching for the topic on its site, there’s a surprising place where Pizzagate is booming. Nearly four years after it began, the conspiracy theory is popping up all over the place on the short-form video app and Gen Z hangout spot TikTok.

Pizzagate has become massive on TikTok, reaching plenty of young people right as the reality around them—thanks to the pandemic, police violence and related unrest, and a new Netflix documentary highlighting Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes—seems more and more unhinged. The #Pizzagate hashtag has earned more than 69 million views on the platform, while related hashtags have earned several millions more.

Take a TikTok video posted at the beginning of June. It looks like so many others: a teenager sitting in her room, while a pop song plays behind her. Rather than being about problems in school, relationships, or mainstream politics, though, this teenager is convinced that Hillary Clinton and former Clinton campaign chief John Podesta are eating children in the basement of a D.C. pizzeria.

“Search up the #pizzagate and read it all,” her texts on the screen flash. “If I die from this just know it was not an accident or suicide”

The resurgence comes even as original Pizzagate promoters like Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec flee from their associations with the conspiracy theory after it inspired an arson attack and a shooting at the restaurant. And it appears to be far more widespread than when it first began spreading in 2016. Indeed, it’s hard to overstate how huge Pizzagate is on TikTok, particularly amongst teenagers who don’t otherwise fit a right-wing conspiracy theorist mold. I watched hours of posts on the hashtag, and many of the young people promoting it are otherwise just interested in viral dances and Black Lives Matters.

Many of the biggest Pizzagate videos come from @_Kirie, a British teenager who regularly reaches nearly 1 million views each with each video claiming that Comet Ping Pong is the center of a pedophile ring. He didn’t respond to a request for comment. Typically, his videos are a screenshot of a ludicrous Twitter post promoting Pizzagate, with an encouragement for his followers to spread the conspiracy theory.

Another account with more than 150,000 followers, which normally posts dance moves about historic events, declared that “2020 is the year of the pedobusters.” In another video, the person behind the account posed as Edgar Maddison Welch, the unhinged Pizzagate conspiracist who, in 2016, opened fire inside the restaurant (fortunately, no one was hurt).

“There’s way too much that adds up in that case,” the caption reads.

Much of the latest interest among TikTok users appears to have been fueled by bogus viral tweets claiming that Hillary Clinton is currently on trial for being a pedophile. In reality, she’s fighting a mundane court case over her private email server with Trump ally Tom Fitton and his group, Judicial Watch. Nevertheless, videos that each receive nearly 100,000 views claim that Clinton is secretly on trial for running a child sex dungeon.

“I don’t know why no one’s talking about this,” said one TikToker in a video this week.

Other videos claim that Justin Bieber’s song “Yummy”, released in January, is secretly about Pizzagate. Monash University professor Mark Andrejevic, who has studied conspiracy theories on TikTok, says the app’s format is ripe for promoting them.

This just makes me depressed. And a little bit nervous. These kids don’t know the history or the dynamics of our ugly politics of the last few decades. They’re just seeing something and believing it because someone passed it on to them. They know the technology but they don’t know the context or the subtext. In some ways, they are like the elderly who get a chain letter or a Facebook post from someone they trust and believe what it says.

It’s worrying.

Update: Here’s a young influencer named Brandon Wardell. He believes in free healthcare.

And Pizzagate:

“I have very leftist politics, but I want to say I believe in Pizzagate as much as I believe people should have free healthcare. They shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.”

Actually, they should be. One is political position the other is delusional nonsense. But I’m afraid the left-wing is full of people who are as ripe for this bullshit as the right.

Published with permission of Hullabaloo

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