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Detangling wild conspiracy theories about politicians convicted of child sex crimes

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Detangling wild conspiracy theories about politicians convicted of child sex crimes

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I’ll say this up front so that there’s zero confusion: Child sex trafficking is real, it’s heinous, and it’s been going on for a long time. Everyone who buys or sells a child or partakes in harming a child in any way should be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law. There is no place in civil society for people who sexually abuse children or who profit off of the abuse of children. Full stop. No question.

But we have careened into some twisted waters in our social discourse around child sex trafficking, to the point where the real issue of is being conflated with outrageous conspiracy theories that deflect from the real work being done to save children, put innocent people in harm’s way, and interfere with the integrity of our elections.

I wrote about this issue recently and was met with accusations of being paid off by powerful pedophiles (ugh, seriously?), a flood of people saying “No, you’re wrong!” while offering zero evidence, and a bunch of YouTube and Facebook videos that people seem to think are credible sources. I got fake screenshots of supposed Wikileaks emails that aren’t actually on Wikileaks when you search for them. I got people who only listen to fringe outlets that have no oversight or accountability claiming that my well-cited, real news sources were a part of the whole conspiracy. All of that stuff I could ignore. Whackadoodles are gonna whackadoodle no matter how many facts you throw at them.

But I also got a few people sharing a list of nearly 100 politicians and other powerful people who have been convicted of child sex crimes. That was different, because it was factual.


There have been dozens of politicians who have been convicted of sex crimes involving children, and the list itself was accurate. (One particularly viral version of the list linked the people with Ghislaine Maxwellthat part is false, but the crimes are real.) Politifact, in a fact-check of the Facebook post, even put together a Google doc with a news story corroborating each one on the list.

However, that list is not evidence of some sort of global cabal of evil, pedophilic overlords who are engaged in coordinated rituals of child sacrifice and child sex trafficking.

When you see a list of name after name and crime after crime, it’s easy to think “Wow, this is insane! So any politicians and powerful people are involved in this stuff!” It looks like a huge number. You have to scroll and scroll to get through all of those names and headlines. But let’s put our ability to reason to good use here.

That list which includes around 60 politicians and 30 people adjacent to politicsincludes elected officials at the local level all the way up to the federal government. And as far as I can see, based on the news stories, the convictions take place as far back as 1983. So we’re talking about 60 politicians over a span of 35+ years.

Do you know how many elected officials serve in the United States at any given time? Around 520,000. And over 35+ years, the total number individuals serving in those positions would actually be double or triple that number (or more) due to turnover (different people get elected, people retire, terms run out, etc.) But let’s just go with a nice, round, safely conservative 520,000.

60 out of 520,000 is 0.012%. That’s twelve-thousandths of a percent.

Of course, there are people who never get caught, much less convicted. So let’s say there were twice as many politician pedophile abusers as actually get caught. That would still only be 0.024%.

But let’s say it’s way bigger than that. Let’s say that there are actually ten times more pedophile politicians than the number who have been caught. Even then, that would be 0.12% at most. Twelve-hundredths of a percent.

Considering the estimates for pedophilia (depending on what ages are included) range from 1% to 5%, it doesn’t appear that politicians are any more likely than anyone in the general population to be pedophiles.

And how about those 30 who were not elected officials at all, but activists, donors, celebrities, and more? The list included people like Harvey Weinstein (who was a slimy sexual predator, but no evidence of being a pedophile), director Roman Polanski, Jared Fogle the Subway guy, radio host Ben Ward, some anti-abortion activists, a few political aides, a campaign chairman, a Christian Coalition leader, a pastor, and others.

If you take the categories those other people belong topolitical aides and activists, celebrities, Christian leaders, etc. who are politically activeand add up all of the well-known people who fit those categories, what percent are these 30 people do you suppose? My guess is a tiny fraction, similar to the politicians.

There is no doubt that there are powerful people who abuse children. There is no doubt that there are famous people who abuse children. There is no doubt that there are people at every strata of society who abuse children. And though most sexual abuse is perpetrated by friends and family of the abused, there are definitely organized child trafficking operations. There are also legitimate questions about the extent to which individuals in Jeffrey Epstein’s social sphere were involved with his own well-documented sexual escapades with young teenage girls.

But none of that equals a secret Satanic child sex trafficking ring involving ritual child sacrifice among America’s most powerful politicians and celebrities using “pizza” as a code word for children. (And yes, I’ve searched the Wikileaks emails and read the pizza references. It’s literally just people talking about eating pizza, like all of us do.) The idea that high-profile people with full-time jobs who live their lives with a spotlight shined on them are spending their limited spare time running underground child abuse rings and using official email channels to secretly discuss pedophilic torture is just ludicrous on its face.

Yet the conspiracy theorists say, “Connect the dots!” But that’s exactly the problem. Anyone can connect disconnected dots to create whatever picture they want. That’s how we ended up with constellations named after animals and mythical gods, despite not really looking anything like the things they are named after. Conspiracy theories are like constellationsloosely constructed connections, blanks filled in with imaginary lines, and shapes that require you to ignore everything that interferes with the picture you’re trying to paint.

For instance, the sheer number of people who would have to be “in on” something like the Pizzagate theory makes it mind-bogglingly impossible. Let’s start just with the media element. I know that the QAnon people have convinced their followers that “the media” can’t be trusted, but the media is not one monolithic thing. “All mainstream media outlets are owned by four giant corporations!” I’ve been told. Well, no, that’s not actually true. But lets pretend that it is. The nature of corporations in a capitalist system is competition, right? So those media corporations would be in competition with each other, each one vying to break big news first. If there truly were news legs to something like Pizzagate, don’t you think one of them would have picked it up by now?

How about the politicians who pay investigators good money for opposition research so they can smear each other all the time over every little thing? Wouldn’t those in opposition to those who are supposedly part of this Satanic child sex trafficking cult be turning them in to the authorities if there were truth to it? Why, after four years, is all the Pizzagate “evidence” still confined to internet chatrooms and random YouTube videos and Twitter posts?

And how about law enforcement? Surely after four years, and with all the evidence people claim exists, law enforcement would be taking action against these people. And yet the Washington DC Metro Police Department has called Pizzagate “a fictitious online conspiracy theory.” Are they in on it too?

So people actually believe that huge numbers of politicians, celebrities, the media, corporations that own the media, and law enforcement are all part of some big web of conspiracy to traffick and hurt children? This, despite the fact that the many organizations that have been battling actual child sex trafficking for years and years have yet to endorse any of these outrageous theories?

This post by a woman who founded an organization that specializes in child welfare within the entertainment industry thoroughly addresses the vast majority of the false info floating around out there, differentiating between the nuggets of truth (which are always present in a conspiracy theory) and the many falsehoods. Politically-motivated individuals and groups are working overtime to get people sharing this garbage, so we have to counter it by spreading real, verified information far and wide as much as possible.

Child sex trafficking is an important issue, but it’s not new and it’s not what the Pizzagate and other theories describe. Getting attention on the issue is important, but not at the expense of truth. Kooky conspiracy theories pull vital resources and energy away from the real work being done to battle it and do real harm to people whose names get caught up in the web of it all. (Read this account by the man who owns Comet Ping Pong, the basementless pizza parlor where the Pizzagate sex trafficking ring was supposedly being run out of its basement.) This stuff is not harmless and it needs to be called out for the garbage it is.

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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories – KTVZ

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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories - KTVZ

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Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York are calling on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to create a new bipartisan committee focused on election integrity and schedule hearings to reassure Americans over a process President Donald Trump has repeatedly sought to undermine.

There is growing anxiety among Democrats, and some Republicans, that Trump will not only continue to sow doubt over the legitimacy of the coming election but throw the subsequent count into chaos by declaring victory before all the votes can be tallied, including the millions that will arrive by mail.

In a letter to McConnell, Sanders and Schumer quote back the Kentucky senator’s own words, in which he attested to the reliability of mail-in voting by citing its successes in Oregon, Washington and Colorado, which have been using the system for years.

Trump has repeatedly questioned the validity of mail-in voting, promoted conspiracy theories questioning election security, called on supporters to act as unsanctioned “poll watchers,” and suggested that the absence of a clear result by the evening of November 3 would in some way cast doubt on the eventual outcome. Key allies in powerful positions, like Attorney General Bill Barr, have followed suit. Barr has persisted in puffing up a debunked claim that ballots received by mail would somehow strip the sender of their privacy — ignoring well-established safeguards.

By escalating the matter now, Sanders and Schumer are responding to growing concern, in partisan and nonpartisan spaces, that Americans are not adequately prepared for the potential of a longer-than-usual wait for results or Trump’s willingness to short-circuit the democratic process if he smells defeat.

“Democrats and Republicans in Congress must come together to ensure that we have a free and fair election where every vote is cast and counted without intimidation,” Sanders told CNN, “where no one has to put his or her health in danger to cast a ballot, and where we have full confidence in the results.”

The proposed hearings would invite a cross-section of election officials from across the country to testify to the security and reliability of mail-in, early- and in-person voting — subjects on which Sanders and Schumer, again, referenced McConnell’s own words.

“Despite the clear security of our vote-by-mail system, some have continued to undermine it with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud,” they wrote. “As you have correctly said, people ‘can vote early, you can vote on Election Day, or you can drop it in the mail,’ and that voters should ‘not worry about your vote not counting.’”

The minority leader and Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, also want more detailed discussion about the fraught hours, or days, after the polls close and a real-time watch of the election horse race potentially swings from one candidate to another.

“We know a number of states may well be counting ballots for a period of time after Election Day, and that those votes may be determinative in this election,” the senators wrote to McConnell. “To avoid disinformation, conspiracy theories, and suspicion about results, we must understand the likely timeline for this process.”

The letter goes on to reference the recent war games-style preparations conducted by a group called the Transition Integrity Project, a bipartisan gathering of operatives and academics that made headlines when some of the outcomes of their exercises — including “both street-level violence and political impasse” — were reported on in late July.

“A bipartisan group of experts and officials have studied multiple scenarios where the outcome of the election was not immediately known. Some of these scenarios resulted in unrest and even violence,” Sanders and Schumer wrote, suggesting the Senate should elevate similar discussions and familiarize the public with the uncertainties ahead. “We would like to hear from the most knowledgeable people in the country as to how we can do everything possible to make sure that the election and the period afterward is secure and peaceful.”

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS supported Caputo, with a statement that called him a critical, integral part of the presidents coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was no immediate statement from the White House.

Attempts to reach Caputo were unsuccessful.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called on Azar to fire Caputo, accusing the spokesman of trying to interfere with CDC reports to the medical and scientific community, as well as the public at large. And Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Azar himself to resign, citing interference with the CDC as one example of what he termed the administration’s failures.

Officials at CDC have privately complained of recent efforts by political appointees at main HHS to try to edit or press for changes in the agency’s weekly MMWR publications, a go-to resource for public health professionals.

MMWR articles are technical, but they reveal telling details. One published earlier this year noted that while Trump’s travel restrictions dramatically reduced travel from China in February, nothing was being done at that time to restrict travel from Italy and Europe, where the coronavirus was spreading widely and rapidly. Analysis of virus samples from hard-hit New York in March suggested it was introduced there from Europe and other parts of the U.S., the CDC article reported.

Caputo is an unswerving Trump loyalist. His recent book, The Ukraine Hoax, claims the presidents phony impeachment was rooted in a vast conspiracy.

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS…

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS...

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My RSS Feedunwinona:

This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS and Polio narrative (among others), only we’re seeing it escalated to weeks and months instead of years or decades.

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