Beginning in 1997, in an English town of more than 100,000 people, eight Pakistani men stood at the core of a group involving as many as three hundred suspects who abused, gang-raped, pimped and trafficked, by the most conservative estimate, well over a thousand of the town’s young girls for years.
The police were eventually accused of not just turning a blind eye, but of participating in the abuse — even supplying the Pakistani gangs with drugs and tipping them off when they heard of colleagues searching for children they knew to be in the gangs’ possession.
Others were afraid of investigating the gangs or calling attention to their behavior because it would have been politically incorrect to accuse the town’s ethnic community of such a rampant and heinous crime — in the words of one English writer, “Fears of appearing racist trumped fears of more children being abused.”
But when this story first broke, guess where it appeared?
Here’s how a blogger writing under the name Mehrdad Amanpour tells the story of how the story first started reaching people:
Some years ago, a friend sent me a shocking article. It said hundreds of British girls were being systematically gang-raped by Muslim gangs. It claimed this was being covered-up.
I’ve never had time for conspiracy theories, especially when they look as hateful as those in the article. So I checked the links and sources in the piece. I found an American racist-far-right website and from there, saw the original source was a similarly unpleasant website in the UK.
I did a brief search for corroboration from reputable mainstream sources. I found none. So I wrote a curt reply to my friend: “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t send me made-up crap from neo–Nazi websites.”
Some months later, I read the seminal exposé of the (mainly) ethnic-Pakistani grooming gang phenomenon by Andrew Norfolk in The Sunday Times.
I was stunned and horrified — not just that these vile crimes were indeed happening and endemic, but that they really were being ignored and “covered-up” by public authorities and the mainstream media.
The Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal first “broke” in the far-right blogosphere. The accusation they made was that these gangs were being allowed to operate undisturbed because everyone was too afraid of “appearing racist” to properly investigate them . . . and nobody listened to the far-right bloggers who were breaking this story because they were afraid of “appearing racist” if they gave any credibility to those far-right sources, too. Never mind that it seemed paranoid to rely on bloggers to report truths like these when the allegations were so wide-reaching, involving a literal conspiracy within the police force.
And yet, years after no one was willing to take them seriously, the far-right blogosphere turned out to be right.
Well over a thousand (mostly) white young girls were being abused by (mostly) Pakistani gangs.
And the authorities were covering it up.
We are now, once again, in the stage of an evolving scandal that Mehrdad Amanpour described his experience with above. Just to be clear, I’m not going to commit myself to the idea that this is going to be as huge as Rotherham was. We should be careful: we don’t know what would or wouldn’t be confirmed with a proper investigation. The question here is not whether we’ve gotten to the bottom of this online. The question is whether there is enough here to justify thinking there should be a proper investigation.
And the parallel with Rotherham is that the relatively small number of people asking for that are mostly the loathsome kinds of people who run “racist far-right websites.” So, since the claims are inherently conspiratorial, and the mainstream doesn’t want to be associated with those people who are talking about it, it is once again all too easy to just dismiss the claims out of hand as paranoia run wild.
Again, the evolution of the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal was an extremely painful lesson that the mainstream can be wrong and the “paranoid racist far-right” can be right. And that lesson was far too expensive to simply let go to waste.
The name of this scandal is Pizzagate.
It gets the name for two reasons: first, because at the center of the scandal are high-level Washington insiders who own a handful of businesses in the DC area, including a couple pizzerias (Comet Ping Pong and Besta Pizza), who have fallen under suspicion for involvement in a child sex abuse ring. Second, because the first questions arose in peoples’ minds as a result of some very bizarre emails revealed by Wikileaks in The Podesta Emails that, quite simply, just sound strange (and usually involve weird references to pizza). One of the strangest emails involves Joe Podesta being asked this question: “The realtor found a handkerchief (I think it has a map that seems pizza-related). Is it yours?”
The evidence is of wildly varying levels of quality, ranging from the pareidolia of “Jesus is appearing to me in my toast” to “wait, that’s actually pretty damn creepy.” The mountain of claims and observations and speculations being compiled in places like Voat and Steemit are too overwhelming for any one person to hope to wade through sorting wheat from chaff, and while I don’t intend to try, I will summarize some just a little bit of it here.
While many of these claims are wild speculation over coincidences (though by no means all of them are), at some point I think a bunch of weird coincidences involving pedophilia and kids becomes sort of damning in and of itself. In one email, Podesta is among those being invited to a farm and the host says, “Bonnie will be Uber Service to transport Ruby, Emerson, and Maeve Luzzatto (11, 9, and almost 7) so you’ll have some further entertainment, and they will be in [the] pool for sure.”
Could that have an innocent explanation? Sure, maybe. But inviting a group of adult men to a gathering and calling young children “further entertainment” while listing their ages is weird, whether it ends up having an explanation or not.
If I was getting messages that listed the ages of young children that would be in a pool . . .
And it turned out that the logo for my business contained a symbol strikingly close to the “little boy lover” logo used by pedophiles to signify that their interest is in young boys rather than girls . . .
And the bands that showed up at my restaurant had albums called All the Children with images on the cover of a child putting phallic-shaped objects into his mouth . . .
. . . and were found making creepy jokes about pedophilia (in reference to Jared Fogle: “we all have our preferences . . .”) . . . and there were instagram photos coming out of kids (“jokingly?”) taped to the tables in my restaurant . . .
. . . frankly, I would start asking questions about myself.
Here are just a few of the more “institutional” coincidences involved in the story: one of the men on the small list of people found “liking” photos like this one on these individuals’ Instagram accounts is Arun Rao, the U.S. Attorney Chief, charged with prosecuting cases of child pornography.
Besta Pizza, the business whose logo so closely resembled the “little boy lover” logo, is owned by Andrew Kline, who was one of four attorneys in the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit of the Department of Justice. Isn’t it just a little unusual that someone that high up in a human trafficking division would fail to notice the symbolism?
For yet another coincidence, Lauren Silsby-Gayler is the former director of The New Life Children’s Refuge in Haiti. It is a matter of public record that she was caught, prosecuted, and sent to jail while in that role for trying to abduct dozens of children, most of whom had homes and families. The main lawyer paid to represent Silsby-Gayler, “President of the Sephardic Jewish community in the Dominican Republic,” was himself suspected of involvement in human trafficking.
When the Clintons gained influence in the region, one of their first acts was to work to get Silsby-Gayler off the hook. Among the Podesta Wikileaks are State Department emails discussing their case. Meanwhile, she now works on the executive board of AlertSense . . . which collaborates with IPAWS to send out nation-wide Amber Alerts.
While some of the supposed “codewords” people have claimed to have identified in Pizzagate appear to be made up, there is at least one unambiguous instance: here is an Instagrammed photo posted by James Alefantis, the owner of Comet Ping Pong that appears innocent enough: a man carrying a young child with a beaded necklace draped around both of their necks.
The disturbing bit is that the photo uses the tag “#chickenlovers,” and “chicken lover” is in fact an established term to refer to a pedophile — someone who loves “chicken,” which is also unambiguously an established term to refer to underage children (you can see this in the gay slang dictionary subset of the Online Dictionary of Playground Slang).
Complain all you want about the “speculative” and “paranoid” online discussions of Pizzagate, but when you have clearer-cut cases like this one where James Alefantis absolutely, unquestionably did in fact post a photo of a man holding an infant and the one and only hashtag he used for the photo involved a term that unquestionably is a reference to pedophilia, in a context where it is clear that there is nothing else here that “chicken” could possibly have been referring to, the likelihood that more speculative claims might have truth to them is increased.
There is a 1994 documentary expose on NAMBLA (the North American Man/Boy Love Association) called Chicken Hawk. Here is yet another reference from a watchdog group from 2006, proving that this one existed well before Pizzagate surfaced. Another confirmed fact dug up by the paranoid right-wing conspiracy nuts on the Internet?
So here are a few more things we do know. We know that Bill Clinton has taken dozens of international flights on a plane colloquially known as the “Lolita Express” with Jeffrey Epstein, a man who spent 13 months in jail after being convicted of soliciting a 13-year-old prostitute. We know that Hillary Clinton’s staff knew that Anthony Weiner was sexting underage girls all the way back in 2011 — and covered it up. Guess whose laptop revealed evidence that Hillary Clinton went on flights on Jeffrey Epstein’s “Lolita Express” along with Bill? That’s right: Anthony Weiner’s.
Now do you understand why the mainstream media was so eager to spin these emails as just a “distraction” during the election?
The staff that ignored Weiner’s sexting of young children included John Podesta himself, whose brother Tony is one of the very men at the center of Pizzagate. Tony Podesta has rather warped tastes in art. For instance, he owns a bronze statue of a decapitated man in a contorted position identical to a well-known photograph of one of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims:
(See here for the disturbing photo of the real victim.)
The same news story that features the image above also mentions the fact that Tony Podesta’s bedroom contains multiple images from a photographer “known for documentary-style pictures of naked teenagers in their parents’ suburban homes.”)
Furthermore, Podesta’s favorite artist is Biljana Djurdjevic, whose art heavily features images of children in BDSM-esque positions in large showers. Here’s one with a row of young girls in a shower with their hands behind their backs in a position that suggests bondage:
Here’s one with a young boy in a shower tied up in the air with his hands over his head:
We do know that the New York Times, which is now dismissing Pizzagate in its entirety as a hoax, is run by Mark Thompson — who was credibly accused a few years back of lying to help cover up a scandal involving another high-profile public figure involved in child sex abuse, Jimmy Savile, during his time as head of the BBC.
And we do know that this has happened before.
Lawrence King, the leader of the Black Republican Caucus, who sang the national anthem at the Republican convention in 1984, was accused by multiple claimed victims of trafficking and abusing boys out of the Boys Town charity for years. You can hear the chilling testimony from three people who claim to have been victimized by King in a documentary produced shortly after the events transpired.
You can hear the FBI, even after they received extensive testimony from victims, explain in their own words that they weren’t going to prosecute King because if anything were wrong with him, he would have been prosecuted by a lower authority already. Eventually, King was found “O. J. guilty” of abusing Paul Bonacci — convicted in civil court, acquitted in criminal court.
The best written source for information about the depths of corruption and cover-up involved in this scandal is Nick Bryant’s The Franklin Scandal: A Story of Powerbrokers, Child Abuse & Betrayal .
Could all of this turn out to be nothing?
Of course it could.
But that’s not the question here. The question is how we should respond to the possibility.
Do we take the possibility seriously? History clearly indicates that we should. Even if it did turn out to be nothing at all, I would still be more proud to belong to a community willing to take the possibility seriously and call for investigation than I would to belong to a community that dismissed the possibility far too hastily and luckily turned out to be right — even as it did this and turned out to be wrong in so many cases like Rotherham before.
The real horror here would be to live in a society that responded as Reddit has — by shutting down the whole conversation entirely, banning r/pizzagate even while keeping subreddits like r/pedofriends, “a place for (non-offending) pedophiles and allies to make friends with each other!” alive.
Over on his blog, Scott Adams asks us to keep in mind cases where confirmation bias did lead to false allegations of institutional pedophilia, to caution against excessive confidence. (He hastens to add: “I want to be totally clear here that I’m not saying Pizzagate is false. I see the mountain of evidence too. And collectively it feels totally persuasive to me. It might even be true. I’m not debating the underlying truth of it. That part I don’t know.”)
But which is worse? If all the evidence coming out of Pizzagate is entirely false, what have we lost by spending time on it? On the other hand, if even five percent of the allegations that have been made surrounding the topic are true, what have we lost by ignoring them? Which is worse: spending too much time pursuing and thoroughly vetting false leads, or looking the other way while any amount of child abuse goes on?
According to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, nearly 470,000 children disappear in the United States alone each year. This number is not including suspected runaways, cases with benign explanations, and so on and so forth. The total rises to around 800,000 per year with those cases included. It is established knowledge that orchestrated pedophile rings are responsible for so many of these disappearances. In 2013, Canada busted a ring involving more than 300 adults, who had teachers, doctors, and nurses heavily represented among them. Within a week of this writing, a pedophile ring has been identified in the highest levels of UK football (Americans know the sport as soccer). The Vatican scandals can practically go without mention — institutional involvement in child sex exploitation is nearly an a priori given.
Have we identified one here?
Only time will tell. But we deserve to be paying attention. We deserve to have the matter taken seriously. And we deserve a media bringing the most relevant facts to our attention after having actually done some due diligence on the matter, which we do not currently have. The mainstream media has lied to us long enough about things like Trump having only a 1% chance of winning the election that the public has increasingly woken up to this fact — which is why Pizzagate is getting so much more attention than the Franklin scandal did. If Pizzagate turns out to have even a single-digit fraction of truth behind it, it may not just bring down the Clinton machine and Democratic Party, it may sound the death knell for the mainstream media as well.