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Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Spread of a Witchhunt

As I was driving from Cincinnati back to NYC today, I caught up on my favorite longer-form blogs, including Stonekettle Station, via @Voice text-to-speech software. Jim Wright posted a few days ago about his encounters with insane Twitter users who continue to believe #Pizzagate is a real thing. What he found:

The people who believe this, and there are many, believe it hard.
The very suggestion that their narrative is quite literally insane sends them into fury.
There is simply no proof, none, you can offer that will convince them their narrative is false. When I suggested such on social media I was instantly attacked. 

Jim had hundreds of users, not bots, come after him with some insane stuff. He challenged others to try doing the same -- Tweeting about how #Pizzagate is (obviously) a fantasy. I'm going to give it a shot, but I probably don't have enough followers to be noticed.

The main point of Jim's post is to talk about how mass hysteria spreads over crazy stories.

None of it is that surprising, other than one thing. He discusses the McMartin Preschool Trial, which was a scandal involving a preschool where a woman accused the operators of a preschool of sodomizing her child. The trial ran from 1983-1990 and involved some truly far-out claims:

In addition, Johnson also made several more accusations, including that people at the daycare had sexual encounters with animals, that "Peggy drilled a child under the arms" and "Ray flew in the air."[1][5] Ray Buckey was questioned, but was not prosecuted due to lack of evidence. The police then sent a form letter to about 200 parents of students at the McMartin school, stating that their children might have been abused, and asking the parents to question their children.
I vaguely remember the story from when I was a kid. I didn't remember the craziest parts, but I do remember that we, as the public, seemed to take most of it as truth. It was news to me today, 26 years later, that all were acquitted and the plaintiff was a paranoid schizophrenic. I guess that proves Jim's overall point -- the media took a ridiculous, untrue story and ran with it. Sound familiar?

An aside: When @Voice reads "#Pizzagate," it pronounces "Pizza" like Brian Butterfield does:

 
 
How long until we have a mass shooting over #HoisinCrispyOwl?