Elon Musk Pivots to Pizzagate as Advertisers Flee

Elon Musk Pivots to Pizzagate as Advertisers Flee

If Elon Musk is actively trying to drive advertisers away from his floundering social media site X, then he’s doing a really fantastic job of it. Fresh off spurring a maelstrom of criticism over a tweet that was broadly decried as antisemitic (and which led to an outflux of advertisers), Musk has now decided to dip his toe into the “pizzagate” conspiracy theory, which seems about right.

On Tuesday, seemingly out of nowhere, Musk weighed in on the bonkers theory that links Democrats (specifically Hillary Clinton), Satan worship, pedophile networks, and a popular Washington D.C. pizza parlor. In a since-deleted tweet, Musk shared a meme that seemed to imply that anti-disinformation experts who had helped debunk Pizzagate were somehow linked to the conspiracy via crimes against children. “Does seem at least a little suspicious,” the billionaire tech mogul offered, vaguely.

Screenshot: X/Lucas Ropek

And yes, sure Elon, it might seem suspicious were there any evidence that it was actually true.

Musk’s meme seems to have referred to James Gordon Meek, a former ABC national security reporter who was arrested last year and pled guilty to heinous child pornography charges. Following his arrest, rightwing web users claimed that Meek had previously tried to “debunk” the pizzagate theory, thus implying that he was covering for—and somehow involved—in the fictional perverted cabal. However, Reuters has reported that said web users appear to have been spreading unfounded (or, at the very least, wildly exaggerated) claims. Though a 2017 ABC article that is partially attributed to Meek refers briefly to the “debunked pizzagate conspiracy theory,” Reuters notes that Meek never conducted a personal investigation into the theory or attempted to actively debunk it.

More recently, rightwing X users have circulated nearly identical allegations about Slade Sohmer, the former editor of the video news site The Recount, who was arrested and jailed on child porn charges earlier this month. Some X users have peddled the notion that Sohmer wrote articles “debunking” pizzagate, and that he was a close “friend” of former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. It’s not exactly clear where either of those allegations come from or what basis they have. A general Google search using the term “pizzagate” and Sohmer’s name produces no article results. There also doesn’t seem to be any evidence that Sohmer was close friends with Podesta. The outlet Evie has made the point that X users might possibly be confusing Sohmer with Meek.

At any rate, the real point of this story is that Musk sure knows how to scare the hell out of advertisers. His comments from about a week ago not only led to an exodus of advertising money from his platform X but also seems to have inspired him to pay for a trip to Israel, where he met with Bibi and wore what appears to be the world’s smallest bulletproof vest (seriously, that thing looks like it was designed for a french bulldog or something). Of course, none of that seems to have inspired him to be any more careful about what he tweets.

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