First, don’t even call them conspiracy theories.
Theories are based on fact.
When the “facts” are woven from thin air, all that amounts to is a conspiracy claim.
When readers start thinking a conspiracy claim is actually a theory, then you get the recent lunacy at an Austin pizza chain.
East Side Pies has been spinning pizzas in Austin 10 years. The restaurant’s hypnotic, watchful-eye insignia and slogan lend to playful intrigue: “ESP — we know what you want.”
Somehow, that sparked social-media trolls to “investigate” imagined connections to “Pizzagate” accusations against a Washington, D.C., pizzeria.
Both East Side Pies and Comet Ping Pong in Washington serve pizza.
That’s all they have in common.
But about 10 days ago, East Side partner Noah Polk saw Facebook comments connecting the two.
I really felt threatened and scared.
East Side Pies part-owner Noah Polk of Austin after accusations against his business.
“At first, I laughed it off,” he said Thursday.
Then, by midweek last week, a friend showed Polk discussions on Reddit.com. The next day, a patron came in videoing workers and customers.
“I really felt threatened and scared for my employees,” Polk said. He started gathering notes for a police report.
Then on Sunday, D.C. police arrested a North Carolina man with a drug conviction history in connection with a shooting at Comet Ping Pong.
“I saw talk on some Facebook pages that made me worried about our safety,” Polk said.
It didn’t help at all when one of Austin entertainer Alex Jones’ Infowars reporter-actors staged a mock “investigation.”
It was headlined: “Something is going on, but what?” The skit-report raised suspicions about whether one patron’s children were her own, and about whether East Side Pies’ eyeball logo is part of some elitist global conspiracy.
(The video was taken down Thursday, after 17,000 views.)
Two East Side locations and a delivery van have been vandalized, along with an onslaught of troll comments on Facebook.
Maybe we can make a difference and help some kid stand up to bullies.
“A bunch of people have always liked conspiracies,” Polk said: “But — this is so ridiculous, I can’t believe it’s happening, or that I have to talk to police.”
Patrons have rallied to East Side’s support. The business began taking donations Thursday for youth anti-bullying programs by the Austin arts group Creative Action.
“We’re adults — we can stand up to stuff like this,” Polk said: “But for kids, social media and what people say about them is their whole world. Maybe we can make a difference and help some kid stand up to bullies.
“We’re pizza people here. That’s all. We just make pizzas.”
Some people just make stuff up.