Pizzagate and Beyond: Using Social Research to Understand Conspiracy Legends

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Publication Date


Subject: LCSH

Conspiracy theories, Social sciences--Research, Cognitive psychology




It happened less than a year ago. On December 4, 2016, customers were sitting down for a Sunday afternoon meal in the Washington, D.C., pizzeria Comet Ping Pong. Known locally for its quirky atmosphere, live music, and of course its ping pong, on this day the restaurant would make national headlines. Shortly before 3 PM, a man walked in bearing an assault rifle. The man took aim in the direction of one employee, who quickly fled, before discharging his firearm. Law enforcement promptly responded to calls, and officers were able to take the man into custody without further incident. They found two firearms on the suspect and another in his vehicle. Fortunately no one was hurt, but the event has left many people shaken, and not only for the obvious reasons. The accused had apparently not intended to commit a mass shooting, nor had he intended to rob the restaurant. The truth, such as it is, turned out to be quite strange nonetheless.


Magazine article published in Skeptical Inquirer, volume 41, no. 6, Nov-Dec 2017.

Article is available free to read online from the publisher's website.