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November 16, 2022 56 mins

It’s one of the weirder things Jordan Klepper has heard at Trump rallies: Democrats are drinking the blood of children to get their daily adrenochrome fix. What is adrenochrome, and how did Hillary Clinton get involved? Jordan sits down with Matt Gertz, Senior Fellow for Media Matters for America and Elise Wang, an assistant professor at California State University, Fullerton. Together, they unravel this conspiracy theory that begins in the Middle Ages, pops up in the 2016 election, and makes its way to the non-existent basement of a Washington D.C. pizza shop. 

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Speaker 1 (00:02):
Blood. It's everywhere on children at Halloween, in test tubes,
at the doctor's office. In the very title of the
two thousand seven drama, there will be blood, and it's
even inside you right now, which means you're part of
this story. So Buffaloup. This is Jordan Clapper Fingers the Conspiracy.
If you're listening to this podcast, you probably already know

(00:23):
a little bit about pizza Gate, and we'll get into
that shortly. But this extremely weird idea that pedophiles are
using secret symbols is rooted in the belief that Elita's
cabals it's always a cabal, are rounding up babies to
steal their adrenaline by consuming their blood. They're Republicans and
congress who believe this. You might have also seen it
in the Netflix show The Watcher. It's a conspiracy theory

(00:47):
that goes way back before Hillary Clinton and comment Ping pong,
and it goes back nine hundred years to when Joe
Biden was born. Let's get into it, as Chris Cuomo
would say, alright, let's bring in our own little blood cabal.
I have two guests today. First, we have Dr Elise Wong,

(01:08):
a professor at California State Fullerton who studies conspiracy narratives
going back to medieval England. Alice, Welcome to the podcast.
Thanks for having me. Yes, and my next guest is
Matt Gertz, a senior fellow at Media Manners for America
and extensively covers the relationship between Fox News, Donald Trump,
and Trump supporters. Matt, thank you for being here. Great

(01:29):
to be here, guys, You guys ready to talk caballs.
It's always an elite cabal. It's always elite. There's ye
is there any lower level cabals of just like guys
just trying to to get through it, who have like
a high school education. It's always elite, right, Yes, that's
the point. That's the point of cabals. You you have.

(01:51):
It's no fun to be in a in a like
mediocre caball state school. I mean yeah, when it comes
to whoa with the state school things, I think this
podcast is gonna start selling t shirts that says state
school cabal on it. There really is, there's you know,
it's always elite cabals, and the illuminati also very elite.

(02:16):
They need to be more encompassing. We need to have
our state school Illuminati and Cabals will sell the t
shirts go to Daily Show dot com everybody. I will
wear that at my state school at least. I want
to start with you. Let's break down adren of chrome
because it feels like the base for a lot of
theories we're going to dive into in this podcast. First

(02:38):
of all, is adrin of chrome technically real? It is, Actually,
that's a good place to start. It is actually a
real thing. It's the oxidation of adrenaline and this can
happen naturally in your body or in a lab. It's
actually really easy to come by. You can just buy
it on the internet, like not the dark Webon or
not just the internet. UM. I think it's something like

(02:58):
milligrams for for fifty five bucks, fifties eight bucks, something
like that. I looked it up. UM. So it's not
used for anything really, there's nothing the FDA has approved
it for. It's occasionally used for things like blood clotting. Um.
There was some interest in the nineteen sixties for treating

(03:18):
using it to treat schizophrenia, but it really showed no promise, UM,
so they dropped it. The history of the dren A
girl we're talking about is sort of it goes back
to I think Elvis Huxley was the first one to
talk about it as a drug. He talked about it
indoors of perception, and then Hunter S. Thompson in Fear
and Loathing in Las Vegas is really the one who

(03:42):
cemented the myth of adrena chrome as a drug because
he turned it into this kind of immortality drug. Um,
this thing that you have to get from a live source. Um.
I think the line is a corps is no good buddy, um.
And so that and then the subsequent movie they're like
dramatized to the effects of adrene of chrome. What is

(04:04):
the ship that stuff makes pure mescal and seemed like
ginger beer man adrine of chrome, adren of chrome. Well,
that's really where our modern perception of it as a
drug comes from. So it's from these fictional sources. Are
we saying it correctly? Adrine of chrome? I mean that's

(04:26):
how they say it in the video. Um. And if
you go, I know, you're not supposed to the video.
Are we talking about the Terry Gilliam film. That's how
Johnny pronounces it. Yes, that's that's where this this, this
is where we're getting our information from Yes, exactly. Well
that's where they're getting their information from. Like I know
you're not supposed to go to YouTube comments, but if
you go to the YouTube comments on this scene, um,

(04:47):
they are all about how how this is real? Yes,
based on fair in Lolding, Las Vegas, which I will
say I love that book, top ten book in my world.
It's a great book. But that is sort of the
central the beginning that in Huxley's book is where the
first time we actually hear the term adrina chrome. He
even said afterwards that he just wanted a quote unquote

(05:10):
crazy drug and so he made it up. And so
he's drawing on Huxley and then like adding his own
little stuff and the drink of chrome. The way it's
become it is as you were saying, it's it connects
to all of the different conspiracy theories because it's a
grab bag of the greatest hits. Right. It's got pedophilia,
it's got satanic rituals, it's got blood rituals, immortality like

(05:31):
satanic panic and Hollywood elites. It's got everything. It's a
good one. It is. Yeah, let's add some context to it.
In this world, the conspiracy theory is Hollywood liberal elites
and Hillary Clinton are murdering children and ritual sacrifices, harvesting
the chemical compound from human children, drinking their blood to

(05:51):
ingest a drina chrome because it has some sort of
elixir of life properties. Is that right? Yes? Yes, And
you're telling me it may not be true. I mean
you should. You should buy it on the internet and
find out it's it's at least for at least for
the dabble. Uh, Matt, when did you first become aware

(06:13):
of adrena chrome? I think probably around As part of
the Pizza Gate conspiracy theory, the pizza Gate conspiracy theory
posits that this uh cabal of global elites who is
you know, are are draining this chemical compound from small

(06:33):
children and sexually abusing them, is doing so in the
basement of a Washington, d c. Pizza parlor called Comt
Ping pong Um. This idea spurred in some ways from
emails from the John Podesta hack uh during the election cycle.

(06:55):
And Uh, I've been to the pizza parlor and it
doesn't have a basement that you can use to abuse
children and take their bodily fluids. Um did you ask?
I mean it goes one step beyond asking for a
bathroom key, because they'll happily give you a bathroom key,
but you you have to be a little pushing and

(07:16):
be like, I need to use the restroom. I also
would love access to the basement where the children are
tied up and I can get the dreda chrome. Did
you probably as I think there probably was a time
that you you could have done that. But as the
conspiracy theorists seized on this, uh, the pizza parlor started
getting bombarded with phone calls from people who wanted to

(07:38):
know more about the the basement and the uh, you know,
pizza Gate conspiracy theory. And eventually one of the adherents
to this conspiracy theory took a gun, went to the
pizza parlor looking to save the children, fired it off
inside uh and was subsequently arrested and spent a couple

(07:59):
of years in jail. So, uh, you know, at that
point it becomes a little bit rude, I think to
to to ask the people who work at the pizza parlor.
Um it became it had real consequences. And for if
if this is somewhat new to anybody listening, the Podesta
emails get get hacked, wiki leaks leaks and Podesta emails,

(08:22):
and emails between Podesta and Hillary Clinton reference buying cheese pizza. Right.
I don't think it's him and Hillary Clinton, but it's
it's it's a some sort of email that references pizza
that then became a sort of Internet meme, uh and
brought into the broader conspiracy theory uh that at least

(08:44):
was talking about. Well, and cheese pizza becomes abbreviated to
c P, which also stands for child pornography and common Pizza,
and so they start to connect those links and common
Pizza becomes the place to go in a nutshell. Right, Yeah,
that's that's about it. I on the road and I
somewhat recently talked to somebody who was sort of discussing

(09:07):
this um theory, and it is amazing the symbols they see,
not only in the common Pizza background and the symbolism there,
but I asked them, like, what do you need to
look at there, Like, well, in the pizza chain, there's
a lot of symbols that you have to stay focused on.
It was like, what do these symbols look like? And
they're like, well, they're predominantly circles and triangles. There's a

(09:28):
huge push for normalizing pedophilia. How do they normalize and
are they making pedophiles look cool? If you go online,
there's a whole list of pedophile symbols. Yes, they're they're
like circular symbols. There's trying, there's a lot of triangles,
there's colors. A lot of the are pizza, which, if
you're at all into purchasing pizza, that tends to be
all of the symbols you see at any kind of

(09:50):
pizza chain. So from their perspective, they're holding a hammer
and there's just nails everywhere. Well, I think I think
watching Pezza the gate happened, and then from my end
watching the um chat rooms and you know, message boards
and all of these things, both before and afterwards. There's

(10:11):
that aspect of it, like the people who really get
into the game of it, like let's let's find the
numerology and the all of like the special symbols. And
then there's the people who are actually mobilized around this.
And that's what really struck me about Pizza Gate. It
was the first time that I really saw this where
you could see there was already this this theory about

(10:32):
a pedophile ring being run by the Clintons, and it
was kind of a theory in need of specifics, and
so they went out seeking specifics and they decided, basically randomly,
the comment Ping Pong was going to be the place.
And then it started this sort of multi media propaganda
campaign where people they got people to call and harass,

(10:54):
as Matt was saying, um, they got people to flood
the Yelp reviews and the Google views and people to
go and harass the proprietor. And then this sort of
culminated in the guy who drove up from North Carolina
to self investigate. Um. But that wasn't really the the story.
The story was that then people talked about it that

(11:16):
then it was in the national media for like forty
eight hours, like a whole week. And it was not
only in the media. Their theory was in the media.
And I went back to the message boards afterwards and
they were just beside themselves with joy over this, Like
it was not it was not a it's not at

(11:38):
all about oh, our guy was arrested whoops or ha,
he didn't really seem to find anything. Um, it was
not about that. It was about the media exposure, and
then there were sort of further suggestions, well, how can
we get them to keep denying it, so they keep
saying it, so people keep googling it. And when I

(12:01):
was seeing that, I was like, oh, this is something else.
This is this is a kind of savvy media campaign
that I think most of us at that point we're
not totally familiar with. Now we know if you mentioned something,
you have to be very careful what what sort of
buzzwords you mentioned, because it will sort of feed the
conspiracy theory monster. I'm curious in hearing that, what do

(12:25):
you think the end goal was? How was that a success?
Was it? You know a lot of that online culture,
does you know traffic controlling and the successes of trolling
often is a large reaction. Is it is it that
that made it the win? Is it the fact that
their conversations became mainstream news that was the win? Is

(12:45):
there still the connection to the veracity of this theory
and that because it's being talked about that that adds
some credibility to it? Or is just we like shine
and we got some shine. I think it's a lot
of we like shine, But I do think that there
there was the jubilation of being able to make the
social media to mainstream media jump, and then um, I

(13:09):
think it was a huge recruitment tool. I think people
hearing the name would then go google it and then
would find their way to these message boards. So I
think for them, the coup was really through recruitment. Matt,
what did you notice the coverage of pizza Gate? What
did you first remember seeing it? And who was who
was first to jump on that? You know, I think
I want to bring an Alex Jones here because I

(13:31):
think he played has played a key role into conspiracy theories,
uh for quite some time, but I think really made
almost say a sort of mainstream jump during this conspiracy theory.
He was one of the major propagators, one of the
people with the biggest platforms who would talk about pizza

(13:53):
Gate and try to encourage people to look into pizza Gate.
You know, we had been following our Jones media matters
for quite some time, but we always, I think, as
at least was alluding to h were very hesitant to
bring too much direct attention to his conspiracy theories for

(14:14):
fear of just sort of bringing more attention to them.
And so when we wrote about Alex Jones in UM
we were largely writing about how other people were giving
him uh their uh support. Fox News personalities who would
go on his show, Rand Paul and Ron Paul, who

(14:35):
would go on his show and use the platform of
someone who you know is one of the chief popularisers
of the idea that nine eleven is an inside job,
you know, sort of bringing him into political prominence, uh
and Pizza Gain. I think was really a turning point
because we saw that someone could use those conspiracy theories,

(14:58):
could inflate them, and that there could be a big
real world impact when people who came to believe those
conspiracy theories went too far. It was a a I
think pretty disturbing uh time for all of us when
when when we saw that come together, I mean as
as somebody both with the Daily Show and having done

(15:20):
a TV show after that, you know, parroting the Alex
Jones talking points and what was happening in that far
right world. That was always a conversation about what point
you don't want to amplify these wild ideas, But at
the same time, turning a blind eye is something that's
already having an effect on culture. It's already being amplified
by legitimate politicians, uh even the Donald Trump uh, legitimizing

(15:43):
the points of view. They're like, you saw people taking
what they would hear from info wars in the conversation
around that, it was becoming very real world news. Um.
I want to talk a little bit more about how
some of these things spread, but I want to focus
one more time on the adrena chrome specifically, at least
I want to know if we trace back this specific theory,

(16:08):
even the origins of adrena chrome. Does it go back
before Hunter Thom says, does it go back before it
becomes sort of pulp in modern culture? Is is there
a history that dates back to even even earlier. It
definitely does, And the way that it dates back is
a little bit of um sort of associative thinking. Um.

(16:28):
So conspiracy theories often work this way. They kind of
jump on to think they have a very lazy logic.
They jump onto things that are already um fully formed.
One of the conspiracy theories that is attached to adrena chrome,
or that adrena chrome is basically drawing on and modeling
itself on, is blood Libel, which is a conspiracy theory

(16:50):
dating back to the Middle Ages that Jewish people um
drink or use the blood of Christian children for their
religious rituals, specifically a passover. And for the record, we
don't do that. Yes, I mean, thank you, Matt, thank
you for thank you, thank you for for for yeah,
specifying that, um it's and it's designed specifically to incite violence,

(17:13):
like that is what blood libel is for. So there's
that kind of thematic connection. But then there's also the
fact that the main purveyors of adrena chrome, like Alex Jones,
like Liz Croakin say that it's blood life. I'll say
that it actually dates back to that. And if you
look at these adrena chrome memes, one one sort of

(17:36):
popular one that goes around has this very obviously medieval
image of a baby being drained of blood with people
standing around it, and it says at the top, why
does this image even exist? And the image is of
Simon of Trent, which is the most famous and well
documented blood libel, and it's the this particular blood libel

(18:00):
started um passover. A father had come to the Bishop
of Trent and said, my two year old son, Simon
is missing. And this this bishop already had a story
ready to go. Um, he decided it must be the

(18:20):
Jewish community, the very small Jewish community in Trent. He
had a couple of reasons for for wanting this story
to be true. One, he felt like the Pope was
too soft on the Jewish people and that he was
too cozy with them. So this was his little power
grab in opposition to the pope. And then also, if
you had a saint, if if he could prove that
Simon was martyred by the Jews, Um, if you had

(18:43):
a saint in your town, that was a huge money
making opportunity, Like you could get people from all around
to make pilgrimages to your little alter and then you
would make money basically off of like brand, brand building.
And so it was like the brand building opportunity. I

(19:03):
was like, there, that's cheesecake factory. If you had if
you had a cheesecake factory of town, you know, you're
gonna get people from the suburbs. We're gonna come in,
they're gonna pay some money. It's gonna help the town,
that's the thing. And he wanted to kind of put
Trent on the map. And so even before they start
any kind of trial or anything, they round up the
Jewish community, the entire Jewish community, and imprisoned them. And

(19:26):
he hires a physician to write this very inflammatory autopsy
that talks less about Simon's body and more about the
I think the phrase is dry throated Jews howling for
Christian blood, like this really over the top kind of autopsy.

(19:47):
And then he takes this autopsy that was the doctor
that was the that's a that's a really high end
literary anti semitism yep. And well it gets more high
end because then he takes this he sends it around
to poets and two artists and it's like make stuff
from this, and they do. Like the poets start writing

(20:09):
poems about Simon of Trent, and the woodcutters start making images,
and that's the image that shows up in that adrenea
chrome meme is the sort of propaganda campaign by this
Italian bishop who decided he really wanted his own little
ritual cult. Those woodcutters, they just will take money whoever

(20:32):
puts it out. Where is the artistic integrity in fifteenth
century woodcutters? They you know, I hold them in such
high regard. I love them. I think it's the best
century for woodcutters, and yet they are so willing blind
eye to the social responsibility of being a woodcutter in
that time, They're taking dirty money to put out anti

(20:53):
Semitic propaganda. Shame, shame on. I'm never I'm never buying
fifteenth century woodcutter art again, shame. I feel like the
parts of this that are really useful, though, is kind
of it's kind of that that, like, it was the
propaganda campaign that really made this take off. It wasn't
like this was kind of a grassroots rumor that was

(21:16):
rooted in sort of general anti semitism. I mean, that's
why it took off, was sort of latching onto generalized
anti semitism. But the actual formation of the Blood Libel
was very intentionally crafted for a political end by someone
who is powerful. I have never heard of that. I
think it's so easy to to look at the um

(21:36):
those in power, and also the the religious heresy at
the time and the institutions at the time and the
point of view they wanted to get out. But the
fact that they were using artists to spread that mention
message to affect culture, I mean, you see obvious comparisons
to what happens today, But that even then it was
still important. You want this thing to stick. Culture needs

(21:57):
to stick. And the fact that we're using those images
yet today as proof of what Hillary Clinton is doing
is is bonkers. Well, I want to take a short
ad break. When we come back, we're gonna talk more
about how Adrea of Chrome spread as an idea even
before the Internet was even around. We'll be right back.

(22:19):
Welcome back to Jordan's upper fingers. The conspiracy. I mean,
I never I didn't actually plan to work on conspiracy theories.
Like I'm a medievalism like a huge nerd. I like
books and this. This was not the way I saw
my studies going. But it just it just basically stumbled
on it. We're like, here we go. Also, is that

(22:41):
something was in the ether, the modern ether that you
saw a connection between the two. Yeah, I was basically
in I started, I mean, like like all of us,
I think I was a little bit concerned and uneasy
about the fake news phenomenon, and in particular this epistemology aspect,
this can't trust anything that you see, um, And I

(23:03):
started hearing echoes with the stuff that I study and
speech patterns like that's what they want you to think.
Do your own research. Um, I've heard or or people
are saying these kinds of gestures towards sources. I started
seeing those things. I was like, Oh, that doesn't that

(23:23):
doesn't sound that sounds familiar and not good, and I
just sort of started following that. Um, and now my
autocorrect knows adren of chrome. So clear we are in
the case of these historical conspiracy theories and the beginnings
of blood libel. How do you see these theories spread

(23:44):
before modern news and communication and memes and four chan
and eight chan and parlor and true social and should
I keep going, I'm not going to keep going. Well,
they spread remarkably well. Um. I think that the essential
shape of blood Libel was a very compelling shape. It was,
you know, there there are evil forces that are out

(24:06):
to get Christian children. And there was also the fact
that it was pretty common for medieval children to die
in accidents or disappear or fall into a river like
child death was was quite common, and so it became
kind of a predictable thing that if a child died
in a Christian community that pretty soon suspicion would fall

(24:27):
on the Jewish community. And it did spread by word
of mouth. But it also spread by all of these
sort of cultural productions that it's spread by these woodcuts,
it's spread by um, these poems that were written in
honor of Simon, and it also spread because these stories
got baked into the official histories. These historians think of

(24:50):
themselves as you know, responsible, reliable UM, and they go
back to the local histories and they just sort of
draw from what ever the local history is, and so
these blood libels get baked into sort of accepted history
as fact, and then anyone who reads that will that

(25:11):
will be their primary UM interaction, basically with the Jewish
community for a lot of places, because these programs have
already taken place. Mug Ditator has done a really great job.
She studies blood libel and she's done a really great
job of showing how actually, before the printing press, word
of mouth didn't work that great. It really needed to

(25:31):
be written down. And that also shows that it was
mostly educated people, mostly higher class people who were spreading
blood libel. It wasn't a low class theory. UM. It
was a it was a kind of upper class theory.
And that's interesting, and I mean, there's a great book
by Neil postman, I'm using ourselves to death. That talks
a lot about how the mediums affect the message. The

(25:52):
events of the printing proress affected not only the way
information was spread, but the way we think about information,
the way we process information. And then you suddenly have
television come out and out the way in which we
communicate and the way we process and information is very
different than the way we used to with the printing press.
I think it's fascinating to think of that in terms
of like who is spreading information and that it was

(26:14):
a it was an elitist thing. You had to be
able to uh speak that language then. But now that
we see information changing, the technology changing, man, I want
to bring you in here. How are you seeing conspiracy
theories like pizza gate, uh and other Q theories spread
given the new technology that we have. Well, the the

(26:35):
core benefit that social media companies will say that they
provide to their customers and that Internet companies say they
provide to their customers is the idea of bringing the
world together, giving people an opportunity to find communities, to
communicate with people across the globe and that just sort
of find a common purpose together. And I mean there's

(26:58):
a dark side to that. It also has made it
much much easier to find a community of conspiracy theorists
to share your ideas about the you know, dark hidden
messages in the world's events. Uh, to share your views

(27:19):
about the Illuminati or whoever else is manipulating what's going
on around you. And that's just an incredibly powerful force.
The barrier to entry for producing one of these conspiracy
theories is much lower. You don't you don't you know? Um,
the JFK conspiracy theories. Uh, you know you had to

(27:41):
like write letters to people later on as xerox is
and what factses and so on and so forth. Um,
it's just very easy. Now. How lazy conspiracy theorists are. Now?
Can you imagine if you had to write letters to
spread just some bs you read on Twitter, You're like, oh,
I want to put that out Elon Musk he would
not be pushing conspiracy theories if he had to write

(28:03):
a letter to get that thing going. Do you also
look at places like Fox like what you know, we
look at what's happened with social media, but more of
the mainstream media outlets. How are you seeing that effect?
This conversation conversation, specifically with something like pizza game. Sure. So,
I mean the reality is that we live in a
bifurcated news environment. There is one set of sources of

(28:25):
information that is generally used by people in the left
on the center, just sort of mainstream news outlets, and
then you have this entirely separate realm of righting media
outlets um that speak very clearly and directly to a

(28:46):
right wing audience. UM. You know, the the way we
see conspiracy theories moving these days is they'll start at
this sort of you know, message board and social media
platform level, with a sort of army of individuals who
are are coming up with their own spin on what's
happening on a particular event. Um. It will spread from

(29:07):
there through a network of hyperpartisan news sites places like
Gateway Pundit that do not have standards of any sort,
that are not interested in the basic rules of journalism,
but that want to have political impact and make money
off of advertising. Um. And and from there you can

(29:29):
see them sort of, uh, we get woven into the
broader debate. You know, the reality is that the writing
media figures at the sort of higher level your Fox
News is uh, are not interested in batting down those
sorts of conspiracies. They're not interested in challenging uh their

(29:51):
audiences and telling them that what they might have heard
is incorrect. Instead, you'll see either them ignoring it all together,
or providing a sort of wink and a nod at
the conspiracy theory, or telling their viewers that it's okay
more or less that like that there are reasons to

(30:12):
be skeptical of things that are happening around you, that
they're the elites want to keep you from talking about
Q and on or what have you, um, and that uh,
you know, whether or not that's true, it's not a
danger the way uh, you know, other other people will

(30:32):
tell you. I mean, if this is an issue with
right wing media, they have this weird rhetoric that is
politicizing children in the name of protecting them anything from
the serving conspiracy theories to don't say gay bills, anti
trans bills, et cetera. Do you see a connection there? Yeah,

(30:53):
I mean, I think a lot of these conspiracy theories
get rolled up together. There was a big push over
the last year and a half or so on the right,
you know, throughout the entire ecosystem to talk about the
idea of groomers of save the children. Save the children
absolutely basically that that teachers are trying to turn your

(31:15):
kids gay, turn your kids trans, possibly blest them, and
it all kind of gets wound up together. There aren't
really firm barriers to a lot of these conspiracy theories.
People who start to believe one of them, uh tend
to start adopting others as well. At least historically, has

(31:35):
there ever been away to get people to stop believing
conspiracy theories. I mean, it's a complicated question, right, It
depends on who you're talking about. Like I don't Johannes
Sminn Hinderbach, the Bishop of Trent, I don't know that
he actually believed that Simon was killed by the Jews.
That was that was sort of beside the point. I

(31:57):
think he believe that Jewish people are evil and he
wanted to drive them out and this was a convenient
way to do it, plus a bunch of other political benefits.
I don't know that he actually believed it. Um So,
if you're talking about these sort of cynical purveyors of
it who use it for radicalization and use it for
their own sort of economic and political gain. Um, I

(32:20):
think you just have to take away the gain and
then like that will that will kind of kill it
for everybody else. I think it is a complicated question
because the thing about conspiracy theories is they're not about
the details that are not about the story there. I mean,
I feel like your segments short and have really shown
this well. As soon as you ask them a question

(32:41):
like that's the end, like there's it doesn't go anywhere.
You can't actually have a conversation about conspiracy theories. I
don't even think that conspiracy theorists could have a conversation
with each other about it because it's fundamentally not discursive.
It's not something you can have a discussion about. It
is just an attempt to make this sort of core

(33:02):
story about yourself match up with the world. And every
conspiracy theory has the same core story, and that's why
it's so powerful. Um. It's it's the story that the
theorist holds onto and then sort of tries to match
up with the world in a kind of messy way.
The story is basically, once upon a time, we were

(33:24):
happy and everything was good, and we were in charge
and we were safe, and then the monsters took hold,
but no one knew that they had. And these monsters
are not of the sort of vaguely threatening variety. They
have to be absolutely gigantic, demonic, sort of the the
most hyperbolic thing you can think of. Go another steps,

(33:44):
so it's always children satan, mutilation and torture, pedophilia, and
the story goes that everything seemed fine because the monsters
made sure this was all kept secret. So the monsters
control what you know, and only the heroes of the
story knew the truth, and then they arrived to save

(34:04):
the world. And that's the benefit that you get from it.
You get that world view about yourself that you are
a continuously just sort of horrifically embattled hero of the story,
and you can't really give up on this self like
the self image of embattled heroism. It's it's very difficult

(34:26):
to give up on um. It's not just the high
of thinking of yourself as a hero. It's also that
you convince yourself that you are in this battle of
absolute good and absolute evil. And so then you get
two issues of like if you ask about democracy or
fair play, what are you not slightly this is about

(34:46):
This is about the end of the world, So it
makes it impossible to sort of dial back to um
issues of fairness or accuracy. It's actually not about that,
And I feel like you can kind of hear that
when you're talking to these Q and On followers, when
they try to answer your questions, they aren't actually trying

(35:08):
to to say, like you say, so, what did actually
happen in January six? They'll say, fbi ci A. Clinton's
just sort of a grab bag. But what they're actually
trying to tell you is this story that the monsters
are out to get us and I'm trying to save us.
There's kind of no other point to it. That's that's

(35:31):
the whole ball game. And when the monsters, when there's
a partisan overlay on that, when the monsters are one
party and the people who are trying to save you
are are Donald Trump, I mean, there's no room for
debate at that point, right, Like there's no room to
talk about it's important to respect electoral defeats, right because

(35:53):
if the people who you are losing elections to are
monsters who are abusing children, then you have a moral
responsibility to go try to subvert the election results. And
the resistance is kind of like baked into the story,
because the story is that the monsters came and took
over and they kept it, They covered it up, they

(36:13):
kept everybody from knowing. So any information that you get
in from the outside is suspect, even even information that
you might get from sympathetic sources. So the only thing
that you're left with is kind of like going with
your gut and what feels true. It feels true that
I am a victim, and it feels true that I'm
the hero of the story, and so let's just go

(36:35):
with that. So you're telling me I shouldn't read this
story to my son every night before going He loves it.
It's it's a it's a dark Eric Carl story, but
I like it so much better than that hungry caterpillar.
You might be, you might be unhappy with the results
of raising your child this way. I'll tell you all

(36:56):
of his peers are reading it. They seem to really
be into it. That hero's journey. Uh um. After the break,
we're gonna talk about how the Adrina Chrome conspiracy theory
is related to the attack in Nancy Pelosi's house. It
seriously is this is Jordan Clapper figures the conspiracy will
be right back. Welcome back to Jordan Clapper figures the conspiracy.

(37:16):
I'm here with Dr Alice Wong and Matt Gert's, two
experts who follow conspiracy theories, and we're talking about Adrina Chrome,
Democrats are drinking babies blood allegedly, allegedly, and what that
means for American politics. Now. Recently, Nancy Pelosi's house was
broken into by a right wing conspiracy theorist. He was
looking for Pelosi and ended up attacking her husband with

(37:38):
a hammer. But Matt, you've written about how the conspiracy
theories this attacker specifically believed, and how he was radicalized
in the ecosystem of right wing misinformation. How does this
all connect well. The alleged to sailant had a substantial
Internet UH paper trail UH. He had a couple of blogs,

(38:02):
various other social media platforms, and what he posted on
those UH sites was very much the kind of textbook
online right wing conspiracy theory radicalization pattern that we've been
seeing for years now. His social media and blogs are

(38:23):
filled with references to Q and On, to Adrina Chrome,
to Pizza Gate, to gamer Gate, as well as a
sort of grab bag of bigotries related to black people
and women and choose uh, and gay people and trans people. Um, yeah, no,

(38:44):
it's it's it's it's the it's it's the it's the
greatest hits. Honestly, I spent some time looking through these
websites on Friday, and I was like, Oh, it's just
it's it's all of it from there. And this happened
very very quickly. You did not see people on the
right saying, oh my god, the things that people on

(39:06):
the writer saying are are leading to political violence. Instead,
a story about political violence committed by someone who believed
righting conspiracy theories about how democrats are are depraved. H
it was turned into another righting conspiracy theory about how

(39:27):
democrats are depraved. The story that developed over the following
hours was that the assailant had not broken into the house,
but in fact he had been invited in by Paul
Pelosi because they were gay lovers uh, and that the
violent attack on Pelosi was in fact some sort of

(39:51):
gay lovers spat. That's what they came up with, and
that spread remarkably quickly, as as it tends to do
through this right wing in for mation ecosystem until you
had Elon Musk tweeting out a link to a sort
of hyperpartisan fake news website on Sunday morning. So it was,

(40:12):
you know, seventy two hours, forty eight hours from the
assault becoming known to the conspiracy theory reaching the wealthiest
man on earth at least something like this pops up.
Is this how you imagine it playing out this quickly
and evolving or devolving in this similar manner? Unfortunately it

(40:36):
doesn't surprise me. Um. I do think the speed is
different from sort of the history that I study, but
the manner in which things spread is really not. And
if I think a few things are key that the
platform matters, it depends on who is picking this up
and who is who is running with it. And then
there's also a durability to conspiracy theories that because they

(41:00):
have this sort of epistemological challenge built into them. By that,
by that, I mean they they challenge how you know
what you know, and they say these things that you
think you know, you don't know, but it doesn't replace
it with anything, So it's just sort of epistemic destabilization.
So you just don't have anything to stand on, and
that creates an environment in which conspiracy theories really thrive

(41:23):
because once you it, once you can't trust anything, then
the only thing you can trust is your own sense
of the story that you like or the one that
sounds good to you. This was definitely true and sort
of the medieval and early modern period of blood libel,
there were often people who are powerful people who opposed

(41:43):
blood libel. For Simon of tenth, the reason why we
have so many documents on it is the Pope tried
to intervene in this, He tried to put a stop
to it. Then then the very first blood libel in
um the twelfth century, this was a boy named William
of Norwich, the Norwich Sheriff actually got involved and protected

(42:04):
the Jewish community. So there's always been pushedback, um from
kind of mainstream sources, and yet these conspiracy theories just
thrive if there's already a kind of destabilized trust in
the regular sources of knowledge. So I think I think
the modern speed that is new, um how quickly that happens.

(42:26):
But you would have a blood libel come out and
the next week all of the Jews in town would
be arrested and tortured and it. It was pretty fast.
It happened pretty fast. Well, we mentioned the platform here,
and Matt you brought up Elon Musk and the tweet
that he had adding to this confusion. He referenced a
website that claimed Hillary Clinton died in and was replaced

(42:50):
with a clone. So what does this say now in
this new era of Elon's Twitter, what is that going
to do to these conversations. I mean, I think it's
going to continue to accelerate them. I think there has
been uh, some effort by the social media platforms some
of the time to try to rain in the most

(43:12):
extreme and dangerous forms of misinformation. It's been haphazard, it's
been imperfect. But Elon Musk's Twitter is going to do
is kind of tossed that aside. He himself is quite
obviously a bit of a conspiracy theorist, someone who has uh,
you know, accused people of being pettos. That that's just

(43:34):
sort of, uh, sort of his wheelhouse, so to speak. Uh,
And it's it's difficult to imagine Twitter being interested in
throttling conspiracy theories that its own owner is spreading. Um,
that's just not going to happen. Uh. And so you know,
I think that platform is going to become less stable,

(43:57):
It's going to become a less valuable sore for credible
information because of that. At least, I'm curious. Can you
talk about the progression of belief into action, like what
takes somebody from pizza Gate to an actual act of
political violence? I mean, this is what scholars of radicalization study, right,

(44:22):
how do you how do you come from an idea
into actual action? Radicalization online is part of the story.
It's not the whole story, but it's certainly um directs
your any sort of anger satisfaction you already have, It
validates it, and it amps it up, and it focuses

(44:45):
it on a target. Um. So it's a little bit
like pointing a loaded gun at a specific target. And
can I go back to the Ellen thing for just
a second. Um. The the whole verification thing really struck
me because I think, you know, it's clear the money

(45:06):
of it doesn't actually matter. Like he's like twenty eight
dollars whatever to sell sell verification, right, that's his new thing.
He's going to sell verification on Twitter. What really struck
me is that this is not an attempt to get
the money. It's an attempt to devalue verification in general,

(45:26):
because verification is meant to show you which sources are trustworthy, right,
It was meant to sort of identify members of the
media and corporations and so that you knew that it
was actually coming from that source and you knew that
you could trust it. It was not a sort of
celebrity thing. Originally that was that was not the purpose
of verification, and by turning it into something that you

(45:51):
can buy, it just completely devalues verification and it gets
rid of that layer of validation so that you you
know what you can trust, which sources you can trust it.
It gets rid of that sort of you know it's
it's destabilizing the way we know what we know, and
that seems to me to be the point of the
whole verification thing. In fact, because Musk is so polarizing,

(46:16):
we can see a situation where his supporters, who are
largely on the right are much more willing to actually
shell out the money than uh, you know, more credible
mainstream journalists are. Um, those less credible sources will get
sort of algorithmically accelerated more than everybody else and become

(46:39):
a bigger part of the conversation. I'm curious what advice
you would have to consumers specifically of Twitter. I think
a lot of people are looking at this, They see
these issues, see the problem UH, and are asking themselves
the question, do I divorce myself from this platform? I
don't know if the answer is to step away from
it and not to be a part of the conversation
or understand account reversation. But are you complicit in what

(47:03):
is becoming a less and less trustworthy place? So I
think part of the issue here is I don't really
view it as a place for conversation. UM. I mean
I I come at me, We'll go back and forth.
It's fun, we playful. I got some gifts I'll send
your way. It's a really fun chat. The way I

(47:23):
use Twitter, I use it as a broadcast medium, right.
It's a way for me to get my views and
my work out into the public. It's a way for
me to hear views from people who might have interesting
ideas or thoughts. UM. But I don't do that much
interaction with it because I think it's a actually a

(47:43):
really bad medium for having UH debates of any kind.
If I want to have a conversation with someone, I
will try to follow up with them in a certain
email conversation or phone or what happy it's it's hard
to have a substantive discussion with the rest of the
world trying to involve itself in that. I will use
Twitter less if that becomes less feasible, if I think that, uh,

(48:07):
my tweets aren't getting read, or if I think that
I am not able to easily find credible information that
I want to be reading. Um, that's when the value
proposition will fall to basically nothing. I feel like this
is where our disciplines come into play. Because you're in media.

(48:27):
I'm in medieval studies, so I have a vary my
my following will you will be shocked to hear? Is tiny? Um.
I'm also I'm also locked, so I I really just
use it for conversation, Like I really just use it
to connect with other other people in my field or

(48:47):
who study the same things that I do. And I
think one of the really one of the reasons a
lot of people are mourning this is it has been
an incredible tool for people to connect act um within
their own tiny little sub field, Like I feel more
connected to other medievalists of color on Twitter, because we

(49:11):
have kind of created our own little ecosystem than anywhere else,
and I wouldn't get that anywhere else. I would miss
it for that. And obviously, if again, if like you said,
if if that becomes impossible, then then like I'm not
going to use it anymore. But I also think this
whole question of so do you stay, do you go?

(49:32):
Do you pay the eight dollars, twenty dollars whatever it
ends up being, I feel like it that's a very
American question, Like how can we make this the individual
responsibility to decide what to do? Um, this is the
the robber baron has screwed up the system, and now
we are responsible for fixing it. And you know, my

(49:55):
recycling or not recycling my water bottle is really what's
leading to climate change. Like that's that's really That's really
the thing, um, the sort of individual responsibility for these things.
And I think that's kind of what gets us into
trouble with conspiracy theories to begin with, Right, do your
own research, find out for yourself. The thing is, with

(50:15):
huge platforms and huge areas of knowledge, you just can't
do it yourself. I mean, as we all discovered in
the pandemic when we all became amateur epidemiologists. Right, we're
not very good at this. I don't remember high school
biology very well. I'm not I'm not going to be
good at making choices personal choices about my own level

(50:37):
of risk and my kids level of risk. And you know,
I am not a good person to put that decision on.
And that's kind of how we've offloaded it. And so
I feel like that's maybe not I know that it's
sort of going to be personally difficult for a lot
of people to figure out what to do about Twitter. UM,
but I don't really feel like that's that's where change

(51:00):
comes from. UM. I want to wrap this up kind
of looking specifically at what happened with Nancy Pelosi's husband
and what we've sort of been discussing here, but sort
of to zoom out as well. How do politicians like
Nancy Pelosi try and convince people that they don't partake

(51:23):
in ritual children sacrifices? Att a rally weeks ago, and
a man was convinced the Nancy Pelosi is a vampire
and drinks children's blood. He was convinced. I followed up
and I asked, you said, literally. Did you mean literally?
He said, literally? You see Republicans on one side, and

(51:47):
are we talking metaphorical devil like, Oh, they do bad stuff?
Literally vampires. I don't want to nit pick here, but
vampires tend to be eternally youthful. And I look at
Nancy Pelosi and she's a lot of things, But I
guess I don't think m blood somebody in our party.
How does someone like that attempt to knock down this issue?

(52:09):
And and with those difficulties, what does that say about
where we're at politically if we struggle to even do that, Matt,
I don't know, honestly. I mean, it's very difficult to
reach someone who believes that you drink the blood of children?
Um the ah. You know. I think that it's just

(52:36):
a hard problem, and so we end up talking around it, right,
We end up talking about what are the ways that
policy can weaken the structures that are in place that
allow these conspiracy theories to flourish. Um Because, as at
least says, these conspiracy theories have always been with us,

(52:59):
but it has become easier for them to propagate and
easier for people to come to accept them. And I
think that's really, uh, the the available chattel mhm Alice,
is there is there any advice you have for Nancy

(53:19):
Pelosi or anybody else who looks at this is pulling
out their hair, just attempting to to try to knock
down what seems like to be the inconceivable. I mean,
I think there's sort of the media answer, and then
there's the personal answer about approaching this person personally. UM

(53:40):
So the media answer like, I don't I'm not a
media expert and so I wouldn't know exactly how to
do this. But I think that platforms really are the key,
the platforms that we give people to propagate these ideas. Um.
I think that you know, when Alex Jone has got involved,

(54:01):
things really took off. And one Alex Jones was taken
off of Twitter and sort of d platform from a
bunch of places. His his influence really did die down
for a little while, like it actually had an influence.
And I think d platforming and treating social media as
the sort of communities that they are and the news

(54:22):
sites that they are, and having even stricter standards for
them than we do for sort of in person conduct,
I think is it's not going to happen. But that
would be my suggestion for for the media side of things.
I think you have to control the the amplification of

(54:43):
these conspiracy theories and and there's also just sort of
the larger problem of society wide radicalization and um that
is a that's a bigger question than just conspiracy theories.
The only people who can really to people who are
deep into it are those who are already intimate with

(55:05):
these people, who are already friends with these people, who
already have some other form of connection with them. You're
not going to get through to them. That's not sorry.
I know out there talk to those you love. I
mean you also speak to to something there. There's the
intimate relationship people have with their computers when they're alone

(55:25):
in their room, and that person interesting visit the paras
social relationship. Yet, yeah, exactly. And I see going to
these rallies, this myth of American exceptionalism. We talked with
such rhetoric of everybody on their own hero's journey. And
I will say a lot of those maga rallies, you
talk about all the problems in the world, and then
somebody gets on stage and they says, you're a patriot

(55:45):
you can be a hero. You can do this. Yeah. Well, guys,
this has been lovely at least Wang Matt Gertz. I
leave this conversation energized as if I've sucked on the
blood of a child. Thank you, That's all I could
ask for. UM, I appreciate your insight and your thoughts.

(56:06):
Thank you, guys, thanks for having you listen to jordan'
clupper figures the conspiracy from the Daily Show on Apple
podcast the I Heart Radio Apple or wherever you get
your podcasts.
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