PIE IN THE FACE
The Self-Proclaimed ‘Publicity Whore’ and Fired Jezebel Intern Running Point on Pizzagate
David Seaman has racked up hundreds of thousands of views from earnest believers in the debunked Pizzagate conspiracy. But do his fans know about his past books that claim ‘controversy, scandal-mongering, and social networking can turn your message into a viral sensation’?
On March 25, a group of protesters will gather at Lafayette Square in front of the White House and demand an investigation into a nonexistent global satanic child-sex-trafficking operation.
This will be the frontline of Pizzagate, or Pedogate, as many conspiracy theorists are trying to rebrand it.
Last week, the march got its big publicity break: a retweet from Michael Flynn Jr., son of Trump’s former national security adviser, endorsing Pizzagate investigators’ de facto ringleader, David Seaman.
Flynn Jr. retweeted an announcement from Seaman, the most prominent face of Pizzagate and the highest-profile personality expected to speak at this weekend’s protest. “David has definitely been instrumental in spreading awareness and I’m very grateful for that,” Pizzagate march organizer Neil Wolfe said.
But as Seaman has built a substantial audience—nearly 70,000 Twitter followers and more than 155,000 YouTube subscribers—some other less prominent Pizzagaters have started to dig into Seaman’s past to prove that he’s not the man he purports to be.
Seaman spent much of the last decade as a self-promotion guru, selling secrets on how to “attract buzz” and writing a how-to book on becoming “a publicity whore,” after turbulent stints as an intern at Jezebel and contributor at The Huffington Post were abruptly cut short.
He even staged a “Free Paris Hilton” protest to build his personal brand, and once proclaimed he “would protest gravity if I thought it was going to give me buzz.”
So how did a self-professed “buzz expert” become the face of Pizzagate? And how did so few people know about his past?
Seaman attended New York University and graduated from Hunter College with an English degree. Shortly after he graduated, he published his second book, Dirty Little Secrets of Buzz: How to Attract Massive Attention to Your Business, Your Product, or Yourself. The book, originally titled How to Be a Publicity Whore, promises to teach readers “how controversy, scandal-mongering, and social networking can turn your message into a viral sensation.”
The 2008 book uses examples from popular “publicity whores” like Howard Stern, Tila Tequila, Ann Coulter, Bill Maher, and even Donald Trump.
“Donald Trump is a human brand that fires on all cylinders,” Seaman wrote. “Trump is no longer chiefly a real-estate mogul or even a businessman: I would argue he’s a buzz genius, more interested in taking up real estate in your mind than in your city.”
While researching for the book, Seaman staged a Free Paris Hilton protest in the SoHo neighborhood of New York in May 2007. The stunt attracted more reporters than protesters (all three of them) and Seaman was interviewed about the protest by Nancy Grace on CNN. Tabloids and local New York publications covered the event, and Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O’Brien riffed on it during their late-night shows.
The incident also captured the attention of Gawker, where Seaman was working as a Jezebel intern at the time. Jezebel Editor Moe Tkacik fired Seaman and explained the decision in a post “Self-Promotion Guru David Seaman Got Our Memo, Shat All Over It.” Weeks later, Tkacik wrote another post about meeting Seaman, who she nicknamed D-Splooge, to apologize for being so harsh, “In Which We Get Closure With Self-Promotion Whore David Seaman.”
When The Daily Beast reached out for comment from Tkacik on working with the man who would become a leader of Pizzagate, she initially responded: “That’s insane. David Seaman. Holy shit.”
Tkacik remembers watching the protest—which was right outside the Gawker office—and seeing photos of Seaman in coverage of the event. “His ideas were already very bad and self-promotional,” she said. “He was very good at seeming sincere. I think he’s an opportunist. I would certainly be interested to know how much money this is making him.”
Based on her experience with Seaman, she doesn’t think he believes everything he’s saying about Pizzagate.
“I’ve known people who were like him in certain ways. But never anyone who was quite opportunistic enough to embrace something so ludicrous,” she said. “To me, Pizzagate is the David Seaman of conspiracy theories.”
Seaman bounced back from the internship loss and became a reporter at The Street, a financial news site, where he developed a passion for finance, credit, and alternative currencies. He created a Yelp for credit cards, the now-defunct CreditCardOutlaw.com, and started a podcast, The David Seaman Hour. During that time he asked journalist and podcaster Cara Santa Maria to be a guest on his show and, in turn, she invited him on her podcast, Talk Nerdy.
When The Daily Beast first reached out to Santa Maria and informed her of Seaman’s involvement with Pizzagate, her first response was, “Holy shit. Are you serious?”
She said she could not imagine Seaman getting mixed up with such an outlandish conspiracy theory. “He had a lot of knowledge about cryptocurrency and that seemed to be where his expertise, really where his world, kind of rested.” Santa Maria said, “It blows my mind, because he seemed like a reasonable and well-informed individual and I didn’t detect any conspiratorial thinking at the time.”
Santa Maria would know. Now she hosts a podcast called The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, which often debunks conspiracy theories. Her professional assessment of Pizzagate: “That’s insane. That’s fucking insane. Is it legitimate? No, it’s crazy. It makes me sad if he is actually involved with this.”
As Seaman continued to report on anonymous internet banking, he also developed an interest in privacy and internet freedom. He was heavily opposed to internet bills like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), and decided to fight by running against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who was a big supporter of the bills. He tweeted about his intentions and Dell Cameron, who is now a Dallas-based journalist, offered to help register his campaign and provide counsel, since he had some campaign experience.
Seaman wanted to run an internet-centric campaign, building a support coalition and raising funds entirely online. An archived version of the campaign site shows that he earned at least 7.2 percent of his $100,000 goal. Many citizen researchers have recently tried to discredit Seaman by suggesting this congressional run was a scam, but Cameron confirmed it was a legitimate campaign.
“When I met him he was very gung-ho about it. He was seeking a platform to draw attention to some pretty terrible policies—and to hold Wasserman-Schultz accountable for supporting them,” Cameron said.
The congressional run earned him his first of seven invitations to be a guest on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. In most episodes, Rogan and Seaman stuck to topics like drug policy reform, surveillance, privacy, and bitcoin. But in an episode from June 2014 they discussed conspiracy theories:
Rogan: This is a weird time because in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the Watergate shit was going down, what voice did a regular person have?
Seaman: Right, you [would] just hope that The Washington Post published an op-ed you agree with. And that’s pretty much the extent of your power.
Rogan: When Kennedy was assassinated—what happened? Who talked? Where, how did the people get their thoughts out?
Seaman: Can you imagine if there was an Alex Jones back then, with the real platform—how insane that would have been?
This wasn’t the first time Seaman had reflected on conspiracy theories. Eight months earlier, he published an ebook titled All Your Favorite Conspiracy Theories Are Wrong.
After his flirtation with politics, Seaman mostly focused on finance and cryptocurrency reporting, first as a contributor at Business Insider then at The Huffington Post. When Seaman tried to use his Huffington Post contributor status to publish a story about Hillary Clinton’s health during the presidential campaign, and published a video from Paul Joseph Watson, The Huffington Post suspended his blogging account.
That editorial decision turned the bitcoin reporter into “BASED David Seaman,” a martyr within the Trump troll community. Seaman started making videos highly critical of Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. When the Podesta emails leaked, he had plenty of material to work with.
In a guest appearance on the Quite Frankly podcast this month, Seaman explained how The Huffington Post’s suspension drove him to focus on Pizzagate.
“Afterwards I was sitting in my apartment, had no one to write for, had people saying I was an idiot and a liar. So I figured, you know what, I’ll get back at this bitch,” he said.
“I’ll go through her emails. Because, of course, WikiLeaks had released the Hillary Clinton emails, and so with a beer and some spare time I just started going through them.”
He said he “didn’t go off the deep end” at first. But when Reddit and 4chan researchers started reading through Podesta’s leaked emails and incorrectly determined that words like “pizza,” “pasta,” and “hot dog” were actually codewords for prostitution and child trafficking, Seaman started making videos about the findings. He connected dots between Clinton and other super rich individuals and families often associated with conspiracy theories—like the Rockefellers, the Rothschilds, and George Soros—and sank deeper and deeper.
In most the videos he sits in front of a partially exposed greenscreen, talks about the latest research, and provides full-throated endorsements for the legitimacy of Pizzagate. Videos like “HILLARY CLINTON BABY SACRIFICES: Revealed by WikiLeaks” and “Satanic PizzaGate Is Going Viral Worldwide (Elites Are Terrified),” have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
It was information from independent researchers like Seaman that inspired Edgar Welch to bring a rifle into a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant so that he could “investigate” the innocent children he believed were being held captive in a nonexistent basement. He fired shots, but no one was hurt.
After that incident, many public Pizzagaters shied away from the investigation. Alt-right heroes like Mike Cernovich and Infowars editor Paul Joseph Watson ceased tweeting about it. Alex Jones, the founder of Infowars, posted a video, “Pizza Gate Is a Diversion From the Greater Crimes in Podesta WikiLeaks.”
“Pizza—that’s a super common word… Quite frankly, out of the tens of thousands of emails, most of it is innocuous. I’ve been staying away from it because it’s easy for people who are innocent to get caught up in this,” he said.
Commenters called him a sellout and a shill, and told him to wake up.
Seaman pressed on and doubled-down, suggesting that Welch was a hired actor and the shooting was a staged event meant to discredit Pizzagaters. Only recently did Seaman delete all of his videos posted before Feb. 27. Seaman said he feared legal action.
This was right after BuzzFeed published an article explaining how conspiracy theorists, like Seaman, were profiting off YouTube.
Now he plans to funnel his following into a new media endeavor, Fulcrum News. A blog version of the site is live, but Seaman expects to launch the full site in a few months. He said it will provide “nonpartisan, factual news from independent contributors.”
When The Daily Beast reached out to David Seaman to try to determine the legitimacy of his Pizzagate beliefs, he originally declined to comment.
“I don’t consider the Daily ‘Beast’ to be a reputable news source. Sorry—not interested. You all had 4 months to cover the fact that the Clintons and the Podestas are involved in child trafficking and chose not to do so, which is inexcusable,” he wrote.
He then tweeted about the email exchange.
Eventually, though, Seaman relented and opted to answer questions over email.
When asked if it’s fair to make a connection between his self-promotion guru days and his current work, he does admit they are somewhat related.
“I know how to do internet marketing. My Free Paris protest, as I explained in my book, was a mockery of the corporate media,” Seaman wrote. “They gave airtime to an obviously preposterous faux protest. Pedogate/Pizzagate has real victims in its wake—mostly young children.”
For what it’s worth, it doesn’t.
“So I used what I know of marketing to give them a voice in a way no one can silence or discredit. The WikiLeaks emails I’ve helped get awareness for are, in my view, genuine—they still have not been denied by John Podesta.”
During our initial interview with Cameron, Seaman’s former campaign adviser, he was unsure if Seaman was a true Pizzagate believer. So he decided to reach out to Seaman for the first time in five years. He followed-up with The Daily Beast afterward.
“By the end of the conversation, I was totally convinced he believes everything he’s saying,” Cameron said “It’s not an act.”
Seaman and Pizzagate protest organizer Wolfe will be demonstrating this weekend for a cause they have rechristened.
“We think this whole term ‘Pizzagate’ has been vilified and hijacked by the mainstream media. We’ve intentionally moved away from that term because we believe that negative connotations have been associated with it,” Wolfe said as he ate chili during a break from building the Pedogate event stage.
Wolfe first found out about Pizzagate when he was searching the leaked John Podesta emails for extraterrestrial-related correspondence between Hillary Clinton’s then-campaign chairman and Tom DeLonge, Blink 182 member-turned-alien investigator.
He has has no idea how many activists will show. But he’s feeling optimistic since more than 160 people have collectively contributed nearly $10,000 to the event. And he has a “polite and professional warning” for any journalist reporting on the demonstration—this reporter included.
“If you try to take my words out of context then I’m going to make you famous,” Wolfe said. “There’s a lot of folks behind this and there’s a lot of folks like David Seaman who will participate in making people famous, who we believe are inaccurately reporting things—particularly when they try and make this movement look as if people behind it are unstable extremists, or whatever other silly labels they want to attack us, because we’re brave enough to go out on the street in the best interest of protecting children.”