When conspiracy theories are taken too far
By Angelina Zervos
YouTuber Shane Dawson has uploaded yet another controversial video to his channel. In his video titled, “Investigating Conspiracies with Shane Dawson,” he followed three separate narratives surrounding “mysterious subjects”.
The first looked at the unreleased Adobe voice replicator called “Adobe Voco” which was designed to take samples of a user’s voice and create a digital version, which could be manipulated to say whatever the user wanted. Dawson and his team created their own digital voices using a similar software.
Alongside this narrative, Dawson explored the hidden life of veteran YouTuber Brittani Louise Taylor. They discussed her abusive relationship and theorized the true intentions of her ex-husband and his family, toying with the idea of sex trafficking.
Lastly, the story that caught the most traction, and even received attention from mainstream media outlets like The Washington Post, was a conspiracy theory surrounding the Chuck E. Cheese franchise and whether or not they recycle old pizza slices and serve them to guests.
Although the three have virtually nothing in common, Dawson and his team complied the almost two-hour long video by interjecting each storyline with each other to progress. While the Chuck E. Cheese conspiracy was most definitely the most light-hearted storyline of the three, Dawson continuously suggested serious allegations against the chain worth an estimated $950 million. The first being that pizza served at the arcades are made from several different pizzas that have been left uneaten by guests. He supported this theory by examining images of the Chuck E. Cheese’s pizzas that have been posted online, noting how they were almost never perfectly circular and had mismatched toppings. Dawson also drew upon footage from angry parents who accused the franchise of promoting gambling and underage drinking to children as most of the locations serve alcoholic drinks. Dawson even went as far as to compare the children’s arcade to the likeness of Las Vegas casinos.
The video came to its climax when Dawson and his team went to visit a Chuck E. Cheese location to test the theory out. He ordered a couple of pizzas, making sure to include a mixed-topping one. Once they arrived, he and his team covered their mouths in shock as they examined the asymmetrical pies. “It’s weird because it looks like it was cooked the same amount throughout, but it’s like, jagged,” said Dawson’s boyfriend Ryland.
Before asking for the pizza to be boxed up so the team could examine it at home, Dawson’s videographer Andrew noticed an empty table in the booth behind them, pizza left behind. As an employee started to clean up, the team noted that the food was saved for last, and was only removed once a managerial-looking figure scanned it. Dawson and his team insinuated that they had witnessed some sort of quality-assurance test of the uneaten pizza that would be reused in a future pie.
To conclude the “investigation”, Dawson laid out the pizza slices on his kitchen counter and measured them with a ruler. He was unable to create a perfect circle, even when the slices were rearranged. “There has to be a reason why,” Andrew said. “Legally there is a reason and I’m not gonna say what that reason is,” Dawson chuckled.
As viewers have seen in his previous docuseries, Dawson is quick to make serious, sometimes dangerous allegations in his videos without proper evidence; later suggesting that such claims were never said outright, only insinuated, and therefore concluded by the viewer. While this may have been true in his previous videos, here we see him making clear claims of his belief that the Chuck E. Cheese franchise recycles pizza.
While conspiracy theories are fun to explore on the internet, where there is great availability of resources and oftentimes large communities who are also intent on getting to the bottom of whatever is being explored, there lies a danger in promoting such theories that could be considered slanderous by large corporations, such as Chuck E. Cheese. Shane Dawson has an audience of over twenty million subscribers on YouTube alone, and his claims against the franchise were presented alongside two very real narratives, particularly the story of Brittani Louise Taylor and her account of domestic abuse. Dawson failed to talk to any Chuck E. Cheese employees or look into their kitchen; most of his theory was based off an alleged friend who once worked there as well as an abundance of online discussions about it.
On their Twitter, Chuck E. Cheese addressed the claims saying they “are unequivocally false. We prep the dough daily for our made to order pizzas, which means they’re not always perfectly round.” Several current and ex-employees of the franchise also spoke out against the claims.
While this video serves as a model of how one shouldn’t go about exploring fun conspiracy theories, it also provides an interesting look at how the YouTube community is growing its influence online.