In past years, a Presidential nominee calling women he’s accused of groping ugly liars or a major foreign power allegedly hacking into huge swathes of campaign emails would be Internet-breaking ammo. In this election cycle, that’s a slow news day. As America’s collective bad karma continues to manifest in this strange surreality, we’ve become increasingly un-shockable. It’s been a few weeks since a non-Trump headline has hit this new, higher bar for astonishment. And then Pamela Anderson allegedly poisoned Julian Assange with a vegan Pret a Manger sandwich.
According to The Daily Mail, WikiLeaks founder Assange “says his internet link was ‘severed’ by state agents hours after claims he was poisoned by a Pret vegan sandwich brought to him by Pamela Anderson.” We might be less than a month away from a post-apocalyptic hell of our own creation, but no one can ever take that lede away from us.
Ludicrous as these death-by-Pret theories may seem, the facts in this case might be even stranger than fiction. Former Baywatch star and current anti-fur activist Pamela Anderson actually visited the WikiLeaks editor-in-chief last Saturday. Anderson and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the anti-porn movement’s favorite odd couple, were in town to give a speech at the Oxford Union against the corrosive effects of pornography. Or as they phrased it in their recent, polarizing Wall Street Journal op-ed, porn is “a boring, wasteful and dead-end outlet for people too lazy to reap the ample rewards of healthy sexuality.”
Many thought that the serious, Jewish-ish op-ed in which the beloved sex symbol raged against the unverified dangers of virtual sex marked the zenith of Pamela Anderson absurdity. Luckily, the 49-year-old’s choose your own adventure tale appears to have taken a turn for the even weirder. Cue the glamorous snaps of Anderson strolling into Assange’s Ecuadorian embassy hideout in London, coming soon to a conspiracy theorist’s basement wall near you. In the paparazzi pictures, the PETA darling is shown clutching several Pret a Manger bags, as well as a copy of fashion designer Vivienne Westwood’s new book. (For those of you not around Manhattan’s midtown, Pret is a popular, perfectly adequate sandwich shop.)
Apparently, Westwood is the visionary behind this legendary blind date. According to the British designer, “I was supposed to take Pamela Anderson to see Julian in the embassy but she got the date wrong, so she went on her own the day after me…She told me afterwards that they got on very well. Julian was just brilliant.” Westwood added that Anderson is attempting to “help people with her new trust, and that [Assange] gave her some ideas on how to do that.”
So how did this confusing networking opportunity devolve into a game of Pret-centric Clue? Apparently, the murder mystery rumors started when Anderson spoke to the press about her and Assange’s meet-cute. Anderson confirmed that she brought Assange “a nice vegan lunch and some vegan snacks,” joking, “He said I tortured him with bringing him vegan food.” To be fair, as someone who has felt personally attacked when gifted with a gluten-free dessert, it’s hard to imagine the profound disappointment of receiving a seven-dollar vegan sandwich after four years in captivity. The Baywatch actress told the Press Association: “I really believe in him and think he's a good person, and I'm concerned about his health, his family, and I just hope that by some miracle he’s set free.”
Unfortunately, it seems that no unsolicited good deed goes unpunished. In the wake of Anderson’s comments about Assange’s health, as well as her ill-advised torture comment, WikiLeaks’ official Twitter sent off a series of mysterious tweets—coded missives labeled as pre-commitments. Apparently, many people on Twitter—a virtual think tank for accredited experts—declared these tweets a “dead man’s switch,” meant to be activated when and if Assange met his untimely end. This conspiracy theory was further fueled by the massive Saturday WikiLeaks dump of over 1,000 John Podesta emails.
For many of these erudite egg avatars, the timing of the “dead man’s switch” immediately pointed to death by Pret. “Don't trust unconfirmed reports of Assange being alive. The Clinton machine is capable of body doubles,” wrote one user, adding “ARREST PAMELA ANDERSON NOW.” Controversial pickup artist and blogger Roosh V similarly elevated social media discourse, noting, “Pamela Anderson brought ‘healthy food’ for Julian Assange on Sunday. If he’s dead, I’d have that food tested.”
While this story certainly lives up to the new news standard of “tweeted out by multiple Twitter bots,” it is, unfortunately, baseless and stupid. The imagined existence of a WikiLeaks “dead man’s switch” is largely inspired by a 349 GB, heavily-encrypted WikiLeaks file from 2013, which is oft-cited as “WikiLeaks insurance.” But as Gizmodo pointed out, these three new tweets have a clear, separate purpose. “Pre-commitment” is a means of ensuring that unreleased information isn’t tampered with. If the documents in question are changed in the future, those alterations will likewise alter these 64-character codes. The fact that this is a common strategy for protecting sensitive information should be enough to assuage Assange supporters. Furthermore, the WikiLeaks pioneer’s real “dead man’s switch” would almost certainly amount to more than three leaks.
In addition to the notable absence of what we can only imagine would be the world’s largest data dump, the organization’s Twitter account has remained active in the wake of Assange’s alleged passing. A WikiLeaks volunteer also tweeted that “Julian is confirmed to be perfectly fine,” and even shared photos of the virtual vigilante turned accused sex criminal.
But the plot thickens. Later on Sunday, the WikiLeaks Twitter account went live again, claiming, “Julian Assange's internet link has been intentionally severed by a state party. We have activated the appropriate contingency plans.” Forcing Assange to eat kale is one thing, but subjecting him to a dodgy Wi-Fi connection is quite another. Conspiracy theorists have convinced themselves that this alleged cyber-attack is linked to Secretary of State John Kerry meeting with U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in London. Or maybe that’s what the Pamela Anderson body double hired by Hillary Clinton wants us to think.
Apparently, Anderson’s new crusade against sexual misconduct doesn’t extend to rape. Assange, who is currently wanted for questioning in Sweden over one count of “minor rape,” was granted political asylum by Ecuador in 2012. He proceeded to take up residence in London’s Ecuadorian embassy, where he lives in a small room with a specially adapted lamp designed to imitate natural light. (Over the course of four years in self-imposed captivity, Assange has reportedly only stood in direct sunlight for 20 minutes, when he gave a balcony address to his supporters back in August 2012.) Assange believes that if he goes to Sweden to cooperate with the investigation, he will be extradited to the United States for questioning over his involvement in WikiLeaks. Criminal activity and cowardice aside, you’ve got to feel for Julian: he spent four years in a 15 by 13-foot bedroom, and all he got was this stupid Pret sandwich and a S.A.D. lamp.