Hey, sometimes I like to talk about other conspiracy theories too, okay?
While the perplexing rise and even more baffling Republican nomination of reality television star and failed steak salesman Donald Trump has certainly been uh, interesting, the 2016 United States Presidential Election is not at all unique in that it has generated a metric shit ton of misinformation, which has spawned a number of goofy conspiracy theories. A fairly recent one – originating from the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, PA – managed to gain some traction among supporters of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. In fact, it was the following video, taken by Eden McFadden – an actual Sanders delegate from California – that birthed this absolute twaddle:
McFadden – who describes herself as “a little bit of a conspiracy theorist” at around 9:08 – makes a few claims throughout the seventeen minute video, and I can’t dismiss them wholesale as I wasn’t actually at the convention, but I do want to focus on one in particular, and that is regarding the alleged “white noise machines” she ignorantly insists were installed above the area reserved for Bernie Sanders supporters in an attempt to drown them out. While she makes this claim somewhere around a dozen times, the first instance of it comes at roughly thirty seconds in:
“If you look up here, at this grey box, that is a white noise machine.“
McFadden is equally emphatic every time she repeats her claim. There is never any question – in her mind – as to what these are.
Here is a screenshot of the device in question, taken directly from the video:
But while panning across the arena a little while later, these devices can be seen everywhere:
McFadden quickly explains this away by claiming that these “white noise makers” were placed above all of the areas marked off for states that are protesters or “rabble-rousers”, as she refers to them.
The shit quickly ran down the leg of the Internet and ended up pooling in the shoe that is Reddit (alright, that one needs a little work, if I’m being completely honest), where it proved to be incredibly popular with the self-tanning enthusiasts over at /r/The_Donald, who were so sure this guy cracked the case that they upvoted his comment over 1,200 times (at the time that I first saw it: remember that these things do fluctuate quite a bit):
Grandebabo 1204 points
For those of you too lazy to click the above link, here’s a photo of the product in question:
A couple of things immediately jump out, at least to me: 1) These two objects are different shapes. The object spotted at the DNC is a rectangle with chamfered edges while the Valcom speaker is a square, meant to fit into drop ceiling. 2) They’re also different colors. The Valcom speaker is white while the object seen in the video is a solid grey color.
So they’re most certainly not Valcom sound masking speakers, as claimed by Reddit’s Grandebabo. But what are they? As per usual, the answer is actually quite simple: they’re Wi-Fi antennae. More specifically, they’re Cisco AIR-ANT2513P4M-N Wi-Fi antennae. Here’s a picture of one:
Well jeez, that looks kind of really familiar! Let’s take another look at it, side-by-side with the mystery device from the convention:
This is corroborated by the Comcast Spectacor website, which reads:
The Wells Fargo Center is consistently a top 10 venue in the U.S. It hosts more than 400 events annually and seats more than 20,000 fans. It is also the home of the Philadelphia Flyers and the Philadelphia 76ers. As a centerpiece of innovation, the Wells Fargo Center also features an impressive range of digital advancements, including 350 Wi-Fi access points and 700 beacons using Cisco hardware and XFINITY WiFi to create faster-than-ever arena connectivity.
Seems pretty open and shut to me! But what about the claim that the antennae were “not there yesterday” (~7:00) or “were not here all week” (~8:18)? Thankfully, this is similarly easy to disprove. Our first clue that McFadden is mistaken (or, more accurately, flat-out wrong) is this entry from the Philadelphia sports blog “Crossing Broad”, posted on February 9th, 2015. I can’t imagine that it took 18 months for them to actually install these things. And it didn’t. They’re clearly visible at the thirty-two second mark of the following video from CBS Philly, taken three days before the convention, disproving the claim that they were “not there yesterday”:
And they’re visible in videos going back even further than that, like in this one, taken at a Pearl Jam show in April. The antennae become impossible to miss once the lights come on at around 1:39: