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Monday, December 5, 2016

Fake News, Real Consequences

Tim Mak writes at The Daily Beast that a fake news story led to a dangerous encounter at a DC pizzeria.
During the presidential campaign, some elements of the alt-right began fueling the conspiracy that Comet Ping Pong was in fact the site of a pedophilia ring used by high-ranking members of the Democratic Party, deeming that supposed conspiracy “Pizzagate.”

The D.C. Police Department arrested 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch of Salisbury, North Carolina, outside the kid-friendly pizza and music venue. Witnesses say that Welch went through the restaurant carrying the gun and tried to enter a staff area in the back of the building. He reportedly fired multiple shots inside, though no one was injured. He reportedly told the police that he’d come to “self-investigate ‘Pizza Gate,” which the department noted is “a fictitious online conspiracy theory.”
One employee speculated that the gunman was looking for the supposed tunnels where children were stashed and tortured, according to the conspiracy theory. That “theory” came from hacked private email exchanges including Hillary Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta that were and published by WikiLeaks in troves during the final weeks of the presidential elections.

Conspiracists began seizing on pizza-related emails in the leaks, suggesting that it was evidence of something nefarious and arguing that “pizza” was actually a code for illegal sex trafficking. An email Podesta received about pizza at Comet Ping Pong was about pedophilia, they reasoned.
Politico reports:
 On Sunday, [Gen. Michael] Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr., tweeted, “Until #Pizzagate proven to be false, it'll remain a story. The left seems to forget #PodestaEmails and the many ‘coincidences’ tied to it.”
The younger Flynn, who has served as his father’s adviser, linked to the account of Jack Posobiec, whose Twitter account describes him as the special projects director of a group called Citizens4Trump.
Posobiec said Welch’s actions were a “false flag,” and claimed he was an actor carrying out an elaborate conspiracy to discredit sites that spread the fabricated #PizzaGate accusations.
“Planted Comet Pizza Gunman will be used to push for censorship of independent news sources that are not corporate owned,” he tweeted