Man Fires Gun In Pizzeria After Fake News Convinces Him It's A 'Child Sex Ring'
The people of Washington, DC have been having quite the time since Donald Trump became president-elect.
First, neo-Nazis celebrated Trump's victory -- with Nazi salutes -- in the Ronald Reagan Building.
Then, on Sunday, a man fired an assault rifle inside a restaurant in northwest DC -- Comet Ping Pong -- ultimately telling police he was there to "self-investigate" what is known as "Pizzagate," The Washington Post reports.
If you're not familiar with Pizzagate, it's the baseless conspiracy theory Comet Ping Pong is running a child sex ring operated by none other than Hillary Clinton.
This unfounded assertion was spread by fake news reports.
So, not only do we have evidence fake news had a huge influence on both the election and post-election perceptions, this plague of false information has now inspired violence in our nation's capital.
Fortunately, no one was hurt in the incident at Comet Ping Pong, but that doesn't make it any less disturbing.
The man who entered the restaurant has been identified as Edgar M. Welch, 28, of Salisbury, NC.
He was reportedly carrying two other guns in addition to the assault rifle, and he's been charged with assault with a deadly weapon.
When the man entered the restaurant, he pointed a gun at an employee who was able to flee and notify police.
The man then discharged his weapon inside the restaurant, but police believe all of the other patrons had fled the restaurant upon that time, the Post reports.
Police were able to set up a perimeter and safely apprehend Welch.
This incident was the culmination of a slew of harassment the restaurant's owner, James Alefantis, and employees have faced due to Pizzagate.
A few days before the election, Alefantis began to receive harassment and threats online over Pizzagate, which became so bad even his children were targeted.
This story, however unsubstantiated, clearly gained a great deal of momentum.
As Faiz Siddiqui and Susan Svrluga reported for the Post,
Even Michael Flynn, a retired general whom President-elect Donald Trump has tapped to advise him on national security, shared stories about another anti-Clinton conspiracy theory involving pedophilia. None of them were true. But the fake stories and threats persisted, some even aimed at children of Comet Ping Pong employees and patrons... The restaurant's owner was forced to contact the FBI, local police, Facebook and other social-media platforms in an effort to remove the articles.
Alefantis is understandably distraught over this disturbing incident and did not hold back in his critique of fake news, saying,
What happened today demonstrates that promoting false and reckless conspiracy theories comes with consequences. I hope that those involved in fanning these flames will take a moment to contemplate what happened here today, and stop promoting these falsehoods right away.
Indeed, the spread of fake news is not a laughing matter -- it's dangerous.
Fake news isn't "news" at all, it's nothing but lies that have now proven to be potentially deadly.
Citations: BuzzFeed, The Washington Post