There was a time when fake news was considered humor. There was a time when threats against journalists and private businesses, threats of any sort of political violence, were exceedingly rare. But in Trump’s America, fake news and political threats are neither rare nor idle.
Donald Trump, during the campaign, repeatedly pushed conspiracy theories in right-wing news outlets. He also fantasized about Hillary Clinton and her judicial nominees being assassinated. He boasted that “I bring rage out” in people, and the recent incidents of violence in his name prove it.
The combination of fake news and Trump’s violent rhetoric has turned into a real, terrifying nightmare, a threat to National Security . If you doubt that, consider the recent events at Comet Ping Pong, the family pizza place in Northwest Washington.
Lately, the owner and staff at Comet — and those of other businesses on the block — have been getting death threats, spurred by conspiracy theorists with close ties to the president-elect.
Encouraged by Trump, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and a network of right-wing fake news sites have been whipping up a bogus and bizarre accusation that Comet is a front for a Hillary Clinton-affiliated pedophilia ring, and the resulting calls and messages threaten a “public lynching” of this nonexistent ring. “I pray someone comes to Comet pizza with automatic weapons and kills everyone inside,” wrote one. “I just may cut your throat. . . . I truly hope someone blows your brains all over Comet pizza.”
Michael Flynn, Jr., the son of President-elect Donald Trump’s chosen national security adviser, has propagated the false “Pizza Gate” story. Flynn, Jr. — who reportedly has an email address with the transition team — served as his father’s chief of staff.
Comet’s owners asked the FBI for help but heard nothing in reply from James Comey’s agents. They heard instead from a North Carolina man, carrying an assault rifle, who walked into their business and started shooting on Sunday afternoon. The man told police he had come to “self-investigate” the pedophilia conspiracy. Mercifully, nobody was hurt.
The man told police he did so in an effort to rescue child sex slaves who never existed, court documents say.
Police arrested Edgar Welch outside Comet Ping Pong on Sunday afternoon, after three shots were fired and people in the restaurant fled, with one telling a police officer, “he’s in there and he has a gun!” Police shut down the area around the restaurant, and the suspect emerged with his hands up.
Police said Welch went to the pizzeria to “self-investigate” “Pizza Gate,” a fictitious story circulated online that alleges Hillary Clinton is involved in running a child sexual trafficking ring through the establishment.
The 28-year-old native of Durham, N.C., surrendered after he found no evidence that underage children were being harbored in the restaurant. He made his first court appearance on Monday. He was charged with four felony offenses.
Now we are beginning to see the consequences of the rage and paranoia Trump has encouraged: A disturbed man fires an assault weapon in a place where tots play ping-pong. The only “crime” of the owner, James Alefantis, was to be a Clinton supporter who had, the WikiLeaks hack exposed, discussed with Clinton aide John Podesta the possibility of hosting a Clinton fundraiser.
That is Trump’s America, folks. We need to stop this madness before it gets out of control.