Fake news with real consequences
“If you don’t read the newspaper you’re uninformed, if you do read it you’re misinformed” -Denzel Washington
On December 4, Edgar Maddison Welch, drove hours from North Carolina to Washington, D.C. heavily armed with 3 weapons to “self-investigate” an alleged sex ring supposedly operated by the Clinton campaign.
He went as far as pointing a gun at an employee and then shooting the ground a couple times before police apprehended him. Nobody was injured.
But of course, there was no child sex ring. This story was not true and was fueled by the heated presidential election. How can political rhetoric create such an upheaval for the employees at a Pizzeria in Washington– causing a whole block to go on lockdown for more than an hour?
Among the many emails that Wikileaks released from Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta in early November, one of them is where this conspiracy theory stems from. It was revealed that James Alefantis, owner of pizzeria Comet Ping Pong in Washington, had exchanged emails with John Podesta regarding a fundraiser for the campaign.
This is nothing new, Alefantis has raised money for both Clinton and Obama in past presidential elections. This was the first time Alefantis, his business, and his employees received threats resulting from him expressing his freedom of speech and his choice to support the democratic party, however.
“We’re going to put a bullet in your head”
“Pizzagate” is the name the media has given this fake story that seems to have originated in 4chan– a message board known for free speech, quickly making its way onto Twitter and then other mainstream social media outlets.
Even political figures, including the son of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, decided to irresponsibly share this conspiracy online which spread like a virus infecting a naive audience. This was sure to intensify the situation.
James Alefantis had this to say about the incident, “What happened today demonstrates that promoting false and reckless conspiracy theories comes with consequences.”
Here’s a twist to the story that may or may not surprise you: Welch has a criminal record including two drug possession charges that should have prevented him from legally purchasing the guns he carried.
So how did he get his hands on these guns then?
As it turns out, a conviction of possessing illegal drugs only stops individuals from buying arsenal if it occurred within the past year. What a devious loophole.
“The system designed to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people is riddled with complexities like these.”
In North Carolina, Welch’s hometown, the state allows people to purchase rifles and shotguns without undergoing background checks, but one must obtain a permit to purchase a handgun or carry a concealed weapon.
Fake news, a heated presidential election, and a large group of naive individuals plus a complex gun-law system have given birth to Pizzagate– a false conspiracy theory that endangered many people’s lives.
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