Four more Washington, DC business owners tell CNN Money that “pizzagate” lunatics have called and visited their stores to verbally harass or confront staff.
North Carolina resident Edgar Maddison Welch allegedly entered Comet Ping Pong on Sunday with an assault rifle and fired at least once into the floor. Patrons of the family restaurant fled in terror, victims of a peculiar and idiotic right wing conspiracy theory about a supposed child sex trafficking ring. Welch was arrested without incident.
According to the manager of a totally different pizza shop three doors down, at least ten callers a day express their feelings about “pizzagate,” often cursing and even threatening employees. As with their neighbor Comet Ping Ping, a few people have shown up in person:
Two weeks ago, Besta had its own unpleasant visit. According to [Ibrahima] Diallo, two women showed up to the shop on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving asking to inspect Besta’s basement. When Diallo told them he would call the cops, the individuals left — but not before snapping a photo of Diallo.
Diallo recorded their license plate number, but he said D.C. police told him there was little to be done.
“The police said it’s a civil matter,” Diallo said.
As usual, the FBI has been no help to these people. American law enforcement has consistently failed to investigate online harassment; prosecutors are seldom willing to enforce cyberstalking or cyberharassment laws, and courts rarely offer minimal protection.
In the weeks since figures close to president-elect Donald Trump, including his National Security Advisor, amplified pizzagate from its fringe origins — 4chan trolls, Alex Jones, and right wing fake news blogs — a nearby French bistro, cafe, and bookstore have also experienced similar harassment.
One of the bookstore’s owners says that phone calls related to pizzagate have peaked at “eight or 12 an hour.”
[Bradley] Graham, a former reporter at the Washington Post, said he’s also dismayed with the websites that have allowed the conspiracy theory to flourish.
“It’s just hard to figure out. You can watch their videos and read the Pizzagate stuff and it’s just so twisted and bizarre. It’s hard to follow the logic,” he said. “Unfortunately, what’s happened here on this block has become emblematic of the post-fact, post-truth phenomenon, with a dangerous and menacing twist.”
Nor have the phone calls and threats let up since Sunday. Instead, landlords are being asked for more security, while the Metropolitan Police Department has “committed additional police resources to that area” according to a statement made to CNN Money.
But these passive arrangements can only mitigate a witch hunt so much. The internet has become a ‘safe space’ for foolish, harebrained cults to form at the least excuse, with the dumbest conspiracy theories usually inspiring the most fanaticism. These trends have existed in social media for years, but now they are being weaponized by irresponsible actors into blunt instruments of mob terror.
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