When a fake story claiming DC pizzeria Comet Ping Pong was a front for a child sex ring led by Hillary Clinton, most of us immediately wrote it off as nonsense.
“We're hunting for awesome startups”
Run an early-stage company? We're inviting 250 to exhibit at TNW Conference and pitch on stage!
The story spread like wildfire on social media, eventually leading to over a million shares — including one by President-elect Trump’s choice for National Security Advisor, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. The tweet read:
U decide – NYPD Blows Whistle on New Hillary Emails: Money Laundering, Sex Crimes w Children, etc…MUST READ! https://t.co/O0bVJT3QDr
— General Flynn (@GenFlynn) November 3, 2016
This seemingly-insane conspiracy theory fanned the flames of the fake news controversy and what was once a controlled burn quickly went nuclear.
Glossing over the fact a man who can’t tell real news from fake could one day wield significant influence over our military, it’s clear we’ve got a problem on our hands. It started with a terrifying incident at Comet Ping Pong, but it surely won’t end there.
It all played out in a sleepy neighborhood in Washington D.C. that was equally likely to play host to college kids with ping pong paddles as it was a US Senator. Comet is a neighborhood mainstay residing just five miles from the White House. Its owner, James Alefantis, has never met Hillary Clinton.
None of this mattered to a gun-toting vigilante, 28-year-old Edgar Welch, who came to “self-investigate” instances of purported child sex abuse at the neighborhood pizza joint. Welch was arrested shortly upon arrival, but not before firing a single shot, a shot which quickly dispersed restaurant patrons and staff and caused a neighborhood-wide lockdown for several hours.
No one was hurt this time, but you’d be remiss in assuming it was an isolated incident.
As fake news continues its viral spread, what’s finally coming into focus is the real-world impact of our words. It’s no longer a harmless prank, a money-making ploy; it’s reached the point of dangerous propaganda that could soon carry with it an unimaginable cost: innocent human lives.