— bruce johnson (@brucejohnson9) December 5, 2016
“This was our worst fear,” [Little Red Fox owner Matt Carr] said, “that someone would read all this and come to the block with a gun. And today it happened.” – Washington Post account of the events of December 4th, 2016
“It” was a man who walked into Comet Ping Pong to investigate a conspiracy theory he’d read online. He arrived armed. He fired a couple of shots. Surrounding businesses went on lockdown. After a standoff, he was taken away in handcuffs.
The story began weeks ago, and it got some local and national coverage as online allegations spread and the believers called, emailed and posted their threats to Yelp, Facebook, Twitter and other sites.
“Everyone was getting death threats and harassed, and even tangential relations to the business was enough to get harassed,” [Comet manager Bryce] Reh said. “I mean, it started with us, but it even expanded to other businesses on the block.” – WAMU 88.5 News
“If it stays like this for the next month or two, I’m going to be shutting down. It’s not a joke. These people, just calling, they don’t know what they’re doing, they are ruining our life, our business.” – Besta Pizza owner Abdel Hammad, in an interview with WAMU
Other businesses on the block have vowed to stay, no matter what. And they have the enthusiastic backing of customers near and far. Politics and Prose co-owner Lissa Muscatine and ANC 3F Chair Malachy Nugent spoke to the Kojo Nnamdi Show about the official and neighborhood response to the gunman.
— The Kojo Nnamdi Show (@kojoshow) December 6, 2016
Official response extended to the national level.
“The epidemic of malicious fake news and fake propaganda that flooded social media over the past year, it’s now clear that so-called fake news can have real-world consequences,” [Democratic presidential candidate Hillary] Clinton said. She was referring to the “Pizzagate” incident in D.C. this weekend. – NPR, December 8th
But who is spreading these conspiracies?
“There is a camaraderie to it,” she said. “It is like sitting around with your friends saying, ‘What really happened to JFK?’ It is like a giant game, especially nowadays when you can crowdsource thousands of emails and figure out what’s going on.” – The Washington Post
Another crowd also came out to show their support – for Comet, for Terasol, for Jake’s, for Politics and Prose…
“I used to think conspiracy nuts were kind of harmless,” [Bruce] Guthrie says, “but now it’s like, ‘No, you’re not. You’re crazy.’” – WAMU interview with the man who was first in line for the community-led #StandWithComet event Friday, December 9th
— WUSA9 (@wusa9) December 10, 2016
The Pizzagate conspiracy nuts are casting their nets even wider now, ensnaring pizza places as far away as New York City and Austin, Texas, and a certain talk show host.
If any good has come of this, it’s that it is shining a light on media literacy across the U.S., or the lack thereof. Some educators are meeting the challenge head-on.
“They’ve seen how detrimental this can be,” [Wilson High teacher Eden] McCauslin said. “If there’s anything positive that can come out it, it’s that my kids are starting to be a little more critical of the world around them instead of just taking it in like a zombie.” – The Washington Post