Ruth: Fake news causes real trouble

Published Dec. 6, 2016

If you're looking for the thinnest of silver linings associated with the man armed with an assault rifle who terrorized Washington's Comet Ping Pong pizza restaurant Sunday following a fake news story the eatery was part of an international child trafficking ring (insert sigh), at least the goober wasn't from Florida. True, small comfort.

North Carolina? Edgar Maddison Welch? He's all yours.

The 28-year-old Welch entered the pizza parlor Sunday, firing at least one round into the floor and claiming he wanted to investigate the debunked smears that Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager, John Podesta, were behind a pedophilia operation in which kidnapped children were delivered to a back room of Comet Ping Pong through a maze of secret tunnels to be sexually abused.

Take a moment to chortle. But then remember thousands of fellow travelers of morons like Welch actually believed the so-called Pizzagate perverted propaganda, which was posted days before the election on Facebook, YouTube and many other fringe websites, according to the New York Times.

Comet Ping Pong owner James Alefantis was deluged with hundreds of death threats. Soon his employees also became targets of the Internet trolls of stupidity. Businesses near Comet Ping Pong were drawn into the nonextistent plot to molest children. And even Washington Post reporters covering the story began receiving death threats.

But wait. It gets even more — nuts?

Michael Flynn Jr., the son of recently appointed national security advisor to President-elect Donald Trump, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, has become a clueless Pizzagate provocateur. He tweeted after Sunday's incident: "Until #pizzagate is proven to be false, it'll remain a story."

Take a big gulp here. Flynn junior is an advisor to his father. And indeed Daddio himself has also retweeted a tweet tweeting that Podesta is into Satanic rituals. And this guy is going to be whispering into Trump's ear about national security issues?

Will the national security advisor buy a fake news story generated by a pimply-faced 17-year-old sitting in Kazakhstan that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is running a dominatrix operation out of the Bundestag?

The reality-challenged Welch said he wanted to "self investigate" the phony Pizzagate claims, by invading the restaurant carrying an assault rifle and at least two other weapons. The dithering junior Michael Flynn insists the spurious Comet Ping Pong story will continue to flourish until it is proven false.

But if Welch or Flynn had at least one functioning brain synapse capable of critical thinking, they would already know the dangerous and damaging fake allegations against a businessman and his employees simply trying to make a living have been repeatedly debunked, disproved and dismissed. Numerous reputable fact-checking organizations, as well as a myriad of law enforcement agencies, have cleared Comet Ping Pong of any remote suggestion Alefantis is involved in any criminal wrong-doing, much less serving up 6-year-olds for sexual trysts.

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Yet, the age of post-truth/anti-truth only promises to become more muddled. Cue: "Hail To The Disbelief."

In just a few weeks, the nation will inaugurate a 45th president of the United States who has suggested — despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary — that global warming is a hoax cooked up by the Chinese. This is also the same figure who claimed, without a scintilla of facts, that millions of illegal immigrants voted on Election Day. Forget the sigh. Let's just move onto the fetal position to save time.

We should hardly be surprised. Trump, the grand inquisitor of the birther movement, has appointed the land's foremost denier of veracity, Steve Bannon, as his chief strategist, who formally ran the alt-right-loving Brietbart News, which has never met a tin foil hat it didn't like.

Trump also has repeatedly praised radio ranting fabulist Alex Jones, the Col. Kurtz of conspiracy theories, as one of his best pals. And the president-elect still insists CNN can't get its facts straight?

In just a few days a president will be advised by a retired general who aided and abetted an unfounded libel that a political opponent was a Satanist.

Toto, we're not in Camelot anymore.