A deranged man who lives not far from here went into Northwest Washington, DC. Sunday afternoon with an AR-15 assault style rifle, a pistol and a knife and opened fire in Comet Ping Pong, a popular family-style pizza restaurant because he believed an incredible “fake news” story that the place fronted a pedophile ring run by Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“Better watch out,” said an anonymous email to me the day after the event in Washington. “We will be coming for you soon.”
Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, a conspiracy theorist from Salisbury, N.C., drove to Washington on a self-proclaimed mission to rescue young children, he said, from a life of porn and sexual abuse from the claimed operation in a pizza place that is popular to residents of the nation’s capital.
Owners and staff at the restaurant started receiving death threats after alt-right conspiracy flake and radio Alex Jones started broadcasting claims that the operation was a “front” for a “pedophile” ring with connections to Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Promoters of fake news operations with ties to Republican candidate Donald Trump started circulating the story on social media web sites. Retired general Michael T. Flynn, tapped as Trump’s national security advisor, sent out Twitter tweets with allegations that Clinton’s emails included evidence of “sex crimes with children. After Welch opened fire at Comet Sunday afternoon, Michael G. Flynnn, son of the retired general, posted more unfounded claims of “the Clinton pedophilia ring.”
Welch, thankfully, did not hit anyone with he bullets and later surrendered without further violence, admitting he did not find any child sex ring at the pizza restaurant on Connecticut Avenue in Washington.
Amy and I know that neighborhood well. I used to frequent the Politics and Prose book shop just a few doors down from the location. Comet Ping Pong opened after we left the Washington area but we used to eat at other places nearby.
Any of us who have written about the shenanigans of Trump and his rowdy followers know far too well about what can happen when someone with a screw or two loose can do if they buy into the paranoia and fantasies that surround the new President-elect.
“Rope, Tree, Journalist,” wrote a man to Dana Milbank, at The Washington Post. “Some assembly required. I will assemble it for you.”
Trump urged his supporters to violent affront reporters, photographers and others involved in covering the news.
This would appear to be the new normal: Not only disagreeing with your opponent but accusing her of running a pedophilia ring, provoking such fury that somebody takes it upon himself to start shooting. Not only chafing when criticized in the press but stoking anti-media hysteria that leads some supporters to threaten to kill journalists.
After The Washington Post reported Sunday about the Comet gunman and the nonsense conspiracy theory that motivated him, the reporters received emails and tweets saying “I hope the next shooter targets you lying sacks of s— in the media,” “God has a plan better than death,” and “it would also be a shame if someone took a gun to” The Post.
Trump calls journalists “the lowest form of life” and “scum.” During the campaign he bragged about how “I bring rage out.” He offered to pay legal costs for those who assaulted reporters.
Trump encourages Alex Jones to continue promoting outlandish and dangerous claims like the “pedophile ring’ that doesn’t exist. He says Jones has “an amazing reputation” and called Jones after winning the election. Many of Trump’s outlandish Twitter tweets are based on Jones’ discredited conspiracy theories.
Welcome to the new normal of Donald Trump’s America. God help us all.