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God help us all...under the heading “reality is stranger than fiction”

In early November, as Wikileaks steadily released piles of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, one contact caught the attention of prankster sites and/or political operatives.
James Alefantis is the owner of Comet Ping Pong Pizza, a restaurant in Washington, D.C. He’s also a big Democratic Party supporter and raised money for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Alefantis, who’s never met Clinton, appeared in the Podesta emails in connection with the fundraisers.
And from these thin threads, an enormous trove of conspiracy fiction was spun.
Head spin master Michael G. Flynn is credited with being the originator of the conspiracy theory, commonly called PIZZAGATE.
Flynn’s father is the retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who has been tied to false news stories claiming Clinton and other Democrats were involved in a child sex ring. General Flynn was President-Elect Donald Trump’s pick for national security adviser. The younger Flynn was hired to be on the team at his father’s request. General Flynn tweeted the following message on Nov. 2: “U decide – NYPD Blows Whistle on New Hillary Emails: Money Laundering, Sex Crimes w Children, etc . . . MUST READ.”
Users of 4chan, a message board known for free speech, extreme content and trollish behavior, began posting speculation and supposed connections gleaned from internet searches. They trawled Alefantis’ Instagram feed for pictures of children and the modern art which lines his restaurant’s walls. Based on this, they dreamt up a pedophile sex ring being held in the basement of the restaurant involving prominent politicians and political donors.
Another website, Reddit, created a chat room to discuss the conspiracy theory and had over 20,000 subscribers.
Soon there were protesters outside of Comet Ping Pong. At first, Alefantis tried to talk sense with the people who were accusing him of the heinous crime. He even invited some of them in to show there wasn’t even a basement in his building. Police and other authorities investigated and found the rumors to be baseless.
“They ignore basic truths,” Alefantis said. “We don’t even have a basement.”
But the folks over at the alternate-right movement didn’t let any facts get in their way. The restaurant’s owners and staff were harassed, threatened on social media websites, and the owner received death threats.
Edgar Welch is a 28-year-old from North Carolina. At least one of his Facebook photos shows him standing in the woods with an AK15 assault rifle in his hands. He also has a criminal record, twice being charged with driving under the influence and once with misdemeanor drug possession. In late October, he struck a teenage pedestrian with his car in his hometown of Salisbury, requiring the boy to be airlifted to a hospital. Welch was not charged.
Edgar Welch’s father is Harry Welch Jr., a former police officer, firearms instructor and president of the North Carolina Crime Stoppers Association.
One recent Sunday morning, Edgar woke up and told his family he had some things to do. He made the 350-mile drive to Washington with the intention of giving the restaurant a closer look. Once he got to the pizzeria, he decided to take his assault rifle into the restaurant where he fired it into the floor. Police were called and he surrendered peacefully.
After the incident, he still refused to dismiss the claims.
Michael G. Flynn also refuses to refute the claims.
He tweeted: “Until #Pizzagate proven to be false, it’ll remain a story.”
God help us all.