Fake news can have real victims.
A popular Northwest, D.C. neighborhood pizza joint is trying to figure out how to fight back after what it suspects is a massive coordinated on-line attack suggesting the restaurant is involved in the worst kind of conspiracy.
The pizza shop owner suspects thousands of online bullies have set out to destroy him, maybe simply because he and a friend supported the Clinton campaign.
It's a story so clearly absurd, it's hard to imagine anyone would believe it. And yet two women who declined to give their names who were banging on the patio of Comet Ping Pong on Tuesday, looking for the tunnels where Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager were trafficking in children.
“All of this is an underground tunnel that helps take the kids and transport them back and forth so they can can do these rituals,” said one of them. “They are putting a lot of curses and spells over the city. They are kidnapping the children who are missing. They were never missing because D.C. know where they are.”
It's all a lie. Comet Ping Pong owner James Alefantis said the restaurant does not even have a basement.
“This is a really nice, friendly place with wonderful people who make wonderful pizza,” said neighbor and regular, Florience Larkin.
“These people are destroying their lives,” said neighbor Maura Dougherty about the conspiracy theorists who are hammering Comet Ping Pong online. “It’s insane.”
“Pizza is actually a term used by pedophiles to describe pedophilia or child porn,” spews an online video so outlandish it seems to be a joke.
It's hard to know what the people spinning the tale are thinking. But conspiracy theory continues to spread with thousands of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter posts under the hashtag PizzaGate.
"We're not letting this go, elites," said someone who tweets under the name David Seaman. "And you cannot kill all of us: lawyer up, D.C. pedophiles. Party's over."
"The only reason Kanye was hospitalized is because he spoke up about #pizzagate," tweeted someone who goes by the name Patrick.
Alefantis had contacted the FBI and DC Police. He's asked Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit to remove the posts. And yet there were more than 1,000 new ones on Tuesday alone. As of Tuesday night, it looked like some of the social media sites might act.
Comet Ping Pong's owner says the PizzaGate conspirators have also harassed and abused his staff. The manager got so many threats and vulgar messages, his wife asked him to quit his job. And the online bullies have gone after other businesses on the block as well.