The Damaging Effect of Fake News

It is terrible to see the way falsehood becomes truth due to repetition

Reports that Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager John Podesta lead a child trafficking ring from the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington are evidently false. This did not prevent Edgar Maddison Welch from entering the eatery on Sunday carrying an assault weapon and firing a shot, saying that he was there to “investigate” what was happening there.

Welsh is one of the hundreds of thousands of people who read, and maybe commented, on “Pizzagate.” The conspiracy theory states that the owner of the establishment, who sympathizes with Democratic views, aided the candidate in handing children over to pedophiles.

The defamation consisting of linking the Clintons to child exploitation spread like wildfire among the “alt-Right” as conservatives stayed silent. Even retired General Mike Flynn, who will be National Security Advisor for President-Elect Donald Trump, tied Clinton with child abuse via Twitter.

To top it off, the speculation also says that Andrew Breitbart, the founder of the media outlet that groups neo-Nazis, racists and conservatives, was murdered by Podesta to cover up Pizzagate. Breitbart died of a heart attack in 2012 and was replaced at the website by Steve Bannon, who is now Trump’s senior adviser.

The conspiracy was one of several fake news reports that circulated among Trump supporters during the last presidential campaign. The lie was very similar to another one currently running around that says that Trump lost the popular vote because millions of “illegal voters” voted for Clinton.

The way this falsehood has spread is very similar to Pizzagate’s trajectory: The websites are the same, as are the people who are being bamboozled. The worst part is that Trump is an enthusiastic participant in the dissemination of this fabrication, making everyone around him his accomplices.

Vice President-Elect Mike Pence said that it is “refreshing” to see the president-elect say what he thinks, and that he knows that Trump will always speak in that manner as president. New Chief of Staff Reince Priebus highlighted the advantages to the president-elect “not taking conventional thought” on the issues.

We are concerned about the impact these deliberate lies may have; Sunday’s incident might have turned into a massacre. However, their impact is seen every day on the attacks carried out against minorities.

It is terrible to see the way falsehood becomes truth due to repetition, and it is preposterous to see the next White House and the ruling party take part in this chain, disseminating lies to encourage hate.