What is the Pizzagate theory about

A 28-year-old from North Carolina marches into the Washington pizzeria "Comet Ping Pong". The man's name is Edgar Maddison Welch, and he is armed with a pistol and an assault rifle.

A rumor has been circulating on the Internet for a month that Hillary Clinton's confidants run a pedophilia network from the Comet. Welch also read about it. On Sunday he drives the car for six hours to check whether children are really being abused. He threatens an employee and fires at least one shot. For 45 minutes he searches for access to a tunnel that is mentioned in the network. When he realizes that he cannot "save underage sex slaves", he allows himself to be arrested; nobody gets hurt. Welch's statement from the criminal complaint (here as PDF) makes it clear: Fake news from the Internet was the reason a heavily armed man walked into a restaurant where families were eating pizza in broad daylight in an affluent neighborhood of the US capital.

"This could soon become normal," writes Washington Post- Columnist Dana Milbank. Milbank is one of those Trump critics who are threatened with lynching: he receives emails saying "rope, tree, journalist". T-shirts with such a print can also be ordered online.

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Trump adviser's son is fired

For weeks there has been a smear campaign under the unimaginative slogan #Pizzagate - especially against Hillary Clinton. This story deserves attention for several reasons: It shows that it is next to impossible to stop fictitious smut campaigns. And it illustrates that advisors and possible top executives in the administration of soon-to-be President Donald Trump are such Fake news spread. The man, of all people, tweeted about the rumor with the designated security advisor Michael Flynn, who will soon have enormous influence on the US secret services and the military and who is often the last to advise Trump before making security policy decisions (details here).

Trump himself did not comment on the incident on Twitter or on his evening "Victory Tour" appearance in North Carolina, nor did he call on his millions of fans to exercise moderation. Flynn's son Michael junior was kicked out of the transition team that organized the takeover on Tuesday. While father Flynn tweets cautiously since his nomination, the son had claimed after the shooting on the Comet that the lie remained "a story" and had not yet been disproved as "false".

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How a lie arises and grows on the Internet

The dirt campaign around the pizzeria "Comet Ping Pong" had already been reported in mid-November, including the clarifying articles, for example in the New York Times,which prove that it is a pure conspiracy theory without any evidence, did not lead to any relaxation for owner James Alefantis. Well have Buzzfeed News and the Washington Post re-researched how the #pizzagate lie was born out of nowhere.

It starts on 28th of October with the letter from FBI chief Comey announcing new investigations into Clinton over her email server affair. It quickly becomes clear: The trigger is a sexting investigation against Anthony Weiner, the husband of Clinton confidante Huma Abedin: He had sent offensive messages to a 15-year-old.

At the 30th of October the Twitter account @DavidGoldbergNY spreads a Facebook post. Citing alleged New York police sources, it is said that Clinton is at the center of an international pedophilia ring. The Facebook user lives in Missouri - and like David Goldberg, she does not react to messages from Buzzfeed-Authors. The tweet is distributed thousands of times and finds its way to other portals.

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The alleged child molester ring appears on various websites, for example on the conspiracy page YourNewsWire.Com, and finds its way to 4chan, a website where every statement and opinion is allowed. Foreign sites that make a lot of money from trumped-up stories also take over the story and add new details. With all clarity: Neither at this point in time nor later did the FBI have that New York Police Department or another authority even just said something about it.

No later than the November 4th #Pizzagate is unstoppable. Alex Jones from the very successful ultra-right website Infowars.com repeatedly speaks of satanic rituals in which Clinton's campaign manager John Podesta is involved and repeats the accusation of pedophilia. The election is imminent, Jones says in a YouTube video: "Hillary Clinton personally killed and raped children. I have to come out with the truth."

Incidentally, after his election victory, Trump found time to call Alex Jones and thank him (more at Politico) - During the election campaign, Trump praised Jones' "excellent reputation". And of course it also has Breitbart News, the ultra-right website of Trump's new chief strategist Steven Bannon, has an extensive coverage of Pizzagate.

According to Washington Post dives on November 7th #Pizzagate on Twitter for the first time. According to research by Jonathan Albright from Elon University, there are many retweets from the Czech Republic: Apparently bots help with the distribution. Around this time the "Comet Ping Pong" pizzeria was first mentioned in connection with the invented child molester network. Why? From the emails published by Wikileaks from Clinton election campaign leader Podesta it is clear that he sometimes ate at the "Comet".

The fact that "Comet" owner James Alefantis used to be in a relationship with the journalist David Brock (Brock is now fighting hard for Clinton) and that a fundraising event took place there is sufficient evidence for the online crowd. In the course of November, both Alefantis and the owners of the surrounding restaurants are threatened: They are supposed to cover child abuse, and there is increasing talk of a tunnel. November 27thAfter Thanksgiving, two men with protest signs stand in front of the pizzeria for the first time.

About Pizzagate, Comet owner Alefantis receives up to 150 calls a day, and other restaurateurs in the area receive death threats. The police say there is nothing they can do: All statements and emails are covered by freedom of expression. In the afternoon of December 4th Edgar Welch finally enters the pizzeria - armed.