Remember pizzagate – that insane conspiracy theory that tried to connect Hillary Clinton to a child sex ring run out of a Washington DC pizzeria? There are concrete reasons that fake news stories such as this one can be problematic, but here’s one that’s somewhat more nebulous: Fake news stories don’t die. As long as there is an audience for them, they will persist because that audience simply doesn’t care about the underlying facts. That’s likely part of the reason that now, months after the election, a couple businesses in Philadelphia say they are experiencing a rebirth of pizzagate thanks to far-out conspiracy theorists.
Originally, most of the chatter surrounding pizzagate focused on a Washington, DC, pizzeria called Comet Ping Pong – rumors that alarmingly led to a shooting in the restaurant in December. But according to Philly.com, a Philadelphia pizza restaurant and an ice cream parlor that shares the same space have also been targeted by people obsessed with pizzagate, and the harassment continues to be ongoing. Both the Pizza Brain pizzeria and Little Baby’s ice cream parlor told the news site they’ve seen threating messages on social media and have also gotten unwelcome emails and phone calls.
Pete Angevine, one of Little Baby's owners, told Philly.com he noticed the online chatter pick up a few weeks ago. “Around the same time, we noticed an uptick in prank/harassing phone calls to our shops, strange chatter on social media, and even a few hateful and vaguely threatening direct emails that I received in the middle of the night,” he said. But Angevine said his bigger concern is an incident like what happened at Comet Ping Pong could happen in his business. “We are worried that someone could go to any one of our shops, which are public places, and cause our staff or customers serious harm. That is alarming and troubling.”
Pizza Brain co-owner Michael Carter said he has spoken with his staff specifically about the issue. “We do also encourage employees to contact the Philadelphia police if a pizzagate customer makes them uncomfortable or becomes belligerent/aggressive,” he said. Thankfully, at this point, no incidents have been reported on the premises of Pizza Brain and Little Baby’s. Hopefully it stays that way.