Daily Beast Writer: Fake News 'Radicalized' Pizzagate Shooter Like ISIS

On Monday's CNN Newsroom, The Daily Beast's Dean Obeidallah bewailed the apparent power of "fake news," particularly after the Sunday shooting at a Washington, D.C. restaurant at the center of the "Pizzagate" issue. Obeidallah proposed a hypothetical scenario: "I wonder if a Muslim guy went to a pizza place with a gun...how that would have went down — I think much worse." The liberal pundit later claimed that "Donald Trump...is the great purveyor of fake news," and that "good people [are] misinformed; and in this case, this man was radicalized online. This is no different than ISIS radicalizing someone." [video below]

Anchor Carol Costello led the panel discussion segment with Obeidallah and CNN journalist Brian Steltar with two "bogus" Tweets from the next national security advisor, General Michael Flynn, and his son. Stelter responded, in part, by underlining that "this is dangerous territory — to think that until you can completely disprove something, that you assume it's true....it's so ridiculous; it's one of these anti-Clinton conspiracy theories during the election that was so preposterous. I tried not to pay attention to it. But that's actually part of the problem. These even ridiculous theories are serious."

The Daily Beast commentator wasted little time before giving his religion-based, what-if situation. He soon added that "Breitbart had something to do with it — writing an article about [Pizzagate]. So you had...Steve Bannon involved, who's now also in the administration." After giving his "great purveyor of fake news" phrase about Trump, Obeidallah cited how "Political Fact (sic) — which is non-partisan — said he had 174 statements in this campaign which were either false or pants-on-fire...So, Donald Trump, when you're misinforming good people in this country; and you have people like Flynn, as well, doing it...it's unfortunate."

Moments later, Stelter seconded his fellow CNN guest's ISIS comparison: "You know, 'radicalized' is an interesting word. Conspiracy theories — these kinds of swamps of the Internet — can cause people to embrace extreme, wild views....You read all these articles — all these weird clues on Twitter and Facebook — that make you think a preposterous idea, like 'Pizzagate,' is actually true."

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Later in the segment, Obeidallah cited a recent article he wrote that "documented the...hate crimes or swastikas written up; women with hijabs having their hijabs ripped off...I had tons of Trump supporters telling me, I'm lying. I'm making up all these cases. And I would send them the local news stories with images of swastikas...and some of it, maybe, they're playing a game; but some of it's real." The Daily Beast writer never got around to mentioning that there are plenty of examples of fake "hate crimes" staged by supposed victims.

Obeidallah also singled out House Speaker Paul Ryan for "refusing to denounce [Trump's] claim that three million illegal people voted — said, I can't say if it's true or not — you're furthering lies. And the problem is, if you're going to deny the real suffering of people, like with hate crimes, it can lead to a very dark place in human history." He offered some advice seconds before the end of the segment:

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY BEAST: So people, please, use critical thinking. Look at the source of where the material is sent to you. That's the problem. People will give credibility to things that don't have credibility. My articles — all credible — some people's articles — they have no credibility But I'm serious: look at the source, and double and triple check. I used to be a lawyer. I have critical thinking skills.

The liberal writer certainly damaged his credibility by blasting former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee a "Christian Wahabbist" in a February 2015 column. Three months later, Obeidallah ripped conservative writer Erick Erickson for his reaction to a Saturday Night Live skit about the draw Mohammad controversy that prompted an attempted terrorist attack in Garland, Texas: "The [SNL] writers'...goal was not to make fun of radical Islam – this made-up idea."

The transcript of the panel discussion segment from CNN Newsroom on December 5, 2016:

CAROL COSTELLO: With me now to talk about this is CNN senior media correspondent and anchor of Reliable Sources, Brian Stelter; and Dean Obeidallah, columnist for The Daily Beast and the host of Sirius/XM radio show, 'The Dean Obeidallah Show.' Welcome to both of you.

All right. So Brian, this bogus story: in short, Hillary Clinton and John Podesta, which (sic) is her campaign aide, were supposedly involved in running a child sex ring out of Comet pizza. There is zero evidence of this — totally, totally bogus. Yet, Michael Flynn, Jr., the new national security advisor's son, Tweeted this out on Sunday after this incident went down — quote, 'Until Pizzagate proven to be false, it'll remain a story. The left seems to forget Podesta e-mails and the many coincidences tied to it.' Again, D.C. police say Pizzagate is completely fictitious; but Flynn's Tweet has been re-Tweeted 1100 times, as of seven o'clock this morning.

[CNN Graphic: "Police: Gunman Motivated By Fake News"]

BRIAN STELTER: This is dangerous territory — to think that until you can completely disprove something, that you assume it's true. This is the kind of theory that — you know, I started to roll my eyes and laugh when you were describing it. It's so ludicrous, it's so ridiculous; it's one of these anti-Clinton conspiracy theories during the election that was so preposterous. I tried not to pay attention to it.

But that's actually part of the problem. These even ridiculous theories are serious; and this one individual from North Carolina apparently felt compelled to drive to Washington, D.C. to investigate it — allegedly walking into the restaurant with a gun as a result. Thankfully, no one was injured—

COSTELLO: Fired off a shot, by the way—

STELTER: But this could — this could have ended up very different differently. He did fire off his weapon. This is an example of fake news having real consequences and causing real violence!

COSTELLO: And here's the other thing, Dean: I know it was General Flynn's son that was sending out that Tweet; but General Flynn himself, who is going to be our new national security advisor, Tweeted this back on November 2 — quote, 'You decide. NYPD blows whistle on new Hillary e-mails: money laundering, sex crimes with children, etc. Must read!' Again, a totally bogus Tweet, but the Tweet is still on General Flynn's feed; and it has been re-Tweeted more than 9,000 times.

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY BEAST: We're living in a world where facts don't matter; and it's very scary. The man online who did this, who went to investigate with a gun — I wonder if a Muslim guy went to a pizza place with a gun to investigate, how that would have went down — I think much worse, to be honest. These guys — you know, we used to have the expression, 'You're entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts.' I think the late senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, said that. Now, you have your own facts; and you have people who will re-Tweet it, and it gives it credibility. It is stunningly scary!

COSTELLO: And these are critical people! General Flynn is going to be the national security advisor!

OBEIDALLAH: He is, and Breitbart had something to do with it — writing an article about that. So you had — you know, Steve Bannon involved, who's now also in the administration.

Donald Trump, though, on some level, is the great purveyor of fake news. According to Political Fact (sic) — which is non-partisan — said he had 174 statements in this campaign which were either false or pants-on-fire — just made them up; just make them up. So, Donald Trump, when you're misinforming good people in this country; and you have people like Flynn, as well, doing it, and Bannon doing it, it's unfortunate. You have good people misinformed; and in this case, this man was radicalized online. This is no different than ISIS radicalizing someone—

STELTER: You know, 'radicalized' is an interesting word—

OBEIDALLAH: Right—

STELTER: Conspiracy theories — these kinds of swamps of the Internet — can cause people to embrace extreme, wild views, because it's reinforcing online. It's self-reinforcing. You read all these articles — all these weird clues on Twitter and Facebook — that make you think a preposterous idea, like 'Pizzagate,' is actually true.

COSTELLO: Well — and it has wide — wide-ranging repercussions — and not just on the owner, right? The owner — NPR interviewed the owner. His name is James Alefantis, and he talked to NPR months ago, and he described how these fake news sites use children — real children — to spread the sick story of this Clinton sex ring at Comet. Listen.

JAMES ALEFANTIS, OWNER, COMET PING PONG (from NPR interview): So essentially, they would go into our social media accounts and they would take photographs that were on my Instagram of my friends' children — or of my associates' children — and post them around thousands and thousands of fake news sites, and on Reddit and on YouTube; and use these images of happily-playing, innocent children as proof of some kind of human trafficking scheme led by the Clintons.

[CNN Graphic: "Comet Owner: 'Pizzagate' Led To Threats: Responds to gunman self-investigating conspiracy theory"]

COSTELLO: Okay. So that's sick.

OBEIDALLAH: There's no words for this. And, you know, there's a flip side to this, Carol. I wrote an article last week for Daily Beast — documented the hate instances against people — hate crimes or swastikas written up; women with hijabs having their hijabs ripped off — for Daily Beast. I had tons of Trump supporters telling me, I'm lying. I'm making up all these cases. And I would send them the local news stories with images of swastikas; and still — and some of it, maybe, they're playing a game; but some of it's real. And unless Donald Trump says it, they won't believe it—

STELTER: It's a through-the-looking-glass situation. You know, I would say, to our audience at home, I think the vast majority of people don't get caught up in these crazy smears and ideas. To them and to their relatives and friends, refuse to be confused! Refuse to be played and tricked by these conspiracy theories.

When I heard about this yesterday, Carol, I was glad I'm going to be in that neighborhood later this week, so I can go buy a slice of pizza at Comet Ping Pong and support the local business!

COSTELLO: (laughs) I have been there so many times! It's such an awesome restaurant!

STELTER: You know, because that's one of the other concerns here: that business, other businesses on the block, have been affected by these threats. Let's hope that there can be a reaction in the other direction — supporting these businesses. But more broadly, there's also a role for Facebook, for Twitter, for Google, for big media companies, to try to do more to rebut these lies — because that's — that's what we've really got to face—

COSTELLO: But the responsibility also lies on our public officials, who must come out and say — you know, this is just not true.

OBEIDALLAH: Absolutely. So, again, yesterday, with Paul Ryan refusing to denounce the claim that three million illegal people voted — said, I can't say if it's true or not — you're furthering lies. And the problem is, if you're going to deny the real suffering of people, like with hate crimes, it can lead to a very dark place in human history. We've seen it.

So people, please, use critical thinking. Look at the source of where the material is sent to you. That's the problem. People will give credibility to things that don't have credibility. My articles — all credible — some people's articles — they have no credibility (Costello laughs). But I'm serious: look at the source, and double and triple check. I used to be a lawyer. I have critical thinking skills—

STELTER: Well, we're describing shared accountability. Leaders, public officials, individual users, media companies, big social media companies — there is really shared responsibility here.

COSTELO: Thank you so much, Brian Stelter, Dean Obeiedallah.

NB Daily Culture/Society Bias by Omission Labeling Trump transition Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Religion Online Media The Daily Beast Twitter CNN CNN Newsroom Video Fake News Carol Costello Brian Stelter Donald Trump Dean Obeidallah
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