As I read through all the online hand-wringing about Sunday’s incident at Comet Ping Pong — some of which I’ve indulged in myself — I’m reminded of another pizza joint that was the target of a huge smear campaign.
For a place called Memories Pizza, it sure is funny how people have already forgotten it. Back in April 2015, a South Bend TV station aired the following news segment about Indiana’s recently passed “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”:
That was it. The proprietor of the place said she had no problem serving gay people, just like anybody else. But if she was specifically asked to cater a gay wedding — this is a pizza place, mind you — she would not willingly participate. It’s against her religious beliefs.
This woman was asked a hypothetical question about current events by a member of the local media. Her response was polite, honest, and perfectly within her rights as an American.
So, of course, she became the target of a vicious mob. She was hit by a tornado of libel, slander, and outright death threats, as has now become commonplace in the social-media age. As I wrote at the time about the unhinged national response to mild-mannered Christians expressing their religious views:
Somehow, when filtered through social media and the mainstream media, this immediately became “FASCIST REDNECK PIZZA SHOP HATES GAYS, MUST BE DESTROYED!!!”…
This isn’t about pizza, or gay rights, or even religious freedom. This is about dissent being squashed in the United States of America in 2015. If you express the “wrong” opinion to the wrong person and it gets out on the Internet, your business can be destroyed and you can be driven into hiding.
Fortunately, Memories Pizza didn’t end up being destroyed. A lot of people stepped up to help them (although later on, GoFundMe showed their true colors). The outrage mob moved on and found some other target. Everybody forgot about the tiny town of Walkerton, IN.
But they sure did their damnedest to ruin those people’s lives for daring to dissent. We Hoosiers got our very own episode of Black Mirror.
Now everybody’s up in arms about another pizza place that’s being smeared for no good reason. Except this time, the people spreading the fake news don’t work for CNN or the New York Times. This time, the pizza place is in Washington, DC. The proprietors have politically connected friends and hold the opinions they’re expected to hold. Therefore, unleashing a hate campaign on a small business, based on nothing but lies, is no longer fashionable.
It doesn’t get their outrage mob what they want.
What’s happening to Comet Ping Pong is wrong. So is what happened to Memories Pizza. I refuse to be lectured by people on either side who can’t see that.
BTW: This is how you get Trump. If your only response to people who disagree with you is to shout them down, they’ll talk back to you on Election Day.