Terminal Cancer, Idiotic Conspiracies, and Sexual Assault:
Turn away if you sense a trigger.

"You know in your heart that no one could walk into a school and start shooting defenseless little kids."
--Jay Johnson, SandyHookHoax.com

"Jay, you're clearly a moron with no grasp of how human beings behave. You also have limited insight into your own cruelty. You probably smell bad, too."
--Me, www.everything2.com

So this 14-year-old girl has terminal cancer. The doctors don't expect her to survive the month.

I don't really know her, though we've spoken. I directed her older sister in a dramatic production a couple of years ago. In between starting this draft and posting it I ran into the sister, in fact. Her characteristic perkiness had dulled a little, but she still carried herself with the faint hope that miracles might occur, however rare or improbable they might be. We spoke briefly. I began by acknowledging I didn't know what to say. My wife has a friend with terminal cancer, and I've watched people die from a variety of causes, but this is different.

Fourteen year olds shouldn't have to die.

People shouldn't have to mourn their children's death.

It should go without saying, of course, that those mourning their children should not be mocked nor verbally attacked. Nevertheless, elsewhere in the First World, that's happening.

Seriously. I want to laugh at the Sandy Hook Truthers, but the people who lost children in Sandy Hook shouldn't have to deal with this bullshit. We're not talking about people who believe the killer an agent of (say) Barack Obama or the Illuminati, sent to ensure that God-Fearing AmericansTM lose their guns or we're all more afraid or whatever other motive one can imagine. I mean, that's improbable, but someone could, in theory, suborn a Lone Gunman to shoot a bunch of people. No, the Sandy Hook "Truthers" believe the entire shooting was staged. And a growing number of people are taking this notion seriously.

Their evidence? Uh, well, supposedly there was once a military practice operation in the general area. Some people who have evidently not witnessed the diversity of human mourning think that some of the parents and survivors grieve insufficiently in front of the cameras. A girl who superficially resembles one of the victims appears in a post-massacre photoshot with Obama. And, in a development that, startlingly, is exactly like every account of an unexpected horror ever, many statements reported in the media, especially early on, do not quite add up. Imagine that! A zillion reporters and experts descend on a scene of mass chaos and many of them get their facts wrong.

There's also an epic failure to apply Occam's Razor.

Let's see. Someone would have to get nearly an entire community, hundreds of people (minimum) to cooperate, and then have them keep silent forever. They would have to keep news sources from getting access to the town, or control them as well. They would have to stage funerals, relocate the victims (but not their parents or siblings), and falsify hundreds of documents. I could go on, but why? These people, to plagiarize myself, have their heads so far up their asses, they must be viewing the world from out of their own mouths.

The other possibility, of course, is that at least some of the conspiracy theorists are engaging in an elaborate troll. Because, like, it's totally edgy and hilarious to get yer lulz over people who are all, like, butthurt over the death of children.

In short, the conspiracy theorists are either a dangerous mix of stupid and delusional, or they're monumentally insensitive. Neither prospect speaks well of the human race.

Meanwhile, the conspiracy goes viral.

The topic came up in the catbox today after I began this draft, including the logical conclusion of current conspiracy theory, the inevitable claim that the World Trade Center never existed.

Cognitive dissonance and doublethink:

We reverse-engineered alien spacecraft at Roswell and we faked the moon landing.

George W. is a moron and he planned 9-11.

Teh Government staged a major news event involving an entire community but then they accidentally put one of the dead girls on television with the President.

We know in our heart that no one could walk into a school and kill children and the government can stage massacres while conspiracy theorists harass traumatized survivors.

Of course, conspiracy is very possible on the small scale. The conspiracy of silence. The refusal to believe a friend is guilty. The obscuring, by a small group of people with something to lose, of evidence. The failure of people to look to closely at events.

Perhaps that sort of conspiracy happened in Steubenville, Ohio.

The public details remain in flux, but the tale goes something like this:

In August of 2012, a sixteen year old girl passed out at a party. Opinion seems split on whether she got really drunk or secretly drugged, but it's worth noting she sent a photo of herself to friends via her cell around 9:00 pm, and nothing seemed amiss. She was out by ten.

She once dated a boy on Steubenville's Big Red high school football team. She was from a nearby town. She dumped him. Later, one of his team-mates made romantic overtures. He insisted she could come out for a night of partying, and no bad blood from the recent past would be an issue.

She awoke with no memory of the previous night. She started hearing on social media how she'd been raped. And urinated upon. She also started hearing how she was a whore and a slut and got what she deserved.

She and her parents reported the possible assault to the police a couple of days later. Tweets and posts started disappearing. Cell phones were apparently wiped of messages and photos-- but a few turned up, anyway.

The story received little more than local attention.

Enter the Internet.

A local blogger kept the pressure on, publicizing problematic aspects of the case. The fact that the original prosecuting attorney was the mother of a male friend of the accused, and one of the parties that night took place at their house. The fact that at least two other boys were implicated in the assault, but never charged.

Alleged threats by the girl's ex, Cody Saltsman, that he would get even, and insulting and incriminating texts and tweets of his that have come to light during the course of the investigation.

Anonymous KnightSec took up the challenge. Granted, anyone can call themselves "Anonymous" and people going by that name have cocked up their attempts at online vigilantism before. Still, they've brought a number of problematic documents to light, and published a video taken that night of a group of guys laughing and joking about the rape. And these boys call it a rape. They also clearly state the girl was unconscious. Over the course of the twelve-minute video, only two present on the video call the main joker, Michael Nodianos, on the inappropriateness of his remarks:

"It's not funny," one says.
"It's hilarious," says Nodianos.

"What if that was your daughter?" the other one asks.
"But it isn't," says Nodianos.

His favorite gag is to say, "they raped her harder than x," or (in apparent reference to her unconscious state) "She's deader than y." Then he guffaws hysterically into the camera, his face pale in the light.

He had graduated high school and started attending Ohio State on a scholarship. Shortly after the video went viral, his smiling face started appearing on Facebook and elsewhere, framed as a demotivational poster and captioned, "She's more dead than... my future at Ohio State."

For now, at least, he's not returning to campus. He says he regrets getting caught his comments. He also insists he wasn't present at the alleged assault, but merely repeated what he'd heard. Maybe, but he sounds an awful lot like a witness in that video.

The story has put community and case in the news, and under scrutiny. The prosecutor has changed. Two major protests have taken place, thanks in a significant part to KnightSec. And people have a few legitimate questions about the manner in which the case and the team have been handled.

In a town that is 80% Caucasian (sez Wiki) and a group leaning heavily to senior, the two boys charged, Trent Mays and Malik Richmond, are minors, and one is African-American. They may well be the guilty parties-- Nodianos names them as assailants in his charming video-- but some people wonder if their age and race made them better targets than others who also might have been involved. And, of course, the storm of comments on the case has included the obligatory racist references, as well as a surprising number of attacks on Obama's Democrats-- as if these kinds of cases never happened in the past, committed by assailants of various background, and while a wide range of leaders sat in power.

Many more wonder about the connections among certain macho attitudes and privileged school athletes and sexual assault and small town conspiracy.

The case goes to trial soon.

Meanwhile, private information goes viral. The same kind of private information that, in the case of Sandy Hook, has led to people who survived that atrocity being harassed and threatened.

Nearby, family and friends stand with a fourteen-year-old girl who will likely die soon. The universe doesn't make sense, either.

I understand her school plans to do something in her name.

Wednesday. It's the second week of school since the holiday break, and I can tell I've settled into the routine quite nicely by the all-too familiar feeling of tedium and lack of novelty that I've slowly been steeping in for the last 12 years. On the sunnier side of the whole affair, this means that I have but one more semester after this ending one to survive, and then I can begin my journey into the wonderful world of post-secondary education.

The forecast for today was clear, so it's better than the dreariness of the snow predicted earlier this week, but I'm really starting to not like cold weather.

I'm also going to check in on those resolutions I made, because I'm finally going to commit to something serious this time.

  • My group got a bunch of work done for the presentation we're giving tomorrow—as it turns out, when you get down to it, homework can be enjoyable if it's engaging, so my only hurdle in getting my work done is the initial sitting-down portion. I seem to be doing okay in terms of getting myself to perform said sitting-down, so all that remains is to see this point through, for the rest of my life. Check.
  • The noding is okay. It's been on and off, mostly because I just don't have the time to devote to constant and consistent noding, especially at the level of production quality I insist on, but I have 5 nodes so far this year, and I have some more I'll get to by the time the weekend rolls around. Check? I think I'll hold off on it for now.
  • Masturbation is also down, for after my final splurge at the start of the year, I've only "rocked the joyous christmas tree" twice in as many weeks. If that's not cutting back, what is? Keep it up, me. Proud check.
  • The tulpa will have to wait. I've got exams coming up soon, and a bunch of other real life things besides just being really lazy. Empty box.

And now back to real life.

So, I was watching a program on the Discovery Channel about space with my dad. It was about the Milky Way, and there was exposition on the various techniques used in astrophysics to find out things about the universe, and giving facts and stats and explanations of some of the phenomena that are both relevant to astrophysics and easily explainable to a typical viewer of the Discovery Channel. Little of this stuff is new information to me, but it's a little fascinating sometimes to hear it again, and to have it brought to the forefront of one's ponderings.

But at the same time, my dad's piping up now and again, saying, "Holy shit," and repeating some of the facts incredulously or impressedly. He turns to me and one point, and says, "You know, when I was your age, we didn't even know about this stuff." Now, this isn't to go and criticize my elders' backgrounds: my dad was an engineer back in Russia, and now he's doing some database administration gig or something, so he can't be put under the banners of 'unintelligent' or 'slow-witted'. I'm just finding it very interesting in how we treat this sort of knowledge: him with intense wonder, and me with disinterest and the kinds of snide, pretentious pseudo-spoilers that you could liken to the guy saying, "Pfft, the killer's hiding under the bed," during a horror movie.

I grew up in science books, popular or otherwise. I have a shelf on my bookcase, populated half with science fiction and half with plain old science. A lot of the latter is Michio Kaku, and this was my first introduction into the world of the relativistic and the quantum. I was quick to denounce my Russian-Orthodox-turned-Catholic upbringing for atheism, because I just sorta stopped believing in fairy tales—yeah, I'm allowed to say that: I've spent uncountable and nonrefundable hours in a Religion/Family Life period for my entire elementary school career, so I know what I'm talking about—and I've sort of accepted the way that science says the world works, because science has been very nice with the whole admitting-it-when-it-was-wrong thing, and the explanations sound pretty reasonable to me. I'm curious to learn more about it, sure, but I'm not left confused, frightened, or overwhelmed by what physics says has been going on for the lifetime of the observable universe.

And then my dad, on the other hand, is all like, "Whoa, man, our galaxy, is like, dude, man," only with less unemployed-hippie-40-something and more successful-hardworking-immigrant-father. And I, as well, used to be absolutely entranced by this stuff when I was little. But I'm not anymore, because I've heard all the facts before, as well as the explanations behind them. It's attained "almost self-evident" status in my head at this point, because I just ate up all of this stuff as a kid. I don't know if this is a product of the knowledge priority shift that always happens between generations, or if it's the impact of the difference between growing up with this information and without it, or if I'm just a nerdy sociopath, but it's intriguing. It makes me wonder about what I'm going to be like when I reach middle-age and the senility that follows, and what science is going to be like then.

Hopefully, it's interesting enough that I can tell my kids, "Man, humanity didn't even know this stuff when I was your age. Drink it up."

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