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."
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.