It’s difficult to imagine the kind of suffering the family of Grace McDonnell has endured. In some ways it feels disrespectful to even believe you can, given the enormity of what happened to them. The same can no doubt be said for the parents and loved ones of all the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. And yet Grace’s parents, in particular, have been subjected not only to the relentless pain of losing their young daughter, but, recently, to the psychopathic whims of those who believe their child never existed in the first place — those who believe that she was some kind of phantasm concocted by faceless nefarious entities trying to pull a fast one on the American public for who knows what reason. These people, Sandy Hook truthers, are a unique product of our time: self-righteous fools full of misplaced intellectual certitude, bolstered by digital misinformation and the confederacy of like-minded lunatics social media can provide to them.
It was one of these truthers, these conspiracy theorists to whom notions like logic and reason are meaningless, who stole a sign placed at a memorial playground honoring Grace McDonnell in Mystic, Conn. last week. This same person then called Lynn McDonnell, Grace’s still-grieving mother, and told her that he was on to her — that her child had never been real and was merely part of the elaborate hoax that was Sandy Hook. When news of this began making the rounds, most decent people responded as you would expect them to: with visceral outrage. I myself wrote a piece here in response to the provocation that attempted to call-out the monster responsible. It was titled “An Open Letter To Whoever Stole a Sandy Hook Victim’s Memorial Sign” and through The Daily Banter and The Huffington Post it received a good amount of attention and circulation. It even received, it seems, the attention of the person it was aimed at — the person who actually stole the sign.
On Tuesday, my co-worker and friend Bob Cesca called me out of the blue to pass along a pretty disturbing bit of information. He said that he had just taken a call from a relative of his who lives in Northern Virginia, and that this relative told him that a stranger had just shown up at his doorstep demanding to see Bob. The man apparently was hoping to talk to Bob in an effort to contact me. He claimed to be the person who had stolen the sign from Grace McDonnell’s memorial playground. He gave Bob’s relative a local public phone number and asked him to get in contact with Bob who would then get in contact with me and tell me to give him a call. My first thought upon hearing this, after being concerned for the safety of Bob’s family, was that whoever had appeared out of the blue in Northern Virginia looking for me wasn’t really anyone I wanted to speak to. He may have made a surprising — and somewhat disconcerting — amount of effort to get in touch with me, but that didn’t mean he was anything more than a garden variety nutjob who’d read my piece and wanted to take credit for an unconscionable offense in the name of getting attention. But I took down the number and called it as soon as I hung up with Bob.
The person who answered the line sounded lucid, which made it all the more unnerving that what he began saying right off the bat was a panoply of conspiratorial crazy. He asked me if I’d heard of the Illuminati. If I knew about Bohemian Grove. If I understood that my ex-employer CNN was helping to usher in the New World Order. He kept referring to Anderson Cooper as my former boss, for some reason. (I never worked on Cooper’s show and even if I had he wouldn’t have technically been my boss.) He insisted that during CNN’s Sandy Hook coverage, Cooper had held up an owl, which he said was the symbol of Bohemian Grove and those working to bring about a one-world government. When I told him that I personally knew about a dozen people who covered Sandy Hook and were on-scene in the aftermath of the shooting, he demanded to know if those people had actually seen any bodies. He insisted, among other supposed giveaways, that none of the parents of the Sandy Hook victims cried on camera, proving that they either weren’t actually grieving or were paid actors.
“Well, they can’t help but smile,” I said. “You would too if you were a member of the Illuminati.”
“Exactly!” he responded.