Long past the daily headlines it’s important, crucial, to rediscover the pain not only of lost children murdered in school classrooms, but the months and years after in the life of parents subjected to threats, mockery, and accusations that in the case of Sandy Hook it was all a hoax, that the children were not dead, just actors in a scheme to weaken gun rights.
In an unsparing book, Elizabeth Williamson, a NYT reporter who covered the story, recalls again and again the impact of heartless lies spewed into the social media cesspool by Alex Jones and others:
“Neil Heslin, pursued by the people Jones emboldened, was struggling to restart his life…….Hoaxers had publicly savaged his character, and someone had shot a gun into his house. It would be four years before Neil could bring himself to take down the bare Christmas tree that he and Jesse had planned to decorate before his boy was killed, and longer than that before he could alter Jesse’s bedroom, where his toy Hot Wheels tracks still snaked across the floor.”
— Williamson, Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy and the Battle for Truth
That millions believed perverse drivel and vicious lies gives no rousing cheer to the founding dream of democratic life. In pursuit of the latter, the recent verdict against Jones is at least a marker of limits to intentional cruelty, but who can know – it festers on in a thousand ways in the darker corners of our electronic universe.
Williamson summons Jones as one reality, one dangerous fragment of who we are — “How tiresome Jones was and how dangerous. A charismatic, irresponsible man-child with an entourage of paid enablers and an audience of millions.”
You want to cry for parents like Heslin, and puke at the thought of Jones, and wonder what can bring us back…