TOP STORIES The Georgian monument was destroyed. Locals blame it...

The Georgian monument was destroyed. Locals blame it on conspiracy theories.

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Rubble is scattered around Georgia waystones following an explosion in Elberton, Georgia, USA on July 6, 2022, in a still image from a video.

ABC affiliate WSB-TV via REUTERS


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ABC affiliate WSB-TV via REUTERS


Rubble is scattered around Georgia waystones following an explosion in Elberton, Georgia, USA on July 6, 2022, in a still image from a video.

ABC affiliate WSB-TV via REUTERS

Usually, when Daniel Graves comes to his local coffee shop for breakfast on Wednesdays, someone asks him about Georgia Guides.

“Usually there’s some new Facebook post, a new YouTube video, or some fancy little thing,” said Graves, mayor of Elberton, Georgia. His typical response is that he is proud that he has them.

For over four decades, Georgia’s landmarks have served as an unusual rural roadside attraction and testament to the region’s granite industry.
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Elberton Mayor Daniel Graves said his first reaction to the monument’s bombing was “heartbreak, anger and disappointment”.

Stephen Fowler/Georgia Public Broadcasting


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Stephen Fowler/Georgia Public Broadcasting


Elberton Mayor Daniel Graves said his first reaction to the monument’s bombing was “heartbreak, anger and disappointment”.

Stephen Fowler/Georgia Public Broadcasting

Until someone decides to blow it up this month. Around 4:00 am on July 6, someone planted an explosive device at the base of a granite monument near the city and destroyed one of the 19-foot-tall slabs. For security reasons, others soon followed.

“My initial reaction was heartbreak, anger and frustration,” Graves said. “And I think that’s consistent with the community response.”

‘American Stonehenge’

Calling Guidestones unique is a monumental understatement. Imagine, if you like, several granite slabs, also called “American Stonehenge”, with cryptic messages carved in several languages, such as “Don’t be a cancer on earth” or “Avoid petty laws and useless officials.”

Some people have used other guidelines such as “Keep the population below 500,000,000 in constant balance with nature” and “Reproduce wisely”. This has led to protests, many conspiracy theories about links to Satan, and sometimes mild vandalism.

“There were a lot of cases where people came in and spray-painted it, they applied NWF – New World Order – they applied it multiple times.” – Mart Clam, owner of Clamp Sandblasting. . The Guidestones is like a family affair for him.

“My father sandblasted all the writing on the waystones, and for the past 25 years, I have maintained the waystones every time someone graffitied them or damaged them in any way,” he said.

Clamp is pointing the finger at bombings at the recent trend of monument demolitions – authorized and unauthorized – plus a fringe gubernatorial candidate calling for the demolition of waystones as his top priority. “It sets the mood for the crazy ones to come out and do their thing,” Clamp said.

This failed candidate, as well as others who believe in the Guidebook conspiracies, falsely claimed that God struck the monument with righteous lightning, despite CCTV footage showing the man setting up the device and running away.

Elberton Mayor Daniel Graves says his county is staunchly conservative and religiously observant, so outside voices claiming Satan is holding the stones don’t add up. “Our view of righteousness is not an Almighty God who needs fanatics to do his dirty work and destroy,” Graves said. “That’s hate… all the dynamite in the world can’t change the human heart.”

Conspiracy theories turn into real life

Conspiracy theories are not new, and neither are people acting on them in real life. But Jared Holt, an expert on extremism researched by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, said The Guiding Stones is a perfect example of how widespread conspiracy thinking has become.

“Whether it’s elected officials appealing to online conspirators or online conspirators trying to become elected officials, we’re really starting to see the consequences of this in clear and obvious ways,” he said.

The line between posting things online and doing them in real life is blurring more and more, and the current political climate often rewards extreme rhetoric. And when these events do occur, “they have a really disproportionate impact, and the damage can last much longer and certainly extend far beyond any property destroyed,” Holt said.

This is certainly true of Elberton, billed as the “Granite Capital of the World”. Guidebooks were the main attraction for tourists in the isolated area. This means that fewer people eat at local restaurants, shop at local shops and stay overnight at a city hotel.

“I really think that we will gradually start to understand how big an impact they have had because it will affect our tourism,” said Rose Scoggins, editor of the magazine. Alberton Star. “I think we will unfortunately see this decline.”

Rose Scoggins, editor of a local newspaper, with a special edition of the paper following the bombing earlier this month.

Stephen Fowler/Georgia Public Broadcasting


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Rose Scoggins, editor of a local newspaper, with a special edition of the paper following the bombing earlier this month.

Stephen Fowler/Georgia Public Broadcasting

Scoggins didn’t believe it when she went to light up the scene of the dilapidated monument. Just a few days later, a special section about the stones appeared in the newspaper, supplemented by personal letters, memoirs and righteous anger at their destruction.

In addition, members of the community are resigned to the loss of another monumental meaning for a site built on generations of granite. “Honestly, it was part of their family heritage,” Scoggins said. “It showed how much work and skill has gone into the granite industry, those involved in the granite industry and their descendants.
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At the moment, law enforcement agencies, including the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, are still looking for those who planted the explosive device. The GBI released footage from the scene but did not provide any other details.

The local prosecutor’s office suggested that the bombing could carry at least 20 years in prison, as the stones were owned and maintained by the county and were considered a public building. And the residents of Elberton, literally and figuratively, collect the pieces after the bombing.

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