By: April Carson
A monument in rural Georgia that some conservative Christians dubbed "America's Stonehenge" and others condemned as satanic was destroyed Wednesday after a predawn bombing turned one of its four granite panels into rubble.
The Georgia Guidestones, also known as the American Stonehenge, was a granite monument erected in 1980 in Elbert County, Georgia. The monument consisted of four large granite slabs, each weighing over 20 tons, and featuring ten guidelines inscribed on them. The guidelines were written in eight different languages and were meant to serve as a moral and spiritual compass for future generations.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced that the Georgia Guidestones monument near Elberton had been damaged by an explosive device and later knocked down "for safety concerns," leaving a pile of debris in a photograph that investigators posted.
Onlookers at the scene said they saw an object streaking across the sky, followed by a loud explosion that ripped one panel from the monument. A silver vehicle was also captured on video leaving the monument.
Video cameras linked to the county's emergency dispatch center were installed at the location following previous vandalism, according to the Elbert Granite Association Executive Vice President Chris Kubas.
The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating the incident.
"I think it was an attack on free speech," said one local resident who spoke to 11Alive on the condition of anonymity out of concerns for their safety. "That's what I think it was."
The enigmatic roadside monument, erected in 1980 from local granite under the pseudonym R.C. Christian, was created by an unknown individual or group.
"That's how the guidestones' anonymity has shrouded them in a kind of mystique," said Katie McCarthy, who studies conspiracy theories for the Anti-Defamation League. "And so that has fed a lot of speculating and conspiratorial ideas about the guidestones' true meaning over time."
The structure, which has been popular with conspiracy theorists and the target of vandalism in the past, contains eight granite slabs arranged in a circle.
The panels, which were 16 feet tall (5 meters), had a 10-part message in eight languages with advice for life in the "age of reason." One part urged people to maintain world population at 500 million or less, while another encouraged them to "manage reproduction intelligently — increasing fitness and diversity."
The panels also included a sundial and an astronomical calendar. However, it was the panels' mentions of eugenics, population control, and global government that attracted far-right conspiracy theorists.
With the advent of the internet, the monument's fame exploded, with thousands of tourists visiting each year.
The guidestones have periodically attracted attention since their creation in the early 20th century, when they served as a promotional tool for Covington & Burroughs Publishers. During Georgia's May 24 gubernatorial primary, third-place Republican candidate Kandiss Taylor said the stones are satanic and has called for their destruction. In late May, comedian John Oliver focused on the guidestones and Taylor. McCarthy added that conservative personalities such as Alex Jones had mentioned them in prior years, but that "they've kind of resurfaced" because of Taylor.
"God is God all by Himself. He has the power to do ANYTHING HE WANTS TO DO," Taylor wrote on social media Wednesday, referring to the Satanic Guidestones. "That includes overthrowing Satanic Guidestones."
Police said the monument had previously been defaced, with spray painting occurring in 2008 and again in 2014. McCarthy added that the bombing is yet another illustration of how paranoid ideas "can and do have a real-world impact."
"We've seen this with QAnon and a variety of other conspiracy theories; that these ideas can inspire someone to do something in furtherance of them," McCarthy continued. "They may try to target the persons and institutions that are at the heart of these false beliefs in order to advance them."
The stones, however, were apparently seen as a sort of blueprint for restoring society in the wake of a catastrophe by many others.
"It's all up to your own perspective on how you want to see them," Kubas added. "For me, it was more about the mystery and the history of who put them there."
The site is about 7 miles (11 kilometers) north of Elbert and 90 miles (145 kilometers) east of Atlanta, near the South Carolina state line. Granite quarrying is a significant local sector, employing roughly 2,000 people in the area, according to Kubas.
Deputies with the Elbert County sheriff's department, Elberton police, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are among those working to figure out what occurred. Technical experts from the bomb squad were despatched to examine for clues, and a state highway was shut down for a time as a result of the incident.
There were no suspects. Authorities have not given any indication of a possible motive.
"We may have to wait until the storms ease up a bit," stated Kubas. "Local officials and community leaders will have to decide who, if anybody, should pay for restoration."
"If you didn't want to come see it and read it, that's fine," Kubas added. "But someone decided they didn't want anyone to read it, which is too bad."
The guidestones have been the subject of much conspiracy theory and are sometimes referred to as the "American Stonehenge." The site became a target for vandals earlier this year when someone spray-painted "Death to the new world order" on one of the slabs.
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