A Good, Old Fashioned, All-American Satanic Panic

Andrew Donaldson

Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonder and Home.

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77 Responses

  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon
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    says:

    Having been a player of AD&D and a fan of heavy metal, I always get a chuckle out of all the pearl clutching of the morally high & mighty.

    You would think for demographic that is supposed to believe in the fallibility of man and the inherent nature of sin, the idea that an external influence is necessary to cause one to fall from grace should be simply ridiculous. We are all too capable of falling from grace all by ourselves, no external pushes needed.Report

    • Avatar Philip H in reply to Oscar Gordon
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      says:

      Most of the D&D playing metal heads of my youth are now fine upstanding citizens. One produces movies for a living. One is a civil rights lawyer. I’m an oceanographer. Another is a community librarian. If we are the forces of Satan come to life, boy did he miss big.Report

  2. Avatar Greginak
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    says:

    I got a cousin who was a metal head in the 80/90s and mocks the silly fears and panic over that stuff. How silly were adults back then to start panics over kids listening to music. They are all good people now, hard working, patriotic and up standing.

    Obtw the trans people are coming to destroy the country. And did you hear all the crap kids nowadays listen to, back in his day they had good music. They were tough in his day, kids now are lazy, weak and effeminate. This country is going down hill he will tell you loudly. Damn it’s not like the good ol days when men were men… Blah blah blah.Report

  3. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    says:

    I am not too concerned about this one. The power of evangelicals is rapidly diminishing and most of their concerns are now met with silence. They are reported on but no real action is performed in response.Report

  4. Avatar Chip Daniels
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    says:

    Broke: Satanic Panic
    Woke: QAnon Stolen Election Panic
    Bespoke: Vaccine Passport Panic

    Same players, same script.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Did anybody mention the whole “woke” thing yet? No?

    Well, I suppose that a significant difference is that problematic things are really problematic and it’s not merely something made up by scoldy busybodies.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      Yes and no.

      Yes, the woke crowd gets themselves all spun up and perform public acts of signalling over stupid shite on a regular basis.

      But there are things that the woke crowd is rightly concerned about. The kinds of things that perpetuate bad things, like racism and sexism, etc. Bad things that have been, and/or still are, endemic in our society.

      Satanism has never been an endemic issue (obviously because Satanists are really good at programming followers until the correct key phrase is transmitted). Getting spun up over Satanism is a pointless exercise in stroking your own ego and virtue signaling to others who get spun up over Satanism.

      Woke: Blind squirrels can still find a nut or two.
      Satanists: Squirrels that chase their tails never find any nuts.Report

    • Avatar Greginak in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      I thought of noting how the anti cancel culture thing is your basic moral panic. Oscar’s comment covers it. Mostly wrong and massively spun up but occasionally right.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      Cancel culture is definitely a panic. I assume we’re at the height of it, although who knows how long it’ll continue. I think it was Andrew Klavan who was talking about how all the people behind this will be known as villains forever. Consoling in the big picture, but it’s a lot of grief in the meantime.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky
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        says:

        “Grandpa Chip, back in the teens, did you really say that Harvey Weinstein was a monster who deserved to go to prison?”Report

      • Avatar Philip H in reply to Pinky
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        says:

        Broke – “Cancel culture is definitely a panic.”

        Woke – Some people are panicking about being held accountable for their words and actions.Report

        • Avatar dhex in reply to Philip H
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          says:

          “no, you’re a moral panic!”

          “no, *you’re* a moral panic!”

          we need a third party arbiter (preferably hooked up to a ketamine drip) to fix this one. [ivolunteerastribute.gif]Report

          • Avatar Pinky in reply to dhex
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            says:

            OK. A sudden, large-scale reframing of the debate into absolute moral terms, with new vocabulary and ceremonies, where actions that were acceptable yesterday are forbidden today, with public shaming of both natural friends and enemies and public confessions, where the second-greatest offense is breaking the rules but the greatest offense is mocking them.Report

            • Avatar dhex in reply to Pinky
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              says:

              that’s where the ketamine drip comes in, dude. opens your third eye past the point of no return. who better to be a moral arbiter than someone who realizes that morality is like a river of sand flowing through your fingertips, stretching outward into a vast plain encompassing all time and no time, where every action is deeply meaningful and yet entirely constructed of “meaning”, where our lives play out against a grand cosmic drama in which our participation is but a speck in the eye of eternity.

              it’s a *brilliant* plan.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      Things that exist: Racism, sexism, xenophobia, bigotry, hatred.

      Things that do not exist: Satan.

      But if you have to live by both sides do it, I guess you have to live by both sides do it.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        The comparison is between racists/sexists and Satanists, not between racism/sexism and Satan. I believe that Satan is real, so I wouldn’t make the following comparison, but if you wanted to, you could compare the concept of the master race to the concept of Satan. Maybe a comparison we could both agree with is racism today to communism in the 1950’s. I don’t think there were that many individuals actually accused of Satanism in the 1980’s, certainly not comparable to the number of accusations of communism in the 1950’s or racism today. And both communism and racism exist. I’d say that the percentage of false accusations of racism today outmatches the percentage of false accusations of communism in the 1950’s, but we probably don’t agree on that point. Also, I’d hope we can agree that the the concept of the socialist utopia is as fictional as the concept of the master race.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Saul, you see “both sides do it”, I see “history repeats itself (or, at least, rhymes)”.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        The Satanic panic wasn’t about Satan, but about Satanists. Cults like this, while rare, and not strictly speaking Satanist, are very real.

        And with the milder panics over things like rock music, Dungeons and Dragons and Harry Potter were less about human sacrifice and more about the idea that these things would lead the young away from Our Values, which are obviously the Right Values and beyond question.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      To whatever degree this is true, it is so in more ways than you probably meant.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        It’s weird how I keep being told that the things I say are true, but despite the fact that I said them.

        For the record, I think it’s great that Woke People have finally defeated Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and six Dr. Seuss books. Their victories remind me of the Oak Hill satanic ritual abuse trial which was one of the things that heralded the beginning of the end of the Panic.Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          In the same way that McDonald’s pulling the McRib off their menu reminds me of the Katyn Forest massacre.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
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            says:

            Did you ever hear about Mike Warnke? Oh, it’s hilarious. He was a Christian Comedian whose testimony involved being a Satanist.

            Good stuff.

            Anyway, who am I going to bring up next? What move did I set up by bringing up Mike Warnke? Guess.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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              says:

              Here’s the answer:

              Jessica A. Krug.

              But if you wanted to guess Rachel Dolezal, Satchuel Cole, Kelly Kean Sharp, or CV Vitolo-Haddad, I’d give full credit and agree that you knew exactly why I brought up Mike Warnke.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Your trolling in defense of both sides do it as apologia for right-wing politics is consistent, I will give you that.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw
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                says:

                You don’t see the common thread of “pretending to be something that they’re not in service to a narrative” there?

                I mean, I should at least get credit for seeing Jessica A. Krug, Rachel Dolezal, Satchuel Cole, Kelly Kean Sharp, or CV Vitolo-Haddad and thinking “hey, this is like Mike Warnke” and not thinking “THIS IS UNIQUE TO WOKE PEOPLE”.

                I mean, did you think that Jessica Krug was unique to woke people?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                And, I gotta say, the “Both Sides Do It” thought-stopping cliché is a spectacularly dumb one.

                “This thing is human nature.”
                “Republicans have human nature.”
                “Yeah. So do Democrats.”
                “BOTH SIDES DO IT”

                See? It’s not even a fallacy. At least referring to whataboutism when someone says “Clinton appears on Epstein’s flight logs” “OH WHATABOUT TRUMP” can, at least, be called “you’re trying to change the subject” which has a handful of fallacies associated with it.

                But in this we’re talking about various panics that the country has engaged in and I’m seeing common threads between the decades.

                And you’re saying that the common threads are a “both sides do it” argument and… my God man.

                This is something that we, as a country, seem to be good at repeating periodically.

                It might even be human nature.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                This probably all makes perfect sense inside your mind, based on your personal history and interactions with people.

                But to me, this just sounds like a Scientologist explaining how Flat Earth Creationism differs from the theology of Xenu. Its all bizarre insider jargon and name dropping, with references that have no apparent connection leading to an implied non sequitur conclusion.

                I have no idea who any of those people you mentioned are, or what connection they have to the two things you are trying to compare to each other.

                At this point, analogies and metaphor are your enemies, acting as distortion filters mangling whatever point you’re trying to make.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                But to me, this just sounds like a Scientologist explaining how Flat Earth Creationism differs from the theology of Xenu.

                Perhaps it will clear things up if I explain that I’m trying to point out that, as an atheist, Flat Earth Creationism has a lot in common with the theology of Xenu.

                And, specifically, the people who get the most het up and passionate about Flat Earth Creationism have a lot in common with the people who get the most het up and passionate about the theology of Xenu.

                Anyway, Mike Warnke claimed to be a high priest in a Satanist Church and engaged in Satanism. He left, by the grace of God, and became a Christian Comedian with one hell of a testimony!

                Except he made it up.

                Jessica Krug was a professor of something or other at some college or other and professed to be a Latina from the Barrio and gave impassioned speeches about the stuff that had happened to her and this gave her a great platform to fight for social justice.

                Except she made it all up. (She called herself “Jess La Bombalera”.)Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                And, as TVD used to explain, the environment isn’t a real issue because Iron Eyes Cody was Italian.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling
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                says:

                The environment *IS* a real issue!

                There are many possible responses to the environment being a real issue.

                One of them, of course, is “banning plastic straws”.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          Are you really comparing getting rid of fictional character you dislike to making innocent people serve 20 years in prison?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling
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            says:

            I’m really comparing the belief that something is actually being done to strike against evil with the belief that something is actually being done to strike against evil.

            For what it’s worth, I think that it’s great that, in the cases of Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and Doctor Seuss, nobody has actually been harmed.

            But the extent of Woke Culture is not limited to those three examples. Sadly, the idea that Evil is actively being fought against is not limited to the Oak Hill Satanic Ritual Abuse trial.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling
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            says:

            I have two ways that the prosecutors might have been thinking about Oak Hill:

            A) Satanism is real and needs to be fought against and we’ve found a pocket of it and we need to stamp down on it quick and fight against it!

            B) This is the current big thing and we’re big damn prosecutors and we’ve gotta prosecute something and we’ve caught something that really fits with the current narrative and so if we cut some corners here, suppress some evidence there, and a couple of not-exactly-guilty people get caught up in it, that’s an acceptable price to pay to demonstrate that we aren’t slouching in the fight against the current boogyman

            Is there a C?

            If it’s just A or B, which is worse?Report

            • Avatar CJColucci in reply to Jaybird
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              says:

              C: It’s a child-abuse case. Prosecutors tended in those days to believe the kids too readily, ignore signs of improper suggestion, and, all too often, cut corners to get the monsters who, so the kids said, abused them. The Satan angle was icing on the cake. Just as you don’t need to invent Satan to explain flawed human nature, you don’t have to invoke Satan for people to get nuts in child abuse cases.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to CJColucci
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                says:

                Especially given that “repressed memories accessible under hypnosis” was all the rage.

                Before it was bunk. Oh, wait, wasn’t Texas still doing that until just recently? I guess now it’s bunk?Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Mike Schilling
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            says:

            Here Jaybird is using a rhetorical technique called an “analogy.” This is a claim that two things are similar in some specific way. A common pitfall people make when encountering an analogy is to assume that the analogy is an assertion that the two things being analogized are alike in every way, but that’s not how analogies work.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Brandon Berg
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              says:

              Sure, but analogies exist to serve a purpose, to demonstrate that similarity.

              But if the differences outweigh the similarities, others are permitted to find the analogy sorely lacking.

              I mean, I can claim that a bird is analogous to a fish because they both move in three dimensions through a fluid medium. Doesn’t mean the analogy holds.Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                says:

                I think the better way to respond to a sorely overstretched analogy is by making a better one. No one here thinks Jaybird believes that Aunt Jemima is a real person who was punished. He wasn’t claiming that. There’s no benefit in declaring that Aunt Jemima isn’t a real person.

                Why, exactly, did he use that analogy? Probably to belittle the current panic and panickers. (I just googled “panicker” to make sure I had the right spelling, and it turns out that Panicker is a Hindu ethnic group in southern India.) Probably to demonstrate the ritualistic destruction of symbols found in moral panics. I’d guess there’s also a “first they burn your flag, then they burn you” aspect to it.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                This is the goatse of overstretched analogies.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                says:

                The bird-fish analogy is fine, as long as it’s used in a context in which it’s clear that that’s the salient similarity. It’s clear, in this case, that Jayfish was pointing out the similarity in mindset, not the similarity in severity of consequences. Similarly, it’s quite common to use the term “witch hunt” to describe situations with much lower stakes than hanging or burning at the stake.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                says:

                I’ll say it again, the analogy fails because Satanic Panics never actually had a real example to form a basis upon.

                The woke panics are bad (just ask Emmanuel Cafferty), but Ahmaud Arbery is actually dead from racism, and Epstein/Maxwell/Cosby were real people doing really bad things, so there is some real nasty examples to work from.

                It’s not that we should give a pass to the woke panics, but the evils they hope to struggle against are actually real and pervasive. They have a basis in reality.

                Satanic panics never did.Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                says:

                Are you comfortable calling this the new McCarthyism?Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                Are we holding Congressional Hearings over whether or not a given person is a racist or misogynist?

                No.

                But the flavor of, “is your neighbor a secret communist” certainly exists among the woke, at least the parts that make the news. And the impacts of being targeted by them are similar, whether or not the accusation holds water.

                So as an analogy, McCarthy is much better than Satanists, because there were actual Communists in America, even if they were never really the threat McCarthy imagined them to be.Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                says:

                “Are we holding Congressional Hearings over whether or not a given person is a racist or misogynist?”

                Marjorie Taylor Greene was stripped of her committee assignments partially on the basis of isms. We’re holding regular hearings with social media founders about the speed with which they get rid of isms and ists. The inaugural speech went after isms, as did at least one recent executive order.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                Like I said, it’s got the right flavors and it works much better as an analogy.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                Maybe she could get her assignments back if the GOP declared that no reasonable person would believe anything she says.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                says:

                Jim Crow was alive and well in the US then, and a much bigger threat to liberty than American Communists were, just as Trumpism is alive and well today and a much bigger threat than wokism and cancel culture (neither of which ever tried to use violence to overturn an election) are, so some things never changeReport

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Schilling
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                says:

                Fair point. Call it the RINO panic?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                says:

                You know how whenever we discuss Culture and Television and someone asks for an example of a “Conservative Value” so we can talk about shows with “Conservative Values”?

                And you know how someone always points out something like “a husband and wife love each other” and someone else points out that that’s not a particularly “Conservative Value”? Like, even Centrists achieve that from time to time?

                I’d like to point out that being opposed to Ahmaud Arbery’s murder is something that isn’t limited to woke folks.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                To get deeper into the analogy, it’s like saying that since Satanic Child Abuse doesn’t exist then Child Abuse doesn’t exist.

                Ending the racism that is Uncle Ben’s Rice might feel like a victory against evil, but someone could easily point out that Ahmaud Arbery is still dead.

                The evil that the prosecutors in Texas were trying to stamp down by shutting down the day care was not particularly real. And throwing those people behind bars was not particularly a victory.

                And, indeed, the evil that exists in the world was not touched by the shutting down of the Satanic Day Care.

                Some might even argue that resources that could have been used to tackle *ACTUAL* bad stuff were wasted tackling the fake stuff.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                How to put this…

                There is ‘A crime’, and then there is ‘A crime with elements of X’.

                Arbery was murdered. That is the crime.
                His murderers were motivated to some degree by racism, that is the ‘elements of X’.

                If his murderers were not racists, Arbery might still be alive. I can’t say that for certain, but let’s call it a better than 75% chance.

                Child abuse is a crime. Child abuse due to Satanic rituals or dogma is still a crime, but there aren’t any (TTBOMK) cases of actual Satanists committing abuse because of Satanic dogma.

                Now, and I bet you just know where I am going with this, there are actual cases of parents abusing their children based upon their dogmatic interpretations of Bible/Quran, or the teachings of some religious figure using either of those books.

                I mean, we have Conversion therapy, we have female circumcision, etc.

                So…

                If not for the religion influencing the parents, would the child abuse still have happened? Maybe? But we don’t see Christian or Muslim panics because some parents opted to abuse their children within those themes.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                “But he trespassed!” was popular among unwoke folks as long as it was remotely plausible. “He died with a cop kneeling on his neck, not from a cop kneeling on his neck” is still popular today.Report

  6. fillyjonk fillyjonk
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m so old I remember the Procter and Gamble thing. I think I actually lived through most, if not all, of it – the DnD thing being of the devil, the heavy-metal music thing, the false-memories-child-molesting thing (maybe not Satanic Panic but Satanic Panic-adjacent). Probably stuff I’m forgetting, too.

    I don’t remember the Mr. Ed thing, which is good, because it would have made me sad, Mr. Ed (in re-runs by then) was my absolute favorite tv show when I was about 4.

    Seems to me, as a theologically liberal Christian, it’s easy enough for people to do wrong (hurt others, damage the community) without making recourse to a literal devil – or seeing Satan worship behind every old logo that contains something they think is Satan-related. There have been, for example, far too many local news stories of church pastors who either cheated pretty flagrantly and awfully on their spouses, or who abused kids, or who embezzled.

    (People make me sad a lot of the time)

    Though I suppose it’s a lot easier to point out the speck in your brother’s eye – even if that speck doesn’t actually exist – than to try to remove the plank from your own. I think that’s a big part of looking for scapegoats; it’s easier than cleaning your own house.Report

  7. Avatar Rufus F.
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    says:

    I will say I grew up thinking the Satanic Panic was silly. After all, most metal heads are stoners who like guitar solos, which seems pretty safe to me.

    And then, years later, you read this great book and think, “Oh, well, except in Norway, where they were burning down churches and murdering people.” I’m not sure I would have expected that twist in the 80s.
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/116168.Lords_of_ChaosReport

  8. Avatar Tod Kelly
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    says:

    One of the things to keep in mind about ‘satanic panics’ is that they never manifest arbitrarily. The people/groups accused are always people from an Outside Group that the people from the Inside Group were looking to punish for reasons not related to Satan. That’s why Jews and people who are LGBTQ are so often suspects, historically speaking, and why it has been common in certain regions (and not just the US) for accusations to be related to race.

    Even panics like McMartin happened at a moment where daycare centers were relatively new and already under attack for being anti-family and/or displacing women from where they belonged.

    Heavy Metal often voluntarily leaned into it with imagery, as has Lil Nas X, but the desire from certain groups to punish rock artists or rap artists preceded (and influenced) those decisions.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Tod Kelly
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      says:

      The big thing though is that this story is a large whoop. If anything, OT seems to be treating the Christian Right as more powerful than it really is. During my childhood and young adult hood, the Christian Right had real power. Its leaders would say jump and corporation executives would ask “how high?” I think they have lost this power and know it. Christian Right complaints and boycotts end up as nothing and Dreher just melts down on twitter again over something something left.

      MGT and Boebert are not quite typical Christian right politicians. MGT did send her kids to fundie schools but Boebert seems to be more of a “party hard” kind of conservative.Report

  9. Avatar Chip Daniels
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    says:

    Fred Clark over at Slacktivist has had a very good continuing series on panics, under the general heading of “I Want To Believe”.

    He shows that the anger and rage predates the alleged information about panics, that people seek out information that validates their pre-existing feelings and worse, when confronted by evidence that the outrages didn’t happen, become angry. They want to believe.Report

  10. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    One of the interesting things about growing up in an upper middle class mainly Jewish suburb of New York City is that my parents or the parents of the kids I grew up with did not believe in any of this Satanic stuff. They might have done some eye-rolling over D&D, Thundercats, and whatever else kids were into but they didn’t think that Satan was behind them because they didn’t believe in Satan. It makes for an interesting compre and contrast to friends who grew up in other areas of the country.Report

  11. Avatar Oscar Gordon
    Ignored
    says:

    Uggg, this is tiresome….

    I think we can all agree that moral panics, whatever their flavor, are bad, and people who encourage them are also bad, good intentions not withstanding.

    Be it racism, misogyny, Sharia Law, heavy metal/AD&D, satanism, or butt chugging.

    The very fact that any panic has/had some basis in reality (I’m sure some kid out there really was butt chugging) does not EVER mean a panic is valid, because the end state of a panic that is not throttled in the crib[1] is almost always innocent people harmed and poorly thought out laws enacted.

    The fact that the woke crowd gets spun up like a parent watching the local evening news over every perceived example of *-ism instead of taking the time to check for context, intent, and possible mitigating factors is a bad thing, and those of us who see panics as bad should be the rational voice in the room.

    But like I said up thread, the woke crowd does occasionally find an example of actual *-ism, because Weinstein is real, and that teacher in CA is real, and a whole lot of other examples are real. Sure, the woke crowd rarely finds such examples themselves, but it’s not like they are operating in a fever dream.

    Satanists might as well have been snacking on the ergot.

    [1] Imagery fully intendedReport

  12. Avatar Oscar Gordon
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    says:

    This all makes me think back to this article about Stupid People.Report

  13. Avatar Mike Schilling
    Ignored
    says:

    Wokism and cancel culture to the extent that they exist, consist of people being self-righteous, narrow-minded, and judgmental. This is unique in human history.Report

  14. Avatar Mike Schilling
    Ignored
    says:

    Is the GOP threatening companies that criticize vote suppression cancel culture?Report

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