Against Satanic Panics > Recent scaremongers and debunkers
Recent anti-Satanist scaremongers and debunkers
Commentary and links to other sites
by Diane Vera
Copyright © 2006 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.
- Scaremongers old and new
- Recent anti-Satanist scaremongers
- Recent debunkers
- Scaremongers old and new
Most of the anti-Satanists scaremongers of the 1970's and 1980's, who succeeded in launching the "Satanic Ritual Abuse" (SRA) panic of the 1980's and early 1990's, can be categorized as follows:
- Fraudulent professional "ex-Satanists" who made money telling tall tales about the horrors of their "Satanist" past. The best-known of these included Mike Warnke, Michelle Smith, and Lauren Stratford. The better-known stories of this kind were all debunked, in most cases by more-honest evangelical Christians such as the folks at Cornerstone magazine.
- Police consultants on "ritual crime." Back in the 1980's, there were quite few folks who claimed to be "experts on Satanic and occult crime," and who ran around giving police-training seminars. Most of these "experts" were fundamentalist or evangelical Christians, and some were cops or ex-cops. They were notorious for literature containing long lists of "Satanic holidays" (so that almost every day of the year fell within a few days of a "Satanic holiday"; thus almost any violent crime could be considered a "Satanic crime" for that reason). Most claimed that Wicca was either a form of Satanism or, at best, an innocent-looking front for the evil Satanist conspiracy. Some even alleged that the peace symbol was a "Satanic symbol," or the "cross of Nero," as they called it.
Their "expertise" didn't prove to be very helpful in the long run, so nearly all of them were eventually discredited and banished to the lunatic fringe. Alas, while these "experts" were still being taken seriously by police departments, some of them helped put a lot of probably-innocent people in jail.
- "Recovered memory" therapists who believed that all manner of common psychological problems were caused by repressed memories of child sexual abuse, and that, to be cured, the client needed to recover those repressed memories, often by highly questionable techniques such as hypnotic regression. Clients often ended up "remembering" all sorts of bizarre things. Some "remembered" SRA, while others "remembered" being abducted by space aliens.
- Overzealous social workers in child protection agencies. In the 1980's, it was fashionable to believe that "children don't lie" - ever, under any circumstances whatsoever - about having been sexually believed. It was also fashionable to beleive that, if there was even the slightest reason to suspect that a child might have been abused, but the child didn't confirm it, well, that only proved how effectively the perpetrator had intimidated the child into staying quiet about it. In other words, if a child says, "I was abused," it mustbe true, whereas, if a child says, "I was not abused," it must be false; either way, the kid must have been abused. So, the social workers persisted in questioning the kids for hours on end, and it usually didn't take the kids very long to figure out what the social workers wanted to hear - the worse, the better.
The "recovered memory" debate still rages within the psychotherapeutic community, although the skeptics have prevailed for the most part, as far as I can tell, ever since the mid-1990's.
On other fronts, there are now signs of a revival of Satanic panic.
There is now at least one new "ritual crime expert" making the police-training seminar circuit: Dawn Perlmutter, who, at first glance, seems a lot more sophisticated than the "cult cops" of the 1980's. Most blurbs about Perlmutter mention that she has a "Ph.D. from New York University." Her online writings are full of impressive-sounding academic jargon and were published in what looks like, at first glance, a scholarly journal of anthropology. She has even managed to get a book of hers published by CRC Press, a major scientific textbook publisher. However, if one looks more closely, it turns out that her academic credentials are not nearly as relevant as they might seem at first glance.
On an international level, even the Vatican has recently gotten into the Satanism-scare business. In February 2005, the Vatican began teaching a new course on "Satanism and exorcism" at the Pontifical Academy "Regina Apostolorum," which is run by a controversial conservative religious order called the Legion of Christ.
On this page I will focus on the more recent scaremongers and their debunkers. Information about the older scaremongers and debunkers can be found elsewhere on this site. (See my pages about "Satanism" scares and their debunking: A brief introduction and The "Satanic Ritual Abuse" scare of the 1980's and early 1990's.)
If you are a scholar or journalist, please see also To scholars and journalists: Topics of timely interest.
Recent anti-Satanist scaremongers
Below are pages on this site containing both commentary and links pertaining to recent scaremongers:
- Dawn Perlmutter and her Institute for the Research of Organized and Ritual Violence
- News stories about Dawn Perlmutter
- Dawn Perlmutter's claims about various "dark" subcultures (Goth, Vampire, Fetish, BDSM, Body Art)
- Comments on "The Religious Practices of Modern Satanists and Terrorists" (Fall 2001)
- Comments on "The Forensics of Sacrifice: A Symbolic Analysis of Ritualistic Crime" (Fall 2003)
- Dawn Perlmutter and her "war on Islam"
- Dawn Perlmutter on schoolyard shootings (1999)
- René Girard, "sacred violence," Christianity, and "anthropology": Dawn Perlmutter's philosophical background, as best I can figure it out
The Roman Catholic hierarchy. Regarding the Vatican's involvement in recent anti-Satanist scaremongering, see my separate page on Italy's current Satanic panic and the section on Exorcism, the Vatican, and the current Italian Satanic panic on my page about Exorcism, "spiritual warfare," and anti-occultism. Other scaremongers (in the West) who appear to be at least somewhat respectable and/or influential: The lunatic fringe (in the West)
- Traditionalist Catholics vs. the alleged "Satanists" in the Vatican
- Grand-conspiracy theorists in general
- Miscellaneous lunatic-fringe anti-Satanist scaremongers
- More later.
Scaremongers elsewhere in the world:
Eventually I'll add a page devoted to non-Western anti-Satanist scaremongers. For now, see the following pages on other sites:
- Blog entries on Bartholomew's notes on religion:
- Satanic Panic Comes to Cyprus, 28 June 2004 - about Doros Theodorou, Cypriot Justice Minister
- Financial Times: Is Satan Out There in South Africa?, 31 July 2004 - about Colonel Kobus Jonker and the Occult Related Crime Unit (ORCU) of the South African police
- More later.
Note: For my purposes, "the West" consists of the U.S.A., Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
Below are links to writings by recent debunkers.
- News items (1996 to now) on: ritual abuse, Satanic ritual abuse (SRA), multiple personality disorder (MPD), recovered memory therapy (MPD), etc. on the website of the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
- Christianity: Spiritual Warfare and Satanic Panic, list of postings on Bartholomew's notes on religion: Researching religion and current affairs since February 2004 - an excellent blog!
- Witch Hunts series of articles by Kerr Cuhulain, on the very influential Pagan website Witchvox
- The Devil Appears - blog by S.M. Elliot, a Canadian who is now writing a book about the Satanic panic. See also my comments on her blog.
- More later, I hope.
Above I've listed only recent debunkers who have been keeping an eye on recent scaremongers. For writings by some of the many fine people who helped to debunk the SRA scare back in the 1980's and early 1990's, see my pages on "Satanism" scares and their debunking and The "Satanic Ritual Abuse" scare of the 1980's and early 1990's
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