WARNING: I’m about to get real about moral panic. Just click the little blue frog and move along if you’re not interested in reading about something based on recent historical events that should honestly chill you to the bone that it happened in our lifetime.
“The green… the green,” Cynthia murmured under hypnosis.
“Yes,” the doctor coaxed. “How old are you, Cindy?”
“I’m five,” she said. “I’m frightened.”
“You’re safe here with me, Cindy. Tell me — who’s there with you?”
“They’ve taken me into the woods,” she whispered. “My Daddy and my pastor and my teacher and some others. They’re wearing animal masks. They’re touching me. They’re pouring blood on me!”
“Wake up, Cynthia,” the doctor said, and dismissed his patient until the next session.
“The green, the green!” the doctor rubbed his hands together with glee, and dreamed about his book deal.
So, you’ve heard of the Salem Witch Trials, of course… despicable, foolish people. We’ve evolved so far past that, right?
Fear breeds ignorance like the sun breeds maggots in a dead dog.
This story is about a phenomenon that swept the nation in the ’80s and ’90s… and not the 1590s… the 1990s…
I can remember watching Televangelists scream about how the country was full of Satanic cults, and how children were being gang-raped by people who walked the town by day but dressed up in robes by night to summon Satan. In the wake of films like The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby, people’s imaginations were bent on the idea that somehow, there were secret bloodspilling cults all over the place (not a new thing — in the early years of Christianity, both the Jews and the Christians spread rumours of cannibalism about each other. In the 1950s everyone you knew could be a Commie pinko traitor spy. Now, anyone with dark skin must certainly be a sleeper agent for ISIS or Al Qaeda.) It sold lots of seats to talk-show hosts and travelling evangelists alike. Makes for a good horror story, but this was presented as something that was happening all over the country. All sorts of people stepped forward, claiming to have recovered repressed memories and describing in disgusting detail all the things they were forced to do and/or watch. Hell, Oprah Winfrey interviewed Michelle Smith (subject of the book Michelle Remembers, all about her supposed abuse by the Church of Satan) in 1989.
People’s lives were ruined as prosecutors took the stance of believing the victims, who were coached expertly by psychiatric professionals or trusted religious figures. Charges were laid, people went to jail. The ironic thing is, that one of the factors that started the downfall of this was that Anton LeVay, the founder of the Church of Satan, threatened to sue Lawrence Pazder (writer of Michelle Remembers) for libel.
Moral panic today seems to have taken other forms — and I’ll not mention them specifically because we’re all civilized and in no way would ever succumb to media-driven hatred or fear of any group of people — but it’s just something to consider the next time you look sideways at someone because you’ve been told they’re out to get you.
Satanic ritual abuse (SRA, sometimes known as ritual abuse, ritualistic abuse, organised abuse, sadistic ritual abuse and other variants) was a moral panic that originated in the United States in the 1980s, spreading throughout the country and eventually to many parts of the world, before mostly diminishing in the late 1990s. Allegations of SRA involved reports of physical and sexual abuse of people in the context of occult or Satanic rituals. In its most extreme form, SRA involved a supposed worldwide conspiracy involving the wealthy and powerful of the world elite in which children were abducted or bred for sacrifices, pornography and prostitution.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this — or your memories about this phenomenon. I can remember sitting in church while an angry speaker held up X-Men comics as evidence that there was a cult conspiracy to brainwash young people into the legions of Hell.