EvX: Today we have an Anonymous Guest Post on the History of the Russia Conspiracy Hysteria. (Your normally scheduled anthropology will resume next Friday):
2011: Liberals get excited about Arab Spring. They love the idea of overthrowing dictators and replacing governments across the Middle East with democracies. They largely don’t realize that these democracies will be fundamentalist Islamic states.
Official US government policy supports and assists rebels in Syria against Assad. Leaked emails show how the US supported al Qaeda forces. See Step by Step: How Hillary and Obama Incubated ISIS.
Note that ISIS is also fighting against Assad, putting the US effectively on the ISIS side here. US support flowed to Syrian rebel forces, which may have included ISIS. ISIS is on the side of democracy and multiculturalism, after all.
Russia, meanwhile, is becoming more of a problem for the US Middle East agenda because of its support for Assad. In 2013, this comes to a head with the alleged Assad chemical weapons attack. Everyone gets very upset about chemical weapons and mad at the Russians for supporting Assad. Many calls for regime change in Syria were made. ISIS is also gaining power, and Russia is intervening directly against them. We can’t have Russia bombing ISIS, can we?
As a result, around 2013 Russia started to gain much more prominence as “our” enemy. This is about when I started to see the “Wikileaks is a Russian operation” and “ZeroHedge is Russian propaganda” memes, although there are archives of this theory from as early as 2011–Streetwise Professor: Peas in a PoD: Occupy, RT, and Zero Hedge.
There is, of course, negligible evidence for either of these theories, but that didn’t stop them from spreading. Many hackers have come from Russia over the years, and Russia was surely happy about many of Wikileaks’ releases, but that does not mean that they’re receiving money or orders from Russia.
In 2014, Russia held the Olympics, and around that time there was a lot of publicity about how Russia does not allow gay marriage. Surely only an evil country could prohibit it. Needless to say, I saw little said about Saudi Arabia’s position on gay marriage.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, and sanctions were introduced against Russia. Most likely the annexation was opposed because this would mean that Crimean gays would not be able to get married any time soon.
[EvX: I think Anon is being sarcastic here and does actually understand geostrategy.]
The combination of Russian interference in opposition to ISIS plus the annexation of Crimea was just too much for liberals and cuckservatives still opposed to “Soviet” influence, and various aggressive statements toward Russia began to come from Hillary and members of Congress.
Trump enters the presidential race in 2015, and he wonders why we’re opposing Russian actions against ISIS. Why are we taking agressive stands that could lead to war with Russia? What’s in it for Americans?
Obviously could only mean that Trump was a Russian agent. And who would a Russian agent work with but Russian hackers and the Russian Wikileaks agency?
Wikileaks released the DNC emails in July 2016, and they released the Podesta emails shortly before the election. Since Americans were known to not have any access to any of the leaked information, it could only have come from Russian government hackers.
Liberals have assumed that any contacts between the Trump team and Russian diplomats prior to the election were related to illegal coordination to influence or “hack” the election. Never mind that communication between presidential campaigns and foreign diplomats is not uncommon–CNN Politics: Obama Takes Campaign Trail Overseas.
Following the election, Trump associate Flynn might have said to the Russians that the sanctions could possibly be reexamined at some point, thus obviously severely interfering with US diplomatic relations. Of course this statement has been worthy of an extensive FBI investigation.
Most recently we have the “leak” of classified information from Trump to Russia, in which Trump told the Russians to be on the lookout for ISIS bombs smuggled onto planes in laptops. Apparently this is very bad because it’s important for ISIS to successfully bomb Russian civilian planes if they feel like it.
Let’s sum up this logic:
Russia is bad because they oppose US efforts to install Islamic fundamentalist governments in the Middle East, because they oppose gay marriage, and because taking Crimea is basically the same as Hitler’s invasion of Poland.
Russia is full of hackers. Assange is a Russian agent since he publishes information leaked from the US. Trump is a Russian agent since he opposes war with Russia.
Russians hacked the DNC and Podesta at Trump’s request and gave the information to Wikileaks. Flynn interfered with US diplomacy. Trump is giving US secrets to Russia.
Note the strength of this narrative despite its very flimsy evidence. Investigations into Trump’s “Russian connections” can continue endlessly so long as people believe in them.
…we need to stop pretending that the worst thing the Athenians ever did was to execute Socrates and openly engage the true dark side of Classical Athens’ anti-immigration policies and the obsession with ethnic purity that lies at the heart of its literature, history, and philosophy….
Known as the Periclean Citizenship Law, the law passed around 451 BCE restricted access to political power and other legal rights to only those born of both a citizen mother and father.
You asked. I deliver.
(And yes, I did know about the Periclean Citizenship Law before she brought it up.)
The best arguments (I’ve come up with) in favor of moderation are A. humans are imperfect, so let’s be careful, and B. Let’s avoid holiness spirals. The best argument against it is that sometimes moderatism doesn’t work, either.
But we haven’t defined what moderatism is.
People are generally moderates for four reasons:
- They are not very bright, and so cannot understand political or economic arguments well enough to decide whether, say, global warming is real or the budget needs to be balanced, so they don’t.
- They are bright enough to evaluate arguments, but they aren’t interested. Economics bores them. So they don’t bother.
- They can evaluate arguments and they care, but their opinions don’t slot neatly into “left” or “right”–for example, they may believe simultaneously in fiscal conservatism and gay marriage.
- They just like the status quo.
The last group bugs the crap out of me.
There are lots of people who say they want something–say, an end to global warming, or more pie–but won’t actually do anything in support of their goals, like buy a more fuel efficient car or fruit filling. There are also a lot of people who say that they want something–libertarianism, say–but then claim not to want to end up at the logical end of the libertarian road. (Pot smokers who don’t want free association, I’m looking at you.) Plenty of people who supported the Russian Revolution merely wanted to end that awful war with Germany and redistribute some of the land and wealth, not starve millions of Ukrainians to death and turn the whole country into a communist nightmare, but that’s what the revolution got them.
Claiming you want a moderate outcome while supporting an approach that leads somewhere very different is the height of either dishonesty or idiocy.
But back to our question, I think we can define a “moderate” as:
- Someone who takes a position between two extremes, (consciously or unconsciously,) often trying to promote consensus;
- Someone who wants to preserve the status-quo;
- Someone who wants to move in a particular direction, but doesn’t embrace their philosophy’s extreme end.
It would probably amuse most readers of this blog to know that I think of myself as a “moderate.” After all, I hold a lot of ideas that are well outside the American mainstream. But my goals–long-term stability, health, and economic well-being for myself, my friends, family, and the country at large–are pretty normal. I think most people want these things.
But I don’t think continuing the status quo is getting us stability, health, prosperity, etc. The status quo could certainly be worse–I could be on fire right now. But the general trends are not good and have not been good for a long time, and I see neither the traditional “liberal” nor “conservative” solutions as providing a better direction–which is why I am willing to consider some radically new (or old) ideas. (Besides, “moderate” is much easier to explain to strangers than, “I think democracy is deeply flawed.”)
Let’s call this “meta-moderatism”–perhaps we should distinguish here between moderatism of means and moderatism of goals.
Just as holiness spirals only work if you’re actually spiraling into holiness, so consensus only works if you capture actual wisdom.
I think Scott Alexander (of Slate Star Codex) is the most famous principled moderate I know of, though perhaps principled neutralist is a better description–he tries to be meta-consistent in his principles and give his opponents the benefit of the doubt in order to actually understand why they believe what they do–because “moderate” seems vaguely inaccurate to describe any polyamorist.
It occurs to me that democracy seems inclined toward moderatism of means, simply because any candidate has to get a majority (or plurality) of people to vote for them.
… You know what? I’m bored. I’m going to research rare forms of lightning.
(This case actually caused by snow and wind, not a thunderstorm!)
Should it be “elf lightning” or “lightning elves”?
(same source as the previous picture.)
And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot! So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. — Revelations, 3:14-16
“No one likes a Jesus freak.” — Anon, the internet
From a memetic point of view, most ideologies would like their adherents to be strong believers. What good to memetic Christianity, after all, is someone who does not bother to spread Christianity? As a matter of principle, there is something hypocritical–intellectually inconsistent or dishonest–about people who profess to believe an ideology, but lay down some boundary beyond which they do not bother to follow it.
And yet, at the same time, we often feel a very practical aversion to ideological extremists. People who believe in social safety nets so because they don’t want poor people to starve in the streets may also genuinely believe that communism was a disaster.
Ideologies are rather like maps, and I have yet to encounter a map that accurately reflected every aspect of the Earth’s surface at once (Mercator maps of Greenland, I am looking at you.) The world is a complicated place, and all ideological models seek to illuminate human behavior by reducing them to understandable patterns.
Like any map, this is both a strength and a weakness. We do not throw out a map because it is imperfect; even a Mercator map is still a valuable tool. We also do not deny the existence of a sandbar we have just struck simply because it is not on our charts. Even religions, which profess perfection due to divine revelation, must still be actually put into practice by obviously imperfect human believers.
In extreme versions of ideologies, the goal often ceases to be some practical, real world outcome, and becomes instead proving one’s own ideological purity. SJWs are the most common embodiment of this tendency, arguing endlessly over matters like, “Does Goldiblocks’s advertising/packaging de-value girls’ princess play?” or “Asking immigrants not to rape is racist colonialization of POC bodies.” There are many organizations out there trying to decrease the number of black people who are murdered every year, but you have probably never heard of any of the successful ones. By contrast, the one group liberals actually support and pay attention to, “Black Lives Matter,” has, by driving police out of black communities, actually increased the number of black people who’ve been murdered.
Within the holiness spiral, actually denying reality becomes the easiest way to prove to be even holier than the next guy. The doctrine of transubstantiation claims that a piece of bread has been transformed into the body of Christ even though no physical, observable change has occurred. Almost everyone agrees that the police shouldn’t choke people to death during routine arrests; it takes true devotion to believe that the police shouldn’t shoot back at people who are shooting at them.
A holiness spiral is only useful if you’re actually spiraling into holiness.
The simple observation that extreme versions of ideologies often seem to lead their followers to lose contact with reality is perhaps reason enough for someone to profess some form of principled moderatism.
And yet, I know for certain that were I a religious person, I would not be moderate. (I base this on my childhood approach to religion and the observances of my biological relatives–I wager I have a genetic inclination toward intense religiosity.) Since few people convert away from the religion they were raised with, if I were a believer from a Hindu family, I’d be a devout Hindu; if I were a believer from a Catholic family, I’d attend mass in Latin; if Jewish, I’d be Orthodox Jewish. You get the picture.
After all, what is the point of going to Heaven (or Hell,) only a little bit?
To be continued.
(a minor bane, but still a bane.)
Writing well requires, at the very least, two things: clarity and cadence. Clarity is meaning: words mean something. When I write, I do it because I intend to convey some idea from my head to your head, and if I am not clear, then you won’t have any idea what I mean. Cadence is the way the words flow together. People like reading collections of words that sound nice and dislike reading words that jar against each other.
Not all writing requires both clarity and cadence. For example, if a surgeon is about to remove a tumor from your lungs, you want the medical documents describing your tumor to be very accurate about its size and location, but you don’t particularly care if the medical documents are pleasant to read. Chemistry textbooks are very exact and thus make it very clear exactly which atoms go into specific molecules, and even go into minute details like which electrons they share, but aren’t known for their artistic prose. By contrast, a romance novel about a hunky doctor who saves the life of a brilliant chemist needs to sound good, but it does not (and really should not,) need to describe exactly where in the chemist’s lungs the exact chemical formula she was working with created the dreaded cancer.
Most of my posts focus, in one way or another, on groups of people, and so it is vital that you actually know which group of people I am talking about. But since I am writing for a popular audience and not people who have been forced to buy a textbook, I also try to make the posts pleasant and enjoyable.
Ethnonymic creep is the process of ethnonyms–the names for groups of people (and countries)–changing over time. For example, high-class Brits used to write about people called “Hindoos” who lived in a place called “Hindoostan.” Today we call it India and the religious adherents, Hindus.
(And just to confuse things, while “-stan” comes from an Indo-European root and means “land of,” eg, “land of the Hindoos,” and is usually preceded by the name of the ethnic group that lives in the area, eg, Balochistan is the land of the Balochis; Afghanistan is the land of the Afghans; “Pakistan” does not actually refer to an ethnic group at all but instead means something like “Pure land” or “Land of the Pure,” [I’m not sure which.] Of course it is totally valid to describe the kind of land one’s country is, mountainous or forested or pleasant or whathaveyou, but this does lead to the confusion that there must be an ethnic group it refers to. Not only is there not an ethnic group, but the obvious shortened form of Pakistani is a slur, so you’d better keep it all straight.
But these are relatively mild substitutions–the average person can figure out that “Hindu” and “Hindoo” sound exactly alike and that “Hindoostan” and “India” are liable to be approximately the same places. The average person is not likely to instantly realize that “Eskimo” and “Inuit” are the same people, nor “Gypsy” and “Rom,” (plural “Roma.”) The latter is particularly problematic because “Roman” and “Romanian” already exist, to which we are now adding “Romani,” the adjectival form of “Rom.” It’s bad enough that we already have Austria and Australia, Andorra and Angola, The Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China, the people of which call themselves “Taiwanese” even though they’re mostly Han Chinese by ethnicity and the aboriginal Taiwanese are several small ethnic groups that were conquered by the Chinese.)
I understand when people don’t want to be called by terms that are actually slurs. (I also understand that counter-signaling among friends is why people can use slurs among themselves without getting offended when they would be deeply offended if an outsider used the same slur, just as I can playfully punch my husband in the arm and he knows I am not actually punching him, but if a random stranger walked up and punched him in the arm, he might not take it the same way.)
But “Gypsy” is not a slur in English (at least not American English.) Americans don’t really know much about Gypsies, are barely aware that any Gypsies live in America, and so they don’t put much effort into insulting them. The idea that “Gypsy” is a slur and therefore has to be replaced with the linguistically unclear (and problematic, because it does not pluralize and adjectivize like an English word,) “Rom”/”Roma,” is simply untrue. Moreover, unlike Hindoo/Hindu, Rom is not an obvious variant of Gypsy. Many people, encountering “Roma” for the first time, will have no idea that this is supposed to mean “Gypsy,” nor do they deserve to be castigated as racists for using an “ethnic slur” that they have never heard anyone use as a slur.
Similarly for the switch from “Eskimo” to “Inuit.” Perhaps Eskimo–or Esquimaux, as I have also seen it–means something insulting in the local language of the Eskimo, but it certainly means nothing insulting in English. The Gypsies are actually known for a propensity toward theft, a reputation they would like to leave behind–indeed, one may cynically suspect that avoiding association with the actual Gypsy over-representation among criminals is the true motivation behind the shift–but the Eskimo are known only for building igloos, a custom the rest of the world finds delightful.
And to complicate matters even worse, while the Eskimo of Canada prefer to be called Inuit, the Eskimo of Alaska prefer to be called Eskimo, and think this whole “Inuit” thing is being imposed on them by those Canadians. If you want to be extra safe, call the ones from Alaska the “Yupik,” if you can remember that.
Oh, and now they’re Sami, not Lapps or Laplanders, even though “Lapp” was, again, never a slur in English (at least not American English,) because why on earth would we insult some random ethnic group from some other country.
And the children’s book “Polar Bears Past Bedtime” describes the Eskimo as “Arctic Peoples.” Ugh.
The Democrats have lately taken to pronouncing “Muslim” as “Mooslim.” Maybe that is closer to how Muslims pronounce the word, (given that there are countries with significant Muslim populations stretching from Nigeria to Bosnia to Indonesia, I doubt there is any standardized pronunciation anymore than “Christian” is pronounced the same in English, Russian, and Ethiopian,) but to me it just sounds like “moose,” and it doesn’t seem superior to me to call them after a large deer.
“Muslim” is itself a replacement for Mohammedan, which I encounter frequently in older scholarly works. (I don’t really read many older non-scholarly works, to be honest.) From the standpoint of utility, “Mohammedan” is a better term. “Muslim” tells me only that these people have something to do with moose, whereas “Mohammedan” tells me that they have something to do with Mohammad, a famous historical figure.
“Bantu” is supposedly a slur, but there’s no efficient replacement besides “Bantu-speaking-people,” which is too clunky, and in the midst of articles about Bantus literally eating Pygmies for dinner, we have people wondering whether it’s even acceptable to call people “Pygmies” anymore. Perhaps we should call them the Batwa or Bambuti People (redundant, since “Ba” means “people,”) but there is no singular term that encompasses all of the really short people of the world (who aren’t genetically dwarves, who prefer not to be called midgets and probably aren’t keen on “dwarf,” either–I hear they prefer “little people,” a phrase I use for small children,) besides Pygmy, so Pygmy it is. Personally, I think the Pygmies have bigger problems than whether or not we call them Pygmies, but the NY Times has recently taken to referring to them as Bambuti in an effort to disguise the fact that they are in fact talking about Pygmies, because the folks at the Times don’t want to get called “racist.”
Meanwhile, the Bushmen actually prefer being called Bushmen, but Bushmen sounds vaguely improper so people have taken to calling the Khoi-San people (or Khoisan or whatever,) even though I think they have historically had rather violent conflicts with the Khoi people (Bushmen I believe speak the San languages,) and “San” is itself vaguely pejorative.
The indigenous peoples of the US are also linguistically problematic; last time I checked, a small majority of them preferred the term “Indian” as a collective noun, because “Native American” sounds like a label you put on artifacts at a museum, not a group of people, and they’ve been called Indians for hundreds of years, so they’re pretty used to it. Unfortunately, Indians are also the group formerly known as Hindoos or Hindoostanis, who now live in the US in large enough numbers that even if I use a somewhat clunky term like “American Indians,” it’s not entirely clear without context that I’m referring to indigenous Americans and not “Indian Americans,” ethnic people from India who now live in America.
The terms for Americans of African descent, likewise, have gone through rapid evolution. Since Americans actually care about what you call them, your choice of ethnonym is taken to indicate something about your political (or racial) stance. I do not know whether the terms used in Huck Finn were ever considered polite, but they were certainly mainstream in the 1800s. The intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois did not hesitate to refer to his people as “Negroes,” a term now seen, at best, as archaic:
“Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: … How does it feel to be a problem? … One ever feels his two-ness,–an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder … He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face.” — Du Bois, “Strivings of the Negro People”, 1897
Du Bois also wrote The Souls of Black Folk.
We may safely assume that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People did not use “colored” as a slur, but today the use is, at best, odd; we have replaced it with “people of color,” which is so clunky that even its proponents do not actually use it, but resort to abbreviations like “POC” or “TWOC” (trans women of color.) POC remains highly politicized (despite being efficiently short,) so those who do not want to imply a particular political stance are let with clunkier alternatives like “non-whites.” “Blacks” is efficient, but is regarded as somewhat pejorative–to be safe, you need the longer “black people” or “African Americans.” (And even then, you still get the occasional person trying to argue that these terms are bad because “People aren’t really black or white, they’re just shades of brown,” or “African Americans weren’t actually born in Africa, they should just be called Americans.” These people apparently hate communicating.) The preference for writing “African Americans” instead of “black” in more formal publications has lead, I understand, to at least one newspaper accidentally referring to Nelson Mandela as “The first African American president of South Africa.”
I could go on–how the term “purple” as referent to Australian Aborigines has disappeared (when I was a kid, I really did think that people came in a rainbow of crayon colors,) how “yellow” is no longer an acceptable skin descriptor, even though people in China actually use the term for themselves; the disuse of “Mongoloid” for the third great race of man; and other varied changes in ethnonyms–but you get the gist.
Of course, if I just wanted to be clear, I could easily list all of the relevant names for a group, a map of their range, and a photograph of a typical individual when discussing anyone not immediately obvious. But this takes up my time (and yours) and makes the text clunky. “Germans” is an efficient word, and I care not a whit that “Germans” is not actually the word people in Germany use for describing themselves in speaking German. It is a literary annoyance, then, that “blacks” cannot be used in the same way, and that “Japanese,” while I may get away with using it as a noun, is really an adjective. We can speak of Spaniards, Italians and Russians, Indonesians and Pygmies, but if we want to be grammatical, we’re stuck with “Chinese people,” “Black people,” and “Japanese People.” (I’m just glad I can still use “Jews.”)
Few words seem to turn over as quickly as ethnonyms. Even euphemisms for bodily functions, such “shit,” can be traced back almost unchanged to proto-Indo-European words ( “skheid,“) and “fuck” has been around almost unchanged since the 14oos, has numerous cognates in other Germanic languages, and probably hails from the PIE “*peuk” = “to prick.” (See also here, since that website is slated to go down in September, and here for a longer discussion of the relative antiquity of many vulgarisms.) We have not seen a cascade of polite words for defecation become crass over time as the upper classes invent ever new ways to avoid admitting that they, too, make poopies. (Though I am sure that if I looked, I could find some archaic swears in the likes of Chaucer.)
Nor do regular words seem to do this; as far as I can tell, this annoying turnover is limited almost exclusively to ethnonyms and terms for other groups of people (like “cripples” becoming “handicapped,” “disabled,” or “differently-abled,) and is driven largely by the twin forces of wanting to show that you’re worldly enough to know the latest, fanciest pronunciations (“Belgrade” or “Beograd”? “Chilly” or “Chill-eh?”) and wanting to signal that you’re not racist/homophobic.
One of the effects of constant ethnymic creep (other than making people get into stupid fights on the internet with each other over terminology,) is to make information less accessible by making it harder for people to know what others are talking about and by making them more likely to dismiss sources that don’t use the newest ethnonym. In some cases, I think this is intentional.
Making information about groups of people less accessible is, of course, the opposite of my intentions.
As a means of memetic conservation, religions are amazing.
The Catholics still release all of their official documents in Latin, a language that disappeared in its natural habitat about 1,500 years ago (and conducted all of their rituals around the world in Latin until 1964).
Many Protestants, while not quite as archaic, prefer the now fancy sounding language of the King James Bible, with its “Thou”s and “art”s. (And many other Christian denominations preserve other archaic languages, like Koine Greek in the Greek Orthodox Church, Coptic in Coptic churches and Church Slavonic in, I guess, Slavic churches, and German among the Amish.)
Islam preserves the 7th century Arabic of the Qu’ran (apparently “written” Arabic and “spoken” Arabic are quite distinct, somewhat like if everyone in Italy spoke “Italian” but wrote in 7th century church Latin.)
Diasporic Judaism preserved Hebrew for almost 2,000 years after the destruction of the Temple, and managed to do a good enough job that it has been revived and is now the official language of Israel. (I think Arabic is, too.)
Sanskrit plays the same role for Hinduism, Jainism, and some Buddhist sects. The oldest known work in Sanskrit, the Rigveda, was composed a bit over 3,000 years ago, though I do not know if modern Sanskrit speakers find the Rigveda any more intelligible than I find Beowulf. [note: see the comments for a better explanation of the origins of the Rigveda.]
According to the Wikipedia,
Theravada Buddhism uses Pali as its main liturgical language, and prefers its scriptures to be studied in the original Pali. In Thailand, Pali is written using the Thai alphabet, resulting in a Thai pronunciation of the Pali language.
… In some Japanese rituals, Chinese texts are read out or recited with the Japanese pronunciations of their constituent characters, resulting in something unintelligible in both languages.
(Apparently the Tamil language is also important in Hinduism.)
If you want to preserve a language, write some religious texts in it and then insist that everyone has to learn your language in order to participate in your worship services and go to Heaven.
On top of this, the Christian Bible preserves the Jewish scriptures that predate it. You’re probably so used to this that you don’t even really notice it, but it’s actually pretty weird. So you’re going along in your Christian Bible study, learning about Jesus and whatnot, and then there are these obscure bits of Judean political history from 1,000 BC or something. Like that time King Ahab wanted to buy a field but the farmer wouldn’t sell it to him, so the queen had the farmer executed and then he took it. Or that time in Judges when Ehud assassinated King Eglon.
The Bible also preserves the Jewish Law, which, of course, Christians don’t actually follow. EG:
When men fight with one another, and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him, and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand. Deuteronomy 25:11-12
Okay, so if your wife tried to physically drag you out of a fight by your testicles you would probably be in horrible pain as a result, but it doesn’t seem like the sort of situation that comes up very often. But remember, the law also bans pork. I can understand why the Jews think it’s important that their religious book still have all of the notes about not eating bacon or boiling goats in milk or wearing mixed fibers, because The Law is still really important to them. But why on Earth do Christians?
Then take a festival like Purim. Purim is kind of like the Jewish Halloween, but with more Bible and no devils. Kids dress up in costumes, eat a bunch of sweets, go to synagogue, listen to the story of Queen Esther, and everyone makes a bunch of noise to “blot out the name” of some Persian court official who tried to massacre the Jews about 2,500 years ago.
Of course, if there weren’t a holiday devoted to the subject, no one would remember the guy’s name at all; at this point, we’re not even sure if the story is true.
The fact that Judaism is considered a “major world religion” at all is because a chunk of it is inside Christianity; there actually aren’t that many Jews. More people practice some form of Voodoo/Vodun than Judaism, but when’s the last time you saw Voodoo listed as a major world religion?
I got laughed at in school for listing Voodoo as one of the 5 major world religions.
The Christmas rituals (gifts, tree,) also date back thousands of years to ancient Roman and German pre-Christian practices.
And, of course, there’s morality. Obviously many liberal branches of religion toss out moral precepts and adopt new ones as they see fit, but the presence of a line in the text explicitly banning (or encouraging) something seems to have a long-term effect. (Take snake-handling Christian sects, which take the line in the Bible about Christians being able to drink poison and handle snakes without getting killed very seriously.)
Personally, I think the Gospels have a very socialist feel to them. Of course, I am applying a completely anachronistic political label to something that predates “socialism” by nearly two millennia, but I think you know what I mean. All of that business about “give away allof your earthly goods to the poor and come follow me,” or “it is easier for a rich man to fit through the eye of a needle than to enter Heaven,” or the disciples holding all of their property in common in the Book of Acts.
As a result, Christianity has created many charitable or even socialist movements over the past two thousand years, and will probably keep doing so. The “Christian Communists” of the 1800s, like the Shakers, are one set of examples.
Secular “religions” can be memetically conservative, too. Take the American “Thanksgiving”–every year, people get together with their families to eat turkey (the ritual feast) and watch football because approximately 400 years ago, some Pilgrims had a good harvest and so didn’t all die in the winter. Most of us probably aren’t even related to the Pilgrims, but we do it anyway.
Conservatives, as I’ve noted, treat the Constitution kind of like a religious founding document.
Much of the time, the explicit justification for religious rituals has little to do with why people actually observe them. Most Americans don’t really care about the Pilgrims one way or another; I bet most Jews don’t care about Haman anymore, either. Most Catholics probably think it’d be fine if the church just started publishing official documents in Italian, and even atheists give each other gifts on Christmas. The function of these rituals is often very different from their form–Thanksgiving is really about family togetherness, not Pilgrims. Likewise, the current push to get rid of Columbus day and replace it with Indigenous Culture Day isn’t really a statement that indigenous peoples were better than Columbus (after all, the Aztecs were cannibals.)
The functions of religion are myriad, but marking important life transitions, assuaging fears of death, teaching morality, and binding the community together are all obviously significant. Perhaps religion functions better when the memes are older than when they are newer. Perhaps it doesn’t really matter whether or not you can understand the liturgy, but a liturgy that gives you the impression of being connected to your ancient ancestors may function better than one that doesn’t; a generic “Thanksgiving is a time to be with our families,” may not work as well as a “Thanksgiving is a celebration of the feast between the Pilgrims and the Indians.”
Do you have any other good examples of this phenomenon?
So many people began reporting allegations that they or their children had been raped by a massive, underground Satanic conspiracy that the FBI got involved, investigated, and found a big fat nothing:
Kenneth Lanning, an FBI expert in the investigation of child sexual abuse, has stated that pseudo-satanism may exist but there is “little or no evidence for … large-scale baby breeding, human sacrifice, and organized satanic conspiracies”. …
Lanning produced a monograph in 1994 on SRA aimed at child protection authorities, which contained his opinion that despite hundreds of investigations no corroboration of SRA had been found. Following this report, several convictions based on SRA allegations were overturned and the defendants released.
Satanists, rapists, pedophiles, murderers, and even people who claim that Satan told them to murder people all do, indeed, exist. But an organized conspiracy lurking under the local daycare does not.
In all, Wikipedia lists 19 major Satanic Daycare Scandals and mentions “over 100” cases total in the US; and 18 Ritual Satanic Abuse allegations, plus the “West Memphis Three” case.* In 1987, Geraldo Rivera claimed on national TV that, “Estimates are that there are over one million Satanists in [the United States and they are] linked in a highly organized, secretive network.”
A 1996 survey investigating 12,000 cases of alleged SRA found that most of the victims were diagnosed with MPD (or the new acronym, DID) and/or PTSD. Also:
In a 1994 survey of more than 11,000 psychiatric and police workers throughout the US, conducted for the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, researchers investigated approximately 12,000 accusations of group cult sexual abuse [note: I bet these two surveys used the same database] based on satanic ritual. The survey found no substantiated reports of well-organized satanic rings of people who sexually abuse children, but did find incidents in which the ritualistic aspects were secondary to the abuse and were used to intimidate victims. (bold mine) (Wikipedia)
Another study found that:
“Of a sample of 29 patients who presented with SRA, 22 were diagnosed with dissociative disorders including DID. The authors noted that 58% of the SRA claims appeared in the years following the Geraldo Rivera special on SRA and a further 34% following a workshop on SRA presented in the area; in only two patients were the memories elicited without the use of “questionable therapeutic practices for memory retrieval.”
Many of these cases started with genuine accusations of abuse or molestation–the “West Memphis Three” case began with the discovery of the bodies of three murdered children, and I do not know whether the three teens convicted of the murder were innocent or not. What all of these cases have in common is that after the initial, perhaps true accusation was brought by or on behalf of the children, the adults–relatives, police, social workers, etc.–inflicted their own agendas on the cases, creating a massive, non-existent Satanic conspiracy. It was this misconduct by the police and social workers that resulted in so many convictions (including the West Memphis Three) to be overturned.
It is better to convict genuine criminals of the crimes they actually committed than to concoct a web of lies and then have the conviction overturned.
Prominent people involved:
Fells Acre Day Care Center Preschool Trial: “Current Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, the chief prosecutor of both of the Amirault cases, responded to the articles with statements that “the children testified to being photographed and molested by acts that included penetration by objects” and “the implication … that the children’s allegations of abuse were tainted by improper interviewing is groundless and not true.””
From the Wall Street Journal, 2010: “Attorney General Martha Coakley—who had proven so dedicated a representative of the system that had brought the Amirault family to ruin, and who had fought so relentlessly to preserve their case—has recently expressed her view of this episode. Questioned about the Amiraults in the course of her current race for the U.S. Senate, she told reporters of her firm belief that the evidence against the Amiraults was “formidable” and that she was entirely convinced “those children were abused at day care center by the three defendants.” ”
One of the accusations brought in this case was that a 4 year old had been anally raped with a butcher knife which left no traces and did no damage.
Susan J. Kelly, Fells Acre. “As a pediatric nurse in the 1980s, Kelley interviewed many of the children involved in the Fells Acres Day Care Center sexual abuse case in Malden, Massachusetts. Kelley’s interview techniques in that case later came under criticism from members of the media  and were called “improper” and “biased” by a Massachusetts appellate judge after video tapes of her questioning of the children were played in court during the appeal of one of the defendants.”
“Kelley has specialized in the field of child abuse, since 1979 and has appeared as a featured expert on child abuse on national programs including the Today Show, NBC Evening News and CBS Morning News.”
The entire MA Supreme Judicial Court in 1993 and 1995.
Prosecutor Daniel Ford, Bernard Baran case: “Just a few years after Baran’s conviction, Ford was appointed to the Massachusetts Superior Court, where he presides over criminal cases. He has also served on a committee that determines state rules for criminal procedure. As Silverglate points out, not only has Ford never been disciplined, he has never been publicly investigated, nor has the state considered the reforms that could cut down on future wrongful convictions.”
DA Gerard Downing: “former Berkshire County district attorney Gerard Downing, had a heart attack and died while shoveling snow. For years, Baran’s appellate attorneys had been asking Downing to turn over the interview tapes. He said he couldn’t find them. (He isn’t the only prosecutor who has had problems locating tapes of interviews with children that produced abuse charges, but later proved exculpatory.) After Downing died, Capeless found and turned over the tapes in a matter of months. Had Downing not had a heart attack, Baran could well have died in prison.” (source)
I did not find the names of the folks involved in the Wee Care Nursery School trial, but you can read the transcripts of the police’s awful, unethical interviews with the children here.
Faith Chapel Church ritual abuse case: “Dale Akiki was born with Noonan syndrome, a rare genetic disorder which left him with a concave chest, club feet, drooping eyelids and ears. … The campaign against him was initiated by Jack and Mary Goodall, the former being the CEO of Jack in the Box, who stated that they found his physical appearance, coupled with his working contact with the children of the church in his capacity as a volunteer, “disturbing”. … The cases against him included no physical evidence, but allegations of satanic ritual abuse including testimony that he killed a giraffe and an elephant in front of the children, drank human blood in satanic rituals, and had abducted the children away from the church despite being unable to drive.” …
“Prosecutor Mary Avery was the founder of the San Diego Child Abuse Prevention Foundation, to which Goodall was the largest financial contributor. She was brought in to prosecute at the Goodall’s insistence after experienced child abuse prosecutors Harry Elias and Sally Penso found no grounds to charge Akiki with any crimes due to the coercive investigation and suggestivity used by parents and therapists in the case.”
In other words, Goodall bought himself a prosecutor to put a deformed man in prison because he thought the guy looked icky. In this case, though, the jury didn’t buy it, perhaps because this was late in the game and the public was beginning to wise up.
Wenatchee child abuse prosecutions: “In 1995, forty-three adults were arrested on 29,726 charges of child sex abuse, involving 60 children … Eighteen went to prison. Child witnesses in the investigation, mostly from 9 to 13 years old, were often taken from their families and placed in foster care. Many later claimed that they were subjected to hours of frightening grilling and told that if they didn’t believe they had been sexually abused, then they were either “in denial”, lying, or had suppressed the memory of the abuse. … While several children recanted their testimony prior to trial, these recantations were ignored: “It’s well known that children are telling the truth when they say they’ve been abused. But [they] are usually lying when they deny it.” Wenatchee Child Protective Services (CPS) supervisor Tim Abbey stated.”
As of 2013, a Timothy Abbey was still listed as working for the Spokane, WA, DCFS. [PDF]
But the main player in the Wenatchee case was Lieutenant Robert Perez, who, frankly, sounds unhinged. Perez retired from police work in 1998 and is now deceased.
I’m going to stop here; you can read more over at Wikipedia.
As the Washington Post notes about the Satanic Daycare Scandal, “Most of those convictions have since been overturned, but for the most part, the law enforcement officials responsible for them were not only never disciplined, many were reelected or moved on to higher office, sometimes because of the notoriety they gained from those cases, which tended to be high-profile affairs.”
A prosecutor who wins cases gets promoted or at least keeps their job. A prosecutor who loses cases loses their job. An honest prosecutor, therefore, is more likely to get fired than one who suppresses evidence of the defendant’s guilt or is otherwise willing to act unethically. (The Wikipedia notes that the prosecutors in these cases learned pretty quickly to destroy the evidence–notes, recordings–of how they’d coerced the children into making accusations.)
Even if most prosecutors are truly well-intentioned, such a system rewards the unethical and punishes the honest.
There are many cases where a well-meaning person might make an honest mistake. The police failure to properly gather forensic evidence in the “West Memphis Three” murders, for example, may have been a mistake.
The Ritual Satanic Daycare scandals, however, involves cases of such mind-bogglingly absurd proportions that no such benefit of the doubt can be extended. If these people genuinely did not realize they were coercing children into lying in order to put innocent people in prison, then they are not mentally fit to manage their own affairs and should have been put into an institution for the intellectually disabled. If they are not mentally unfit, then they are monsters.
Some of them have been sued; none, as far as I know, has been imprisoned. The majority, however, faced no consequences at all for all of the lives they destroyed.
Back on the mental health front
By the time of the ISSMP&D’s annual conference in 1987, speakers were lecturing about the, “Treatment of victims of ritual abuse,” and “The Satanic Cult in Rural Mid-America.” The ISSMP&D’s big new idea, that cults were breaking children’s minds into pieces, was invoked by people who had joined Connie in founding the organization and the multiple personality movement. More than six hundred therapists were attending ISSMP&D’s conferences to learn how to ferret ritual abuse memories from their patients. (source)
(Hypnotize them and inject them with massive quantities of drugs. Then when they start hallucinating and screaming, claim you’ve recovered their “memories.”)
The 1980 DSM described Multiple Personality (the “disorder” would be appended later) as “extremely rare”:
Before Sybil, fewer then 200 people over the past two centuries had been identified in Western medical literature with conditions resembling MPD. By 1984, only 4 years after the condition had been listed in the DSM, an ISSMP&D leader was suggesting that 25,000 Americans suffered from it. Another leader estimated that 3 percent of the population had MPD–over seven million people.
The massive increase in cases due in part to relaxed standards for diagnosis–alters were no longer required to be “complex”–and in part due to obvious idiocy:
It became common for MPD sufferers to possess scores, even hundreds, of alters (one was reputed to have 4,500.) Not all were human; some weren’t even alive. Patients reported gorillas and lobsters, as well as unicorns, angels, and–if the alters were immobile and voiceless–trees. Supernatural-sounding claim sprang up. A person with MPD, it was said, could have one alter with blue eyes and another with brown eyes. Such a person could be diabetic but have a personality whose insulin levels were normal. Even blood type could change. …
Gloria Steinem publishd an inspirational book for women, Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem, which lauded multiple personalities as a gift. MPD women, Steinem wrote, could learn many foreign languages. Not only that, they could “have two or even three menstrual cycles in the same body.”
OW. That feeling you are having is like an ice cream headache, only due to stupidity instead of cold.
(How the fuck does anyone respect this woman? Or take any of this shit seriously?)
MPD is no longer in the DSM (though a new diagnosis, Dissociative Identity Disorder, is) due to the profession deciding to strategically distance itself from the diagnosis after a bunch of shrinks got sued for malpractice:
In 1996, a church in Missouri agreed to pay $1 million to a woman who said that under the guidance of a church counselor, she came to believe that her father had raped her, got her pregnant and performed a coat-hanger abortion — when in fact, she was still a virgin and her father had had a vasectomy. And in August, a jury awarded $5.8 million to a woman in Houston who said her psychotherapist had implanted memories of murder, satanism and cannibalism.
The Schwiderskis sued two dozen people for $35 million after Kathryn Schwiderski, seeking help for depression, was accused by her therapist of being a member of a Satanic cult who had participated in cannibalism, human sacrifice, kidnapping, murder, torture, etc. Child Protective Services investigated charges Kathryn had harmed her children (and found nothing,) and she was institutionalized in a ward full of other people her shrink had also diagnosed with MPD due to Satanism. The state later closed that institution for abusing the patients, censoring their communication with the outside world, and refusing to discharge patients. (source)
Also about this time, insurance companies got wise and stopped paying for multi-year (or multi-decade) hospitalizations for depressed people, which really yanked the plug on the whole thing.
A few people (and fictional characters) still claim to have DID. Obviously this is bullshit; aside from a very few truly psychotic people, MPD (and DID) have never existed. The ISSMP&D is still in business (though it changed its name to ISSTD,) diagnosing patients and willfully ignoring the fact that all available evidence points to MPD and recovered memories being an enormous crock of shit inflicted upon patients by unethical shrinks.
In a sane world, the Satanic Daycare Scandal would have never happened.
Now, you might think that people would be cautious about accepting absurd claims coming from actually diagnosed, mentally-ill people receiving psychiatric treatment, but personal experience suggests that they don’t. Combine this with the feminist claim that you must always believe and support the victim and never question their claims, and you have the ingredients for thousands of destroyed lives.
Sybil launched a good two decades of psychiatrists using hypnosis to convince anxious or depressed women that they actually have a dozen or two personalities as a result of repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse or other trauma. With the publication of “Michelle Remembers,” these patients became instant sources of repressed evidence of a world-wide Satanic child-torturing conspiracy. For example, as the NY Times reports:
While undergoing psychiatric therapy at a Chicago hospital from 1986 to 1992, Patricia Burgus says, she was convinced by doctors that she had memories of being part of a satanic cult, being sexually abused by numerous men and abusing her own two sons.
She says that hypnosis and other treatments caused her to believe she remembered cannibalizing people, so much so that her husband brought in a hamburger from a family picnic and therapists agreed to test the meat to see if it was human. …
Mrs. Burgus, 41, said in an interview that she was referred to the hospitals by therapists in her hometown of Des Moines who had been treating her for what she describes as a severe post-partum depression. She said she received a diagnosis of multiple personality disorder and was treated with various medications, hypnosis and was occasionally kept in leather restraints during six years of treatment, two and a half years as an inpatient. She said her children were hospitalized because doctors believed her disorder might be genetic.
As it turns out, if you make enough claims about an on-going, massive child-torture and rape conspiracy, sooner or later the police get involved.
In 1980, Becky McCuan, a little girl living in Kern County, California, was actually molested by her grandfather. Her mother’s step-mother, Mary Ann Barbour, became so distressed by her conviction that Becky’s parents weren’t doing enough to protect her that she had a psychotic breakdown and ended up in the mental hospital. [Note: the quotes in this section come from the Religious Tolerance link, but see also “A Modern Witch Hunt,” “Kern Case that Brought 1,000 year Sentences Thrown Out,” and the relevant Wikipdia article. I recommend reading more about the case just to get the full flavor of how horribly it was handled.]
The step-grandmother made numerous bizarre accusations against the parents, leading social workers to put the two step-grandchildren into her custody and begin investigating the parents for being part of a “sex-ring.”
After being repeatedly questioned by the police over many months, the children claimed that they had been:
1. Hung from ceiling hooks and beaten with belts
2. Rented to strangers in motels and forced to act in “kiddy-porn” movies,
3. Abused by a sex ring involving their grandparents, their parents, their father’s brothers, friends of their parents, (Scott and Brenda Kniffen,) the social worker who did the inspection, a co-worker of their father, and two unnamed child welfare workers,
4. And they had witnessed infants murdered and buried in a Satanic ritual.
They led the FBI to the place where the bodies were supposed to be buried, but not only were not corpses found, there wasn’t even evidence that the dirt had been disturbed (ie, dug up and filled back in.) (Archaeologists are amazingly good at figuring out if dirt has been disturbed, which is why we can tell where thousand-year old ditches and post-holes were buried. The police, we may assume, are similarly skilled at finding hastily dug graves.)
In fact, no evidence was ever found to support the childrens’ allegations, and the children themselves told their parents’ lawyers that they only accused their uncle because their grandmother told them to.
The police then brought in Scott and Brenda Kniffen’s kids; in order to get the accusations they wanted, the children:
were repeatedly and suggestively interrogated. The interviewers would describe a sex act and then ask the child to confirm or deny that it happened. When questioned separately, each was told (falsely) that their brother had disclosed abuse by both the parents and the rest of the sex-ring. Brian and Brandon claim that they were yelled at and terrorized by the interrogators. They were told that they could go home again if they testified about the abuse. …
Brian Kniffen later recanted, and said that he had been told what to say at the trial and had been promised that he could be with his parents again if he cooperated. His brother Brandon has also recanted. They have stated that the abuse never occurred and that they were led and coerced to testify as they did.
Accounts of the case claim that the police were just too ignorant to realize that you can get a small child to confess to just about anything this way. I don’t believe this for an instant, both because these kinds of interrogations were illegal at the time for adults, and because, the memories small children, no matter how honest, are not all that reliable even under good circumstances.
The McCuan’s and Kniffens were convicted and given combined sentences of over 1,000 years in prison.
From here, the number of cases ballooned–eventually 60 children were interrogated, resulting in convictions against 39 people (out of 80 accused) for ritual Satanic abuse and murder, including the sacrifices of 29 infants. All of the cases involved the same social workers, child abuse coordinators, deputy sheriffs and district attorney, Ed Jagels.
Eventually the children also began accusing the social workers, deputy sheriffs, and deputy district attorneys of ritual Satanic abuse, at which point the criminal cases all suddenly, mysteriously stopped.
Actually, the cases probably stopped because Attorney General of California started investigating the DA after the FBI couldn’t find the dead babies Becky and her sister claimed they had seen sacrificed and buried, and the DA was forced to admit that the whole infant sacrifice story was fake.
Eventually–20 years later–pretty much the entire case was overturned due to gross police misconduct. All but one of the people who hadn’t already died in prison or completed their sentences have been released.
(Showing that even a stopped clock can be right twice a day, one of the guys they imprisoned was a previously-convicted child molester, and after being released, he was re-arrested for molesting three children. Had the prosecution not attempted to charge 79 other, probably totally innocent people of ritual Satanic abuse at the same time, he probably would not have been released.)
The District Attorney who prosecuted all of these cases, Ed Jagels, once sent a man to prison for 25 years for stealing <$1 worth of donuts. Despite the courts overturning 25 of his convictions due to gross mishandling of the case and admissions that much of the “evidence” was made up, he remained adamant that the convictions were correct.
For his “hard on crime” and anti-child abuse stances, the people of Kern County re-elected him 6 times, until he retired in 2006.
The assistant DA, Andrew Gindes, died in 2010 after a “long illness.” Brian Kniffen, now grown up, said of Gindes, “He would slam books down, yell when we wouldn’t cooperated. He was demanding and scared us and wouldn’t take no for an answer…I wish I could talk to him now and ask him… why, why did he do that to me?”
Gindes worked in law for 30 years, though I have yet to figure out how much of that was after the trials.
After four of the now-grown children recanted their testimony and told the court that they’d been forced to lie 20 years before, a third prosecutor, Lisa Green, told the judge, “These kids were telling the truth back then and they are not for whatever reason today.”
Lisa Green is still employed as a Kern County District Attorney:
Lisa Green, a native of Buffalo, New York, graduated from Fresno State University in 1980 and attended the University of San Diego Law School, graduating in 1983. … She joined the Kern County District Attorney’s Office as a law clerk in 1983 and became a Deputy District Attorney upon passing the Bar exam in 1983. She has prosecuted over 110 felony trials, the majority of those cases involving homicides and sexual assaults. Mrs. Green was promoted to Supervising Deputy District Attorney in 2001 and in 2009 she was promoted to Chief Deputy District Attorney. In 2010 she was elected District Attorney, the first woman in Kern County to hold that position.
The McMartin Preschool Trial, 1984-1990, was one of the longest and most expensive–$15 million–criminal trials in US history. Prosecuted by Ira Reiner, who also prosecuted actual serial murderer and avowed Satanist Ricardo (Richard) Ramirez.
While we are here, I’m just going to shoe-horn in the case of Adolfo Constanzo, the Florida-born son of a Cuban immigrant who became a Voodoo cult leader after apprenticing under a Miami-based Palo Sorcerer. Palo, from the Congo basin, involves ritual human sacrifice, and Constanzo was no exception. He moved to Mexico and murdered at least 20 people for his magic rituals (the local drug cartels used his “potions” to aid their operations.) Eventually the police caught up with him and he committed suicide.
Note that it is actually really hard to keep ritual murders a secret for very long–sooner or later, the cops find the bodies and you end up on Wikipedia. The idea of a massive, secret, multi-generational conspiracy torturing and murdering children that no one noticed until 1980 is simply absurd.
Highlights of the McMartin case: After a preschooler had trouble pooping, his mom accused daycare workers of sodomy, bestiality, drilling “a child under the arms” and flying through the air. The mom was soon hospitalized for acute, paranoid schizophrenia, and died of chronic alcoholism before the criminal trial actually began.
Pazder and Michelle were flown in to meet with parents Several hundred children were coercively interviewed, resulting in bizarre accusations that they’d been abused by Chuck Norris and “flushed down toilets” to secret rooms under the preschool where the ritual abuse happened.
No one was ever convicted, and all charges were eventually dropped.
One of the prosecutors, Glenn Stevens, nobly left the case when he realized it was all dreamed up by a mentally ill woman. Stevens was forced to resign from the DA’s office when the state attorney general and the Los Angeles city attorney began considering criminal charges against him for pointing out their massive mis-handling of the case.
Thus the wages of honesty.
The guilty parties in this case were “Jane Hoag, the detective who investigated the complaints; Kee MacFarlane, the social worker who interviewed the children; Robert Philibosian, the district attorney; and Wayne Satz, the television reporter who first reported the case, and Lael Rubin, the prosecutor.”
Some more information on them, hopefully correct. Scroll down.
Philibosian is still “at council” at the law firm of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton.
MacFarlane specialized in getting children to pretend they’d been sexually abused in order to convince them that they’d been been raped. According to Wikipedia, she testified before Congress that, “she believed there was an organized, nationwide conspiracy of individuals and “orthodox satanic groups” sexually abusing children, although she never presented evidence of who any of the individuals are nor proof of any orthodox satanic groups.”
As of 2000, Lael Rubin was still working for the LA county DA’s office.
It’s getting late, so To Be Continued…
Hey, readers in their 30s or above, remember the 80s? And the Satanic Daycare Scare?
It all started with a bunch of bad therapy, The Exorcist, and rumors of West African secret societies. (And probably drugs.) It ended with thousands of people being accused of ritually abusing, murdering, and eating children–50,000 a year–as part of a million-member multi-generational secret Satanic cult. Many of the accused went to prison; some are still in prison.
I think most of us would like to pretend that never happened, but it did.
The worst of it is not that gullible housewives of the out-party gobbled up this blather from Geraldo Rivera, Oprah, or evangelical preachers. Ignorant people have always believed ignorant things. The worst of it is that Janet Reno–and many other supposedly intelligent people in positions of actual authority–believed this bullshit, and yet is still allowed to have a job making decisions that affect the lives of other people.
(And we expect people not to fall for bullshit that sounds halfway decent?)
People believed a lot of dubious things in the 70s and 80s. They believed in “pyramid power,” UFOs, and telekinesis. Enough LSD, and you can probably believe all sorts of things.
Unfortunately, they didn’t have the internet or Wikipedia or even Snopes, so it was a lot harder to figure out when someone was putting one over you. If you’re living in Oklahoma in 1980, chances are you’re not exactly sure what’s going on over in California, but you’re pretty sure it has something to do with godless heathens and demons, because for goodness’s sakes, it’s California, they had that Manson guy. And when someone starts repeating rumors about ritually sacrificed chickens in Toronto or human sacrifice cults in Uganda, or actual Satanists* practicing openly in California (again with the California!) then it’s time to freak out because the agents of Satan are clearly on the march.
*While there exists an actual “Church of Satan” founded by Anton LaVey in 1966, none of the members of the CoS were ever charged with ritual Satanic abuse or murder, and according to Wikipedia, they don’t even worship Satan, they just call themselves that to stick up a middle finger to society. But the mere fact that these people existed was enough to send a good number of respectable housewives into pearl-clutching tizzies.
If we want to be especially thorough, the widespread conviction that witches and devils were conspiring together long predates the 1980s; James R. Lewis’s “The Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements” has an excellent chapter (#10) that traces the development of the Christian witchcraft myth through the occultism of the late 1800s, feminist propaganda, the emergence of the Neopagan movement, H. P. Lovecraft, etc. But for the sake of time, we’re starting with the recovered memory movement.
Back in the 70s, when feminists weren’t busy proclaiming that the Christian Patriarchy had murdered millions of Medieval witches in order to stamp out a once-universal Matriarchal religion and therefore all women should abandon Christianity and become Neopagans, (not only is this factually untrue, but I was actually assigned readings on the subject in my totally respectable university course on Feminism 101,) they were promoting the idea that America was a seething hotbed of violence–rape and abuse–directed primarily at women and children.
Of course, unlike Medieval witches, rape and abuse are real, but often difficult to prove sufficiently in a court of law to get a conviction–once two people are behind closed doors, what happened next often becomes a matter of he-said-she-said, and you are not actually supposed to convict based on “story sounded convincing” in the absence of any actual evidence a crime took place.
And for good reason–otherwise, anyone could put their personal enemies or rivals in prison for life simply by make up a story.
The feminists’ response to this was a push for all claims of rape and abuse to be accepted without question. To question even the most outrageous story was treated as an act of violence against already victimized women.
At about the same time, psychiatrists discovered that you can get people to say all manner of crazy things while under hypnosis, and promptly used their new-found powers to convince mentally ill women in their care that they had been victims of ritual Satanic abuse.
You can use hypnosis to convince people that the number “3” does not exist, then watch them attempt to count their fingers–“One, two, four, five, six.” You can convince them that they are warm enough to shed their jackets while sitting in an ice hotel. You can get them to act like a chicken.
The fact that people will do and think absurd things while under hypnosis is why people find it entertaining. (And a little frightening.) That’s also why it’s commonly part of magic shows–but normally, people don’t believe that there are actually a bunch of rabbits in that hat.
That memories are unreliable has been extensively documented by police (and psychiatry) departments, which have to deal with conflicting and changing witness testimony all the time. Yu’ve probably also experienced this if you’ve ever gotten into a fight with your parents or spouse over something you supposedly did several years before.
It is quite easy to change people’s memories under normal conditions. EG:
Studies by Elizabeth Loftus and others have concluded that it is possible to produce false memories of childhood incidents. The experiments involved manipulating subjects into believing that they had some fictitious experience in childhood, such as being lost in a shopping mall at age 6. This involved using a suggestive technique called “familial informant false narrative procedure,” in which the experimenter claims the validity of the false event is supported by a family member of the subject. (source)
So just saying to someone, “Oh yeah, I was talking to your Aunt Susie yesterday, and we were laughing about that time you got lost at the mall when you were six and we found you hiding under a table in the furniture department,” can make them “remember” this.
(Please only use your new-found powers for good.)
To convince someone they were the victim of ritual Satanic abuse:
- Get a patient, preferably suffering some mental illness like schizophrenia or depression, but insomnia or headaches will suffice.
- Put them under hypnosis and suggest that their troubles are due to “repressed” memories of childhood trauma.
- Helpfully suggest various Satanic rituals they may have endured
- Encourage them to imagine a scenario in which they were abused.
- Un-hypnotize them and celebrate having “uncovered” their repressed memory of infant cannibalism.
If you’re really lucky, you can even get the patient to believe they have uncovered alternative personalities that they switch to under hypnosis (much like a stage magician getting a hypnotized volunteer to cluck like a chicken.)
- Call the police and accuse their parents of cannibalism, rape, torture, kidnapping, etc.
- Get taken seriously by the police!
- Make lots of money treating the patient for the trauma incurred by “remembering” being abused and treating their ever-expanding suite of personalities.
- Make even more money consulting with police across the country about Ritual Satanic Abuse, now that you’re an “expert” on the subject.
Yes, this is terribly unethical.
In 1980, a Canadian Psychiatrist named Lawrence Pazder published Michelle Remembers, a “biography” purporting to document the childhood Satanic abuse his patient endured in the 50s:
Interestingly, Pazder lived and worked in Nigeria in the 60s, a part of the world that actually does have legit, child-sacrificing cults. As recently as 2001, the ritually-dismembered, headless torso of “Adam,” a Nigerian child about 5 or 6 years old, was found floating in the Thames. An autopsy revealed, via stomach contents and pollen found in his lungs, that he’d only been in Britain for a few days and had drunk a potion used in West African ritual magic. (There are approximately 180,000 Nigerians living in the UK.)
Nigerian Joyce Osiagede, the only person to be arrested in Britain as part of the inquiry, has claimed that the victim’s real name is Ikpomwosa. In an interview with ITV’s London Tonight, Mrs Osiagede said she looked after the boy in Germany for a year before travelling to Britain without him in 2001. She claimed she handed the boy over to a man known as Bawa who later told her that he was dead and threatened to kill her unless she kept silent. ..
Asked who killed him, she said a ‘group of people’. She added: “They used him for a ritual in the water.” Claiming the boy was six years old, she said: ‘He was a lively boy. A very nice boy, he was also intelligent.’ Detailed analysis of a substance in the boy’s stomach was identified as a ‘black magic’ potion. It included tiny clay pellets containing small particles of pure gold, an indication that Adam was the victim of a Muti ritual killing in which it is believed that the body parts of children are sacred. Bodies are often disposed of in flowing water. (source)
These cases more normally happen in Africa, but then we tend to lack official police investigations, autopsies, and BBC articles, but there’s plenty of documentation if you look:
Members would dress in leopard skins, waylaying travelers with sharp claw-like weapons in the form of leopards’ claws and teeth. The victims’ flesh would be cut from their bodies and distributed to members of the secret society. According to their beliefs, the ritual cannibalism would strengthen both members of the secret society as well as their entire tribe. (source)
According to various sources, ritual killings in Nigeria are performed to obtain human body parts for use in rituals, potions, and charms. The Lagos-based newspaper This Day explains that “ritualists, also known as headhunters, go in search of human parts at the request of herbalists, who require them for sacrifices or for the preparation of various magical potions”. …
According to This Day, ritual murders are “a common practice” in Nigeria. … Similarly, a 2012 Daily Independent article states that “in recent times, the number of brutal murders, mostly for ritual purposes and other circumstances, involving couples and their partners has been on a steady progression.” …
This Day reported that a confidential memo from the Nigerian police to registered security service providers indicated that ritual killings were particularly prevalent in the states of Lagos, Ogun, Kaduna, Abia, Kwara, Abuja, Rivers, and Kogi. … In 2010, one newspaper reported that dead bodies with missing organs were being discovered on a daily basis on a road close to Lagos State University that was described as a “hot spot for ritual killers.” A second newspaper reported in February 2011 that, in the same area, ten people had been killed in suspected ritual murders in the preceding two months. A 2009 article published by Agence France-Presse reported that, according to a state government official, the kidnapping of children for ritual murder was on the rise in Kano.
(I have removed the in-line citations because they make the article unreadable; check the original if you want their sources.)
Native Nigerian religion is basically Voodoo, aka Vodun, aka Santeria and whatever else you want to call it to confuse your audience. These are not “organized” religions, but a widespread set of common beliefs about magic and the supernatural, including, of course, the idea that ritually sacrificed bits of humans or animals have magic powers.
In other words, if you thought Boko Haram was Nigeria’s worst problem, I’m sorry.
Also, if you used to live in Nigeria, you may be forgiven for believing that ritual sacrifice and child murder are happening all over the place (though the fact that Canada doesn’t have a lot of fetish markets where you can buy animal parts for your ritual magic ought to be a tip-off that it’s a lot less common outside of Africa.)
In 1973, Pazder was back in Canada and treating Michelle, who apparently became depressed following a miscarriage. Pazder decided this must actually be a sign of repressed memories of childhood abuse (an idea that comes straight out of Freud, even though Freud himself later repudiated this train of thought and all Freudianism had been discredited and generally abandoned by the psychiatric community by the 70s, due to being psuedo-scientific nonsense.)
Uninterested in the recommended best practices in his industry, psychiatric developments of the previous 50 years, or general ethics, Pazder spent over 600 hours (over 14 months) encouraging Michelle, under hypnosis, to “remember” being ritually abused by her mother, a member of the world-wide, pre-Christian “Church of Satan” based in Victoria, Canada. According to Wikipedia,
The first alleged ritual attended by [Michelle] Smith took place in 1954 when she was five years old, and the final one documented in the book was an 81-day ritual in 1955 that summoned the devil himself and involved the intervention of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Michael the Archangel, who removed the scars received by Smith throughout the year of abuse and removed memories of the events “until the time was right”. During the rites, Smith was allegedly tortured, locked in cages, sexually assaulted, forced to take part in various rituals, witnessed several murders and was rubbed with the blood and body parts of various murdered babies and adults. …
Former neighbors, teachers and friends were interviewed and yearbooks from Smith’s elementary school were reviewed and found no indication of Smith being absent from school or missing for lengthy periods of time, including the alleged 81-day non-stop ceremony. Ultimately the book’s authors were unable to find anyone who knew Smith in the 1950s who could corroborate any of the details in her allegations.
… Among other things, Cuhulain noted that it seemed unlikely that a sophisticated cult that had secretly existed for generations could be outwitted by a five-year-old; that the cult could hold rituals in the Ross Bay Cemetery unnoticed given that Smith claimed she was screaming and given that the Ross Bay Cemetery is surrounded on three sides by residential neighborhoods; that an 81-day non-stop ceremony involving hundreds of participants and a massive round room could have gone on in Victoria unnoticed; and that none of Smith’s tormentors (other than her mother) have ever been identified, especially given that some of them had cut off one of their middle fingers at the Black Mass. He also notes that during the alleged 81-day ritual, Michelle was confirmed to be attending school, with no remarkable absences and no apparent signs that she was being abused. Like other authors, Cuhulain also noted that many of Smith’s recovered memories appear to have reflected elements in popular culture at the time (e.g.: the movie The Exorcist)
In 1979, Michelle and Pazder (both supposedly Catholics) divorced their own spouses (Pazder already had 4 children,) to marry each other. Having romantic (or just sexual) relationships with your patients is a major no-no in psychiatry because it is generally considered super-unethical to take advantage of mentally ill people in your care.
Pazder became so concerned that he went to the Vatican to inform the Pope that he’d uncovered a massive, ancient, organized, Satanic cult operating in secret throughout Canada, the US, and Europe, that incredibly, no one had ever noticed before!
The Catholic Church quietly distanced itself from Pazder.
Despite this, “Michelle Remembers” earned Pazder and Michelle $342,000, plus royalties. Pazder became a kind of celebrity expert on Satanic Ritual Abuse, appearing on TV, taking part in police seminars on ritual abuse, and eventually being consulted in over 1,000 cases of alleged Satanic Abuse. (source)
All of this played into another horrible trend in psychiatry at the time (also involving hypnosis!) Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD).
Back in 1973, just as Michelle was beginning treatment, Sybil: The True Story of a Woman Possessed by 18 Personalities was published. Sybill was originally being treated for anxiety and memory loss, but after copious quantities of drugs and hypnosis (it was the 70s, after all,) she went really crazy and began “manifesting” 18 different personalities, including two men and a French girl (despite Sybil herself having been raised in Minnesota.
Long story short, the book was nonsense and Sybil was merely an unfortunate, mentally unwell woman (possibly due to anemia,) taken advantage of by an unscrupulous psychiatrist and writer, whose book sold over 400,000 copies, launched a small industry of Sybil-related merchandise, and was made into two movies. (Michelle Remembers never got made into a movie because everyone involved would have gotten their pants sued off for libel.) He also, of course, got paid for years of psychotherapy.
Now, you might think that people would be cautious about accepting absurd claims coming from actually diagnosed, mentally-ill people receiving psychiatric treatment, but personal experience suggests that they don’t. Combine this with the feminist claim that you must always believe and support the victim and never question their claims, and you have the ingredients for thousands of destroyed lives.
But that is a story we will have to continue tomorrow.