Let’s start with a joke. A guy goes into a therapist’s office and says, “Doc, I think I might have a problem.” The therapist says, “Okay, have a seat. I’m going to show you some ink blot pictures. You tell me what you think you see.” The guy sits down and the doctor shows him the first ink blot. “Okay, what do you see?” The man gets a little red in the face. “Well Doc, it looks like a man and woman having sex.” The doctor nods. “And what about this picture?” The man gets even more uncomfortable. “Well, I think that’s a man having sex with a blow up doll.” The therapist raises his eyebrow, looks at the shapeless ink blot but continues on. “And what about this one?” The man, noticeably uncomfortable shifts in his seat, “Damn Doc, that’s a picture of a man in a gimp suit making love to a woman in a clown costume.” The therapist puts down the stack of ink blots and clears his throat, “Okay, I think the problem is, you are obsessed with sex.” The man gets angry and stands up. “Obsessed with sex? You’re the one drawing all the dirty pictures!”
The Salem Witch Trials conjure up images of primitive minds terribly afraid of non-sensical superstition. People often look back at that moment in history with dismissive head shakes; lamenting the folly of an unenlightened and archaic society escaping persecution only to embrace it in a utopia of their own creation. On it’s face, they wouldn’t be wrong in assuming that. However, as with most things in life, the story is not that simple.
In the last blog, we discussed those who carried out various witch hunt type scenarios in American history. Senator Joseph McCarthy led the red scare and a number of law enforcement officials bought into the satanic panic. What we didn’t discuss, were the motives.
McCarthy was an unremarkable freshman senator. He was desperate to make a name for himself. His invention of a perilous communist threat within the government at the time was nothing more than a shameless attempt to build his reputation. With little more that his word to go on, hundreds of lives were deeply affected by McCarthy’s modern day witch hunt.
The Satanic panic had a more nebulous founding. While much can be said about “Michelle Remember”, the most well known book about so-called “Satanic Ritual Abuse”, you can’t really point to any single asshole and say, “that guy started it”. There were a number of factors that brought about the nonsensical obsession with satanic crime. Conservative Christian values pushed by TV personalities such as Billy Graham, Jimmy Swaggert, Jim Bakker, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson had ensnared Americans into believing there was a threat from the devil. Meanwhile, charlatans and buffoons with made up degrees from mail order universities did their level best to become experts in a phenomenon that didn’t actually exist. Finally, ignorance of Heavy Metal music and The Church of Satan provided smoke to the invented fire. These and other factors led to high profile cases like the McMartin trial and the wrongful convictions of Jesse Misskelly, Jason Baldwin, and Damian Eckles, known collectively as the West Memphis Three, in addition to many more less publicized errors in justice.
Similarly, there were ulterior motives in the Salem Witch Trials. We will discuss some of these motives in the episode. What I want to end this blog on, is the undiscussed victims of these three horrible periods in American history. When all was said and done, a line was drawn between the known victims and the obvious perpetrators. What is less often acknowledged are the average people who were duped into believing that there were real witches, real communists, and real devil worshippers. While the first two threats are, at this point, largely laughed off as the mistakes of history, the final moment, the Satanic Panic, is still alive and well in America. People are still convinced that satanism is a dangerous threat to mankind. YouTube is packed full of videos where breathless fearmongers engage in one-sided warfare against a threat that simply doesn’t exist. They blame the Illuminati, The Globalists, Marylin Manson, and one woman even believes that Monster Energy Drink is a dog whistle to Luciferians everywhere. It’s important that we don’t feed into this lunacy. Ultimately we need to realize that they’re no different from the sex obsessed man from the joke, and we’re the ones “drawing all the dirty pictures”.