PrintE-mail Written by Jon Towlson

Back in the 80s, soon after Ronnie Reagan became president, Christian fundamentalist types in America started to look around at the ungodly Heavy Metal music, D&D games, VHS horror movies, pulp paperbacks and even children’s Saturday morning cartoons, and saw in them the work of the Devil. Pretty soon the media began to spread the word that evil was being fed into the hearts and minds (and souls) of America’s youth. A ‘Satanic Panic’ of extraordinary magnitude seized hold, first in the USA, then in England and other countries. Pop culture of all types was blamed for the evils of society, fingers were pointed, and lives were ruined as a widespread hysteria took hold.

Co-edited by Kier-La Janisse and Paul Corupe, Satanic Panic is a collection of twenty essays by writers on pop culture that tells how the media in all its forms fed into the furor. Alexandra Heller-Nicholas remembers Michelle Remembers, the lurid memoir of Satanic Ritual Abuse that kick-started the whole panic on its publication in 1980. Honorary Church of Satan member (and respected author of numerous books on the history of occultism) Gavin Baddely investigates the crusade against Role Play Games by various religious lobbies; Alison Lang provides an account of the Geraldo Rivera Devil Worship TV special that fanned the flames of the whole damned thing in America in 1988; Stacy Rusnak surveys the demonisation of MTV and the music video; Samm Deighan essays Heavy Metal and Devil worship in 1980s cult cinema, while David Bertrand examines the antidotal rise of Christian metal and punk (does anyone actually remember Stryper?); Kevin L. Ferguson looks at how films like Evilspeak (1981) and 976-EVIL (1988) contributed to the home video panic. David Flint, meanwhile, investigates the strange case of occultist and ex-Throbbing Gristle front man, Genesis P. Orridge, falsely accused of child abuse in 1992. Finally, Kurt Halford eases us out of the brouhaha with a look at Joe Dante’s 1989 satirical comedy The ‘Burbs. Considerations of space prevent further writers from being mentioned here, but all offer informative, insightful pieces.

By the end of the 1990s when Satanic Panic had died down and sociologists had reached the conclusion that Satanic Ritual Abuse had little or no factual basis, uncomfortable truths nevertheless began to emerge. In their eagerness to find a satanic cult connection, social workers often missed real cases of child abuse and pedophile rings, as events of recent years have made depressingly clear. Superstition and prejudice can blind the public to genuine social evils, as this fascinating book reveals, when really the only devils at work are folk ones.



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