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Tunnels

December 7, 2016 Leave a comment

I know I promised to shed off the heavy political commentary last week. I’m following through on that with this week’s post but it does mention Hillary Clinton but it’s not a political post.

Again, I point out that I teach a conspiracy theory and skepticism course. Over the weekend, I’m sure that you may have noticed a gunman was arrested (not shot, he was apparently the right religion) in a DC area pizza place. Normally this would probably have made the news and then have quickly been forgotten. However the accused gunman, had an interesting motive: he was searching for secret tunnels wherein Hillary Clinton and John Podesta were allegedly keeping a stock of child sex slaves that they would abuse, rent out, and then ritually murder. This was seriously the motivation.

Now this kind of accusation is as baseless as it is familiar to me. I remember this from the “news” in the 80s and 90s in what we now refer to as “the Satanic Panic.” The allegations were made against daycares most famously and resulted in long trials (the LA McMartin trial was the longest and most expensive in California’s and the US’s history) that resulted in some convictions based on discredited science, spurious evidence, and “experts” whose information was informed from what their particular brand of paranoid Christianity told them.

The reports of this latest addition to the controversy neglect linking this completely made up and fictional accusation to Satanism, but all of the ingredients are there. Child sex abuse, an expansive ring, powerful politicians, symbolism, and most of all tunnels. It’s always tunnels.

The skeptic in me immediately rolls his eyes at this. It’s such an old accusation. Christians were accused of doing this during the Roman Empire. When they took over they accused the Jews of needing Christian baby blood for their unleavened bread (for what? Who the hell knows maybe blood is a good bread softener or something). The witch panic of Europe brought this out again, and then in the 80s it was the Satanists. The worldwide totally secret underground Satanic child murderer rapists that no one could ever establish existed. The only testimony came from people under hypnosis and from evangelical Christians who were “saved” from the life of Satanic ritual abuse. The main book on the subject “Michelle Remembers” formed the template by which all other ritual murder accusations would follow and that book is discounted as a work of fiction.

The symbolism in this case is not just lazy, it’s lazy for a conspiracy theory. It’s one thing to claim that the Free Masons control the government because the Eye of Providence is on the one dollar bill and not know that the Eye is an Illuminati symbol. It’s wholly another to just claim that spiral shapes which are obvious images of pizza are a call out to other pedophiles. I’ve looked through pages and pages of these “clues” and find them to be only interesting for the fact that I’m going to be covering them next semester. According to a document purported to have been found in the FBI database by WikiLeaks, there are symbols that pedophiles use to identify one another. Here’s the problem with this document, the first is that it only appears on WikiLeaks and sources referencing it. Secondly, the bottom half of the document shows jewelry with the same triangular spiral on it, but it looks like it is lifted directly from an Etsy page. Thirdly, this symbol does not even appear on Comet Pizza’s shop. It’s from a nearby pizza place. Never let the facts get in the way of a story though, as people began to think that this was proof the conspiracy was real.

Then there’s the tunnels. Again, it’s always secret tunnels where the abuse takes place. The tunnels make sense in one way because the abuse has to take place somewhere and it’s not like they can do it on the restaurant floor. On the other hand, it’s ridiculous because a tunnel is hard to hide. Sure, if you are standing on the street you can’t see the tunnel, but it has to exist somewhere. A tunnel is, by definition, through something. It’s the material that it’s in that can’t be moved. The McMartin trial was a pretty clear case of this, people swore that the tunnels existed underneath the daycare center. No investigation of the facility ever found them, sonar surveys couldn’t locate them, and even partial excavation of the ground couldn’t find them. Just as our gunman on Sunday could neither locate the secret rooms he could not locate the secret tunnels. Is this just a fear of the underground? Or is it merely that evil stuff has to take place underground because of superstition reasons? Honestly, I don’t know.

However this entire affair points not only to people’s apparent need to believe the worst in those they hate but also that it feeds into the story that a certain branch of Christianity needs to be true: that of secret Satanism which seeks to oppress and murder Christians. I don’t go through my day secretly hoping to fight against a worldwide and perfectly concealed conspiracy. Especially not one that I think targets my children. However this is rational thinking which has no place here. Instead of reacting emotionally to a story we ought to be subjecting those initial impulses to the strictest of objective scrutiny. While I doubt that I would ever find a believer who would admit to “wanting” this story to be true, I would no doubt find them agreeing that it “must be true” because it fits into this worldview that they want to be a part of. Reasoned arguments aren’t going to convince them otherwise, if it did, these beliefs wouldn’t exist in the first place.

 

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Atheist Perspective: Rememberance of a Moral Panic

February 17, 2015 Leave a comment

I was originally thinking that I should put this entry into my “Road to Atheism” series but I don’t think it really belongs there.

This is a distant memory, so my details are bit fuzzy. I’ve talked about Confirmation before. I mentioned that in addition to my five days a week religion classes at my Catholic High School, my service as an altar boy (no girls allowed back then), I was forced to go to a Sunday night religion class in order to prepare me into accepting a faith as an adult that, by this time, I knew backward and forward. Sure the finer points of theological discourse were never taught to us: instead we were just given the same run down of the exact same stuff I learned in my religion classes from when I was in elementary school. The major difference is that in these classes they tried to subtly push the Holy Orders sacrament. Maybe they get extra points if they turn out a priest or nun but no one I knew was going to bite on that hook.

Most of it was boring. One session they had us meet in the school’s auditorium for a special session on—-SATAN! No, seriously, they had us meet so that some members of the local Police, a church official, and some other person that I can’t quite recall could talk to us about devil worship, animal sacrifice, and related activities. I want to be absolutely clear here: there has never been a report in my small suburb of Satanic activity. There will never be a point in that town where an organized underground Satanic group will be operating. How do I know this? Because such groups don’t actually exist.

I should also be really clear about another interesting facet of the talk: it took place in 1996. If the talk had taken place in 1986, that would be different…sort of. It would still be utterly unnecessary, but at least in the 80’s the great moral panic of organized Satanism was popular. In the 90s it was dead, by 1995 the furor was spent as “Michelle Remembers” was thoroughly debunked and the pre-school trial in California had ended with no convictions. The idea of a vast underground conspiracy was ludicrous, the idea that a bunch of people were patrolling our towns looking to indoctrinate teenagers into Satanism through the promise of drugs and sex was absurd. Yet here we were, listening to some “expert” on Satanism talk about signs to watch out for.

They gave us a handout with all kinds of symbols so that we knew to avoid such areas. The funny thing was that without this handout I would never know what they were. Some were familiar but others were weird. One symbol was the double s that the band, Kiss, uses as their font. Somehow it’s related to Satanism as well as the Nazi SS in that it sort of looks like their symbol too. The rest of the sheet was the typical pentagram, goat head, upside down cross (although that’s actually a Christian symbol for St. Peter), etc. It was very very stupid.

First, if I was the type of person to dabble in Satanism, and it really existed like they said it did; they basically told me how exactly to join by letting us know what to look for. Apparently, I could just walk through the woods or a park at night and look for these symbols then just wait for someone to come along to sign me up. Secondly, since it didn’t exist it was just a waste of time.

I remember the police officer the most, because she seemed to think along the same lines as I did: that it wasn’t happening. She told us a story of how someone found a pile of dead animals on the side of the road and called the police to report on animal sacrifice (because say what you want about Satanists, but they clean up their sacrificial stone altars when they are done). It turned out that the highway department had just been dumping road kills at the side of the road for one reason or another. She went on to tell us that drug use was the big problem, but if we saw Satanists we should probably tell someone. This was odd, because as far as I knew it wasn’t illegal to be a Satanist. Sure they might be weird and all, but as long as they aren’t harming anyone there’s nothing that can be done. I brought the handout home, told my parents what I had learned and then the handout made into the garbage.

That was it. Our class on evil, and it was so stupid, so absurd, it was basically parody. Satanism as they portrayed (and still do) it was nothing more than fear mongering. Real Satanists, the ones I have met, were silly people that would eventually just grow out of it. Most of the time the “religion” is just a form of rebellion that compels people to listen to shitty music like Marilyn Manson while buying a lot of pewter rings from Hot Topic. They don’t go to a church because that would mean recanting their rebellion from authority. The other ones, aren’t even religious, they just like to stoke the fires of the fundamentalists and exploit the legal loopholes that those same evangelicals created so they can put up their religious displays on public property. The whole thing was a farce, but the more religious you get the more you need some enemy to be working against you. In the case of Christians it’s Satan, but we know how that story is supposed to end if its real, he loses. He can’t stalk the land looking for followers because he’s in prison.

It’s a need for oppression that they wanted to sow in us for a reason I’ll never understand. Given that they don’t have a true enemy they have to make one up and give it powers that it could never have. The fact that this class happened makes me wonder what the real fear was going to be. I guess I know that now, it’s unbelief.