Friday, April 22, 2022

#AtoZChallenge2022: S is for Satanic Panic

The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories S
The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories: S is for Satanic Panic

This one might get a little meta.  But the Satanic Panic is something that all gamers of a certain age know all about. But if you think this particular corn-filled nugget was left behind in the 1980s then I have some news for you all.

A satanic panic is a form of moral panic that also has an element of a conspiracy theory behind in.

The notion is that there is a worldwide conspiracy of Satanists out there stealing babies and trafficking in children.  

Which of course is insane.

80s Satanic Panic

In the 1980s we went through a period of Satanic Panic that kept bubbling up. There were allegations of ritualistic abuse and that some daycare centers were fronts for sex trafficking and cannibalism.  Some children even came forward to talk about it.  The people that bought into this panic claimed there was a conspiracy of Satanists and it went on even persecute and jail innocent people.

The agreed start of the Satanic Panic scare, was Michelle Remembers, a book about recovered memory of ritualistic abuse. Though I claim it is a backlash of the 70s Occult Revival that has it's ceremonial start with the 1972 Time magazine cover of "The Occult Revival. Satan Returns."  Once both of these publications had hit the public consciousness the Wee Care Nursery School and McMartin preschool incidents and trials began.  Millions of dollars were spent, thousands of hours, and several lives of those accused destroyed.  The very few convictions were voided, but not before some people spent time behind bars.  The testimony of the children interviewed was later looked back on and many errors and outright miscarriages of justice were found.

All in the fear of Satan.

We even felt it in my small town in Central Illinois. Someone "found" a "satanic altar" in a cornfield south of our high school.  People were losing their damn minds.  I thought it was so fascinating that everyone at the school was so freaked out over what I considered nothing. I had been a pretty strong atheist at this point so I did not even remotely think there were any Satanists here, at least not the type that could do the things some of my peers thought.   This was an isolated situation, but not really a conspiracy. 

Here are some links to help you with the right feel of the 80s Satanic Panic.  This is nowhere near as long as it could be. But to put up everything would be pages of links. 


Speaking of people losing their damn minds. You would think that the Satanic Panic would have stopped by the mid-90s.  After all, this is the 21st Century, the 3rd Millenium, we are obviously too smart for this sort of fairy tale nonsense.

Yeah, you know where I am going next.

So back during the 2016 Presidential election when new bars were being set for stupidity every day the latest rumor from QAnon connected a pizzeria, Comet Ping Pong Pizza, to a supposed ring of Satanic pedophiles. Things only got worse, or stupider, from there. 

I don't want to go into the whole Pizzagate saga or even into QAnon. They don't deserve my mental energy and especially no place on my blog.  You can read all about Pizzagate online if you wish. I mean seriously, these idiots claimed there were underground areas in a building with no basement.  Suffice to say this: There are still plenty of people that believe, like Hal Lindsay once proclaimed, Satan is alive and well.  

Are there Satanists? Yes. There is the legally recognized Church of Satan and other Satanic and Luciferian religionists.  There is no worldwide Satanic conspiracy. There is no worldwide anything for Satanists in fact. They rather famously don't see eye to eye on many things after Anton LeVey's death. 

Does child trafficking happen?  Sadly yes it does.  But there is no evidence that there is any connection to Satanists. 

We are not done with Satanic Panics.  Who knows what shape the next one will take.

TIME The Occult Revival


So in the real world, there is no Satan and most Satanists are fairly harmless.  But NIGHT SHIFT is a different story. There are really demons and devils and evil spirits.  But there is no conspiracy here.  Demons, historically in games, are "Chaotic Evil" and they rarely work with each other. Their followers never do. 

I have used demons and trafficking in a game before. It was my "Vacation in Vancouver" campaign. Everyone in the game agreed it was going to be NC17 and very dark. But it is not something I would recommend for most groups but for the most serious and trusting players.  

All of this being said here is what I would do.  The characters catch wind of a possible Satanic Conspiracy.  Being big bad monster hunters they seek to investigate and possibly kick some demonic ass.  Instead, they find not demons and devils, but just garden variety humans being evil little fucks.

Why this? Two reasons. First I like to show that most often the evilest things we encounter are other humans.  Humans have a capacity for evil unmatched.  Secondly, it is a nod to the personal history I and many gamers have with Satanic Panics.  Many of us were on the receiving end of this just for being gamers.   So instead of it being Satanists, it is members of the local community doing this to get rid of the "undesirables" in their community.  If they look like the local PTA or HOA that is a mere coincidence. 

Yes, I know this is also essentially the same plot of the comic and TV series "Runaways" and the rather terrible Dan Ackroyd and Tom Hanks "Dragnet" movie. Though not as bad as Tom Hanks' other starring role in "Mazes & Monsters."

Given the nature of these work in real life, I would these sparingly, maybe only once per RPG title ever. 

The NIGHT SHIFT RPG is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF)


Anne E.G. Nydam said...

My area was (relatively) immune from this stuff, but my husband, who grew up in a rural conservative area, remembers the grown-ups getting in a twist about D&D because it was obviously turning all the kids into Satanists.
R is for Regeneration

Anne M Bray said...

The things people get up to over fear of The Other.

PT Dilloway said...

That's a pretty scary magazine cover. No wonder people panicked.

James Mishler said...

People just need to watch more Scooby Doo...

Dino said...

"The notion is that there is a worldwide conspiracy of Satanists out there stealing babies and trafficking in children." - sounds exactly like what Q-Anon evolved from. LOL!

Today's post: T Is For TKO

J.S. Pailly said...

I was a little kid in the 80's. I remember hearing about some of that satanic nonsense. My parents and teachers were quick to assure me that it wasn't true and I had nothing to worry about.

It's depressing to know now that people actually served jail time as a result of that nonsense.

bookworm said...

I don't remember where I lived at the time (I was in my 30's when the Panic happened) being caught up in it but then again, local news reporting wasn't that great. I believe we will never be done with these types of panics; I think it is somehow hardwired into us humans. Alana