Posts tagged ‘conspiracy’

February 24, 2011

Satan’s Day Care

by djtafoya

I’m just endlessly fascinated by the way pseudoscience, hysteria and fears about the breakdown of society and the loss of innocence periodically come together in a kind of perfect storm of insanity. Anyone remember crack babies? How about the Mad Gasser of Mattoon? Lately I’ve been reading about the Ritual Abuse Panic of the 1980’s and 90’s.

One day in 1983, a three-year-old named Matthew Johnson told his mother that Ray, a worker at the day care he attended, could fly.  He went on to say Ray had thrown another child to lions, that he chopped off a baby’s head and set it on fire, molested a goat, conducted rituals with elephants and witches, taken the children on trains and planes and made Matthew drink blood. Rather than being treated as a fanciful tale or a bizarre or even alarming fantasy, Matthew’s story became testimony at the longest, most expensive trial in California history.

The McMartin Preschool investigation and trial, which lasted from 1983 until 1990, is a fascinating exemplar of a whole class of so-called ‘ritual abuse’ cases of the 1980’s. All over the country, police, prosecutors and child-welfare advocates investigated, charged and convicted dozens of day care and preschool workers, teachers and parents of molesting hundreds of children. The abuse supposedly involved Satanic ceremonies by ‘sex rings,’  and the daily sexual and physical torture of children that went on for months or years, all without parents suspecting that their kids had become the sex slaves of Satan’s minions.

In 1983 the police, acting on the suspicion of a mentally-ill woman named Judy Johnson, panicked the entire town of Manhattan Beach with phone calls and letters suggesting that their kids might have been molested by the McMartins and their relatives and employees. The calls triggered an avalanche of accusations and prosecutions in which children were badgered, coerced, bribed and threatened into making false accusations against their caregivers, teachers and parents. That the ‘testimony’ was largely the sort of ridiculous fantasy characterized by Matthew’s tales of planes, trains, submarines and elephants was rarely an issue for the authorities, who urged doubters to ‘believe the children.’

A 1995 book by Debbie Nathan and Michael Snedeker called Satan’s Silence gives an excellent survey of the panic, its victims and the precursors and likely causes of the episode, which found leftist feminists like Gloria Steinem and Andrea Dworkin in league with reactionary Christians who believed Satan was trying to turn children away from God, citing evidence like the “’Wicca Letters,’ a document whose origin and content were remarkably like the rabidly anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” and which purported a Satanic plot to corrupt America’s preschoolers.

The ritual abuse panic had it all –false memories, rumored suburban sex cults, anatomically-correct dolls, multiple personality disorder, even fraudulent ‘facilitated communication’ that allowed profoundly disabled people to join in the craziness. The parallels to Salem’s witch hunts of the 1600’s are almost too perfect, right down to the search for ‘Satan’s marks’ on the bodies of victims, echoed in the disturbing, scientifically-faulty examination of children’s genitalia for signs of abuse.

The fallout went on for years, with lives and careers ruined and falsely accused people languishing in prison for ten or fifteen years before the authorities finally freed most of them. Janet Reno, who participated in two ritual abuse cases as a Florida prosecutor, went on to order the attack on the Waco, Texas compound of David Koresh because she thought child abuse was going on inside.

I was reminded of all of this the other day after reading about the reconsideration of people sentenced to long prison terms based on medical testimony about ‘shaken baby syndrome,’ which may turn out to be false. I think the impulse to believe deeply in things that are sketchy, unlikely or even demonstrably untrue is deeply ingrained in our psyches, and that impulse comes out most strongly when we feel frightened, marginalized or under siege by forces beyond our control. I’m just an armchair psychologist, but I don’t think you have to look too far to find a lot of examples of people reaching farthest for the most ridiculous explanations when they feel wronged by dark forces.

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February 24, 2011

servile masses, arise, arise!: meet Dennis

by Megan Abbott

Today we bring a post from novelist Dennis Tafoya, the author of two dynamite crime novels, Dope Thief and The Wolves of Fairmount Park.

I first met Dennis at the Mysery Writers of America Edgars Award ceremony, when Dennis was a Best First Novel honoree.

Our paths have crossed many times and every time we find ourselves wending down dark and occasionally (as in: always) wooly paths to our secret obsessions, such as the Zodiac killer, UFOs and George Hodel’s house:

We begin with Dennis’s kind compliance with our blog questionnaire, below.

We are lucky to have him visiting him today for many reasons, including learning about his predilection for peanut butter parfaits—that fact alone earns him a hug.

1. what is your greatest fear?

Sharks, followed by spiders. Just seeing a spidershark would kill me.

2. what is your favorite way of spending time?

Laughing, especially with my kids. They’re hysterical.

3. what is your most treasured possession?

I’m terrible at holding on to stuff. I have a box full of little things my kids gave me over the years with painted rocks and things, so I’ll go with that.

4. when and where were you happiest?

Other than boring suburban dad stuff about my kids, I would say getting off the train in New York to sign my book contract. I felt like I really belonged in the city for the first time.

5. what is your greatest indulgence?

Barbecue from Virgil’s on West 44th. Alternately, the Peanut Buster Parfait, from Dairy Queen.

6. where would you like to live?

I don’t think one place is going to do it for me. I love the city and the desert and the ocean. I think given endless resources I’d go back and forth between New York City, Martha’s Vineyard and Vegas.

7. what is the quality you are most drawn to a person?

It’s some combination of tough-minded smartass and essential kindness. It’s rare, but I just find it irresistible.

8. how would you like to die?

Of really, really old age. I want to live long enough that people are shot up with medico-nano-bots that keep us young and healthy forever. I want to live long enough to find out how everything turns out.

9. what is your secret superstition?

When I’m on a plane, I have to watch out the window as we land and take off. My watching ensures that everything will go well.

10. what was the best dream and worst nightmare you ever had?

I have terrible nightmares. I don’t think I’ve ever had a pleasant dream, though I’ve had boring ones, mostly about work. I think my worst nightmare was somebody with a huge, misshapen head looming over my bed. I put that one in my first novel, I think to exorcise it.

11. what song do you most hear in your head?

It’s a toss-up between the “Internationale” and the theme from the Woody Woodpecker show.

12. what do you read/watch/listen to when you are feeling badly?

Books: I’ve re-read The End of Vandalism, by Tom Drury, a bunch of times. It’s a great book, and for some reason it’s become like literary comfort food for me. There are some E.L. Doctorow and Annie Proulx books like that, too. Music: “Wolves,” by Phosphorescent, “NYC” by Interpol, “No Cars Go” by Arcade Fire. Movie: The Pianist, I think because it makes my problems seem pretty tame.

13. what do you consider to be the greatest elixir/restorative?

A hug.

14. what’s something you never told anyone?

Man, do I like hugs.

Follow Dennis on his blog, or on Twitter.

December 27, 2010

Down the Checkered Rabbit Hole

by Sara Gran

Oh, the rabbit hole of the Pseudo-Occult Media Blog. This blog is a bit of a hub for a belief that used to be on the fringes but , via the magic of the internet, seems to be gaining fans: that many of our pop stars–Brittany, Miley, Lindsey, et al–are mind controlled sex slaves owned by the Illuminati (who are also running our government, other governments, and the whole world). Which, interestingly, we can trace back to a true story:

Step 1: This all started with a horrifying kernel of truth: via Project Bluebird, Mk-Ultra, and other now-famous programs, our army and CIA did indeed work it’s best to create mind-controlled soldiers from the end of World War II through the seventies. Given the billions of dollars poured into black ops every year in this country, I’m fairly confident they’re still trying. (Have they succeeded? Well, since we have mixed evidence either way, you’ll have to decide for yourself, but that’s a digression).

Step 2: In the 1970s, a former model named Candy Jones wrote an autobiography called The Control Of Candy Jones, claiming that she, a civilian who had occasionally delivered packages for the CIA,  was also a victim of Mk Ultra. (This still seems entirely possibly to me, by the way, but I’m digressing again.) After Candy Jones, mind control victims started coming out of the woodwork. See The Encyclopedia of Mind Control by Jim Keith from the excellent Adventures Unlimited Press for more.

Step 3: Skip ahead a few years to the early eighties, and the recovered-memory hullabaloo. A lot of people were remembering and going public with  true stories of childhood abuse; a lot of people were also coming up with Satanic ritual abuse stories on a scale that couldn’t possibly be true, fueled by unscrupulous shrinks, media hype and, quite likely, real, less dramatic, abuse. Less well-known is that this linked into the recovered-CIA-slave-memory stream, and soon we had lots of people, mostly women, remembering childhoods as CIA programmed sex slaves. This is where I start to lose faith, not because I put this past our government–I put nothing past the government–but because it seems like a whole lot of work to go through when, for better or worse, there’s plenty of decent-looking people out there who will have sex for free or for cash or a clean DUI record. Creating mind-controlled slaves sounds like a lot of work!

Step 4: And then we get to the strangely hypnotic Pseudo-Occult Media. According to current theory, there are certain “triggers” the sex slaves (and other victims!) of the Illuminati are trained to respond to: images of butterflies, cages, fairies, black/white checkerboard, dolls, keys, and most of all eyes, everywhere eyes looking, staring, probing. And why this blog is fascinating to me is because the author is absolutely right–these and other “Illuminati” symbols are everywhere in pop culture, especially in reference to the Mileys and Brittanys of the world, and I never noticed it before he pointed it out. Spend an hour or so on Pseudo-Occult and you, like I, will be haunted by the recurring images of girls with butterflies, girls in cages, girls wrapped in bird feathers, and most of the recurring, ominous checkerboards.

There’s no question the author is on to something here. I happen to think what he’s on to is a previously unrecognized strain of psychological breakdown in our culture. Something about these images of hope, the repeated symbolic capture of these girls–it’s spooky stuff. The sadness of the child star is also evoked here: these young women are, in a very sad sense, “slaves.” Was Brittany ever given a choice in being Brittany? Would Lindsey, maybe, rather study the classics if she didn’t have an army of people counting on her for paychecks? Lord knows I liked to party when I was their age, but I didn’t have an empire to support.

Like many conspiracy theories, I think something very real is being looked at here. Myself, though, I would draw a somewhat different conclusion. And as for you–well, look at the evidence read the books, and decide for yourself. Remember, you’re still allowed to believe whatever you want, and you don’t have to justify it to me or anyone else.

October 30, 2010

I could tell you, but then you would have to be destroyed by me

by Sara Gran

One of my favorite books of the past year has been Trevor Paglen’s I COULD TELL YOU, BUT THEN YOU WOULD HAVE TO BE DESTROYED BY ME. This a collection of patches collected from military branches of various capacities. What they have in common is that they are all classified groups, with little or no official recognition. These are the people who work at Area 51, Groom Lake, Antelope Valley, and other liminal spots on the map. Of course, like all people, they have an urge towards self/group-identification, and so they do what other groups within the military do–come up with funny names and make patches. Each patch is a window into the strange twilight world of black ops and military conspiracy, and each one is a little mystery waiting to be solved–a perfect little microcosm of that sense of almost-truth that makes conspiracy theories so dangerously addictive.

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