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Satan and Sex Manias - Moral Panics and the Mob Mind ~Part Two PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Tuesday, 23 January 2007 17:15
Satan and Sex Manias  - Moral Panics and the Mob Mind  ~Part Two

~ Read Part One here

Lila Rajiva ~ In his research on the witch hunt, historian Norman Cohn thinks he sees a single persistent theme of paranoia centering around the idea of the infiltration and destruction of a larger group by a small, well-organized, and clandestine sub-group given to diabolical practices.16 He is not the only one. Elaine Pagels, a professor of religion at Princeton University, reaches a similar conclusion in The Origin of Satan.17 She examines how the earliest Christians made their opponents out to be the devil. First the Jews demonized Christ; then, the Romans persecuted his followers; finally, it was the turn of Christians to harass those who disagreed with them?by accusing them of being in league with Satan.

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Satan and Sex Manias  - Moral Panics and the Mob Mind  ~Part Two

~ Read Part One here

Lila Rajiva

Satan in America


In his research on the witch hunt, historian Norman Cohn thinks he sees a single persistent theme of paranoia centering around the idea of the infiltration and destruction of a larger group by a small, well-organized, and clandestine sub-group given to diabolical practices.16 He is not the only one. Elaine Pagels, a professor of religion at Princeton University, reaches a similar conclusion in The Origin of Satan.17 She examines how the earliest Christians made their opponents out to be the devil. First the Jews demonized Christ; then, the Romans persecuted his followers; finally, it was the turn of Christians to harass those who disagreed with them?by accusing them of being in league with Satan.

Pagels finds this an enduring pattern in Western culture, ?especially,? she says, ?when we are thinking politically and socially.?

Looked at this way, the myth of the diabolical conspiracy appears first during the second century, where it is directed against the early Christians. Next, it shows up again in the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany. And then, with a leap and a bound, it comes calling in the satanic child abuse cases in America in the 1980s and 1990s. 

With a difference. The child abuse panic had two elements, not just one. Fear of child abuse and fear of Satanism. For that reason, it was doubly poisonous.

And doubly useful. Mass panics are, after all, useful to society. Finding an out-group to hate seems to be one way in which groups solidify the bonds between their members. Getting every one inside to point and cackle at the odd fellows outside seems guaranteed to make them feel superior. The more they feel one up on the loathsome outsider, the more they confirm their own standing in the group.  It almost seems as if aggression against other people might be a survival strategy as deeply coded into our genes as the desire to reproduce with the fittest specimens we can attract or as the urge to protect our offspring. 

If so, a realist might ask with a shrug, why bother? If war and persecution are part of our genes, the human race will just have to get used to it. After all, we?ve been around for thousands of years and haven?t wiped ourselves out yet. Perhaps periodic bouts of carnage are a way of keeping our numbers down, expelling our aggressive instincts and forging closer ties with our own cultural groups. May the best man win.  

?War is the health of the state,? wrote Clausewitz. Maybe it is even more than that. Maybe it is the health of humanity. Maybe a periodic blood-letting is as needed by the body politic as it was once believed necessary to keep the human body healthy.  

We have no way to say if that is really the case or not. But it does occur to us to ask why - if aggression is hard-wired in our brains - we have managed to go long stretches without it? If war is so inevitably a part of human nature, you would expect to find every epoch equally drenched in blood. But that doesn?t seem to be the case.

In the nineteenth century there was a long bout of peace in Europe after the defeat of Napoleon in 1815.  In 265 BC, during the classical period of India, the emperor Ashoka, became appalled by his slaughter of over a 100,000 people at the battle of Kalinga, laid down his sword and never took it up again. Except for two wars in the seventeenth century, the Edo Period (1603 - 1867 AD) in Japan, under the Tokugawa Shogunate, was a remarkable age of peace, prosperity and scientific and technical achievement. And witches, for instance, seem to have been coexisting with Christians during the Middle Ages, if not lovingly, at least with less blood shed than during the Great Burning. And after those two hundred years of persecutions, witches once again went back to coexisting with society in relative peace.

That tells us something. Even if our genes do flex their muscles automatically, like Popeye on spinach, it seems to take a lot more than just genetic predisposition to bring about actual carnage in the world. What undid the witches seems to have been not genes but a combination of things. First, there seems to have been a series of stressful events in the environment -- the Black Plague, the break up of Christendom into Catholics and Protestants and the wars that followed. Then, there was the presence of outsiders  -- unmarried elderly women ? who did not fit into the community; finally and most importantly, it took a set of idea -- bad ideas --  percolating down from the intellectuals to the masses and infecting them. Once it got going, the panic was also exponentially increased by the invention, earlier in the Renaissance, of printing.

Printing was what made possible the one single event that pulled it all together and forced the panic to move along faster. And that was the publication of The Malleus Maleficorum. There, in one book, you got everything ? the figure of the envious footloose crone, an orgy of sex hatred and perversion that threatened to devour not simply the family unit, but pater familias? private parts, and the diabolism that was  then fashionable among the intelligentsia. Not surprisingly, when a match was put to that tinderbox, Europe exploded. 

The match came in the shape of the devil. The image of the devil preying on innocent children was enough to start an avalanche of revulsion and hatred in the mob.

In the witch-hunts, the devil was the trigger, as animal behaviorists would say.

Turkey Stew

Ethology provides plenty of cases of how such triggers work. Take the mother turkey and its natural enemy the pole cat.  When a mother turkey sees a pole cat, it automatically starts squawking, pecking, and clawing in anger. Even a stuffed pole cat elicits the same rage from the turkey. However, what animal behaviorist M. W. Fox found was that if you put a tiny tape-recorder inside the faux cat and let it play the cheep-cheep sound characteristic of baby turkeys, mama turkey not only welcomes the pole cat but even gathers it underneath her. Turning off the tape recorder, on the other hand, sends her back into a frenzy of rage.18

The mother turkey is exhibiting what animal behaviorists call a ?fixed-action? pattern?a sequence of intricate behaviors of the type involved in a mating ritual, for instance. Fixed-action patterns always run the same way and in the same order, as though they have been pre-programmed into the animal?s behavior.  What is especially interesting, for our purposes, is that they are triggered by specific parts or attributes of the enemy, not by the enemy as a whole. For instance, a male robin?s territorial instincts are provoked by nothing more than the clump of red breast feathers belonging to its rival. Sans red fluff, another male robin can sail through without a challenge. But the threatened male will pounce on red feathers even if they are just lying around on the ground or even if they are attached to another species of bird. The red fluff ? not the bird ? is the trigger.19

As homo sapiens, we smugly believe that we are above such robotic behavior. When men goes off their collective rocker or act in a frenzy, we assume they have more complicated reasons, profounder causes?they must, we imagine, be suffering from some deep-seated maladjustment. Generations of scholars charge off to the archives to look for structural defects in society, for failures in the economy, or even in weather conditions. They are sure that some kind of tectonic shift underground must have produced World War I?that it was a change in ocean currents that set off the industrial revolution?..a virus threat that lurked behind the rise of the Pharaohs.  None of them, it seems, look to so simple a mechanism as an automatic animal response.

And fewer of them consider what sorts of ideas or events or figures might trigger such automatic responses.

Old McMartin Had a Creche

The Devil seems to be one of them.

As a trigger, he shows up several times in history.

Even quite recently in the U.S.

The McMartin Satanic child abuse trials, which cost taxpayers more than $13 million, were the most expensive trials in U.S. history, far ahead of the O.J. Simpson trial, at $8 million. The preliminary hearing took 18 months; the whole case took 7 years, 6 judges, 17 attorneys and hundreds of witnesses, including 9 of the 11 children alleged to have been molested. One of the defendants was retried after the first jury deadlocked, but the second jury also deadlocked and a mistrial was declared. Hundreds of Manhattan Beach children grew up thinking they were once abused grotesquely. The 7 adults charged  - some elderly women - were bankrupted and turned into social pariahs. McMartin preschool itself was closed and razed and the other 8 schools involved were closed down forever. The pastor of the St. Cross church was the victim of harassment and death threats. "He had to close his church and move to another part of the country."  Copy cat trials erupted all across North America. 20

What provoked the hue and cry was a police complaint on August 12, 1983 by a woman called Judy Johnson. She claimed her son had been molested by Ray Buckey of the McMartin preschool. Ms. Johnson, it turns out, had also accused her ex-husband of child abuse and her claims against the McMartins were ? on their face at least ? delusory.  She charged that people had flown through windows, killed lions, and had sexual encounters with giraffes. Buckey, she alleged, had beaten a giraffe to death with a baseball bat.  This was a woman, mind you, who had been diagnosed with acute paranoid schizophrenia by the University of California Irvine Medical Center at the time she first made her allegation that "Satanic sex rituals" had been practiced on her child.

You?d think the poor creature would have been hauled off to the nearest psychiatric clinic or at least given a stiff dose of haldol. Instead, 97% of adults polled about the case, who had an opinion on it, believed that Buckey was guilty, while 93% believed that Peggy McMartin ? then a grandmother - was a satanic child molester.

A year later, 208 counts of child abuse involving about 40 children were handed down against 7 adults: the McMartins, Ray Buckey, and 4 school teachers.

Thus began a modern public spectacle.

It took more than two decades before it wound down. That was in 2005, when the Los Angeles Times finally got around to publishing the first retraction from one of the student victims.  Kyle Zirpolo (then known as Kyle Sapp) confessed that he had made up his accusations at the age of eight because of pressure from his family and the social workers who interviewed him:

"Anytime I would give them an answer that they didn't like, they would ask again and encourage me to give them the answer they were looking for. It was really obvious what they wanted. I know the types of language they used on me: things like I was smart, or I could help the other kids who were scared."

Kyle also revealed where the nasty details of the ?crimes? came from:

"I think I got the satanic details by picturing our church. We went to American Martyrs, which was a huge Catholic church. Every Sunday we had to go, and Mass would last an hour, hour and a half. None of us wanted to go: it was kicking and screaming all the way there. Sitting, standing, sitting, standing. What I would do was picture the altar, pews and stained-glass windows, and if [investigators] said, 'Describe an altar,' I would describe the one in our church. Or instead of, 'There was a priest in a green suit'?someone who was real?I would say, 'A man dressed in red as a cult member.' From going to church you know that God is good, and the devil is bad and has horns and is about evil and red and blood. I'd just throw a twist in there with Satan and devil-worshipping."21

We understand why a rambunctious eight year old with a precocious imagination might be so fascinated with Satan that he mixes him up with the fellow on the corner. But how do you account for the way adults all over the land gobbled up the story?

Could it be that, just as with the witchcraft hysteria, there was already a set of stressful events in place that made people more vulnerable to a moral panic?

The seventies had been a particularly difficult time for Americans. There was an oil crisis and stagflation on the economic front. New social movements in feminism and environmentalism were threatening traditional attitudes. The numbers of immigrants were increasing. And in politics, there was escalating conflict in the Cold War, the growth of the black power movement, and the rise of third world nationalism, especially in the Middle East. The country was in need of a bogeyman on which it could pin all its anxieties

Along came the McMartin story. It was just the first of what police were soon calling Multi-Victim Multi-Offender (MVMO) child abuse cases in North America.  In essence, these were cases where accusations were sprayed around as wildly as paint on a Jackson Pollock canvas. In both instances, the result was a mess. Other cases followed  - in Bakersfield and Kern County, where two couples were given centuries-long jail sentences.  Only after they had spent 14 years in prison in isolation from each other were their conviction overturned .

Alexander Cockburn, writing in The Nation, gives a brief survey of the national hysteria:

?Children in more than a hundred cities, from Fort Bragg, California, to Grenada, Mississippi, came forward. In June 1984 children in Sacramento told of witnessing orgies, cannibalism and snuff films. Two months later in Miami children reported being made to drink urine and eat feces. In Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in March 1985 two children said adults had forced them into having oral sex with a goat and eating a dismembered deer's raw heart. In November 1985 in Maplewood, New Jersey, a 24-year-old woman was indicted on 235 counts of "repulsively bizzare acts" alleged by infants, such as assaulting children with tampons, playing the piano naked and licking peanut butter and jelly off their bodies. In April 1986 children in a preschool in Sequim, Washington, charged they had been taken to graveyards and forced to witness animal sacrifice. In Chicago children said they had been made to eat a boiled baby.?22

The madness that began with Bakersfield and Manhattan Beach in 1983 ended in??.. with the Wenatchee, WA case in 1994-95.

?43 adults were falsely arrested on 29,726 fabricated charges of child sex abuse involving 60 children. Parents, Sunday school teachers and a local pastor were indicted and many were convicted of raping their own children and the children of other members of a sex-ring. Innocent people went to prison, and their children were sold into foster care."23

History of a Hysteria

What on earth had gone haywire in America? What allergen could have set off such a rash of insanity? Was there something, some narrative, that had evoked deep-rooted archetypes in 20th century minds much in the way that the The Malleus had stirred up the nightmares of 16th century minds?

Evidently so.  It seems that in 1980, just three years before Judy Johnson made her zoological accusations, a Canadian psychiatrist, Lawrence Pazder, published the book Michelle Remembers. In it, he and his wife, Michelle Smith charged that she had been abused by Satanists when she was a child. There were the usual sordid experiences, but in this case, the victim had been so traumatized that she had repressed her memory of it until she had had sessions with Pazder's "therapy."

Pazder was called in as an expert in the McMartin case and the story at once got the public?s attention. Here was the trigger that the public needed.  A pretty twenty year old, who was a victim of horrors too horrible to tell; a therapist-cum-lover who wakes her up from her trauma and heals her. There was a princess. Finding the dragon wasn?t too hard. Before Michelle Remembers, there had never been a Satanic child abuse case in America at all. After it, there were to be two decades of nothing but. The entire sordid hysteria was set off by nothing more than a colorful yarn from the modern equivalent of the magic flying carpet ? the therapist?s couch.

And, Michelle Smith?s story soon began to fray like a cheap rug too.  In 1990, London's Mail on Sunday newspaper exposed the book as a fraud. There was an extensive investigation, including interviews with her father, an alcoholic who had abandoned his family. The reporters found that it was only after a miscarriage in 1976 that Smith had begun the psychiatric treatment during which she first recalled her abuse. And it also found that her descriptions of what went on, including visits from no less than Satan himself, were nothing like actual satanic rituals, at least, according to the experts.

By then of course, the book had already done its damage, spawning a whole cottage industry of yammering abuse advocates, recovered memory mavens, and victims advocates. Other books had joined it on the talk circuits, notably one by Lauren Stratford. Statford?s opus, ?Satan?s Underground,? published in 1988, claimed that its author had been used to breed sacrificial victims for Satan. This, too, was later exposed as a fraud, but not before noted fundamentalist apocalypse-monger Hal Lindsey ?  the best-selling author of the Late Great Planet Earth and a close personal friend of President Reagan ? had given it a blurb. Other evangelists and professional " recovered Satanists" jumped onto the gravy train, only to be shown up for frauds as well. Defrocked physicians, raunchy talk show hosts, a mother who blame the popular game ?Dungeons and Dragons? for her son?s suicide, and even the ubiquitous Lyndon LaRouche ?  who thinks the Queen of England is a shape-shifting reptile ? joined in. The whole business was soon reeking like a Cantonese fish stew.

Cockburn describes how cases were prosecuted:

??infants as young as 2 and 3, permitted in fifty states to testify without corroboration from adults or physical evidence; without cross-examination in many states; to have their charges merely reported by adults as hearsay in many states. These infants had themselves been interrogated as many as thirty times by social workers or other investigators, told they would remain separated from their parents if they retracted their charges, held in sterile environments during questioning, to a degree that one critic described as kindred to "brainwashing" in the Korean War??24

Social workers would use anatomically correct dolls sometimes named after the defendants and repeatedly subject the children to leading questions, often suggestive, at times so explicit and ugly that asking them could only constitute abuse of its own. Children who gave the answers the social workers wanted were rewarded. Those who didn?t were scolded or warned darkly that they were hurting their friends and families. No physical evidence showed up, but that was fine. The do-gooders were still able to diagnose the symptoms of abuse in what, until then, most people would have considered the normal behavior of healthy tots.

?One California doctor of the mind claimed to have identified symptoms in children abused by satanic cults--said symptoms including "fear of monsters," making farting noises, and laughing when other children farted.?25

The hysteria was bi-partisan. The right contributed Christian fundamentalists who were eager to use the scandals to discredit recent New Age religions like Wicca and the Church of Satan and to push home schooling.  The left did their part with feminists like Gloria Steinem and Catherine McKinnon and Bill Clinton?s new Attorney General Janet Reno, who found in child protection the perfect racket to increase bureaucratic budgets and make a name for themselves.

In fact, Reno shot up to the national stage because of her prosecutions of alleged child abusers.  Her most famous case took place in an upscale suburban Miami development and was notable for the extreme brutality with which her office went after a confession from a 17 year old Honduran immigrant. Ileana Fuster, who was held eleven months in a isolation cell, often drugged and nude in front of everyone, was subjected to so much stress that the pretty black haired girl ?came to look as if she were 50, her skin covered with sores and infections.? She finally cracked and ?confessed? to the usual farrago of bizarre crimes, but her husband Frank never did. He got 6 lifes plus 165 years and remains in jail today.26 But the satanic abuse cases were only a dry run for Reno. Her real moment came when she led the FBI?s facedown against the Branch Davidian cult at Waco in ?? where she demonstrated - the perfect way to rescue abused children?and their abusers  ? incinerate them. 27 

Janet Reno had her predecessors in the witchcraft trials. But they seem to have been luckier than poor Frank and Ileana.

?A singular instance of the epidemic fear of witchcraft occurred in Lille, in 1639. A pious but not very sane lady, named Antoinette Bourignon, founded a school or hospice, in that city. One day, on entering the schoolroom, she imagined that she saw a great number of little black angels flying about the heads of the little children. In great alarm she told her pupils of what she had seen, warning them to beware of the devil ??..At last the whole of them, to the number of fifty, worked upon each other?s imaginations to such a degree that they also confessed they were witches ? that they attended the Domdaniel, or meeting of the fiends ? that they could ride through the air on broomsticks, feast of infants? flesh, or creep through a keyhole. ?.they [the majority of the clergy] strenuously insisted that the confessions of the children were valid, and that it was necessary to make them an example by burning them all for witches. The poor parents , alarmed for their offspring, implored the examining Capuchins with tears in their eyes to save their young lives, insisting that they were bewitched, and not bewitching?.Antoinette Bourignon, who had put these absurd notions into the heads of the children??. hastened out of Lille and escaped pursuit. If she had remained four hours longer, she would have been burned by judicial sentence as a witch and a heretic?.?28

Mind you, we are not suggesting that child abuse is not a problem in America. It is. More than 100,000 cases are reported every year and an FBI report to that effect in 1984 may actually have been responsible for throwing a bit of gasoline onto the wildfire of charges. But, the real cases, say the experts, usually don?t involve a predatory stranger ? they involve the family. Maybe it was because people couldn?t quite come to terms with that fact that they latched on to the figure of a child molester hovering around the school yard, a figure that quickly morphed into Satan.

Soon Satanic cult killings were said to be disposing of some 50,000 to 2 million American children a year without the knowledge of law enforcement.29

Whether one believes in the existence of mass cult killings or not, that is an extraordinary number. If one takes the higher figure, it means about 10 million deaths in 5 years, which is a little under the number of people that Hitler killed during the World War II, and for which he needed half a dozen  major concentration camps, like Buchenwald and Auschwitz as well as hundreds of minor camps. All told, the Nazis had to employ over 150,000 people to do their dirty work. Since the total number of Satanists in the country is not more than a thousand or so, one might have been thought that would have effectively put a crimp in the ritual crime business??

Even if we take the lower number, recall the Vietnam war that killed around 50,000 Americans and at least 2 million Vietnamese and was one of the most traumatic events in American history and think of how severely that loss was felt through out the population. Figure just the logistics involved in carrying out such an operation openly, let alone in secret.

What?s more, how could such hordes of people be vanishing off the face of the nation, unknown to the police (as some claimed), when the entire murder rate in America is only about 20,000 a year? And when, according to figures given by the Child Safety Council (a branch of the Department of Justice), the number of children who are kidnapped by strangers is lower than 100 a year? How could otherwise sane people have come to believe that Satanists were killing hundreds of thousands, if not millions a year?30

But they did. They were perfectly able to believe that a small group of self-styled occultists (most satanic churches numbered no more than a few hundred members) were capable of feats of evacuation and extermination that would have turned the SS pea-green with envy. In truth, between 1985-1990, fewer than one hundred credible reports of ritual child abuse have been filed nationally. None of those accused were members of any satanic church or identified devil-worshipping cult.

Cardinal O'Connor himself went on record that there were only two exorcisms in the whole of the New York archdiocese in 1990, a poor showing, one might be forgiven for thinking, for members of such a monumental conspiracy.31

It didn?t matter to people that most Wiccans (modern witches) and many Satanists do not even believe in Satan and followed a rather bland form of paganism that differs very little from Christianity in their ethics, expressly forbidding criminal acts.

It didn?t matter to people that the founder of the main satanic church, Anton LaVey, was more of a PR man, a former circus trainer, who once kept a lion on the back porch of his home in San Francisco. And that while La Vey may have liked to shave his head, call himself "the Black Pope," and dress the part to the nines, his Satanic Bible, explicitly rejects both the Christian version of God and of the devil.32

It didn?t matter to them that if you added up the numbers, far more human beings ? several orders of magnitude more -  have been murdered by people acting in the name of mainstream religions like Christianity and Islam than have ever been killed in the name of Satan.

And, it didn?t matter that only four months before the McMartin trial started in 1987, police found the woman who started it all lying naked and face-down in her son's bedroom, dead of alcoholism-related liver disease.

Journalists had found a crusade, one that got them instant attention and came along with an off-the-rack patter of pseudo-scientific jargon that allowed everyone to keep a straight face while wallowing like pigs in obscene pornography.

At the height of the frenzy, even the original ?cult cop? who first milked  the whole carnival by selling lectures and video/audio tapes pimping the abuse, came out with the admission that Satanism and neo-paganism might not, after all, be the criminal organizations she?d depicted them as. By then, the San Francisco police commission had actually found her guilty of defaming Satanism in public and to law enforcement. But that didn?t stop the Prince of Darkness from continuing to show up, like Elvis, on the programs of every hick gathering of odd-ball educators and law enforcement misfits. Seminars on the occult were money-spinners, especially among those fundamentalists who thought the Antichrist was about to show up any moment and set off a nuclear show down.

And then, as suddenly as it began, the satanic child abuse craze died down, leaving a trail of devastation. Innocent people had been carted off to jail, careers and reputations flushed down the toilet, thousands of children had grown up traumatized by the interrogations they went through, believing wrongly that unspeakable things had been done to them. Suddenly, statements started being retracted, conclusions hurriedly withdrawn or contradicted. The interrogation techniques became discredited. The show was over.

Then they sent in the clowns. Even after the fraud had been uncovered, these were the people who argued that, yes, it had all been a pack of nonsense, but it could not have been that bad because it had been for a good cause?. Who could object to their children being protected from abuse, after all? Why bother waiting for such trivia as physical evidence or witnesses? Anyone who criticized the spectacle could have only one reason for doing so  ? they too were pedophiles!

On the Self-Importance of Scribblers
 

?SENTENCE first ? VERDICT afterwards," said the Queen.

"Nonsense!" said Alice loudly.

"Off with her head!" the Queen shouted at the top of her voice.

And there you have the typical mob reaction. From the protection of children to the jailing of grandmothers is a smooth and natural step for him. Children, he thinks, are innocent. From that he infers that they can do no wrong. Which means that if they say their teachers are molesting them, then in fact their teachers must be molesting them. And since an adult who molests children is prima facie a monster of the most monstrous sort, hanging would be too good for him and a proper hearing quite out of the question.

Thus does the mob mind splutter in fits and starts from dubious assumptions to preposterous conclusions with nary a whisper of doubt in between. And only a man capable of committing logic is liable to such an absurdity. 

Of course, even as logic, the thing does not hold together. The innocence of children is more in the nature of a statement of dogma than an assertion that can be falsified. Innocent of what? Innocent compared to what? Our lumpen-logician can give no answer between his rants. Nor can he tell us when childhood ends. Are eight year olds as innocent as two year olds? And when does the age of innocence end? At 14? 16? 18? And what it it that signifies that adulthood has arrived? Is it the driver?s license or the marriage license? Is it making love or making war?

And even if children were as pure as the seraphim and cherubim, how does that make a crime against them any more or less heinous than a crime against, say, an old woman or a cripple? But we have yet to have a public panic about paraplegics. You might begin to wonder whether the child abuse hysteria had as much to do with moral palpitations as it had to do with sexual titillation. And you would be right.

Sex, after all, not only drives the human race, it also drives newspaper headlines.

Given the option between a compelling story about the fall of interest rates on one hand and the rise of Jenna Jamieson, on the other, the pulchritudinous Ms. Jamieson wins hands down. Sex sells. Even when it is perverse and ugly. Even if it is a middle-aged exhibitionist faking a confession that he was responsible for killing a child star ten years cold in the grave. Or a fifty year old senator with an eye for buff young pages. The story will still bump war with Iran off the front pages seven days a week.

Next to sex, even death is not always a very interesting business to our pillars of the fourth estate.  
 
Take one leading cause of fatalities in America. Nationwide there are probably 5000 deaths a year from asthma. That makes it two and a half times deadlier than the murder of children by their parents ? which is the most common and deadliest form of child abuse around ? and fifty times more prevalent than the kidnapping of children by strangers. Yet, there are no headlines about asthma, no seminars about the dangers of walking around alone without an inhaler, no FAQ sheets discussing the best way to have cortisone injections. 

No, asthma is not something that the mob mind is very interested in. There is no pizzaz in the thing. You merely either have it, or not. And the remedy is available for you to purchase, or not. There is no program, world historical project, or second international involved in tackling it. A year?s supply of medicine for all 5000 victims of asthma every year would probably not put a dent in the child protection budget of one state.

But child abuse comes with so many perks and angles attached to it, it is hard for the average scribbler, with his eye cocked to a Pulitzer, to take a level-headed approach. 

First, there is the sex angle. Then, as if that were not enough, he gets to preen in self- congratulation as a defender of the defenseless.  Even if no abuse is found, no one is likely to remember the luckless daycare worker in jail. He is a mere adult after all. Then, even more satisfying, our scribe gets to take hold forth on any number of Burning Issues of the Day: Is day care A Good Thing?or A Bad Thing? Should women work outside the home?. or in? How much Satanism turns you into a pedophile? How much pedophilia turns you into Satan? 

He does not know any more than you do but that does not prevent him from puffing up like a swamp toad before he delivers his bit on each subject. He gets to save the family?or is it the child? He becomes a guardian of public morality?.a defender of the American way of life! It matters little which it is. He is cast in the role of savior. St. George rolled into Sonny Bono. Sex, self-importance, salvation ? all in one. What more could any do-gooder want?

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 January 2007 17:15
 

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