“The Satanic Panic” was the Red Scare of the 1980s. Communists lurking around every corner were replaced by devil worshipers living amongst us in the suburbs. Shows like 20/20 and 60 Minutes were frightening folks into believing Satanists weren’t only living next door, but they were probably also hiding in the attic. There was nowhere to go; Satan was everywhere, and he was getting wicked good ratings. And during this time, a lengthy list of seemingly mundane items and activities were called out for allegedly turning America’s youth into a growing Satanic army.
Dungeons and Dragons
The supposed biggest offender in the war on Christian family values was that most insidious of games, Dungeons and Dragons. Invented by Gary Gygax, the book-and-dice based game is played out in the imaginations of children instead of on the screen.
Players enter a realm of magic, demons, and sword play by creating characters on sheets of paper. So, of course, if imaginations were involved then Satan had to be behind this one. Pundits and talk show hosts would gleefully shout out an “I told you so” when police found D&D books remotely near a crime scene. Every criminal had a scapegoat as long as they admitted to playing D & D.
Clearly the game was to blame for every murder and jaywalking offense. Some people seriously even claimed that they would hear screams emanating from the fire when they would burn their children’s books and dice, thus proving that the game pieces were filled with pure, concentrated evil.
Satanic panic over D&D really hit its stride when a young Tom Hanks got himself forever trapped in the realm of the game in the 1982 film MAZES AND MONSTERS.
All Heavy Metal Music
The fear of sub-conscious backwards messages and lyrics that evoke Satanism was enough to set Family values crusader and future (almost) First Lady Tipper Gore and her PMRC (Parent Music Resource Center) on the Heavy Metal world. She raised such a brew-ha that the United States Congress actually held hearings into the matter.
The hearings, which would decide if music containing lyrics of a supernatural or gory nature needed to be labeled, saw Congress calling on witnesses like Frank Zappa, John Denver, and Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snyder. That’s right- a man whose hair contained more Aqua Net than a Supercuts was forced to school congress on constitutional law. Although his message was on-point, one has to wonder what it would have been like had they called Lemmy to the stand.
However, this picture of Tipper Gore holding W.A.S.P.’s – “ANIMAL (FUCK LIKE A BEAST)” album is well worth the price of potentially losing a few civil liberties.
The Peace Sign
An indication that the adults were officially ashamed of our transgressions of the previous decade was the sudden fear we placed on the symbols of that decade. The peace sign, which once symbolized (um) peace, was now said to be a secret symbol of Satan. Christian crusaders saw past the “peace” and instead swore they saw an “upside down and broken cross” in all those pendants and spray-painted VW busses.
Saturday Morning Cartoons
So you thought you were harmlessly watching cartoons while eating your Cookie Crisp on the coffee table, as you were allowed to do on weekends. Well, guess what! You were actually worshiping at Satan’s altar! If you looked hard enough you could supposedly find Satan all over your most loved cartoons according to many outspoken media zealots of the 80s. HE-MAN featured a main character by the name of Adam (the first man), who could magically transform into a super-powerful being by invoking a dark force through his magical sword.
THUNDERCATS used similar imagery when Lion-O placed the Sword of Omens to his forehead. This reference to a third eye was seen as implanting the seed of Hinduism in the heads of good upstanding American children. The fear was that, somehow, an interest in Eastern Religion (somehow acquired from THUNDERCATS) would inevitably result in an interest in Paganism.
Even SCOOBY-DOO, could not escape persecution in the 80’s.
Pastor Gary Greenwald was seen as the face of this cartoon and toy persecution. His TV series, entitled the DECEPTION OF A GENERATION, was an in-depth study of Saturday Morning Cartoon Satanism, as well as great look into bitchin’ mustaches and shirts that refuse to be buttoned-up any higher
Almost All Crimes Committed by White People
In the 80s, there was nothing more frightening than satanic ritual abuse. And according to the media and satanic bell-ringers, satanic ritual abuse was a product of the upper-middle class white suburbs. It was seen as an infiltration of evil into otherwise fine upstanding Christian lives. It was not unheard of for people to supposedly stumble upon abandoned buildings adorned with graffiti reading “666”, “Satan” and “AC/DC Rules!”. Almost immediately the town would be abuzz with rumors of a satanic invasion; circulating rumors of human sacrifice and wild sex parties. More often than not, the true culprits were more likely to be bored, drunk teenagers armed only with a can of spray paint.
The evocation of Satanic ritual abuse would be harmless enough if it stopped at the occasional lash out against vandalism. Unfortunately, during the ’80s people blamed horrible forms of physical and sexual abuse on satanic rituals. News magazine shows could fill hours of TV time with unsubstantiated accusations of cults raising children to be abused and sacrificed in the name of Satan. On more than one occasion satanic ritual abuse was used as a tactic to pull attention away from the real culprits behind these heinous crimes.
Let’s face it- when you look past the nostalgia of the satanic panic, you’ll find that the 80s were nothing more than the hangover the country suffered from after partying too hard during the 60s and 70s. Guilt over the “free love” years manifested itself in a reactionary return to 1950s family values and old-fashioned bigotry. At the brunt of this bigotry was a new fear that the kid next door, with his jean jacket and metal music, was nothing more than a high priest sent by the Devil to sacrifice babies in the name of the dark lord.