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The interviewing techniques are based on the assumptions that children don’t lie about abuse (a claim that is not backed by scientific evidence), and that they repress memories of molestation, so investigators must dig for these memories. Further, once a child has admitted abuse, the painful memories may once again be repressed, causing the child to recant his testimony of molestation. Apparently, children don’t lie about abuse, unless they deny that it happened.
Day-care workers are just one set of victims of Satanic panics. Legislators unwilling to distinguish between Satanism and non-Christian religions (and unconcerned about freedom of religion anyway) have banned the animal sacrifices common to the religions of many immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean. Others have waged war on heavy-metal music and Dungeons & Dragons.
Hicks does an excellent job of putting everything in perspective. Stories of black-robed cults kidnapping children, sacrificing virgins, and drinking their blood have been around for centuries. They are directed against those who are unusual and politically unpowerful. In the Middle Ages, it was the Jews. In this country, in the last century, such stories were spread about Catholics. The professional Satan hunters of today have their own suspects: homosexuals, immigrants, intellectuals, single working women.
The only way to protect these and other minorities is to shine the cool light of reason on the fears of hysterical mobs. In Pursuit of Satan shines quite brightly.
Charles Oliver is assistant editor REASON.