NOTE ON THE FILM
SATANISM - AMERICA'S BEST-KEPT SECRET
Today we are going to be watching part of a movie made at the height of what has been described as the "Satanism Scare" of the 1980s. As you will read in chapter ten of MYSTICS AND MESSIAHS, this became quite a national movement, and was the subject of scare stories in all the supposedly reputable news media. In watching this movie, I want you to imagine that you are seeing this material presented for the first time, ten or so years ago. As an ordinary viewer, are you likely to believe all of the claims made here, some of them, or none of them? Is so much evidence presented that there is simply "no smoke without fire"?
Look at these questions, which we will be discussing in our next class:
*What is it about the film (or about particular witnesses) that makes the story credible?
*Is there anything about the film that makes you doubt the claims made? (Make allowances for the fact that the film was made in 1988-89, so obviously their predications for year 2000 are way off).
*Who was the most credible single witness we encountered? Who was the least believable? Why?
*Does the film present its case well? What rhetorical tricks are employed to make the menace portrayed as plausible and threatening as it can possibly be? How well does it take account of its intended audience?
*What do we find out about who makes the film? Do these people seem impartial, or do they have an ax to grind? Where are they coming from? Why was the film made in the first place?
*Based on what you have read in the class so far, are the claims made here new, or do they fit into an older tradition? If the latter, what questions does that raise about the film's credibility?
*Why is so much of the film devoted to threats against children?
*How does the film gear its appeal specifically towards women?
*If you did find the film credible, then what policy responses do we need to adopt?
*What does the film tell us about the world-view and rhetoric of anti-cult movements?
*Many people did find this material credible at the time, enough to send a lot of innocent people to jail. What was it about America at this time that made these stories so acceptable?
*IF a vast Satanic conspiracy does not exist, then how do these stories get started?
*If you could sit down with the film-makers, or with any particular witness, what would you like to ask them?