Satanic panic is making a comeback, fueled by QAnon believers and GOP influencers

On June 1, David Leavitt, the prosecuting attorney for Utah County, stood behind a lectern in his windowless Provo office before a gaggle of reporters. Wearing a gray suit and an exasperated look, he wanted to make something categorically clear: Neither he nor his wife were guilty of murdering or cannibalizing young children.

It was, by all accounts, a strange declaration from the progressive Republican prosecutor, a Mormon and younger brother of a former Utah governor, Mike Leavitt, who had earned a name for himself by prosecuting a well-known polygamist in 2001. But David Leavitt was up for re-election, Utah County voters would start casting ballots the next week, and the allegations, ridiculous as they may have sounded, had started to spread online and throughout the community. 

Some of Leavitt’s most high-profile political opponents were willing to at least wink at the allegations against him: Utahns for Safer Communities, a political action committee opposing Leavitt’s re-election, posted his news conference to YouTube with the caption, “Wethinks He Doth Protest Too Much,” and on their website, the group wrote that Leavitt “seems to know more than he says.” 

Leavitt lost the election, most likely not just because of the allegations against him but because of his liberal style of prosecution in a deeply conservative county where opponents labeled him as “soft on crime.” But the allegations’ impact on Leavitt was clear. After decades of serving as a city and county attorney with grander plans for public office, Leavitt now doesn’t think he’ll run again. 

“The cost is too high,” he said recently in an interview from his home.

Leavitt’s experience is one of a spate of recent examples in which individuals have been targeted with accusations of Satanism or so-called ritualistic abuse, marking what some see as a modern day version of the moral panic of the 1980s, when hysteria and hypervigilance over protecting children led to false allegations, wrongful imprisonments, decimated communities and wasted resources to the neglect of actual cases of abuse.

While the current obsession with Satan was boosted in part by the QAnon community, partisan media and conservative politicians have been instrumental in spreading newfound fears over the so-called ritualistic abuse of children that the devil supposedly inspires, sometimes weaving the allegations together with other culture war issues such as LGBTQ rights. Those fears are powering fresh accusations of ritual abuse online, which are amplified on social media and by partisan media, and can mobilize mobs to seek vigilante justice. 

Keep reading

Author: HP McLovincraft

Seeker of rabbit holes. Pessimist. Libertine. Contrarian. Your huckleberry. Possibly true tales of sanity-blasting horror also known as abject reality. Prepare yourself. Veteran of a thousand psychic wars. I have seen the fnords. Deplatformed on Tumblr and Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: