The Satanism Scare
Although there is growing concern over Satanism as a threat to American life, the topic has received surprisingly little serious attention. Recognizing this, the editors of this volume have selected papers from a wide variety of disciplines, broadly covering contemporary aspects of Satanism from the vantage points of studies in folklore, cults, religion, deviance, rock music, rumor, and the mass media.
All contributors are skeptical of claims that a large, powerful satanic conspiracy can be substantiated. Their research focuses instead on claims about Satanism and on the question of whose interests are served by such claims. Several papers consider the impact of anti-Satanism campaigns on public opinion, law enforcement and civil litigation, child protection services, and other sectors of American society.
The constructionist perspective adopted by the editors does not deny the existence of some activities by “real” Satanists, and two papers describe the workins of satanic groups. Whatever the basis of the claims examined and analyzed, there is growing evidence that belief in the satanic menace will have real social consequences in the years ahead.
“During the 1980s, media sensationalism and the rhetoric of fundamentalist preachers ushered in a new threat to the US - satanism. This collection examines the satanism scare as an emergent social problem grounded in extant belief systems but constructed through social action. The volume is well organized and provides an excellent, comprehensive, and readable treatment of the topic . . . Collectively, the articles in this volume make an important contribution to this approach to social problems as well as offering interesting insights into such topics as deviance, collective behavior, and the mass media. Upper-division undergraduates and above.”
—J. Lynxwiler, Choice
“The Satanism Scare is an important look at one of the most telling and least understood excitements of our time. A wise and compelling book.”
—Kai Erikson, Yale University
“The Satanism Scare is a rare multidisciplinary look into a currently popular folk belief of growing cultural and social significance. Folklorists, anthropologists, sociologists, criminologists, an attorney, and a journalist all contribute their unique perspectives in this outstanding effort to understand the most recent manifestation of the traditional Euro-American witch-hunt. The broad interdisciplinary range of investigators covers a variety of data and research strategies. . . . [A] very useful compilation.”
—Linda J. Jencson, The Journal of American Folklore
“Let’s not mince words here. This book represents a facile and exemplary use of the social constructionist perspective. The editors have done an outstanding job of gathering a set of contributions to their volume, with a very high level of scholarship evidenced. . . . The Satanism Scare is an excellent book for use in upper-level classes in crime, deviance, religion, and social movements. It should also be required reading for cult cops and mental health workers. Come to think of it, it’s a good read for just about anyone interested in critical thinking.”
—Raymond A. Eve, Social Forces