Michael Pollak mpollak at panix.com
Fri Nov 19 09:18:54 PST 1999

Maureen Therese Anderson <manders at midway.uchicago.edu> wrote:

> well I'm glad you at least think so. part of the reason I thought it
> needed more unpacking was because Alex C. for one certainly wasn't
> seeing it as a more complicated matter. He called it mindless,
> demented hysteria.

Maureen, you and Cockburn are talking about two different things. You are talking about the meaning of the satanic conspiracy hysteria, which like every hysteria, had a meaning; Cockburn is concentrating on the fact that it was a hysteria, and that it's an outrage that its evidence was accepted in court. Your analysis of body part smuggling seems very plausible, and quite fascinating really. But I think we can agree that although the people involved are upset about things they ought to be upset about, the object of their wrath is a bit displaced and a bit imaginary. It might be precisely those qualities that allow them to give their pent up emotions free rein. But you wouldn't want people hauled into court and condemned as body part smugglers, would you? Or burned as witches because the people were expressing a justified outrage in symbolic form? It has often been pointed out that anti-semitism contains similar truths. Russians who think the Jews are raping their country have it three quarters right: there is a proud foreign elite who, in concert with its local agents, has stolen their national heritage and left them to die and couldn't care less. But recognizing that intuition doesn't mean we wouldn't be outraged if they hauled Jews into the dock for it. And similarly with the outbreak of satanic possession scares. It is an outrage that innocent people have suffered. It's even an outrage that guilty people have suffered. They might have been child abusers. They weren't Satan.

Social meaning and legal meaning are two different things. What is deeply true from one perspective can be outrageously false from the other.


__________________________________________________________________________ Michael Pollak................New York City..............mpollak at panix.com

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