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                                   Satanism As Media Hype 
                                        News article:
             From the Phoenix Gazette 24 June, 1989
                 SCAPEGOAT: Satanism scareis mostly hype, experton cults says....
           by Michelle Bearden
               Judging  by Satan's popularity in news accounts and police reports
           these days, you'd think Satan had been elected to Congress  or won the
           Pulitzer Prize. But  it's not true, says J. Gordon Melton, director of
           the Institute for  the Study  of American Religion  in Santa  Barbara,
           Calif. and one  of the country's  leading experts  on cults. In  fact,
           there is no surge at all  in Satan's popularity. "The only surge we're
           seeing  is the  spread if  mis-information," Melton  says. "Malicious,
           suspicious, and ritualistic acts are being attributed to satanism, and
           people are buying into it."
               Melton has launched a one-man crusade to get what he considers the
           truth out to  the public. Using  an extensive survey  he completed  in
           1986 as his guide - "The Evidences of Satan in Contemporary America" -
           Melton makes his case frequently before groups and in interviews. Most
           misinformation regarding satanism comes out of police agencies, Melton
           maintains.  That's because, in the absence of true satanic groups, law
           officials have to blame "something concrete," he says.
               "What  we've got is creation of imagination, paranoia, and general
           ignorance,"  Melton says.  "We've got  wild speculation  and  jumps in
           logic. What we don't have is the truth. One story perpetuates another,
           and,  before  long, 'experts'  in  police  departments are  conducting
           seminars on a topic they don't really understand."
               At the Phoenix Police Department,  police spokesman Andy Hill says
           the  agency  analyzes every  incident that  has satanic  overtones. He
           blames a majority  of these crimes  on "kids  caught up in  experimen-
           tation." "It's  safe to say  that most  of it  isn't hard-core.  We're
           usually dealing with copycat  crimes," he says. " I  wouldn't consider
           satanism a  big problem here in  Phoenix. We know it  exists, but it's
           more underground than anything else."
               According to Melton, onlythree established satanic cults exist:The
           Church of  Satan, a San Francisco based  group headed by founder Anton
           LaVey; a splinter group, the Temple of Set, also in  San Francisco and
           headed by Michael  Aquino; and the Church of Satanic Liberation in New
           Haven, Conn., led by  Paul Douglas Valentine. Total membership  in all
           three  groups is "probably less  than 3,000," Melton  says. Those fol-
           lowers are the true  satanists, and their numbers haven't  varied much
           in the last two decades, he says.
               Many of the acts blamed on satanism are committed by teenagers who
           are bound together b drugs and violence rather than demons. While they
           may use  satanic imagery in their  deeds, Melton says they  are "play-
           acting" the role  of worshipping  the Prince of  Darkness. "It's  true
           we're hearing a lot of satanic references in today's music, but that's
           pure commercialism," he says. "Just because your teenager gets wrapped
           up in certain rock'n'roll doesn't mean he's into the occult."
               Someof the conclusions that support Melton's studies to combat the
           theory of international satanic conspiracy include:
             * The existence of a large  number of nonconventional religions, such
               as  cults, that  have  nothing to  do  with occultism,  much  less
             * The growth of witchcraft as a new religion and how it is   confused
               with  satanism.  Melton  labels  contemporary Wicca  as  a  nature
               religion that places great emphasis upon the preservation  of life
               and non- violence.
             *  Reports of cattle  mutilations, which  ignore the  facts that most
               are mistaken observations of predator damage.
             *  The  discovery of  common  symbols,  such  as  an inverted  cross,
               pentagrams, and  bloody altars,  which lead investigators  to con-
               clude that satanic activity has taken  place. However, no evidence
               of any  conspiracy involving the kidnapping  and transportation of
               children for ritual purposes has emerged.
             * Fantasies of people who make  "confessions" of their involvement on
               satanic cults.Typically, they cannot supply independent corrobora-
               tion of the stories.
               Moreover,a good portion of the mis-information on satanism - which
           Melton says is really a "parody of religion" - comes  out of evangeli-
           cal Christian publishing houses. With that bias, "it;s easy to see how
           misinformation breeds," he says.
                 Melton contends that opensatanic groups pose no publicthreat. If
           there is cause for concern,  it would be the small, ephemeral  satanic
           groups, mostly consisting  of young adults  or teenagers and  possibly
           led by psychopaths  or sociopaths.  "These are the  groups that  cause
           immediate  danger to  themselves and  society at  large. That's  where
           police  should  be  concentrating their  efforts,"  he  says. "In  the
           meantime, we've got  to get out of this satanic  mentality and get our
           labels straight."

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