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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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