Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Become a Living Murderer?

A week and a half or so back, the BBC released a report claiming to link a murder case and a terrorism case to a "Satanic occult forum." I've posted several articles here on Augoeides about how genuine "occult crime" is very rare and usually a case of overreach by investigators, and in fact the two cases named are significant in the sense that they have some actual occult connections. The laughable law enforcement training video referenced in this article is a classic example of what police were being told to look for back in the day.

However, the BBC report then dives into the classic moral panic trope suggesting that many, many people (besides the handful they identify) are being brainwashed by these forums and so forth. It's a very small step from that to "we need to censor you online because you're posting occult stuff on your blog and that's dangerous." The previous Cameron administration in fact did attempt to censor "esoteric content" from web users in the UK before the policy was struck down by the courts, so the notion is not even a little farfetched.

The BBC has uncovered new evidence about the teenage killer of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, the two sisters murdered last summer in a Wembley park in London.

Danyal Hussein was a member of a web forum, run by an American self-styled black magician, whose instructions about demonic pacts mirror steps taken by the killer.

The American has encouraged murder in some of his writings, including for a violent Satanic group that’s been cited as an influence on seven young men convicted of neo-Nazi terror offences in the UK over the past two years.

The forum referred to in the report is run by E. A. Koetting of "Become a Living God" fame. Personally, I'm not a fan of Koetting. Much of the stuff he talks about, including "sacrifices" and the like, seems more intended to shock than enlighten. Some of the material he covers is accurate, but it's neither groundbreaking nor exceptional. Basically, as I see it, the free material here on Augeides is better than the material he charges for if you really want to learn to be an effective magical practitioner. It should be noted that that the "pact" included in the image above totally didn't work.

At the same time, the report conflates several factors in a manner reminiscent of a moral panic, and regardless of how you or I might feel about Koetting's work, it's important to keep the two issues separate. There's no question that Danyal Hussein is a bad guy. He stabbed two strangers to death. There's also no question that he was interested in the occult and particularly BALG. This is a noteworthy point because real occult crimes are very rare and his might actually be at least partially motived by his occult beliefs. But instead of that perspective, the report goes on about how "too many teens" are being "radicalized" by online Satanism.

I suppose it's literally true. One murderer is "too many" from a murder victim's point of view. But speaking in terms that imply large numbers, without actually reporting what those numbers are, reminds me way too much of Maury Terry's The Ultimate Evil, one of the books that fueled the "Satanic Panic" in late 1980's America. Investigating the Son of Sam case, Terry identified a couple members of a group of maybe 30-40 people in New York who might have been involved in the killings, and a group of maybe 10 people in North Dakota who also knew those members. One of the members mentioned something at one point about a murder in California - which he turned out to have nothing to do with when the case was finally solved.

Terry's book transformed a "network" of 50 or so total people into a "nationwide conspiracy" of "millions of Satanists." That was never anywhere near the truth, as the FBI discovered in a comprehensive investigation. They published their findings in 1991, but hundreds of innocent people had their lives ruined by nonsensical allegations. As I recall, 200-some people wound up in jail, very likely more people than the total membership of Terry's "Satanist network." Similarly, the report does its best to make it sound like more than a handful of people are committing crimes inspired by occultism.

The report, in fact, goes out of its way to link Hussein with the Order of Nine Angles terrorism case, while at the same time admitting that Hussein had nothing to do with the group. The graphic, though, showing the ONA perpetrators right alongside Hussein seems designed to confuse and conflate. It should also be noted that even if there was a connection, we are still talking about fewer than 10 people. Hussein and ONA also do share one commonality - they subscribed to far-right extremist ideologies. That probably had a lot more to do with their crimes than their mutual interest in dark fluff.

My point here, is that even if many of the points about the connections between these cases that are exaggerated or misrepresented were true, stoking a new "Satanic panic" in the UK is not going help anyone. I strongly suspect that anybody willing to commit murder or terrorism is going to find a reason, and just because they happen to be interested in the occult doesn't make the crime any more likely to be committed. It also shouldn't make it any more sensational just because occultism is "weird." Since the public completely lacks magical literacy, most people don't have a good sense of what magick is, what you can do with it, and what legitimate (and effective) practice looks like. So it's unknown, and therefore scary.

But here in the United States, a lot of innocent lives were destroyed by the "Satanic panic" in the 1980s and early 1990s. Interest in the occult was treated as grounds for criminal convictions, which is a great big load of steaming nonsense. There are a few criminals who are occultists, sure, but being an occultist doesn't make you a criminal - a point that the Christians pushing the panic did their best to obscure. Let's make sure we don't let them do that again.

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