5 Techniques Fearmongers Use To Create Moral Panics
In the days before the Information Age, it was perfectly ordinary for huge groups of people to believe wrong, deranged things. For example, for most of the '80s, many Christians believed Satan was hiding in the salacious lyrics and beats of popular music. For instance: I'm Phil Collins and this is my blood orgy, baby / my murder fuck pit, baby.
I read over a dozen books about Christianity's war on rock, and I've realized that even though they lost that war, and badly, their impotent witch hunt is the perfect template for modern lunatics to manufacture outrage. In fact, some of you might be doing it already. So let's look back on how an entire religion lost its mind fighting a make-believe enemy, and how you can do it too!
Blindly Pick An Enemy
One day, God told Dan and Steve Peters that rock music was evil, and they turned that unlikely story into a lucrative writing and ministry career, though not a successful one. Their lord gave them a purpose, and also congenital idiocy, so they set out to destroy rock and roll. I know the hilarious conceit of this article is that you're a terrible person looking for ways to be worse, but I want to get real for a second: If you ever notice your raison d'etre is word-for-word the scheme of a Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling villain, you blew it.
For the first 44 pages, their bestselling 1984 book Why Knock Rock? is an essay about rock. They did not take for granted that readers would be music experts, so they wrote it specifically for a being emerging from an ocean trench knowing only fear and nothing of "moo-sic?" It's as boring as it sounds, but also weirdly catty. Dan and Steve call every artist from 1947 to 1985 a knockoff or a sellout. This is, of course, in addition to accusations of witchcraft and demonic possession. Crazy isn't an exact science, but by my estimation, sounding like a reprocessed Adam Ant clone is 17.4 times worse than being a literal demon, and having sex is 3.1 times worse than that.
The Peters brothers' core belief is that if a band did it, then it must be bad. Success, drugs, rhythm guitar -- all are presented as evidence for moral crimes. Try to imagine 500 biographies authored by a bad writer who hated all 500 people for every single thing they ever did, take away the fun, and that's the message The Actual God needed Dan and Steve to share. I know one of the perks of Christianity is the complete lack of internal logic, but if any of this book is true, then God is a basic, jealous bitch.
The thing that truly made Dan and Steve's careers was when God told them to burn records and they did. Sort of. In order to "meet fire codes, it was decided to burn only the album covers." Still, even if you're being a big pussy about toxic fumes, burning your "enemy's" culture is the exact kind of spectacle fascist culture warriors love and everyone else hates. So Dan and Steve's record burnings became big events. It was a bit "radical," but then so was Jesus Christ -- a comparison Dan and Steve were happy to make to anyone who would listen. If there was any internal logic to Christianity at all, burning a bunch of Quiet Riot albums and declaring it to be a defining trait of Jesus Christ would get you kicked out for sacrilegious dumbness.
So to sum them up, Dan and Steve hate musicians because of whatever they do, burn art other people bought, and are absolutely sure it makes them like Jesus. When they scratch and claw their fingers into each other's assholes, they make it holy by whispering, "Yes. Go in dry, brother, like the desert Moses led his people through." The blind, Jesus-brained confidence of these two is astonishing. Nothing can penetrate their self-righteousness, and many people have tried.
In their book, Dan and Steve include a transcription of the time Dan went on a radio show to confront Gene Simmons about his demonic lifestyle. Dan brought up an interview wherein Gene said he had a lot of sex with teenagers. To me and you, that sounds like a gross combination of reasonable and problematic. Gene might have some insecurity issues and untraceable sores on his dick, but consenting partiers are allowed to party, grandpa. Yet with this as their only evidence, Dan accused the entire KISS band of having sex with 14-year-olds. Why not, right? It's not like anyone in the Evangelical community ever says things like, "Hey, aren't you're that guy who baselessly accuses others of unspeakable crimes?" or "Wait, you've been wrong about the end of the world like seven times now," or "Hold the fuck on, aren't you that president who only says and does dumb, amoral things?"
To Dan's donkey mind, this is no baseless accusation. It's the same religious anti-logic you can use to excuse, praise, or condemn anything you want. You work backwards from what you choose to believe, which in this case is that Gene Simmons has sex with 14-year-olds. You don't need proof, since God isn't wrong, but look right there! He said he sleeps with teenagers! That's what a 14-year-old fucking is! He admitted it! And the whole band does it, because it would be naive not to think that! And you're not naive! Every band does it!! If they don't, you're some lunatic who hates rock and roll for no sane reason!!! Seal your- listen! Seal your holes and pee through your skin to hide your shame from God! Burn their music as your filth seeps from your pores! We know we are right, for He has given us the anti-color ray to destroy the Rainbow Brite Friendship Squad once and for all!!!!
Now that we've learned the dangers of thinking too hard about any of this, let's continue. Simmons wriggled his way out of trouble by explaining to his accuser how his accusations were false. It's strange, because as the guy who made them up, he should already know this, yet he's somehow the only guy on the planet who doesn't. They repeat this exact interaction for four pages -- Dan makes things up, scolds Gene for them, and Gene explains how Dan is making things up. I'm not really a welcome member of the Moral Majority, but if I was a preacher and Gene "The Demon" Simmons kicked the shit out of me in a morality argument, I wouldn't put it in my fucking God book.
It's important to me that you understand the depths of Dan and Steve's stupidity and casual evil. Chapter 9 is nothing more than a goddamn list of ways musicians died. It's 29 pages long! Veal recipes have more respect for the dead than Dan and Steve Peters. Something inside of them must have known they looked like horny necromancers, so they open the chapter with a kind of apology. They suggest that it's not "sadistic or morbid," and insist they are doing this so "we can at least profit from their mistakes."
Here's the thing, though: Not all musicians are killed by drugs or botched summonings. Some lives end seemingly unrelated to their vices, and this list condemns everyone who has ever played music and then died. For instance, Johnny Burnette (1934-1964) was best-known for his 1960 hit "You're Sixteen," but fuck him for dying in a boat accident. If there is any internal logic to Christianity, God killed that man so you would know not to boat, amen.
So How Do You Translate This Hate Of Rock To Other Subjects?
Your enemy doesn't have to be as silly as rock and roll. Satan for you might be successful YouTubers, or dubbed anime, or the diseased races invading your country, you hero. It's really as simple as deciding something is the worst and figuring out why you're right later. If you badly failed fourth grade, you might remember calling this system "the scientific method." It works for everything, and any attempts by good or smart people to change your mind will instead drive them crazy.
Learning Pattern Recognition And No Second Thing
After Dan and Steve Peters spent years burning albums and gleefully cataloging the deaths of the talented, they switched their focus to finding secret Satanic messages in backwards music. They wrote a book called Rock's Hidden Persuader: THE TRUTH ABOUT BACKMASKING. This was two years after Jacob Aranza published BACKWARD MASKING UNMASKED: Backward Satanic Messages Of Rock And Roll Exposed. You and I might call this derivative, or even plagiarism, but the children of God are not raised to respect intellectual property.
It's pretty easy to find rock lyrics that violate Christian values, so why bother looking for secret backwards ones? It's hard to translate this into secular logic, but it's like watching someone take a shit on the floor and then digging through their shit to see if they're cheating on your diet. It's like logging into Netflix as your wife to see if she watched Stranger Things without you, after she told you she fucked your brother during a Stranger Things binge. It's like going to Ghana, complaining how everyone is violating your HOA's rules on lawn maintenance, and then proving it by rearranging the letters in their furniture. It's embarrassing insanity, all for the desperate endgame of Tom Petty saying, "Your community frowns on drugs and romance? Well I wish I had checked with you sooner. I'll stop making music right away."
According to his book jacket, Jacob Aranza was "already deeply involved in the drug/rock culture of Houston, Texas" by the time he was nine years old. Drug culture? Jacob, I can see wanting to assure readers of your expertise, but you may have overshot it by expecting us to believe you spent third grade really taking in the Houston nightlife. Like if your teacher needed to find you, she went to the bar and asked the bouncer, "You know a Jake? Sometimes goes by Snacob? A couple feet tall, age nine, can really handle his drugs? I'm not a cop, I have his cursive workbook." Psh. Get the fuck out of here, Snacob.
Jacob wrote two books on backmasking and found some stunning hidden messages. Well, "stunning" is a bit much. It's not like the music stops and says, "Hi, if you're hearing this, I'm the Devil and you are now under my command." For instance, Jacob claims that when you play Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" backwards, it vaguely sounds like "Decide to smoke marijuana, marijuana marijuana." Jacob also points out that Queen is "a group who's name is often used in slang to mean homosexuality." It's the kind of detail you don't pick up on unless you spend third grade as a strip club DJ.
There's more, though! Jacob discovered that when you play Styx's "Snowblind" backwards, it says "Satan, move in our voices," and he points out how some screams on a Black Oak Arkansas live album sound like "Satan he is God" in reverse. And if that's not incriminating enough, he gives two other examples. And, I'm worried you won't believe this, that's all! The other 111 pages of his book contain nothing more than lists of rock stars and the un-Christian things they've said in interviews or sing about (frontwards). And his second book on backwards messages literally contains no examples of or information on backwards messages. Which means Jacob and his contemporary nutbags spent 20 years warning us that our albums contained evil reversed messages, and none of them actually bothered to spin them the wrong way to check if they were right.
They sort of were, in a weird way. As you'll find out by the frustrating end to this sentence, one fish, two fish, red human brains crave patterns. And once your brain starts to form one, it's hard to convince it that it's wrong. When you listen to a song backwards, it's only creepy gibberish, but you if you hear something like a word in the nonsense, your brain locks in on it. It can easily make the sound "sflrtnp" into the word "Satan," especially if you're listening for it. And once you hear it, it will never sound like gibberish to you again, nor to anyone you tell. Now all you have to do is be so stupid that you think "demon audio engineers" are as plausible as "meager audio coincidence and beginner neuroscience."
Jacob Aranza only found a few of these hidden messages, but that's not too bad for someone who went to grade school in a roadhouse dumpster. I wanted to see if I, with my mostly drug-free indoors education, could find some of my own. I started my search for backwards commands in "Funky Cold Medina" by Tone Loc. I chose this particular song because it always seemed suspicious that someone would proudly release a single about putting drugs in girls' drinks and punching crossdressers. Tone Loc absolutely wrote it as a plea deal for the prosecution. You think he made "Funky Cold Medina" for, what, fun? Dancing? Ridiculous. I know we're in the middle of something, but this entire next paragraph is going to be about how I can't believe "Funky Cold Medina" happened.
So let's say I join you in fantasy land and pretend "Funky Cold Medina" is a real song. You're saying that Tone Loc sat down to write about his erotic life after discovering date rape drugs, and the only sexual encounters he mentions are with his dog and a man? So he's in a meeting, and his producer says, "Tone, we only have room for about three stories in this rap about how you can have sex with anyone. Dog and man are in, obviously. I'll circle those. So maybe one more? Conjoined twins? Conjoined twins, only one is the dog from the previous verse? Oh, it's like poetry." Preposterous. Absolute madness. Saying "Funky Cold Medina" is a vessel for devil messages might be incorrect, but at least it's less crazy than this bullshit being an ordinary song.
Anyway, let's listen to the dog verse backwards and consider my hypothesis. Which is that in this very popular song, Tone Loc is explaining how he drugged his dog until it fucked him not to get the party hype, but to let Satan speak through him backwardsly. Let's watch:
That was mostly unease and nonsense, right? Well, watch what happens when I add subtitles. Feel how quickly your brain accepts these vrrping and slrrping noises as deliberate words and a clear call to action from Satan himself:
If you can't watch the video, here are the backwards lyrics to "Funky Cold Medina" (dog fucking verse) by Col Enot (feat. Satan):
I fed him tonight along with Wario.
SWORCH. (silly hat)
Take Noah's tiger ...
... hose down my pickle fur.
We're Vietnam, but for orphans in China.
Dance but only the Hebrew.
Everybody walks alone; pillows for my hobbit.
Snub Peru **** it all!
I know, HONEY.
It's so good to be home. Look ... we outside the media, we get a lot thrown in a mob.
What it means: thread it, get it, and move on. Hit it. Git it. Hit it in the back of the knee.
They won't at all stop us--
MUST CHANGE COURSE!
Jesus, OK, the very first place I looked had references to Zionism, aliens, hobbits, Vietnam, the media, a call to violent action, a warning against that call to action, and feeding Wario. Which means Jacob Aranza was at least absolutely right, and the Devil has been chatting away from the hidden underside of our perception this whole time. Combined with the coordinates I found in the backwards version of "Whoomp! (There It Is)," Satan and I should be your masters by the time you read this. We will list further marijuana and Wario instructions in reverse on Faster Than The Speed Of Night: The Best Of Bonnie Tyler.
So How Do You Translate This Hate Of Rock To Other Subjects?
Patterns are everywhere, and they're always true, because there's math and exceptions don't count. If you open two cans of SpaghettiOs and one of them contains nine teeth, the pattern is simple: After 167 cans of Campbell Soup products, you've eaten one missing person's skeleton. Or you can use the power of patterns to count the number of Samoans in an episode of Friends, cross-reference it with the Polynesian population of Greenwich Village, and put together an airtight racism accusation. The point is, save responsible data interpretation for the nerds. You are a crusader, and patterns are always on your side.
When you're trying to hate something, it's really easy to lose focus with understanding, empathy, or simple learning. For instance: Woman-haters, did you know there are more than three types of girls? Bikini, fat, and crazy, sure, but they can also be business or SCUBA! We'll be here for six more words if I sit here listing types of girls all day, so let me get to the point. Learning is the enemy of self-righteous rage. Try to be more like Pastor Gary Greenwald, who managed to write an entire book on the dangers of punk rock without knowing or learning anything about punk rock, danger, or books.
The 26-page book, the PUNK called ROCK, is more of an advertisement for a cassette tape series of the same name than it is a guide to navigating the counterculture. To show readers what "appears to be typical of the callousness of punk rock behavior," Gary opens with a story he read in a different religious pamphlet. It's about a 14-year-old girl named Mary Conrad who was strangled to death by her boyfriend and left to be looted and poked at by macabre children. Gary probably means Marcy Conrad, whose life Gary honored by getting most details of her murder wrong and blaming it on punk rock, which we have no reason to believe she enjoyed. Pastor Gary Greenwald, whom I'll now refer to as Cobbler Gabe Grabenwitz, built his entire anti-punk crusade around this unrelated and misremembered anecdote.
There's so little coherence in Gabe's book, which I'll now refer to as a moistly chewed jockstrap, that it's hard to know how to judge it. It's mostly a collection of guesses he made after he stole a few glances at kids in the mall. He explains how punk rockers sew razor blades into their clothes in case performers scream, and I quote, "If you like our music, cut yourself for us!" He suggests their spiked clothing is to smash into each other's arms and faces, in what they call "bash dancing." It's all very rad but unlikely, and each of his weird guesses is followed by an aggressively unrelated Bible quote.
You cannot know less about anything than Gabe knows about punk rock. He fantasizes about dirtbag children mutilating themselves in rituals that will never exist, and then gives God's thoughts on Israeli kings or unleavened bread. If you fed an AI nothing but religion and sarcasm and asked it to generate its own book, a nude time warrior would fall through a portal and scream, "Stop! Don't let the machine write the PUNK called ROCK! It will make seven elderly dumb people less smart and nothing else! I'm obviously not, like, the top time warrior. In fact, this assignment is mostly a punishment for allowing the Cats movie. Do you ... did I land in a timeline where that joke lands?"
Cobbler Gabe has managed to stay ignorant about the subject he's obsessed with by using an advanced form of dumb called "fake news." It means his brain can't tell good information from bad -- only "things supporting my dumbness" and "things proving my dumbness." You could walk right up to this wise, principled author and tell him a gang of punk rockers unlocked the guitar chord to grow bat wings and started a hot new trend of clubbing priests called "Jesus bashing." No part of him would question you, and he would later tell his congregation, "A colleague of mine infiltrated the rebellious youth scene and told me punk guitars have summoned bat priests. And lo, as God said unto Isaiah, 'Bring forth the clitoris removal knife so your slaves shall be untainted by pleasure.' Amen." I've lost track of my point again.
So How Do You Translate This Hate Of Rock To Other Subjects?
The key to maintaining something this dumb is trusting any information that supports it (no matter how absurd) and rejecting all information that refutes it (at any cost to your dignity). If it feels like I'm insulting your politics, that's good. It means you already know how to do this.
Lying To Yourself And Others
About 40 years ago, Bob Larson wrote a book called ROCK, which was so popular with Christians that it was expanded and reprinted over 10 times. He's since gone on to have a career of trolly whining and fake-ass exorcisms, but his lies were obvious from the very first page of that book.
Bob opens with a story called "THE MAIN COURSE WAS ME." In it, a family invites him to dinner and sends their teenage son to pick him up. The car radio blares the Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart (we later learn these performers are "agents of Lucifer" and a fey makeup-wearing man seducer, respectively). Unfortunately, the promise of a nice meal was a trick. Bob was only invited to scare the troubled boy away from rock.
But Bob is onto them. He reads their body language. He assesses their deepest fears and regrets. He is a genius -- no, a bigger, smarter thing than that. He knows this family better than they know themselves. Bob asks them when they last told one another "I love you," and it's too much for them. Too cutting, too powerful. Everyone cries. Rock and roll was defeated, sure, but Bob saved the very soul of this family. Fargob me, readert, i am claaping so it s hard ti tyype.
It's quite a moving story, but I'll tell you the same thing I told Gary from Tucson after our UberPool driver dared us to kiss: This never happened. Grifter preachers tell obviously fake anecdotes like this all the time, because it's not like anyone can prove they're lying. Except oddly enough, I think I can with this one.
I mentioned this book has been edited and expanded over and over, which means readers with more than one edition, like myself, can track all of Bob's little tinkerings. I can see how he changed the title from "THE MAIN COURSE WAS ME" to "GRILLED PREACHER." Fine, maybe he took a bad note from a publisher. But he also made changes to what this allegedly real family said in this allegedly real story. He changed when they started crying. He changed countless, pointless details, like their home's decor and the bands on the radio. He did all this extra work to create a paper trail anyone could follow to debunk a story no one would ever consider debunking.
Does he get off on this? Is it a sexual fetish to see how obvious you can make up bullshit before your congregation calls you a liar? And right now, is me breaking this story killing Bob Larson's boner or giving him the ejaculation of a lifetime? I could never have known this until this very moment, but my sexual fetish is Bob Larson screaming "This was not part of the plaaaan!" at his own crotch.
Bob Larson's Rock is just another long list of drug, sex, and occult references found in popular song lyrics. I don't think anyone is truly tricked by it, and should anyone read it, there's no real trick there. It's irrelevant facts about singers mixed with commonly held but insane beliefs about demons and sorcery. People don't buy books on the demonic creatures in rock because they're arming themselves for a battle of the bands against the devil; they do it because if they believe this stupid shit, it gives them permission to think of themselves as good and blessed simply for being annoyed by Gene Simmons. But if that's how you measured goodness, a new saint would be anointed every time someone with tits got within Simmons' groping range. If hating Gene Simmons made you holy, God's children would be praying under stained glass depictions of Pope The Lady Who Waxes Gene Simmons' Asshole.
Before Rock, Bob wrote another book called Hell On Earth: A Sobering View Of What Satan's Up To. It was goddamn wake-up-as-a-dog insane. He saw witches everywhere, and painstakingly explained the scientific process of how demons get Ouija boards to work. And, citing "some rock promoters," he predicted the major trend of the '80s would be "Gay Rock," a celebration of transvestism and sodomy.
Seven years later, a third printing of the book was released, and the publishers were so embarrassed about the lack of "Gay Rock" trends that they added a preface apologizing for it and other (unspecified) incorrect material. This is notable both because these rock experts have never heard of Bon Jovi, face, but also because it betrays how little they value truth. They know they're printing a liar's intolerant rants which time has proven to be false, and their excuse is, I quote, "the remainder of the information has a timeless relevance which makes this book a valuable guide to understanding our Enemy." So yes, Bob is wrong and dishonest, but he hates Enemy, and that's really what we're here for. They should have called this book We Can't Spell Out The Intellectual And Moral Bankruptcy Of Our Priorities Any Clearer Than This, You Simple Fucks.
So How Do You Translate This Hate Of Rock To Other Subjects?
There are metaphors and allegories all over this article, some of them so obvious that I hate myself. I honestly don't know how I can explain this any clearer: This political climate has turned the whimsy I once felt for low-functioning cultists into seething contempt, and I don't think it's healthy to pretend we can change their minds with patience and compromise. Page 52 of Bob Larson's book asks, "Who was the first dancer? It may have been Satan. After Satan fell, perhaps he determined his 'talent' for dancing would be a major means of corrupting mankind." Can you, any part of you, believe that's a non-insane thing worth typing? You gaping-assed cow. How is that incurious mind going to navigate a world evolved to turn your every weakness into a profit stream? Find out with a survival pack of my Alpha Brain Emergency Energy Pills! For every $89.99, $26 goes toward payoffs for sexually harassed employees!
Staying One Step Ahead Of The Other Crusaders
Morality is a complex subject best debated by great minds, but all these books are written by imbeciles who desperately wish everything was simple and genuinely don't get why we stopped burning witches. They have no training or reasonable standards, yet they've put themselves in a situation where they speak authoritatively on something wildly subjective.
Picture a sitcom actor booked as a judge on a cupcake show, and the host asks them for their thoughts on the fondant. This non-expert, with as much authority as their world allows, has to come up with some bullshit about how it's too sweet, or not like the frosting they prefer, or that it would have been better if it had ducks instead of balloons. That's what these anti-rock books are like -- clueless dipshits in way over their heads, babbling about rules being violated as they are being made up. Which brings me to Dancing With Demons: The Music's Real Master by Jeff Godwin.
In 1988, sometime after all this anti-rock hysteria was getting stale, Jeff published a book condemning not only rock music, but music of every type, including the kind praising God. Jeff is the all-time champion of spotting musician immorality, and he comes out of the corner punching. The very first line of Dancing With Demons shrieks, "Who is that grotesque creature on the cover of this book? If you are an avid fan of Heavy Metal, 'Christian' Rock, rap, or several other forms of today's supposedly 'safe' popular music, he is the god YOU worship." It's the fundamentalist author equivalent of going to a singles barbecue with your dick in a hot dog bun and shouting, "Soup's on, titties!"
The book never calms down. Jeff has made it his mission to eliminate all music from the planet, and his reasoning is a never-ending string of incoherent complaints. If you're dressed in the wrong color when your Christian band praises His holy name, he roasts you. If your car is front-wheel drive when you take it to church, you might as well be licking the armpits of the dead, you foul creature. Jeff's as mad as I've ever seen anyone, and I once watched a guy from Tucson rip apart the backseat of an UberPool over a pulsing case of blue balls. I think Jeff's having fun, though. Here's his review of Poison's Look What The Cat Dragged In:
So How Do You Translate This Hate Of Rock To Other Subjects?
If you have the true heart of a winner, you can always get more pissed off than some other asshole. If someone argues about the dangers of diversity, push that coward aside, announce that Mexicans are rapists, and build a concentration camp. Is someone complaining about how we're too soft on terrorists? Announce your love of torture and call in to a morning show to suggest killing their families. This is the 78th draft of this paragraph, because I kept writing cartoonishly silly examples of evil, but we no longer live in a world where those things are absurd. Special thanks to Gary from Tucson for rock 'n' roll consultation.
For more, check out How Fallout Proves Morality Is Arbitrary - Escort Mission:
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