Satanists did not kill pony or turn woman into lesbian

Here are two stories. Or, actually, here are two versions of the same story.

The first variation on this theme comes from Dartmoor, England, where earlier this summer there was a mini moral panic when citizens were warned that “witches or devil worshippers” were killing ponies and mutilating the corpses in some unspeakably evil ritual. Because you know how those witches and devil worshippers are.

The pony, of course, was just two months old. Because what could be more sweet and innocent than a pony? A baby pony.

But it turns out, unsurprisingly, that Dartmoor’s fears of Satanic pony-killers were unfounded. “Real Cause of ‘Satanic Sacrifice’ Pony Found,” writes Benjamin Radford for LiveScience:

Devon and Cornwall police concluded earlier this week that the pony had died of natural causes. The much-discussed “mutilation” was not, in fact, mutilation at all, but instead the normal result of wild animals eating the pony’s organs and scattering its entrails.

“Initial media reports linked the death of the pony to satanic cults and ritualistic killing,” the police said in a statement. “The police have sought the advice of experts and have come to the view that the death of this pony was through natural causes. All the injuries can be attributed to those caused by other wild animals. This incident received significant media reporting, some of which was clearly sensationalist.”

This conclusion is not surprising to anyone who regularly follows stories about supposed “satanic cults and ritualistic killing.” The initial headlines tend to present natural causes in lurid, “sensationalist” ways that create and nurture fear of some diabolical, clandestine threat to the safety of our children, our families, our homes and our precious, precious baby ponies. And then, weeks later, the follow-up story featuring the actual facts of the matter gets buried deep in the paper, if it ever appears at all.

Lots of people see the first round of stories, absorbing the claim that a shadowy conspiracy of “devil worshippers” exists because this is something that everybody just sort of knows to be true. Far fewer people see the later round of stories explaining that whatever just happened was not the work of said conspiracy. Yet even among those who do see the later stories, they tend to be reported in a way that suggests only that this particular incident was not the work of the conspiracy of Satanic baby-killers, rather than in a way that points out that no evidence has ever been found that such Satanic baby-killers exist at all.

This is a single story but it’s part of a long, long pattern of such stories, all of which end the same way. Yet each story is treated in a way that ignores the clear implications of the pattern. The assumption that a dark cabal of Satanic pony-killers is out there, somewhere, ever-threatening to strike, is never challenged. The fact that this particular pony was not their victim won’t be allowed the challenge the fantastical claim that they exist. And it won’t prevent people from making “witches and devil worshippers” the prime suspects in the next iteration of this story, and the next, and the next.

This again relates to the “test” C.S. Lewis’ describes in Mere Christianity. The pony died of natural causes, the police confirmed, not due to “to satanic cults and ritualistic killing.” In learning this, Lewis says we should ask ourselves: “Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God,’ … or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible?”

Some people in Dartmoor will pass this test. They will hear the latest news from the police and be relieved to know that Satanists are not lurking about their community killing baby ponies. That is, after all, good news.

But others will be unable to hear it as good news because they do not want to hear good news. They want to hear bad news. They want to believe that the world is full of monsters. They will reject this announcement from police, determined “to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure” of imagining themselves as the righteous heroes in a world beset by conspiracies of Satanic pony-killers.

The morbid fantasy isn’t true. But for those who want it to be true, or need it to be true, those initial “sensationalist” reports of a ritually mutilated baby pony will be treasured, intact and unchallenged — treated as “evidence” that the world is the way they wish the world to be, a world filled with monstrous evil Others who can serve as all-purpose scapegoats and as a foil against which they can imagine themselves uniquely righteous and blessed.

(And for some that “disappointment” Lewis describes is more tangible and financial. The news that no conspiracy of Satanic pony-killers is cruelly slaughtering baby ponies will likely hurt sales of those adorable “tiny hoof” earrings.)

So here’s the second story, which comes from Pat Robertson’s “Christian” Broadcasting Network. CBN specializes in featuring that first round of story — the sensationalist variety with the lurid claims in which the worst-imaginable evil is always the prime suspect. Thus the recent 700 Club segment on “ex-gay” author Debra Gauthier:

Gauthier claims that while living “the homosexual lifestyle” she made a “covenant with Satan” during a same-sex wedding ceremony and also dated a “practicing witch,” until she “saw the demon in her” during an intimate moment:

Our ceremony was led by a gay male priest and a women priestess. We lit candles and performed cultic rituals, and I sensed the darkness around us. I had no idea that I had just entered into covenant with Satan and opened my life up to the demonic realm. …

For the 700 Club and CBN’s target audience, being a lesbian is just as wicked and awful as the death of a poor baby pony. So the blame must be attributed to the same cause: “witches and devil worshippers.”

Everybody knows they’re out there. And it would be so disappointing if that weren’t true.


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  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    And in the world of fanfic, earlier this year I assisted on another pony fanfic novel, this one a character comedy with some serious undertones:

    The serious undertone that drives some of the comedic situations is bad/sensational media information in the form of stories within the story. The gimmick is all these stories-within-the-story spreading mis- and dis-information are based on other actual fanfics.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Welcome to the Herd, Nicky.

    We all knew you were an End Time Prophecy fanboy (why else would you move your capital to Babylon in Iraq and bulldoze seven hills into the Mesopotamian floodplain), but we didn’t know you were a Brony. Have you notified LH&J of this development?

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    P.S. I am not making up “Praise Ponies”. Google the phrase sometime.

    Rule 34 says “If it exists, someone has done porn with it.”

    We need a Rule Number for “If it exists, someone’s done a cheezy Christianese knockoff of it.”

  • It’s true. There is such a thing as Christian professional wrestling.

  • nemryn

    It’s not the first, I’ve got a copy of “Flight of the Alicorn”.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I didn’t know “Flight of the Alicorn” made it to hardcopy.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Whose BIG selling points are “no cursing and no scantily-clad women.”

    Tip: When you can describe something as “Just like fill-in-the-blank, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”, that’s NOT a good sign.

  • It was apparently recreating Biblical stories, but with professional wrestlers as the characters. I recall reading about a wrestler I had known who played Goliath in a David vs Goliath match (which of course he lost).

  • Carstonio

    I’ve never liked pro wrestling because of the pandering to bigotry and machismo and anti-intellectualism, like Limbaugh or his comic predecessor the Greaseman. The raw material for an RTC variant is already there – they would just have the Iron Sheik talk like Bin Laden. And perhaps create a new villain who’s a gay atheist.

  • Actually, they’ve been a lot better than that in the last year. Wrestlemania 29 had a match between a “true patriot” chest-thumping Southerner spouting freedom slogans and decrying immigration, going against a Mexican immigrant who has been a heel for most of his run. The immigrant was the face in the match — and won to much applause. Here’s the promo. The patriot group has also purposefully stepped out of character, breaking the fourth wall to directly respond to Glenn Beck…

    As for the gay atheist, one of their wrestlers recently came out — and the WWE publicly supported him.

  • That said, WWE does have a history of riding the exploitation bus in really despicable ways, but I feel like they’ve been trying to get better about this during their shift to PG-13.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    It was apparently recreating Biblical stories, but with professional wrestlers as the characters.
    Cue “BOING! COOCOO!” loop from Rocky & Bullwinkle sound effects…

  • Headless Unicorn Guy


  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    They still have a ways to go to top The Gobbledy Gooker and/or the Necrophilia Angle.

  • No question of that, but at least they seem to be realizing that fact. Of course, a lot of fans liked seeing their more offensive material (open up any youtube video you wish and there’s going to be someone complaining about the PG-13 era) and they’re never going to want to completely alienate that base, so I expect it’ll be a slow transition.

  • Mark Z.

    Strangely, the one thing that doesn’t seem to exist is cheezy Christianese knockoff porn.

  • I can’t think of movie spoof Christian porn, but Christian porn definitely exists.