You’ll always be my (Satanic) baby(-killer)

I admire the general idea of “Gossip Cop” — which apparently seeks to serve as a kind of Snopes for the celebrity gossip industry. I’m not sure there’s a huge audience for that. The Venn Diagram between people who follow celebrity gossip and people who care deeply about it being scrupulously factual, I would imagine, doesn’t include a great deal of overlap.

I like the way they include one-click-to-share social-media buttons at the bottom of their stories, enlisting readers in their valiant effort to counter this little world’s version of “fake news.” I’m not optimistic about the effectiveness of that approach. As I said 10 years ago, it doesn’t work because “it attempts to apply facts and reason to people who are not interested in either facts or reason.” Those who initially ate up the fake stories never seem to be grateful or relieved to learn the actual facts of the matter. Instead, they tend to be angry with you for ruining their fun.

It’s also dismaying to scroll to the bottom of stories on Gossip Cop and encounter the same block of click-bait ads to fake-news stories that you’ll incongruously find at so many legitimate news sites (and sometimes here on Patheos too). The current business model for real news seems to be ad revenue from the deeper-pocketed folks selling fake news. You finish reading a reasonable, fact-based report debunking the latest “news” about the Kardashians or the royal family (that’s some kind of British version of the Kardashians, apparently) only to find, at the bottom, a cluster of click-bait links urging you to find out why “Everyone in Hollywood Hates” some actor or promising some lurid secrets about some child star from 20 years ago. Thanks for reading Real News, brought to you courtesy of Fake News. This reminds me of the bit in Infinite Jest describing the final days of ad-funded broadcast television, in which the only ads they were able to sell were those for the very “cartridge” service that was putting them out of business.

But, hey, Gossip Cop didn’t create the downward spiral destroying the possibility of sustainable revenue for legitimate news. That’s just the world they — and the rest of us — have to live in until some genius figures out a better way. Godspeed to that genius, and to Gossip Cop too for fighting the good fight.

I came across that site due to this piece: “Mariah Carey NOT In ‘Satanic Shocker,’ Despite Reports,” which stood out from the deluge of aggregated gossip stories flooding my feed thanks to my never-dull Google news alert for “Satanic.”

For the record, Carey’s first wedding was at an Episcopal church and not — as all those “Satanic Shocker” stories would have it — at a candle-lit, red-robed ceremony before a bloody altar beneath a DC pizza shop. Those click-chasing stories all seem to have been written by someone under the mistaken impression that they were the only person who had seen The Runaways on Hulu, and that no readers would notice this was where they were stealing their details from.

I apparently missed earlier iterations of this bogus story when it previously surfaced in gossip-world. The “source” that serves as a pretext loosely derives from Carey’s estranged sister whose personal troubles seem to have been compounded when she turned to the sorts of dubious “recovered memory” therapists who thrive by preying on the troubled.

The disastrously harmful scam of “recovered memory” therapy apparently took off thanks to zealous screwballs based right here in Exton, Pa., as I wrote about last fall (“Local angle: News from here in Exton“):

It seems no matter what you thought your problems were, the dubiously licensed “counselors” at Genesis Associates would always “discover” that your problems actually traced to something else: Satanic baby-killers. The supposedly repressed memories they uncovered (meaning, really, suggested, created and nurtured) in their patients always involved the same thing — a global conspiracy of Satanists ritually abusing children.

The details of this global conspiracy are always changing as they alternately feed into and then feed back off of popular culture. There’s always a dash of the original Warnke, then a bit of whatever pop-culture variations are currently lurking about (congrats to The Runaways for making the cut!).

Let’s take a moment, though, to savor the absurdity of the undying Satanic Panic attempting to focus its indignation on, of all people, Mariah Carey. Marilyn Manson must be turning greener with envy. Norwegian metal bands are desperately inventing whole new sub-genres in their efforts to create a blip on the radar of the Satanic Panic, only to find themselves ignored as the latest “Satanic Shocker” turns out to be, instead, the pop diva who gave us “Sweet Medicine.” Those death metal bands could complain that this is grossly unfair, except that they’re allegedly nihilists, so “fair” and “unfair” aren’t concepts they’d recognize as legitimate.

But then again, the bogus “Mariah is/was a Satanic baby-killer” shocker also isn’t that much of an outlier, if you think about it. The institutionalized form of the Satanic Panic that continues to shape our culture is based on the premise that a third of American women are, in fact, Satanic baby-killers. Therefore Neil Gorsuch. This is not a fringe view — it’s a defining feature of American politics and American religion. So when the folks who adhere to that mythology hear rumors of Mariah Carey attending a red-robed ritual involving kinky sex and bloody sacrifices, they just figure, hey, why not? There’s a 1-in-3 chance it’s true.

Or, to put it another way, the mainstream white evangelical and mainstream Republican view holds that women, as a whole, cannot be trusted to make moral decisions because if women are allowed to make decisions they will kill babies. Mariah Carey is a woman. Therefore, Mariah Carey cannot be trusted not to kill babies. (The red robes, bloody altars, and Caligula-style orgies are optional for this “mainstream” view, but surely such elaborations cannot be ruled out once you realize that those people — those women — are so depraved as to engage in killing babies just for convenience and for sport.)

Anyway, here’s Mariah’s lovely, wafer-light cookie of a hit song from 1996. It seems sweet and harmless and innocent enough, and I still kind of love the restrained chill of the piano line.

But keep in mind that this song was co-written and performed by a woman, and that we have a moral imperative never to trust those people.

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