With paedophilia scandals once again hitting the headlines, Tim Black at Spiked revisits the Satanic panics of the Eighties and Nineties - and points out where the British version acquired its own unique flavour:
As in the US, the ritual-abuse crusade in Britain was pursued with venom and zeal by similar constituencies: social workers, therapists, police, child-protection organisations and a ready-to-be-excited media. But there were differences, too. In the US, with the religious right framing the panic, and the caring professions pursuing it, the focus tended to be on complacent, middle-class communities, the sources, as the right would have it, of moral laxity. In the UK, the objectifying gaze of the witch hunt had shifted. The communities under siege were not middle class and permissive; they were working class and traditional, in places like the Broxtowe estate in Nottingham, or the Langley estate in Rochdale. This reflects, in part, the extent to which in the UK, the Satanic panic was framed less by anxious Christians than it was by elements of a decadent and decomposing left.
You perhaps might be thinking that "elements of a decadent and decomposing left" could refer very nicely to Spiked itself, which arose from the ashes of Living Marxism in 2000 as a confrontational "libertarian" online magazine. But this is a decent review of the whole sordid history, with some good points to make:
Because of the left-feminist inflection of the Satanic panic in the UK, its legacy is not a rational, more sober approach to child protection following the nasty, destructive excesses of the 1980s and early 1990s. No, the legacy, properly speaking, was the secularisation of the Satanic panic, its transmutation into the nasty, destructive excesses of today’s obsession with child abuse, the conviction that families up and down the land are caught in cycles of abuse. There are cases of child abuse - of that there can be no question. But the certainty that child abuse is everywhere, that it is rife, that children must be encouraged and pushed into revealing it - in those strains, you can still hear one of the devil’s best tunes.