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Posts Tagged ‘witchcraft’

There is no evidence (that I know of) that a Bigfoot can be summoned to do one’s evil bidding, like some kind of hairy hitman.  –  Kevin Underhill

This song used to be such a favorite on New Orleans classic rock stations during the summer, I always assumed the band was local (which it definitely was not).  The links above it were provided by Cop Crisis (x2), Radley Balko, Tim Cushing, Dave Krueger, and Popehat, in that order.

From the Archives

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I can’t breathe.  –  Edward Bronstein

When a musician with only one hit dies, deciding which song to feature is a piece of cake.  The links above it were provided by Cop Crisis, Jesse Walker, Cop Crisis again, The Onion, Dave Krueger, Popehat, and Jesse Walker again, in that order.

From the Archives

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If you don’t understand why this witch is carrying a sackful of toys, I suggest you consult my column from seven years ago today, which also (not by coincidence) contains links to the columns for the previous four years.  That should give you all the information you need to understand why I’m wishing some of my readers a Merry Christmas, some a Good Epiphany and others a Happy King Day, and welcoming all of you to the Carnival season!

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My freezer is full of roadkill.  –  Sarah Day

In honor of the death of one of its stars, here’s one of the more spectacular musical numbers from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  The links above it were provided by Mike Siegel, Dan Savage, Scott Greenfield, a reader who prefers to remain anonymous, Jesse Walker, and Cop Crisis (x2), in that order.

From the Archives

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We are quicksilver, a fleeting shadow, a distant sound…our home has no boundaries beyond which we cannot pass. We live in music, in a flash of color…we live on the wind and in the sparkle of a star!
–  Endora (Agnes Moorehead)

A couple of years ago I rewatched Bewitched, a show I always enjoyed in my youth but hadn’t seen since the early ’80s.  I’ve always thought Elizabeth Montgomery was an excellent actress, but this time the magic of cannabis (which slows down my hyperactive nervous system so that I can really watch these shows in a way I’ve never been able to before) opened my eyes to just how talented she really was; she could convey so much with just her facial expressions and vocal manner, and her comedic timing was brilliant.  But beyond that, I saw aspects of the show itself that were previously opaque to me.  I’ve always recognized that many of the episodes are veiled commentaries on racism and other forms of bigotry; that was typical of the 1960s, when fantasy and science fiction shows could sneak controversial issues past uptight sponsors and network censors by disguising them as the stuff of alien worlds or magical happenings.  When Samantha angrily denounced ugly witch stereotypes or mortals’ fear of those who are different, the perceptive viewer understood what the show was really saying.  As I grew older, I realized that there was also a more-deeply-buried queer subtext which was too radical even for most contemporary viewers who thought of themselves as liberal:  beside the fact that several of the principals were played by gay men, Samantha had to hide her true nature in order to exist in the judgmental mortal world, and only in the company of other witches could she really be herself.  Furthermore, those mortals were willing to hunt, persecute and even burn those like her merely because they were different.  But queer people weren’t the only sexual minority violently persecuted and actively hunted by 20th-century puritans; while I’m sure it was unintentional, sex workers can also see ourselves reflected in this magic mirror.

When I last watched the show, in my late teens or very early twenties, I naturally identified most with Samantha.  But on this rewatch, I found myself identifying with her mother, Endora, due in part to her age, in part to her unique personal style, and in part to her attitude toward her daughter’s marriage.  I’m old enough to have a daughter in her twenties or early thirties, and I can certainly understand how I’d feel if she married a man I thought wasn’t good enough for her.  But it goes beyond that: the association between sex work and witchcraft is a very old one, and even today many sex workers metaphorically describe our work as “magic” (not to mention the many sex workers who actually do specifically practice witchcraft, though obviously not the fantasy TV variety).  Endora’s chief gripe with her son-in-law isn’t really that he’s mortal; it’s that he wants to rob her beloved daughter of her birthright by forcing her to eschew magic and submit to mortal drudgery.  And every time I heard her say this to Samantha (in quite a few episodes), I imagined how I would feel if my beautiful daughter gave up a successful career in sex work to marry a “dumbo” who demanded she renounce her heritage, shun her whore friends, and work a shitty square job when she could make far more with far less effort by doing what she’s good at instead of letting herself be limited to behavior that doesn’t make dreary, unimaginative authoritarians uncomfortable.

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Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.  Usually the strength of a mass movement is proportionate to the vividness and tangibility of its devil.  –  Eric Hoffer

To paraphrase Baudelaire, the loveliest trick of religion is to convince people that the Devil exists.  Humans have never been fond of admitting blame for anything, but when someone is caught red-handed committing some evil and therefore cannot blame any other human, the truly devout buck-passer blames an invisible, intangible, supernatural force.  Authoritarians, too, love their devils; what better way to convince the Great Unwashed to render their obedience and surrender their liberty than to convince them of the existence of super-powerful evil spirits who cannot be stopped except by whatever snake oil those authoritarians are selling?  Over the past couple of centuries, belief in actual anthropomorphic deities of evil has slowly been replaced by belief in more tangible devils such as “criminals”, “terrorists”, “pimps”, and “people who vote differently than I do”, but as we head into a new dark age belief in a literal red guy with horns, hooves, a tail and a pitchfork has once again become popular in the Underdeveloped States of America.  The occult boom of the early ’70s (heralded by movies like The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby) paved the way for the Satanic panic of the ’80s and early ’90s, which after an implosion around 1994 soon returned as the “sex trafficking” hysteria; its roots in the older, more openly-religious hysteria are clearly visible in its QAnon branch and in persistent nonsense about the supposed magical powers of “pimps”.  And every so often, people whose entire understanding of how the universe works could be crammed into a chicken’s brain pan and still leave room for a politician’s moral compass, shit all over themselves because some musician employs “Satanic” imagery comparable in sophistication to that in a US television show from the 1950s.  Every society has throwbacks like this; the difference is that in America, we pretend they’re adults and let them decide who’s going to run things.

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This guy lay in shit and…died in [a] cell that looks like a friggin’ horse stall.  –  unnamed investigator

Imagination Pinned Down

Like seeing pictures in clouds or inkblots:

When the unrecognizable body of Jeannette DePalma…was found atop a…wooded hill…called the Devil’s Teeth in 1972, rumors spread quickly that the [16-year-old] was killed in some sort of satanic rite…Police…[claim]ed…they had found signs they thought might be related to the occult, including crosses made of sticks and branches arranged in a coffin-like outline around her body…But crime scene photographs released for the first time [last month]…debunk those claims, showing that DePalma’s body was simply lying in a dense, brushy area…facedown with an arm draped over a downed tree branch…Jason Coy, a history professor…who researches witchcraft…said he can’t find any sign of the occult or any other symbolism in the jumble of brush and branches.  It suggests that investigators, looking for something sinister, saw patterns that weren’t there…“Everything in th[e police] sketch that was marked out as a cross, in these crime scene photos just looks like a pile of underbrush…it’s a perfect example of how…i[f] someone…[has] the idea that something could be occult, they remember things that way”…

The Naked Anthropologist

Here’s Dr. Laura Agustín with GAATW on the rescue industry:

Torture Chamber 

For a change, this journalist doesn’t refer to torture as “correction”:

…Reginald Wilson spent more than 1,300 days in and out of jail since 1997 for charges often related to his fragile mental health…in December 2018 [Georgia cops abducted and caged him] for a probation violation…[dur]ing a mental health crisis…he was [lock]ed in a padded [cell and given no professional help, even after]…he smeared his own feces on the wall.  “He never slept. He was constantly just up, doing almost like gymnastics when you watched the video,” one [screw admitted to]…investigators…Wilson stopped eating, drinking and refused to take medication…[yet] the jail’s psychiatrist never saw [him].  In[stead,] staff [just repeatedly yelled “stop faking” at]…him…[and cop]s tased him at least tw[ice].  After… eight days…a [screw] found Wilson not breathing…[and] covered in…feces…[he had] died from…dehydration…

Not for Any Reason Whatsoever

Do I really have to add, “Not because a little boy picked a flower”?

[A] 6-year-old…was accused of picking a tulip from a yard at his bus stop, his attorney Julie Boyer said, and…was on trial…for injury to real property.  The boy’s attention span was too short to follow the proceedings…[so] Boyer…handed him crayons and a coloring book…she…and others [explain that] children that age don’t have the mental capacity to understand the juvenile justice process and…can’t make informed decisions…[yet at present North Carolina]…expect[s them to]…”Should a child that believes in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy be making life-altering decisions?” asked…Judge Jay Corpening…[local] advocates…recommend…the age be raised to 12…The National Juvenile Justice Network recommends 14…

End Demand (#893)

It’s good to see a story like this quote at least one knowledgeable person:

Columbus [Ohio politicians] are weighing changes to local solicitation laws that would emphasize pu…shing [propaganda about] those who pay for sex [in addition to propaganda about] those who sell it…[politician] Mitchell Brown [vomited out popular nonsense about]…sex trafficking…chief [copagandist and rape apologist] Jennifer Knight…[salivated about forcing people into “re-education”] sessions…[but actual] researchers like Jennifer Suchland argue “end demand” policies often backfire…“Because there’s now substantial evidence to show that they are, one, not actually reducing the amount of exploitation, and two, they are increasing the precarity of those people who are in the sex trade”…Suchland says…the “end demand” model is based on a faulty assumption…

Knight is the sow charged with making excuses for the Columbus rape gang, and claims the way to “build trust” with women is to hunt, rape and cage them.

Safe Position (#1058)

Don’t be deceived by Katz, a duplicitous proponent of Swedish criminalization:

Queens, New York, District Attorney Melinda Katz moved…to dismiss nearly 700 cases against people charged with loitering for the purpose of prostitution…[on] the same day…Mayor Bill de Blasio pushed [Swedish-style]…criminaliz[ation]…The…law was repealed last month out of concern it too often targeted…people…based solely on their appearance…Katz [followed up by bloviating about]…sex trafficking…

Katz is dismissing these cases because she has to, since the law they were charged under was repealed.  This isn’t some kind of personal move on her part toward sex worker rights, despite claims to the contrary.

Predictable Consequences

Lots of sex workers are quoted in this rebuke of prohibitionist yellow journalism:

The New York Times re[acted to]…the recent slayings of eight persons at three “Asian” spas…by a deranged religious nut…with a self-[indulgent article]…adopting the rhetoric…of…sex work…pro[hibitionists], painting the spas as havens for sex trafficking…without one quote from sex workers or sex worker rights advocates, the Times piece [claim]s that “experts say there are more than 9,000 such businesses” in the U.S. which are “fronts for prostitution,” and that “many of the women working there are being exploited.”  That dubious statistic hails from a particularly odious non-profit, the Polaris Project, which has long conflated consensual adult sex work with sex trafficking and has a history of dealing in fake statistics and urban legends…Massage workers…have no agency, nor any voice, in this scheme or this article…

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I thought y’all might enjoy this Twitter conversation I recently had, primarily with Matisse and Carol Leigh; it touches on a number of themes that recur frequently in my work.  Twitter conversations tend to branch, but I think I’ve managed to gather the main elements I want to share.

 

 

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What we really need are safe and legal ways for sex workers to do what millions of Americans depend on them for.  –  Kate Zen

Under Every Bed 

Population 23,639:

…Guardians of the Children hosted a walk and candlelight vigil to raise awareness about child exploitation…[and] human trafficking…[but because North] Platte [Nebraska has no actual “sex trafficking” the members conflated it with]…child abuse [so they could claim at least a few hundred]…cases…

The Widening Gyre (#786)

When a headline writer doesn’t actually read the article first:

…historians offer a…thesis for the purpose QAnon serves.  The “nocturnal ritual fantasy”—a term coined by the historian Norman Cohn in his landmark study of European witch trials, Europe’s Inner Demons—is a recurring trope in Western history.  And it is often a politically useful one.  Deployed by the Romans against early Christians, by Christians against Jews, by Christians against witches, by Catholics against “heretics,” it is a malleable set of accusations that posit that a social out-group is engaged in perverse, ritualistic behaviors that target innocents—and that the out-group and all its enablers must be crushed…

Apparently, New Republic editors are so fixated on the “left-right” fantasy, and the belief that all social evils proceed from “The Right”, that they’re willing to characterize the Romans, the Christians, and the great majority of 1980s and 1990s Americans as “The Right” in order to cram an article into that paradigm.

Guinea Pigs (#955)

Just a reminder that this privacy-destroying abomination started as a means of spying on sex workers:

Palantir…promises t[o]…create clarity and order.  But to deliver, its software needs data — lots of it.  Now, two never-before-seen documents, “Intermediate Course” and “Advanced Course” training manuals, reveal how the Los Angeles Police Department has taught its [thugs] to use Palantir Gotham…At great taxpayer expense, and without public oversight or regulation, Palantir helped the LAPD construct a vast database that indiscriminately lists the names, addresses, phone numbers, license plates, friendships, romances, jobs of Angelenos — the guilty, innocent, and those in between.  LAPD’s Palantir database includes information from the DMV…[and] 1 billion pictures taken of license plates from traffic lights and toll booths in Los Angeles and neighboring areas.  If you’ve driven through Los Angeles since 2015, the police can see where your car was photographed, when it was photographed, and then click on your name to learn all about you…

Thou Shalt Not (#971)

Pregnant women are easy targets for crypto-moralists:

Women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should completely avoid caffeine, according to a study published in The British Medical Journal.  Its findings, though, were quickly picked apart by skeptics who are sick of women being warned that almost everything they do…is a risk to their kids.  “I don’t think we need to worry about coffee,” says Clare Murphy…[of] the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. “I think we need to worry about this relentless pursuit of pregnant women and regulating of pregnant women’s choices”…the paper…is…a meta-analysis of several earlier studies…conducted by James E. Jack, a professor of psychology at Reykjavik University whose life’s work seems to be excoriating caffeine…in a culture enamored of shame and blame, especially when it comes to moms, it is this kind of research that gets funding and attention…Murphy says that her country’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recently published guidelines “whereby they want a woman’s entire alcohol history through the entire pregnancy—from a glass of beer they had before they knew they were pregnant—to be all documented and transferred onto a child’s health record.”  The clear implication is that anything a mom does can and will be held against her if a child exhibits problems…

The Implosion Begins

Cops will embrace any belief, no matter how bizarre, which gives them more power:

…what if the cop patrolling your neighborhood held bizarre and unsubstantiated views?  What if…he…was watching videos…[claim]ing that a satanic cabal of high-profile…pedophiles is running the world’s most insidious sex ring?  Or was swiping through memes popularizing …[fantasies] about kidnapped children kept in underground tunnels so their blood can be harvested to help keep wealthy people alive?  And what if they sincerely believed it all?  In a small but growing number of places across the country…[cops] have endorsed QAnon, [just as they endosed “sex trafficking” hysteria from which it sprang]…

Working From Home (#1070)

We’re way past the watershed when a prominent sex worker activist gets a network news byline:

Sex workers are the majority of creators on [OnlyFans], and here was a celebrity coming in and making more in a day than they could in a year.  Many sex workers rely on [the site] as their sole source of income during the pandemic, as in-person encounters became unsafe.  But what especially angered workers was how [former Disney star Bella] Thorne caused a wave of chargebacks that “broke OnlyFans”…[by] promising a $200 pay-per-message nude photo that she then shied away from sending…Shortly thereafter, OnlyFans…limit[ed] max subscription and tip payments and extend[ed] payout time by 23 days in 14 countries where fraud risk is deemed highest…To rub salt in the wound, Thorne’s sister Kaili responded to the controversy by seeming to dismiss and shame sex worker concerns…while the scandal has mostly died down, the problems it revealed remain worthy of our attention, especially as we head into fall and winter without a clear end to the…pandemic in sight…

Tissue of Lies

As I predicted almost 9 years ago, these debunkings are becoming common:

…The myths spread about human trafficking are endless.  Every year viral headlines claim the Super Bowl (and other major sporting events) are hotbeds for human trafficking.  This has been debunked for years.  The vast majority of sex workers get into the industry through friends or social activities, not through coercion of pimps.  There are ads to fight human trafficking in airports all over the country, despite there never being a confirmed case in one (but many cases of interracial families are reported)…These myths will continue feeding conspiracy theories like Pizzagate and QAnon until there’s a cultural effort to share the truth.  Human trafficking has been marketed as a national problem for decades and has generated hundreds of millions of dollars both publicly and privately, yet still has no credible studies showing the numbers of victims, no proof there’s a nation-wide crisis, and scarce evidence that current solutions help the underlying problems at all…

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I exonerated tons of cases that involved awful conduct.  –  Dan Bodah

Here’s a funny look at something I’ve been pointing out for decades now, provided by Marc Randazza; the links above the video were supplied by Amy Alkon, Thaddeus Russell, Franklin Harris and Jesse Walker, Walter Olson, and Jesse Walker again, in that order.

From the Archives

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