As I write this short piece, I am supposed to still be busy working on my commentary on Stanislaw Przybyszewski’s essay, The Synagogue of Satan, which I believe to the earliest written treatise on Satanism written by a self-declared Satanist. But recent events compel to interrupt such work for just a moment, because, thinking about it, I feel that it would be wrong for me to not say anything about it here on this blog when I have readily done so in the past. My work on Przybyszewski’s book is still in progress, but what I write now, I must write now, however briefly.
On June 10th, the headquarters of The Satanic Temple in Salem was attacked by a man who tried to set the place on fire. He placed some accelerants onto the premise and set it on fire. It seems that this individual was spotted in a T-shirt with the word “GOD” on it, likely indicating his commitment to Christianity. It also seems that the man was later identified as Daniel Damien Lucey, who, after his arrest, confessed to driving up to the building to light it on fire and that it was meant as a hate crime.
Although my opposition to The Satanic Temple are pretty well-known, and although I have questioned the very extent to which they could even be regarded as “Satanists”, the simple truth is that the attack isn’t really about any of that. It is reasonable to assume that Daniel Damien Lucey attacked The Satanic Temple quite simply because as far as he was concerned they were Satanists, and I further suspect that he may have been motivated by Christian nationalist ideology and the attendant moral panics centering Satanists and The Satanic Temple more particularly. This week, the American right condemned The Satanic Temple for their involvement in a Pride event in Idaho in which they were to offer “unbaptism” ceremonies and sell merchandise. The Satanic Temple pulled out of the Idaho event, probably not wanting to deal with reactionary backlash, but either way right-wingers already had their narrative that Satanists and LGBTQ people were “degenerates” looking to corrupt the community and, how do they put it, “sexualize your children”. In this sense I don’t think it’s a stretch of the imagination to count this attack as a broader expression of right-wing Christian nationalist violence meant to target marginalized groups, and anti-Satanic moral panic is a huge part of that ideology.
The recent attack on The Satanic Temple in Salem is not the first time Christian reactionaries have attacked Satanists or places associated with Satanism. I still remember when the Greater Church of Lucifer (now called the Assembly of Light Bearers) opened their first physical church in Texas back in 2015, and faced vandalism from local Christians before eventually shutting their doors in 2017. I am also informed that, in November 2019, a place called The Wilde Collection, which featured a depiction of Baphomet among other things, was the target of an arson attack by a man who said “God told me to do it”. And how often do we forget that Satanists have been victims of hate crimes for years now. Christian reactionaries have been trying to attack Satanists and be rid of Satanism for a long time now, and they’re not going to stop, especially not now that the war being waged by Christian nationalism is in full swing. In other words, it’s not just about The Satanic Temple particularly, because we are all under attack in exactly the same way, and the difference certainly doesn’t matter to our attackers.
You may notice the title of this article, “Against the Milites Christi”. That is no flowery hyperbole, and it is not simply a fancy name for fundamentalism. The term means “Solider of Christ”, and was the name used by the early Roman Christians to refer to themselves and the community of Christians in military terms. It is often also rendered as “Miles Christi” or “Miles Christianus”. The Christians saw themselves as soldiers on the side of God and his son, waging struggle on their behalf in order to spread the word of God and convert non-believers. Those who were not “Milites Christi” were called “pagans”, or “paganus”, in this case meaning “citizen” or “civilian”. The language of “Milites Christi” continued and evolved over the history of Christianity. The Christian Crusaders called themselves “Milites Christi”, and Christian leaders who advocated for the Crusades were also dubbed “Milites Christi”, while the basic concept took on more generic forms in the form of knighthood, chivalry, and the generic term “Christian Soldiers” referred to in Christian hymns. Modern Chrstian nationalists who attack Satanists, non-believers, and marginalized people tend to carry in themselves a similar zeal and fundamentally the same ideological mission: waging struggle in order to uphold God’s order, at least as they see it, under the desire to realize a theocratic nation-state. I will grant that many modern Christians do not view their faith in terms any great struggle, except perhaps for a more abstract sense of inner struggle with their own sins. But the Christians who are attacking Satanists with arson and violence absolutely see themselves as “soliders of Christ”, fighting evil in order to spread and uphold the order of God.
These people must be fought. There can be equivocation on this reality. Let them be cursed, let them be smashed, indeed let them burn in exactly the way they are trying to burn us. You should accept no counsel against the struggle that is to come – no, the struggle which has already been foisted upon you. In the American context, all talk of disarmament should be swiftly rejected, because it only means taking guns out of the hands of those waging anti-fascist struggle while the would-be “soldiers of Christ” get their hands on them anyway. And don’t doubt for a minute that they will. We’re talking about people who are convinced that their country is ruled by people who want to “sexualize” your children and get rid of Christianity and cis straight white males. Do you really think they’ll give a shit about how hard it is to get a gun if they think it means putting a stop to that? Make no illusions of the fight that is to be had. They want war. They want holy war on the streets. That’s how they see their actions against Satanists and anyone who they think is a Satanist, and if they’re allowed to run rampant they might indeed get their wish. Let’s not pretend everything is OK, and let’s not pretend that the powers that be will solve our problems. The politicians don’t care because they don’t regard us at all, the media doesn’t care and will happily tell us that those who kill in the name of God are not who they say they are, and it should ultimately be remembered that even now Douglas Misicko (sorry, “Lucien Greaves”) could still clutch his pearls about anti-fascist direct action taken against the people who just now tried to burn down The Satanic Temple’s Salem headquarters!
What action is to be taken against these Milites Christi, is to be taken into our own hands. Satanists are under attack, and other non-Christians will be too. The boots of the cross must not be allowed trample upon Satanic liberty; instead the cloven hooves must press upon them before they dare snuff it out!
One of the things that convinces me that Progress is ultimately a convenient fiction is the constant reinvention of the Satanic Panic. It was only back in 2015 that here in the UK we already saw the revival of the Satanic Panic in the Hampstead scare, in which several people were accused of abducting, trafficking, raping, and killing children, all in a school in Hampstead, and even though those charges were soon dismissed and proven false, the basic idea continued to live in for a pack of conspiracy theorists who continued to pursue the phantom of Satanic conspiracy. Then of course there was PizzaGate, the belief that Democratic Party elites were abducting and molesting children at the basements of Comet Pizza, which eventually gave way to QAnon, a much larger conspiracy theory in which “satanic” pedophiles were abusing and sacrificing children but also were in the process of being secretly arrested by Donald Trump, a belief that persists in the American far-right to this day. Then of course there was the Satanic Panic being concocted against Lil Nas X for his Satan shoes and the Montero music video they accompanied. And now, there’s a new Satanic Panic centered around Travis Scott, the rapper whose recent Astroworld concert ended in a riot in which 8 people died.
Let’s get into the background of what happened before we go any further. On November 5th, the rapper Travis Scott performed at the Astroworld Festival in Houston, Texas. Apparently his appearance was met with a surge of fans rushing to the stage, which the escalated into widespread panic and violence. As the crush was happening, multiple fans were pleading with the festival personnel and shouting out to Travis Scott to stop the festival and to alert them to people dying, but these pleas were ignored. As a result, eight people are known to have died and the cause of the crush is still under investigation. But that hasn’t stopped certain reactionary conspiracists from getting the wrong idea.
Christian TikTok users have claimed that the stage at Astroworld resembles an inverted cross leading to a portal to Hell, suggesting that Astroworld was actually a Satanic ritual, which Travis Scott supposedly set up to deliberately kill people. Another supposed piece of evidence consists of a shirt he wore of humans walking through a door and emerging with horns, apparently proving Scott’s “Satanic” inclinations. Some users on Twitter compared the Astroworld Festival to some Hieronymus Bosch paintings depicting Hell, even though they’re probably meant to just be based on the cover of his album, Astroworld. Some people took the presence of an apparently winged creature above the stage as proof that his destival is all about Hell. One person claimed that Astroworld was “666 months + 6 days after the founding of the Church of Satan”. Others have tied the Satanic conspiracy angle to anti-vaccine conspiracies, alleging that Covid-19 vaccines made people susceptible to demonic trances that Scott’s music supposedly caused.
All of this is obviously complete nonsense. Travis Scott is not a Satanist, neither is Drake for that matter, and even if they were, odds are they would not have planned mass sacrifice. If anything, if that was the idea, you’d think that the event would be more clandestine and the death toll would be much higher than eight people. Vaccines most definitely do not cause any trances, let alone of the kind that have been called “demonic possession”, and even if they did it seems nonsensical to think that the effect would require you to go to a music festival to manifest. People can get into vaguely ecstatic states all the time in music festivals without the help of vaccines, demons, or even drugs. We don’t really know what happened as far as causes are concerned, but the fact that people have constantly complained before the concert about a lack of security and exits allows us to suggest that the people organising the Astroworld Festival were cutting corners; not spending enough money or effort on the safety of the festival attendees. As for Scott himself, I honestly don’t know why he just straight up ignored pleas to stop the show, but it seems to me that you don’t need demons in your head to be an asshole. Humans have managed to be sufficiently horrible either without demonic influences or, if anything, with the full support of their “better angels”.
I will say, incidentally, that the whole concept of demonic trances being involved is kind of fascinating to me mostly because of my research into pre-Christian beliefs. Possession by spirits was not an uncommon concept in the Greek and Vedic cultures, and it wasn’t always seen as a bad thing. In fact, states of nympholepsy in Greece or being “mounted by the gods” in African indigenous traditions were holy experiences that transgressed the boundary between self a d the uncanny other and, in a way, united participants with the gods. More importantly, divine possession was a key part of the mysteries of Dionysus, which were often targeted by authorities of the state cults of Rome for their apparently subversive nature, with Dionysus sharing important traits with our modern Devil. These are important considerations for anyone seeking to embody the Left Hand Path in a Pagan context.
But, at any rate, none of the facts about Astroworld, Travis Scott, or supposed Satanic rites are going to stop people from continuing to believe in Satanic Panics. It doesn’t even have to involve real conspiracies, such as the kind that the Order of Nine Angles and Tempel ov Blood are at this point known for (and kind of open about if anything), because the Panic depends almost entirely on fictitious events and false narratives of conspiracy, as these are what manufacture legitimacy for reactionary outrages against the marginalized. I’d also argue that the prevalence of Satanic Panic is to a point where, even though The Satanic Temple is an exception in that they’re covered all too favorably by mainstream media, one of the only times the media can actually criticizes The Satanic Temple is if they can throw in a something about orgies being involved. The funniest part about all of this is that Travis Scott and lots of pop musicians can be accused of being part of an elite Satanic cult bent on human sacrifice, but with black metal or death metal bands, plenty of whom are explicitly dedicated to Satanism, aren’t really subject to the same conspiracy theory treatment, even when some black metal musicians actually do commit crimes. I wonder why that is, and to be honest it makes me think that this sort of shit never is actually about Satanism per se.
And if you think about it, subtle forms of this exist even outside Satanism. We were all mad about Cuties, but as bad as it might have been, I’ve seen anime on Netflix with some at least moderately fucked up stuff in it involving childlike characters, but you wouldn’t hear anything about that except for occasional defence because it was made by Japanese guys instead of a woman from Somalia. As much as I denounced Michel Foucault last year, I have to point out that more recent accusations of him having raped children in Tunisia were immediately debunked and then walked back in the absence of evidence, and yet nonetheless were and are still taken as unquestionable truth to this day, which I’m retrospect had me wondering just how much else levelled against him isn’t as it seems, even if still arguably questionable at the end of it. And we all like to talk about harm and abuse, but we’re never consistent about it because it’s never about that. Take the Foucault accusations again. At worst, he dated 17-year olds, which is still bad, don’t get me wrong, but remember when rock and early heavy metal musicians would date teenagers and for some reason nobody complained even though you could legitimately say that was suspect? Keep in mind, this was all around the same time Foucault was still alive (he died in 1984). In fact I’m willing to bet the same baby boomers who join the TERF bandwagon about queers and trans people being pedophiles didn’t used to have a problem with cis straight rockers fucking young groupies back when they were young.
We’re almost all victims of the fact that the lie travels half way around the world before the truth gets a word in, and the lie has a habit of appealling to a complex of instincts that even people who think of themselves as transgressive or skeptical still have a hard time overcoming. And maybe that’s because truth such as it can be called isn’t a revelation but a continuous learning curb. But of course, the broad contours of that are things I should like to explore another day.
To be honest, I initially ignored the brew-ha-ha surrouding the pop rap singer Lil Nas X, his Satan shoes, and the song it was supposed to market, despite the fact it dovetails into the subject matter of Satanism. At the time I looked on it as a classic moral panic against “Satanism” in pop culture and thought little of it. Then I got alerted to a video released in April by a guy named Jonathan Pageau about Lil Nas X’s song, around whom the Satan shoes were marketed, and I decided that I simply had to write a response to it, and maybe advance some new takes in the process. Pageau’s video is titled, and I’m being serious, “Montero and Wandavision: How Satanism Functions”, and in it he argues that Lil Nas X, and Wandavision as well, are promoting Satanism through this engendering the decay of “Western civilization”. Also he apparently argues not only that witchcraft is real but also that the Malleus Maleficarum was an accurate account of the practice of witchcraft being played out in the present day. Or at least he argues for the relevance of what the Malleus Maleficarum says in a very roundabout way.
For context, the main subject of all this is “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”, a hip hop song made by Lil Nas X and released in March 26th. The song is about Lil Nas X struggling with being gay in the context of his Christian upbringing, deep down wanting to have sex with men, and eventually embracing his sexual identity and owning what society perceives to be its subversive nature as part of that. To promote the song, Lil Nas X and Nike collaborated to release a series of custom Air Max 97 shoes referred to as Satan Shoes, which are essentially just sneaker shoes that sport Satanic imagery and supposedly made with a drop of human blood. Naturally, this courted controversy among idiots looking to use their faith as a basis to attack Lil Nas X for being gay and accuse him of seducing the youth into Satanism just like they said about every other pop musician ever. Evidently Jonathan Pageau, a Christian artist (he makes Orthodox icons for a living) and public speaker about symbolism and myth, is one of those idiots, but as you will see he goes above and beyond with his insane takes on the song.
Mindful of the fact that Pageau’s video is 36 minutes long, goes all over the place, and in general it can take me quite a bit of time to write response posts such as this, I will do the best I can to not make this too lengthy a post. So in that spirit, we’ll focus mostly on some very specific points/claims made by Pageau. For our purposes, this means ignoring everything about Wandavision in the video that isn’t otherwise pertinent to everything else we’re covering. The actual video is about both Lil Nas X’s song Montero and Wandavision, but I mostly just want to focus on his commentary on Lil Nas X and all things Satanic.
Right from the get go, we are shown that Pageau has no real idea who Lil Nas X is, and condescendingly treats him as someone “desperate for attention”. Regarding “satanic tropes and moves”:
None of it is arbitrary, but like any system of meaning, it rather has a strange coherence. This coherence can give us a few clues as to why this imagery would be used to attract the type of attention someone like Lil Nas X desperately needs in order to stay relevant in a post-Christian, blase, porn-infused, hungover culture.
Anyone who knows anything about Lil Nas X knows that he isn’t the kind of guy who would be “desperate for attention”. He shot to viral fame in 2019 with his single, “Old Town Road”, which stayed in the Hot 100 chart for 19 weeks, and since then he went on to be the most nominated male artist at the 62nd Grammy Awards, of which he won two awards (one for Best Music Video and another for Best Pop/Duo Group Perfomance). “Old Town Road” is still considered one of the most popular songs of the last few years, so needless to say he’s not exactly starved for attention. But even if it was all a scheme for attention, could we not say that it worked? And if it did, could we not make the argument that we in fact are not in a “post-Christian” age? If we were, then would we even be discussing any controversy relating to the opinions of religious Christians? After all, if we were in a post-Christian age, then Christianity would be irrelevant in the way that pre-Christian belief systems are generally considered to be irrelevant now. But then I suppose that, by “post-Christian culutre”, Pageau really means a generally secular culture where Christian religion isn’t forced on people by society at least in the way that it used to be, where Christianity has lost some of the power and influence that it once had, and irreligion, atheism, or alternative spirituality are experiencing some growth and openness.
After remarking dismissively about the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, as I suppose he should, Pageau begins to describe the music video for “Montero” and its imagery:
So the Montero video is a rather disturbing sight to behold. In a world inhabitated only by versions of himself, Lil Nas X sings about his intimate encounter, let’s call it, and his obsession with a man who has the same name as him, Montero, and Call Me By Your Name is the unofficial title of this song. The video is ultimately about one thing. It’s about pride. This self-love is represented as an exploration of the strangeness and idiosyncrasies of one’s self. Self-seduction, self-victimizing, self-abasement, self-gratification, and ultimately self-crowning. In speaking to his self-named lover, Montero tells us that “I’m not fazed, only here to sin. If Eve ain’t your garden, you know that you can.” And so pride as self-love appears ultimately as a sterile revolution against the natural patterns of the world. A desire for the world to be solipistic, to be contained by my self, for the world to be in my image, and a desire to be free from the usual constraints of natural patterns and cycles of being.
It is very important to understand what Pageau is trying to get at when he talks about things like “solipsism”, “pride”, “self-love”, and “revolution against natural patterns”. To do that, we need to remember the context of the song. It’s about Lil Nas X coming to terms with his homosexual identity, his struggle with his own self-denial in the context of a Christian upbringing, and eventual embrace of his identity as a homosexual. Where might “solipsism”, “pride”, or “narcissism” come in? Pageau will never outright say it, but it seems obvious that he is trying to say that homosexuality represents a deviation from the natural order or “natural patterns and cycles of being”, as set by God, and that the desire to be accepted for being homosexual is a form of solipistic rebellion against nature. His interpretation requires the ignorance not only of the fact that homosexuality was more or less normal in much of the ancient world (with Rome being a notable outlier), but also of the context of Lil Nas X’s own struggles with self-denial of his own homosexuality. Indeed, to underscore that, we need only address the lyric that Pageau quotes here: “I’m not fazed, only here to sin. If Eve ain’t your garden, you know that you can.” This is actually a reference to the fact that homosexuality is considered to be a sin in Western Christian culture, euphemistically hinting at the “forbidden” nature of the relationship that Montero wants to be a part of. Eve would be the woman in his lover’s life, the woman that he was probably partnering with as an act of self-denial to hide his real sexuality from a society that would not approve of it, and if this woman isn’t around to know about it, then perhaps Montero and his lover can freely pursue a homosexual relationship. All of this seems a lot more sensible an interpretation than some abstract nonsense about how Lil Nas X is declaring war on nature and God by being gay, which, on top of just putting words into Lil Nas X’s mouth and being homophobic, is Pageau looking at the satanic aesthetic and from there referring to the myth of Satan falling from heaven and projecting that myth onto the Montero song/video in order to working backwards towards his conclusion. If Pageau were a much more straightforward and honest man, he would be forthright in simply stating his opinion that homosexuality is “unnatural”, but perhaps he knows that this would ruin his effort to position himself as a somewhat respectable presenter of Christian mysticism, which is built on the ability to exploit ignorance.
He seems misinterpret another lyric as well:
He tells his self-named lover that he wants to, let’s say, I won’t quote it exactly but, let’s say, to put a child in his mouth. This is of course the ultimate image of sterility, of solipsistic dreaming, of this imagination which is taken up in fantastical places but does not produce body, community, or cohesion, but only causes revolution, fragmentation, and ultimately loneliness.
For starters, the correct rendition of the lyric is “Shoot a child in your mouth while I’m ridin'”. And all of that elaborate interpretation might seem compelling to someone who has no idea what Lil Nas X meant by that, but as to its actual meaning? It’s just slang for ejaculation. He’s jacking off into his lover’s mouth, basically. Riding is very obviously a reference to a sex act, which presumably ends in said ejaculation. It’s just Montero wants to do with his lover. That’s it. Now I’m sure that, as a Christian, Pageau would obviously have a problem with any form of ejaculation that doesn’t take place inside a woman’s vagina in the context of marriage, but it is not obvious what’s so sterile, or solipsistic, about jacking off in a guy’s mouth, except for what Pageau won’t tell you, which is that he thinks homosexual relationships in which men have sex with other men for pleasure is inherently unnatural and therefore solipsistic because it supposedly is at war with nature. Again I would note that many societies such as China, Turkey, and many African countries for instance considered homosexuality to be perfectly normal, and in fact during the age of European colonialism there were Moroccan visitors to France who were offended by the fact that French men did not engage in sexual relations with men. It was only after the West came in, conquered those countries, altered their societies, and spread the narrative that they were conquered due to their “decadence”, that attitudes towards homosexuality would change.
So we find Montero under the tree of knowledge in the primordial garden, where he is first frightened but then seduced by a serpent figure. The serpent figure is a hybrid in the traditional Renaissance depictions of the serpent, which has often been linked to Lilith by historians. The hybrid also takes on the image of the alien, so of course this hybrid alien demon serpent figure is one that has become the narrative monster of conspiracy theorists from David Icke to QAnon. So it could be easy for many to dismiss all this as a kind of trolling, and this is indeed the game being played, I think. But there’s something else going on, because even if it is just trolling the question remains, why does Montero invoke this very precise imagery in this video? To gain attention? To provoke? To subvert? Well yes, yes, and yes, but, the error that we might make is to believe that it stops there, that such an answer somehow explains what is actually happening.
With that, let’s cut in to explain what is actually happening. Since the serpent in the Garden of Eden is brought forward, it’s worth returning to what we discussed earlier, about the line in the song that says “I’m not fazed, only here to sin. If Eve ain’t your garden, you know that you can.”. We’ve already established that the line is a reference to how Montero tells his lover that he wants to pursue a homosexual relationship with him and that, if his female partner isn’t around, they can do so in his house without her knowing, free from prying eyes. The imagery of the Garden of Eden is an obvious call to the theme of sin. Traditionally, this means the first sin committed by Adam and Eve (or rather, first Eve and then Adam, establishing woman as the first sinner in an obviously misogynistic fashion), which leads to mankind being expelled from the garden by God. But in context, the “sin” as it relates to Montero is the “sin” of homosexuality, or more accurately the fact that society and his upbringing traditionally perceives homosexuality to be a sin against God. Lil Nas X only came out as gay in 2019, and around the same time “Old Time Road” was released, so he only felt comfortable being open about being gay to the point of declaring himself as such relatively recently in his life. Before then, he repeatedly denied the suggestion that he might have been gay, and apparently there was and might still be some apprehensions towards homosexuals within the country and rap music scenes. With that in mind, you can understand the lyrics of Montero in the context of homosexual desire and the struggle to find acceptance and fufillment, and the imagery in terms of that self-acceptance manifesting in the willingness to take on the subversive reputation of that: as in, “if I have to be a sinner, then so be it, I’ll embrace that if it means I’m happy with who I am”. It’s just about coming to terms with being gay, albeit in the context of a song about sex. Of course, if it actually were a Satanist message (and I maintain that it isn’t), then I suppose Anton LaVey did capture it best when he said “if you’re going to be a sinner, be the best sinner on the block”. But that has little to do with the message of the song. Montero doesn’t want to be a sinner, he just wants to be happy with being gay and have sex with men, and he just happens to be prepared to take on a subversive and sinful edge as a way of embracing his sexuality in a way that, ultimately, doesn’t actually lead on to a religious (or anti-religious) break with mainstream culture. Pageau speaks of how the imagery crystallizes the fears of many people, but what he won’t tell you is that it’s only bigoted Christian conservatives like himself who have any fears about the song or the video.
So in the video, after his seduction by the serpent, it follows Montero to a kind of coliseum where he’s chained and judged by cross-dressed versions of himself. He’s then stoned by these dusty zombie figures that are replicas of him, and then he’s finally killed with some disturbing sex toy.
That’s a buttplug, dumbass. Ever heard of it? More to the point, why do you think the people judging Montero and stoning him to death are all versions of himself? It’s because that scene is his own self-denial. He is a homosexual, but struggles for acceptance within society, and for him, like many other homosexuals, this has sometimes unfortunately meant that they may go through a process where, in order to be accepted by society even if that’s not for who they are, they find themselves internalizing society’s contempt for homosexuality and the premise that homosexuality is abnormal or that there’s something wrong with them, which is then explained away by homophobes as a kind of natural inner monologue that informs them that there is indeed something wrong with them, and so they judge themselves as sinners just for the “high crime” of existing as homosexuals.
He ascends into the sky to meet a shadowy angel, but this pole, this pole/lance, shoots up from below, and as Montero grabs it he begins to slide down in the guise of a pole dancer into the belly of Hell. And let’s be honest if there ever was a perfect representation of the, let’s call it, ontological reality of pole dancing, I’m pretty sure this is it. The pole coming up from below is of course an inversion of the spear of St. Michael, which is portrayed in medieval imagery as pinning down the great serpent, that is Satan, coming from above. And now this spear/pole is coming to claim Montero from behind, with all the undertones that that also includes. So even though it’s coming from below, it’s nonetheless this axis mundi, the axis of the world. It nonetheless is this hierarchy which connects heaven and earth together, though now it’s not a hierarchy seen from the side of the traditional ladder you see in icons of the ladder of divine ascent, which is going up in humility, worship, and self-transformation, but rather it’s this coming up from behind of revolution.
This is all already a lot to take in as is and he goes on about how the lance coming from behind is a metaphor for being chased out of heaven, but rather than put all that forward let’s just get to the point. When Pageau talks about the pole coming up from behind, I’m amazed he doesn’t do this but I think back to the lyrics when Montero says “Shoot a child in your mouth while I’m ridin'”. Montero is “riding” his partner, and while in heterosexual sex this would mean the woman “rides” on top of the man’s penis while he lays on his back, in a homosexual context this would instead involve a form of anal sex. So if the pole is coming from behind then in my opinion it’s pretty obviously sexual symbolism. But for Pageau it’s not as simple as it obviously is, and instead what would in context be a sexual reference becomes for him a symbol of ontological descent and revolution, spiralling down an inverted hierarchy towards Hell and damnation instead of ascending the hierarchy towards Heaven vis-a-vis the axis mundi and the divine ladder. This apparently is the “ontological reality of pole-dancing” (trust me, you will never find anyone else utter such a lunatic phrase), it’s a man sticking his penis in another man’s ass, which is apparently supposed to be a kind of “revolution”. The context of “revolution” here is clear, when paired with terms like “fragmentation” and “loneliness”. He means revolting against God, alienating yourself from God, and therefore sin, which is anything that separates Man from God or God’s will. Homosexual sex is therefore cast as a revolution against “natural patterns of being”, meaning God’s order, and is therefore a sinful inversion of Christian symbolism. So, again, we have a rather thinly disguised expression of religious homophobia.
So we see the movement from the periphery, we see it from the wheel that’s wrapped around the axis, which turns and slithers and seduces onlookers by its changeability, and by leading them into their passions.
Just bringing this up because, in the actual video, this commentary is accompanied by an image of a circulating image of the Ouroboros, the classic, ancient symbol of a serpent biting its own tail forming a circle, and it seems to me like Pageau is conveying a rank misunderstanding of the symbol. People bring up the Ouroboros image all the time and use it as an expression of self-cannibalism, usually in a figurative sense, but in many ways that’s just invoking the image of Ouroboros without understanding its significance. In its Egyptian origins, it was likely a symbol meant to denote eternity, which feeds into modern understandings of it as a cipher for the endless cycle of life and death. The idea of a serpent surrounding the world, the axis mundi, doesn’t strike me as having anything to do with Christian teachings, unless you count the “Gnostic teachings of the Pistis Sophia which speaks of an outer darkness surrounding the world in the form of a serpent, but I doubt that Pageau is speaking to a “Gnostic” understanding, being that he is at least ostensibly aligned with Orthodoxy. In fact, the idea of a serpent surrounding the axis mundi actually seems like it should be a reference to Jormungandr, the serpent son of Loki from Norse mythology, who grows to encompass the whole world and whose biting of his own tail will herald the arrival of Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods. But in general, there’s nothing about Ouroboros, or Jormungandr, that has anything to do with seduction or human passions, and this idea seems like an obvious projection of the symbolism of the serpent of Eden (and that of Satan) onto the image of Ouroboros, which fails to consider that serpents have had a broad symbolic meaning since basically forever and not all serpents, even within Christian symbolism, denote temptation and evil.
So ending up in a caricature of Hell, with a thorn-covered door, which is a nice touch in terms of symbolism, Montero lap-dances Satan into this simulated sexual act, to then himself come up behind the Evil One, to break his neck, steal his horns and his crown, replacing the Devil in what we could call a final revolution, a revolution which is the supremacy of the self.
Pageau sort of compliments this detail on the basis that he thinks it matches the idea of a Satanic story pretty well. But does it? The whole basis of Satanism is that Satan is supposed to be a positive figure in some sense, even in the case of the Order of Nine Angles and similar groups where the reason for that is that conventional evil in-itself is a positive thing. I suppose that, by taking over Satan’s throne and replacing him, you do loosely fulfill one criteria for certain strands of Satanism, LaVeyan Satanism in particular, wherein the goal of the Satanic individual is to be Satan yourself. On the other hand, those strands of Satanism would also emphasize that, in literal terms, there is no Satan except for you yourself, who strives to embody a Satanic ideal, and this is a point we’re going to get into again shortly. In general, though, you going in to kill and dethrone Satan, just because you’re not doing so in God’s name, is not necessarily a Satanic narrative. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a Satanic narrative where Satan is anything other than a positive influence, someone whose role is not to be as a rival for you but instead as a guide, an inspiration, a teacher for the Satanic path. Killing Satan in a Satanic narrative, for this reason, makes little sense, especially when the point of a Satanic narrative is in some way to extoll Satan as a representative of the Satanic ideal. But again, when Pageau says “a revolution which is the supremacy of the self”, this is what does all the work. Remember, Pageau’s argument is that the imagery of the Montero music video represents the triumph of a solipsistic self against the patterns of nature and being, which is essentially just his way of saying he hates homosexuality. The ultimate point in Pageau’s worldview is that homosexuality is a revolution that culminates ultimately in the dethronement of all values and the inversion of all hierarchies except for the self, and that’s ultimately because this is what Pageau would rather believe than just accept that it’s basically a queer narrative about a gay man struggling to accept himself, even when not only is that literally what Lil Nas X says himself but also Pageau shows those statements in his own video. Seems to me like he could have saved himself a lot of effort and maybe just made this about Wandavision instead.
Now, when we get to Pageau’s discussion of Satanism let me press this into your head: when I said Pageau was doing a Satanic Panic, I didn’t mean that lightly in the slightest. I mean literally, this guy literally believes that every edgy rebellious form of pop culture is Satanism. In the video he refers to “modern pop Satanism” and its imagery, which for him includes not only Anton LaVey but also bands like Black Sabbath and “heavy metal Satanism”, and in the video the footage that plays for “heavy metal Satanism” is a goddamn KISS show! It’s very obvious that this guy doesn’t have the slightest clue about Satanism let alone in rock or metal music, since not only does he never refer to any bands that might actually be considered satanic, not even Ghost, but the first band he refers to is Black Sabbath, the band that is known for using a right-side up cross rather than an upside down one for its imagery and also features openly and explicitly pro-Christian lyrics in its songs! This is literally just a rehash of the Satanic Panic of old, but in passing, and honestly I don’t think I’ve seen such a pathetic attempt to scare Christians away from metal music, let alone in 2021 of all times. Later in the video he mentions the band Slayer (who, by the way, disbanded two years ago and don’t plan on reuniting) in passing while discussing some trend of sacrilege against Christianity that somehow goes back to the Knights Templar. On top of just being insane gibberish, it also neglects that none of the band members in Slayer are actually Satanists, and in fact the lead singer Tom Araya is literally a Catholic.
He frames Satanism as “irony itself”, and in the process, he struggles to understand what LaVeyan Satanists, or really any atheistic Satanists, mean when they say don’t actually worship Satan. When atheistic Satanists say they don’t worship Satan, they don’t mean to say that their belief system is a joke, rather they consider that worship itself is an un-Satanic act, and that following the Satanic ideal or archetype means you shouldn’t worship anyone except yourself, because the Satanic ideal is that you are the only god, the only master, in your life, and that all the others are just projections of your own ego that will take control of you if you let them. Pageau whines that this is alien to the Christian way of ordering their lives around “faith” and “truth” (by which they only mean God’s “truth”). He rambles about how Satanists operate on self-righteous pride in their pursuit of destroying Christian ideas of meaning through embodying everything they oppose, and then brings this back to the Montero video by noting that it ends with Montero putting “the satanic crown” on himself. Then he claims that this is exactly what happened when The Satanic Temple erected their Baphomet statue, which if you’ll remember was the statue they planned to put on Oklahoma Capitol Building to protest its endorsement of Judeo-Christian religious values on secular government property. He derides religious freedom as an “ambiguous egalitarian notion”, and tries to describe the purpose of The Satanic Temple as demonstrating that most Americans are actually Satanists since they accept religious freedom, when in reality it was all just a way of getting local governments to either be consistent with secularism and have no religious symbols on their property or be consistent with “religious freedom” (which, contrary to Pageau’s claim, does not in this case refer to the “ambiguous egalitarian notion” he says it does but instead a dogwhistle for Christian supremacy) and endorse Satanic symbols and practices to show that they do not mean “freedom” only for Christians, and needless to say it succeeded in getting the government to choose consistent secularism.
Something to note is his rambling about hierarchies, which again is tied back to Montero, so let’s quote it here for a response:
In a traditional world, there is a hierarchy, and the monsters, the demons, the gargoyles, and especially the Satan or the opponent, are all on the outside, or they’re underground, they’re below us, and it’s best to actually not even pronounce their names. But now, in the context of liberty and equality driving social forms, the figure of Satan begins to appear as a dark prophet of the modern world, a noble Promethean who tragically stood against authority and declared himself equal to that which was above him. In the Montero video, Lil Nas X gets it right. Satanic imagery has never ultimately been about worshipping the devil but rather about embodying the revolutionary pattern through the type of pride exemplified by Satan in his war against Heaven, which ends with self-worship as self-crowning. And obviously it can’t really end that way, Montero’s only claim to the horns is violence and revolution, which means that there is always another pole-riding, lap-dancing person in line waiting to kill Montero and take the crown from him.
Let’s get something out of the way to start with: by “a traditional world”, he means a Christian society, albeit with some Greco-Roman influences. But even in the Greek world, although Hades was not worshipped and sometimes not named, he was indeed worshipped through proxies, and chthonic gods, who in Pageau’s view should be at the bottom of or outside the hierarchy, were often popularly worshipped in local cults and even form an integral part of the pantheon. In other pre-Christian societies, the “monsters” were sometimes paired with the gods and were not considered evil. And in most of the ancient world, there was no “Evil One”, no singular “Dark Lord” leading the enemies of the heavens who remains a persistent spiritual threat to mankind. That idea is the invention of monotheism. So “traditional world” only means the Christian world in practice. Pageau sort of gets the point of Satanic imagery, in a Satanic context, right when he says it isn’t about devil worship, but its emphasis on spiritual individualism is obviously filtered through the Christian mystical perspective so it becomes about ontological pride. But if we remember, this pride, this self-crowning, is for Pageau tied to what is actually supposed to be Montero’s struggle with and eventual embrace of his own homosexuality, so in this way Satanism as a phenomenon is cast by Pageau in terms of solipsistic revolution against God through homosexual sex. The last point is interesting, he insists that there is no genuine claim to the horns because it was inherited through violent overthrow. On this point, he may as well surrender the legitimacy of the United States of America, since the only reason that country exists today is violent revolution in the form of war against the British monarchy. And the point about how Montero will always be waiting for someone new to overthrow him, could the same not be said for Christianity, or for God? God is the supreme spirit in our culture as a result of his displacing all the gods who came before him, but the God that the West still worships was just one god among many in the land of his origin. He may have overthrown the other gods, but Pageau’s token, he too will eventually be replaced, or simply dethroned and replaced by a vacuum, for the age of Christianity cannot last forever.
We get to his discourse on the figure of Satan, and to be very honest it is all very empty. Pageau seems to deride contemporary religious scholars (who he describes as “anti-Christian”) for pointing out that the image of the Devil has nothing to do with the early Christian beliefs or the Bible and instead evolved gradually over centuries while picking up various outside elements, and he actually seems to think that the pagan elements of the Devil’s imagery consist in modern depictions like Neil Gaiman’s Lucifer, as opposed to the goat-like and hairy devils that were introduced by Christian eccelesiastics in the Middle Ages. And then we come to something he says that once again comes back to Montero and, honestly, I would like to take it apart:
So the reason why The Satanic Temple wanted to put up this stupid image of Baphomet in the United States is, believe it or not, the culmination of the same process which made Napoleon Bonaparte fill his Arc de Triomphe with Roman gods. And I wonder if Napoleon could perceive that this gesture of declaring himself emperor while putting a crown on his own head would culminate in a solipsistic video by a pole-dancing rapper who seduces the Devil to then only kill him and put the crown on himself.
So I take it that Napoleon wanted to establish secularism in a democratic context by juxtaposing Satanic symbolism alongside Christian symbolism in order to establish all religions as equally endorsed or repudiated in order to get the government to establish a neutral stance on religious symbolism? This is what happens when, instead of reading events and phenomenon as they are, you read them backwards from an a priori symbolic pattern that you establish in order to read reality in conformity to your own desires, preconceptions, or imaginations. Pageau fundamentally misunderstands the point of The Satanic Temple’s Baphomet statue, and I suspect that he may in fact be deliberately misleading the viewer. Pageau is not an objectiver thinker or analyst. An objective thinker or analyst would strive to read things as they are, whereas Pageau reads them based exclusive on some sort of mystical, clearly Platonistic ideas about pre-existing patterns of being that dictate the course of history and its meaning, which in reality is nothing but his own projection.
The reference to Napoleon invites the possibility of another such projection. Napoleon crowning himself emperor of France is supposed to culminate in Montero’s video, somehow. The reason, if you read Pageau carefully, is that Montero is solipsistic in the same way Napoleon is, and this means that in Pageau’s view the positive embrace of homosexuality by Montero is to be linked with solipsistic pride in the form of imperial ambition. This is another mystical reading that not only is suggestive of Pageau’s homophobia but also requires turning history on its head. Although it is fashionable for modern reactionaries to complain about “gay imperialism”, in all reality homophobia in a Western context can be thought of as a component of imperialism and imperial culture. In Rome we see that homosexuality, although it was practiced by members of the ruling class, was forbidden for everyone else on the grounds that it damaged “Roman manhood”, there were laws prescribing severe punishments for men having sex with men, and politicians liked to attack their rivals as “effeminates” and attach homosexuality with crime and conspiracy. In Roman religion, however, morality had very little to do with the worship of the gods as such, and more to social custom, but as Christianity rose, homophobia came to have a new religious basis dervied from the premise that homosexuality constitutes a corruption of God’s order as sin, and as Christianity became the dominant religion, European conquests of other lands often involved stamping out previously open attitudes to homosexuality and injecting their own bigoted attitudes through the transmission of Christianity, resulting in some of the homophobia you see throughout the world even as the West strives to overcome its own. Christianity is an imperialist religion. That is the logical outcome of a religion whose primary premises include the idea that what you believe is a determining factor in your supposed survival after death, and all of mankind must be “saved”, which necessitates Christian cultural imperialism. This is the real imperial ambition in the Western cultural context.
And, again, objectivity is not important to Pageau in the slightest, as he demonstrates of his worldview:
One of the historical moments where we can trace the origin of modern occultism and Satanism is when the Knights Templar were disbanded in the 14th century. The legitimacy of the accusations made against them is still being discussed interminably by historians. But in terms of social narrative, it doesn’t matter so much if you believe the accusations against the Templars or not. It is quite possible that they did not practice sodomy, they didn’t blaspheme against the cross or worship a strange god named Baphomet. In the same vein in terms of what we’re seeing today it doesn’t really matter if you believe the accusations against witches in the early modern period either, of these descriptions their Sabbat masses and their fornicating with demons. Of course one could argue about this in historical terms and people can do this interminably until they forget the original point of why such an accusation matters. What matters most is how these new possibilities, which appeared at the end of the Middle Ages, became something like a narrative space, where the opposite of Christianity, which was more implicit before, began to explicitly take form, in the form of explicit sacrilege and certain types of parody and inversion, and ultimately embracing the opposite of everything that Christians value.
So, the objective account of history in this regard does not matter to Pageau, only the narratives that can be made about it matter. The truth about the accusations against the Templars and “witches” don’t matter to him, only the fact that the possibility that they might have been heretics creates a “narrative space” into which the antithesis of Christianity might emerge. “Social narrative”, then, supercedes historical truth. I suspect that’s not arbitrary, since the historical truth tends to ruin Pageau’s “analysis”. The Knights Templar were not “opposite” to Christianity. They were a Catholic Christian military order that doubled as a charity and banking organization and were recognized by the Pope until Phillip IV, eager to escape his debts with the Templars, concocted fallacious accusations of heresy and devil worship in order to have them killed after the failure of the Crusades. Nor were most of the so-called “witches” “opposite to Christianity” in any real sense. Most of the “witches” were Christian peasants who either practiced some kind of folk magic in the context of their Christian religion or just happened to be unsociable towards clergy and had trumped up charges brought against them because of that. If anything, the real narrative of evil antithesis against Christianity was probably created by the Christians themselves. It was the medieval Christian establishment who concocted the idea of the Templars as heretics and witches worshipping the Devil. In fact, even the early Christians got in on this action. The 4th century Christian poet Prudentius accused the followers of Marcion of Sinope of worshipping the Devil, whom he believed created a shadowy cult that they follow in order to denounce God, and some of the racist blood libel tropes against Jews that have echoed over the centuries were advanced by some of the church fathers, who accused Jews of murdering Christians in elaborate sacrificial rituals, much as some pre-Christian Greeks had done. In fact, the main reason we have the Satan concept that we do today is because Christian theologians invented it in order to protect the supposed omnibenevolence of God from critical scrutiny, to have a scapegoat to blame the evil, suffering, and sin in the world on instead of God, who otherwise remains its true author as the creator of everything. So it is Christianity that created its own antithesis, and therefore the narratives of said antithesis. Pageau will never acknowledge this, not only because objective historical fact does not matter to him but also because this complicates his belief in the sublime perfection of Christian narrative and truth. This lack of concern for historical fact is also what allows Pageau to claim that the image of the Devil is based on the late medieval image of Baphomet, despite the fact that there was no “image of Baphomet” in the medieval era and the goat-headed Baphomet we know comes from Eliphas Levi, centuries after the Templars were burned to death.
It also doesn’t help Pageau’s case that not only were the Knights Templar most certainly not the fathers of modern occultism, but Eliphas Levi, one of the occultists he brings up, was a Christian mystic, and so were many other French occultists during his day, who were also utopian socialists. In fact, Eliphas Levi explicitly identified himself as a Catholic and referred to his esoteric belief system as Catholicism, condemned atheism and associated it with Satan, who he identified as a principle of evil based in the negation of God, and part of his doctrine of the fall of Lucifer consisted in the belief that he would eventually repent, be redeemed of his fall from grace, and return to God. Much of the occultism of the 19th century was based in some kind of Christian mysticism, sometimes framed as an attempt to revive the “Gnosticism” of old, and even Theosophy certainly could not be counted as “Satanic” by any stretch. Insofar as most of the old occultists believed some concept of Satanism was a thing, they hated it as a form of black magick, as the left hand path that was to be opposed by all serious practitioners of ceremonial magick. In fact, a lot of symbolism now used by Satanists, such as the upside-down pentagram with the goat’s head in it, was invented by magicians of this same Christian or Christian-inspired/adjacent background who were quite clear in their belief that it meant nothing good, and Eliphas Levi described the inverted pentagram as a hated symbol of evil. But insofar as that whole scene did end up creating the imagery that would later become associated with Satanism, then, again, you have nothing to blame at the root of it except for Christians, because, insofar as there is a “narrative space” to be discussed, that narrative space was originally created by Christians. Pageau also neglects to note that much of the occultism and spiritualism of the 19th century could be seen as an explicit reaction against the rationalism of the Enlightenment, which is something he should probably have considered before trying to tie occultism together with the Enlightenment to concoct some vague monolithic force of anti-Christian reaction.
Now, remember when I said at the beginning that Pageau actually believes that the Malleus Maleficarum is a credible account of witchcraft and also that witchcraft is not only real but also a threat to society? I wasn’t making that up. He goes into a general description of what the Malleus Maleficarum believed about witches, how they seduce men, kill children, abort fetuses, chop off men’s penises and all sorts of nonsense, and then explains how he thinks it’s all relevant to today. Trust me, if you thought Pageau was a bigoted asshole before, wait till you see him say this:
So 200 years ago I might have been mocked, maybe not even that long ago by the well-to-do for suggesting that a group of people would want such a thing for the world. And, to be honest, I can understand why the Catholic Inquisition actually rejected the contents of this book, and also rejected those that wrote it and were the proponents of its content. But if we see rather these dark descriptions as something like a narrative arc, which is moving towards the end or the dissolution of Christianity, we only have to ponder a moment to realize that, whether it is pornography, artificial insemination, whether it’s the proliferation and acceptance of abortion, or even young boys that have been put on hormone blockers, I can find prominent contemporary examples of all the “ancient witchcraft” I just mentioned. So then the early modern witches might have been projections or collective dreams, it’s possible, and people will argue either way, but it’s actually not that important to us, and we shouldn’t waste our energy on that. What matters is that these witches are healthy, they’re unabashed, and they’re winning the culture war today.
Pay close attention to what Pageau is saying here. When he says “such a thing for the world”, he’s referring to the absurd stories about witches killing children and cutting off men’s penises. The Malleus Maleficarum also actually espouses the belief that witches, after cutting off a man’s penis, animate that penis so that it can live as an independent creature and form nests like a bird. Pageau not only appears to be fairly serious about the idea that this all might be real in some way, but thinks that the current manifestation of this idea is men watching pornography (at least it’s implied, since none of these anti-porn grifters ever complain about women watching porn), women having children through artificial insemination, abortion being accepted or normalized, and trans people existing and getting access to puberty blockers. Remember that this ties back to what he sees as a narrative space of anti-Christian sacrilege and rebellion, gradually taking on the form of Satanism. His proposal is thus that this satanic narrative current is responsible for the creation of a modern witchcraft culture that manifests itself through trans people, porn, artificial insemination, and abortion, or let’s be honest just about any social change he dislikes or any liberalization of social norms which he feels threatens the Christian moral order. This is Pageau’s Satanic Panic, a homophobic and transphobic diatribe against social change and the acceptance of marginalized people, people who are often still marginalized even today (a marginalization that, frankly, I see Pageau playing a part in re-normalizing). And Montero, in Pageau’s narrative, is the crux of that panic. It represents, to him, a grand declaration of narcisstic desire and solipsistic rebellion against God manifesting in what is otherwise just a sex anthem about accepting your own homosexuality, which is itself a culmination of the supposed gradual embrace of Satan or Satanism and trangression of Christianity, thus Montero for him becomes a signpost for the broad transformation of society by witchcraft, which somehow involves sweeping social liberalization. Since he evidently considers trans people to be unnatural, and being trans as something that can only be forced on someone artificially, the whole narrative becomes another way of saying that there is a conscious effort by shadowy evil cabals to turn your kids trans or gay to erase cisgender and straight people, which is essentially just a form of Satanic Panic.
As I said at the outset, Wandavision will not be covered in this article, so we can skip his section on that, although I will say that somewhere in the Wandavision section he does reinforce his talk about the Malleus Maleficarum by taking Wandavision, or rather his misinterpretation of it, as secret proof that the Malleus Maleficarum was correct and that we need to burn “witches”. He’s ostensibly joking, of course, but it does seem like a roundabout way of tying the themes together. But after that, he ties it all back to the Montero video by saying that the whole Satan Shoes controversy and Wandavision are linked together by the same current of victimhood and pride, and are all proof of “American individualism showing its satanic colours”. Forget, of course, about the fact that American homophobia is still couched within the context of a culture of capitalistc individualism, because actual material causes and systems don’t matter, only projected narratives matter according to Pageau, and the narrative is that satanic individualism is destroying Western civilization through popular culture, despite the obvious problem that Satanism as an actual belief system has only ever been represented by a stark minority of people, and let’s face it even then some of them might actually just be vanilla secular humanist atheists who style themselves as Satanists but without much in the way of a distinct Satanic philosophy such as LaVeyan Satanism. Pageau frames it all as just a quest by power-hungry individuals who want to impose their idiosyncratic desires on everyone and transform society to suit said desires. Keeping in mind that the original thrust of this is a music video for a song about a gay who struggles to accept his own homosexuality and just wants to be accepted for being gay himself. Wanting to freely express and accept your sexuality is just “idiosyncratic desire” according to Pageau. This pathology expresses itself in yet another misunderstanding of what might otherwise be obvious:
In Montero’s Hell we see this engraving in flaming letters, we see the famous Latin phrase, “Damnant quod non intelligunt”, which means “they condemn that they do not understand”. What is wanted through these narrative tropes is ultimately the opposite of that, something like “the misunderstood will condemn them”. Something like “the exception will invalidate the rule”. So if in the Christian vision the shepherd is willing to lead the flock, to even leave it unprotected to go out and find one lost sheep, here we rather have this lost sheep demanding that the shepherd not bring the sheep back to the flock but rather bring the entire flock out into the wilderness. So if in traditional societies we see this scapegoat mechanism, of sacrificing the exception in order to preserve coherence, here, it is the opposite of that. It is the desire to sacrifice the entire world for the exception. On a social level this is what appears as an upside-down hierarchy, where the strange, the impure, the exceptional, the fluid, the rejected, the sick, and the unknown, become not those we need to help but they become a new measure by which all of society is evaluated.
The Latin phrase “Damnant quod non intelligunt”, or “they condemn that they do not understand”, is really doing all of the work for Pageau. The meaning of the phrase being placed there is pretty obvious. Who in the West has historically been condemned by those who do not, and often refuse to, understand them? Homosexuals. Montero and his lover are gay, society doesn’t always understand that, so their liasions are secretive to avoid prying eyes. They are condemned by those who don’t understand them, and in fact, the people accusing Lil Nas X of promoting Satanism and thereby “corrupting our children” are doing that condemnation, and so is Pageau. But Pageau can’t understand that, and instead he frames the Montero video in terms of an imagined message of sacrificing or subjugating all of society to an exceptional minority, in whose image the rest of society is remade, never mind that Montero never does anything close to that in the video. Pageau, it seems, cannot conceive of any acceptance of homosexuality, or trans people for that matter, as anything other than a tyrannical imposition of an exceptional minority upon society. In fact, he thinks of them as “sick” people, very openly telling you what he thinks of the idea of extending social acceptance to them even if he never says stuff like “sodomy should be banned”. Montero never advocates that the misunderstood condemn the majority in the video, nor is that idea ever conveyed in the video, but if the misunderstood do condemn the majority in some way, as they sometimes do, then maybe Pageau should consider that this the misunderstanding and condemnation of the majority biting them in the ass. You can only marginalize people for so long before they get fed up of society and turn against it. But since Pageau views “traditional society” (again, really this means Christian or “Judeo-Christian” society) as some abstract mythical reality whose value cannot be questioned, he will only be able to see people who aren’t “normal” as intolerant, narcissistic ingrates who want impose their way of life on everyone else. Pure bigotry, from the lens of Christian mysticism, is all that explains Pageau’s worldview.
In summary, Jonathan Pageau is intensely triggered by the existence of Lil Nas X’s Satan Shoes, and the Montero music video, because he sees it as a sign that the “satanic individualism” of secularism is threatening the social hierarchy of “traditional society”, meaning the social order of Christianity. What he means is that the acceptance of homosexuality as normal is a kind of “satanic individualism”, even though for most of the world homosexuality already was normal for probably thousands of years until Western empire showed up with its Christian tyranny. But bringing that historical point up will not matter, because, as I keep saying, Pageau does not care about historical facts, because history, objectivity, reality, these are not the core of Pageau’s worldview, and what is the core of his worldview is “our stories”, the narrative of how things happen, which means that the story we tell about our world is more important than its actual events and trends and how they actually play out, let alone the material structures behind them. Pretty much everything about Pageau’s commentary on Lil Nas X stems from a fairly obvious discomfort with the normalization of homosexuality, or just the idea that homosexuals can and should accept who they are without having to struggle with a self-denial demanded by a chauvinistic, culturally authoritarian society that tells them that there is only one acceptable way to be a man. This sort of thinking is to be ruthlessly opposed at every turn, and people like Pageau are to be treated as the repressive lunatics that they are.
Way back in August of last year there was a brew-ha-ha about some forgettable and trashy pop song called “WAP” (or, “Wet Ass Pussy”) by Cardi B. The only baffling part about the whole thing is that the song and its content has continued to be discussed for months after its original release. Conservative commentators go on and on about how Cardi B is destroying the moral fabric of society with her languid tones while their liberal opponents accuse them of being misogynists. All I can think of when occasionally observing this is what does any of it matter?
I can hardly take seriously the idea that this one song, not that much different from the various other hyper-sexualized pop hits that have been pumped into American culture for decades now, is such a singular threat to the integrity of American civilization. If it is, all it goes to show is that American civilization is such a weak entity that it can be destroyed by something so banal as this. Seriously, if there’s any concept of civilization so weak as to come undone by one stupid song, then what the fuck are we doing talking about it like it’s worth saving? This is the truth that the spectacle of moral panic reveals to all who are not so absorbed into it.
The thrall of consumerism is palpable over the American psyche, and this in some ways is the lifeblood by which American moral panic sustains its own kind of mind control over the masses. And the vile genius of it all is that, while everyone is thinking about all that, the Republicans are doing all they can to oppose any kind of welfare for the American people at a time of pandemic, hence their need to distract the public through culture warfare, the Democrats are locking kids in cages just like Trump did and they’re making excuses for it, capitalism is still unraveling, the pandemic is still ongoing, and the Earth is still moving towards rapid ecological destruction. Americans, and most of the world for that matter, are blinded to what is really happening to them, and the moral panics that bourgeois culture besets upon the modern subject helps this happen. There is not much worth saying beyond this. American civilization seems to be beset by nonsensical moral panic, and is defined by a weakness that presents itself as strength.
As if British politics couldn’t get any more disgustingly authoritarian, we now see a Green Party baroness, one Jenny Jones, calling for the imposition a curfew for men. This follows the high-profile disappearance and possible murder of a woman named Sarah Everard. Jones’ proposal is that men should be barred from going outside after 6pm, with the argument that it will “make women a lot safer” and that “discrimination of all kinds would be lessened”. Of course, the first of these is in no way falsifiable and the second of these is simply laughable when you consider that having a different set of rules for one gender and for another is quite literal discrimination. I can’t say what popular reaction would be if someone was talking about a curfew for women and not men, but I imagine people would rightly see it for the authoritarian sexism that it is. And yet if I were to peruse Twitter or other social media for the subject I’m saddened to say that I find there are people willing to defend this curfew and express total disregard for the civil rights of ordinary men on the absurd idea that the average man might rape or assault or harrass women.
Now, of course, I believe we can take solace in the knowledge, or at least speculation, that this sort of insane proposal will never be passed, even if only because it is too impractical for the government to implement (let’s face it, the British government has never cared enough for civil liberties for it to be any other reason), not to mention that the ruling Conservative Party is never going to let it pass. But the very fact that something like this is entertained by those in power to start with, and that there will be vocal segments of society defending such an idea, is symptomatic of a deep rot within British culture. Ours is a country that claims a proud tradition of “English liberty”, while in practice I have seen no evidence that either the people or their representatives actually believe in it. In fact, the opposite tends to be true based on nearly all relevant data available and on the fact that there is almost no thoroughgoing movement for civil liberties within mainstream politics. Although in a fit of irony, Jenny Jones, the same woman calling for curfews for men, claims in her Twitter bio to be concerned especially about civil liberties! If such were really the case, she would never have proposed such nakedly tyrannical policy proposal. And yet that’s just how it is here in Britain: not only is there hardly any movement for liberty in British politics, but sometimes even those who claim to support liberty argue against liberty and for tyranny.
Moral panic appears to be the bread and butter of British society. Our elites, our media, and our social media culture are like demagogues who whip up outrage and fear in order to sow mistrust amongst our citizens and get them to comply with the surrender of just about any freedom you can imagine. We’ve had decades of experience in this regard. Who could forget the moral panics considering movies, music, and video games, which we were all told would lead our children down a spiral of violence, criminality, trauma, and psychopathology? And who could forget the Mary Whitehouses of the world, and the Conservative government that eagerly took up their empty concerns as a way of justifying censorship? I would have thought this would have taught us some lessons about moral panics, but it seems the fear of freedom still prevails in our society.
There is something worth discussing with this moral panic in particular, and the case to which it relates. After the disappearance of Sarah Everard, a police officer was taken into custody on suspicion of kidnapping and murder. Why are we talking about imposing curfews for men, when we can be talking about the institution of the police instead? And it’s not like we can’t. Today we’re more than happy to discuss police brutality in relation to the senseless killings and beatings of racial minorities, as indeed we should, but for some reason when a police officer is suspected of aducting and killing a woman we decide that it’s not the police that are the problem and instead that ordinary men should be denied their freedom. Moral panics like this are quite the same, in the end. They are ways to terrify the public, appeal to a broad fear of freedom and desire for security, and justify social tyranny, all while distracting the masses from the brutal nature of the power structures in which they live and thus removing accountability from the prevailing political system by shifting it to innocent people.
Furthermore, I cannot believe the lack of self-awareness displayed by people wh defend this idea. They are OK with totalitarian restrictions of the rights of men, of their fellow citizens, because it will make women feel safe, but do they not see how this can be turned around? I remember when the right-wing in America was talking about a high-profile murder apparently committed by an illegal immigrant, and how they had used this to justify crackdowns on the rights of immigrants. Conservatives also have a habit of using all sorts of incidents to justify curtailing the freedoms of homosexuals, bisexuals, and transgender people. All the “curfew for men” people are doing is taking the same principle that underpins conservative moral panics and making them serve progressive sensibilities, thereby turning the principles of liberal society against not only itself but also ordinary citizens and their liberties. And you know, there are probably many other people, including women, who have gone missing over the years, and not once has anyone been motivated to propose curfews over them, so why is this one case different? In fact, I find it ironic that under progressive normativity it is ultimately the classic case of “disappearing white woman syndrome” that compels them to tyranny.
This repugnant idea of a curfew for men is probably never going to be implemented, but do not let your guard down for even a moment. There are those who will defend this policy, even if not by name but rather by covert appeals to sensibility. Do not be threatened by those seeking to justify robbing you of your freedoms by means of the same reasoning that would allow conservatives to throw social minorities under the bus, and do not allow apathy to render silence and erode your defense of your freedoms.
I watched a documentary about the infamous “video nasties” that were the center of a lot of controversy and media scandal in the UK, and the characteristically British problem of how the furor surrounding them always leads to media hysteria and the erosion of freedom of expression. For those who may not be aware, the term “video nasties” refers to low-budget horror movies which were released on home video in the UK and were typically highly graphic in their violent content.
In the documentary (which is ironically titled Ban the Sadist Videos), I learned a little something about what I feel drove the moral panic surrounding it, or rather the people whipping it up. There was always this belief that these videos would fall into the hands of children and that the videos would not simply desensitize them to violence, but also compel them to actually commit the brutal acts of violence depicted in the real world. I think this mentality reached its lowest point in 1993, when a boy named James Bulger was beaten to death two other boys and the movie Child’s Play 3 took the fall for it as the supposed cause. But interestingly enough, the documentary showed quite a few interviews conducted by news reporters talking to children who apparently have seen some of these “video nasties” and don’t seem particularly traumatized by it. To them it was nothing more than entertainment, and what’s more it was the kind they clearly weren’t meant to watch, so it had that forbidden fruit angle – the kind that I’m sure today’s youth may be familiar with. Even more interestingly, I think at least one of them that they were unrealistic and silly. But of course, the media was never that concerned about what the children as free agents thought – they were only concerned with children as people that had to be “protected”.
During the 1980’s, one of the key figures in this whole moral panic was one Mary Whitehouse, a woman who I swear her name has become synonymous with prudery, censorship, and moral panic over the years – at least in the UK. She’s also known for being an ally of everyone’s least favorite wicked witch Margaret Thatcher, who helped introduced stricter censorship to the UK and contributed to this country having the strictest censorship in the Western world by the 1990’s. People like her and the British press were keen on promoting the idea that the images they saw on video would directly harm people and through people their social order. In my opinion, this all hinges on a central idea – the idea that human beings are inexorably influenced by forces that they cannot control because they lack the ability to choose whether or not to feel influenced.
This week I caught an article from author Ryan Holiday, and this is probably my favorite part of it:
Real empowerment and respect is to see our fellow citizens—victims and privileged, religious and agnostic, conservative and liberal—as adults. Human beings are not automatons—ruled by drives and triggers they cannot control. On the contrary, we have the ability to decide not to be offended. We have the ability to discern intent. We have the ability to separate someone else’s actions or provocation or ignorance from our own. This is the great evolution of consciousness—it’s what separates us from the animals.
With every crusade against violent and subversive media, there seems to be the belief that the opposite of that comes to effect; that people are ruled by things they cannot drive and will always act at the behest of certain influences because they can’t say no, so they have to be protected by self-declared guardians of public morals. With every crusade against those deemed as “detestable slaves of the devil”, we’re always told be on the lookout for those controlled by supposedly evil forces, who are possessed by demons because they engage in witchcraft and beliefs outside of the Church. Beware the rationale behind all the self-imposed guardians of public morals; they are believers in the notion that we are mindless automaton-like beings.
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