Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Cracked: The 6 Most Insane Moral Panics in American History

I came across an interesting article at Cracked about the 6 Most Insane Moral Panics in American History. As with all Cracked material, the language can be a little raw, so you should know that going in if it's an issue for you.

The article discusses moral panics like Comic Books, Dungeons and Dragons, Satanic subliminal messages in heavy metal, and Satanic ritual abuse.

Dungeons and Dragons

I was growing up when most of the moral panics were happening. I can remember some kind of stink about video games as well. As with all moral panics, I think there is a lot of excitability and a lack of critical thinking involved.

Let's take Dungeons and Dragons as an example. I remember one time in the early 80's when we were stationed in Germany. My dad came home with some D&D material. I don't think he had much. He had some cardboard tiles to make a dungeon out of. Maybe a book or two. He was excited about playing D&D with my brother and I. Then, nothing happened.

I asked him later why we never did anything with it. He said something about some kids were playing in a storm drain, and it flooded and killed them. Somehow, it was the fault of Dungeons and Dragons. I never really understood it. I even asked him if he really thought I was so stupid that I'd think it was OK to play in a storm drain just because I played Dungeons and Dragons. He didn't think so, but somehow the idea that some kids' deaths were related to the game kept him from playing it with us.

When I got a little bit older, I bought a Basic D&D kit. I played a little bit with a friend of mine. Then we got into AD&D for a while. Then I realized it was boring and I walked away from it. I couldn't get into it, and it wasn't worth trying anymore.

I've read some of the literature against D&D. I've read Jack Chick's stuff. I read William Schoenbelon's claims that the creators of D&D consulted with him as a high-level warlock to ensure accuracy of the material with the occult. Even if it's all true, I still believe that if people are going to do stupid, insane, or unsafe things, they don't need D&D to do it.

Comic Books

I never could get into comic books. The villains were dumb, the heros were cheesy, I wasn't impressed with a panel taken up by a "BAM!" or "SOCK!", and I had better things to do than worry about "Wait! I'm missing the 4th issue of the 31st edition!" I don't know the difference between Marvel and DC Comics. That is, I couldn't tell you which comic went under which label. I also don't feel like I'm missing out on anything because I can't. I'm not likely to end up on Jeopardy. 

I bought a Lobo comic once. It was amusing. I could have followed Lobo, but I couldn't be troubled to make sure I had EVERY SINGLE ISSUE so I didn't bother.

I think the moral panic surrounding comic books was silly.

Satanic Subliminal Messages in Heavy Metal

I agree with Cracked's assessment of this one. If a metal band had the idea to implant a subliminal message, "Buy more of our stuff!" would be more like it. Actually, I'd expect that to be placed by the record companies, which seem to have a direct communication link to evil. Of course, the Compact Disc rendered the "play a record backwards to hear our Satanic altar call" obsolete. When I was a teenager and this was going on, I couldn't understand why everybody appeared to be worked up over this. Of course, I didn't listen to much Heavy Metal at the time. Trans-Siberian Orchestra didn't exist.

I can remember an image of old people sitting around churches late at night listening to metal records backwards and painstakingly transcribing the Satanic messages supposedly implanted in them. 

I think history bears out that this moral panic was a huge overreaction to nothing.

Conclusion

I'm not denying that there are moral reason why we should get worried. There are moral issues that need to be confronted. But most of the moral panics that show up in popular culture are not those moral issues. At best, they are symptoms.

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