Thursday, February 25, 2021

Is COVID-19 a Vegetable?

Life is just getting too weird.

Today NPR's Morning Edition did a segment interviewing a Republican member of Congress, Nancy Mace, from South Carolina, to get her take on President Biden's $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill.  Is it a spoiler to say that she doesn't like it, claims it's too expensive and wasteful, "a $1.9 trillion spending spree"?  Most of her complaint was standard right-wing boilerplate, and not very coherent. The host, Rachel Martin, pushed back some, but she didn't seem to have a much better grasp on reality than Mace did.  It would be nice if they had, or would have, an interview with a Democrat or a leftish journalist who could answer Mace better, but that is of course inconceivable.

Anyway, here's where Mace got weird:

I'm a single working mom. And when we talk about wanting to lift people out of poverty, when we talk about wanting to put food on the table, the very - one of the very top things that should be a priority for the administration is to, perhaps, allow parents to send their kids to school, particularly those who are in poverty, because the best thing we can do for those children is to help them get educated. These are children who rely on public school for their food, oftentimes, for their meals throughout the day. And the second thing that we could be doing is encouraging and making sure that democratic states allow companies to carefully and safely reopen their businesses and to operate. We're seeing successes in, like, my home state where - of South Carolina, where the unemployment rate is hovering just over 4% right now because we've been very cautious, putting precautions and safety mechanisms in place in our businesses. But we're still open. We're being safe. But this package, 1% of it's going to vaccinations.

I've quoted this at some length, but bolded the weird part that makes me wonder about everything else she said.  By all means, yes, public schools are important not just for education but for meals and other non-academic services.  But as I remember, Republicans and right-wing Democrats have been attacking such services for a long time as welfare, spoiling the Poors and taking away their initiative, and besides, they and public education in general are just a liberal socialist Big Government spending spree that we can't afford.

For someone of my generation, the starting point was in 1980, when the Reagan administration tried to undermine school lunches by relabeling condiments as servings of vegetables.  That led to mockery in the press and even in Congress, and to a quick, if temporary, retreat: Reagan still cut $1.46 billion from the program. Later administrations continued to squeeze the programs financially, through the 1995 "Contract With America," the 2016 GOP doublethink "Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act" (which didn't pass, but it's the thought that counts), down to the Trump years.

So what is going through Nancy Mace's mind?  I couldn't tell from her rambling whether Biden's bill will actually interfere with schoolchildren getting meals; I know that schools where I live were giving free meals for pickup during the lockdown, which is as it should be.  I doubt Mace was speaking in good faith.  And it's a safe bet that when the dust finally clears, she'll be voting for the next Republican bill to cut funding for school meals, because we just can't afford them.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Is the Gaze White?

Rush Limbaugh has assumed room temperature.  For years I've looked forward to using that term on his decease; it was one he used to be dismissive of the deaths of people he disapproved of.  (I learned while looking it up that it was also used by R. Emmett Tyrrell, another cigar-sucking, arch-rightist provocateur.)  I considered writing more on the topic, and maybe I will later.

But for now I want to discuss another media personality, generally regarded as a sort of anti-Limbaugh.  Dick Cavett became well-known as a more cultured, intellectual kind of talk-show host years before Limbaugh won notoriety. I watched his show in those days, and while I appreciated the range of people it featured, I was usually left unsatisfied.  I think some of this was due to the limits of spoken versus written discourse, but I also think it was due to Cavett's limitations.

This video, from 1972, confirmed my suspicions.

Jones is tremendously tactful with Cavett, resulting in a sort of jujitsu where Cavett keeps throwing himself in the dirt.  He knows that the conversation isn't going as he expected it to, but he keeps wading into the fray and falling on his face over and over.  Cavett saw himself as a liberal, superior to gross rednecks like Lester Maddox, but like many white liberals he assumed a chumminess with black people that he hadn't earned.  He fully expected Jones to agree with him that Ellen Holly's objections to Anthony Quinn's proposal to play a Haitian were merely "silly."  It's a safe bet that Cavett caricatured her letter, as liberals love to do to this day, but I should see if I can find it.  It doesn't appear that Quinn ever made that film in any case.

Anyway, Jones declines Cavett's invitation to play a round of "Ain't It Awful?", and throws several curveballs that leave Cavett confused.  He keeps insisting on nuance, for heaven's sake!  He might have pointed out -- he seems to hint at it, at least -- that a Hollywood historical epic costs a lot of money, and in 1972 there were few if any black stars that bankable.  Sidney Poitier, perhaps?  It's also hard for me to believe that a Hollywood script about a Haitian emperor in 1972 would have been any good at all; I wonder if Holly's script was ever produced.

Jones also mentions his own desire to play Beethoven, which gets a nervous laugh from the audience and silence from Cavett.  The points Jones mentions wouldn't be such obstacles: his hair (a wig could fix that), and as for his skin color, we now have a hit Broadway play, Hamilton, which plays with such casting issues very freely.  After that Cavett returns to insulting Ellen Holly, which Jones brushes aside more firmly.  I wonder if Cavett could watch this clip now without cringing.

He hadn't learned any better by 1985, when this interview with Richard Pryor aired.

It's the same damn thing all over again.  Pryor just sits there, staring steadily at Cavett, until the latter realizes how nonsensical he sounds; then tries again and again, he just won't let it go.  It's not just the question he's asking -- can white writers write for black performers? -- but the larger assumption that white people can expect to define black people in the arts and elsewhere.  Borrowing Laura Mulvey's speculations about the male gaze in film, the audience for Hollywood films -- which, remember, not only played to non-white customers in the multiracial US but were marketed around the world -- was assumed to be white.  In these clips, Dick Cavett finds black people gazing back at him, and he finds it very disorienting.

We've come a long way since then, though we haven't arrived.  I'm not sure what the ideal should be, but for me it includes a variety of Mulveyan gazes, with women looking back at men, people of color looking back at whites, and the rest of the world looking back at the United States - but also looking at themselves, unconcerned about how they might look to men, whites, America.  There's nothing wrong per se with the male gaze, the white gaze, the USAn gaze, only with the assumption that any of these is objective and should be the norm.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Neverending Story


I've been seeing a lot of postmortems on Trump's acquittal, and they don't seem to have anything to offer, so I'll just go with this evergreen tweet.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Social Media Is Forever

Maybe I've been wrong to defend the American school system, because I'm very much disturbed by many Americans' inability to read for comprehension on a rather basic level.

Today Neera Tanden, Biden's nominee for the White House Office of Management and Budget, had her confirmations before the Senate Budget Committee.  It seems that John Neely Kennedy, a Republican Senator from Louisiana, called Tanden out for her well-known history of intemperate tweets while she was head of the Center for American Progress.  "I mean, you called Senator Sanders everything but an ignorant slut," Kennedy said.

"That is not true," Tanden protested, which in context indicated that she had called Sanders an ignorant slut.  I don't much blame her for being confused, because she hadn't expected that zinger, and spoken words go by so quickly that they're easy to get wrong.  The Hill post linked above concluded:

 As the hearing came to a close, Kennedy issued a humorous point of clarification to Sanders.

"I want the record to reflect that I did not call Sen. Sanders an ignorant slut," he said.

"I don't know how I should take that, Sen. Kennedy," Sanders responded.

(There's more context in this story.  Read it, if only for the pleasure of seeing Lindsey Graham assuring her that he didn't condemn her for taking big donations from corporate donors, because everybody does it.)

Tanden deleted a lot of older tweets, apparently, when she learned she had a shot at a position in the Biden administration; evidently no one ever warned her that bad behavior on social media would follow her forever and affect her career.  I never followed her, but many of her productions found their way into my feed via people I did follow.  Her Twitter history doesn't matter much.  What matters is that she's a nasty, corrupt person with a bad record running an organization, and I don't think she should get the OMB post, but that's not what concerns me right now.  What concerns me is the reactions Kennedy's remarks got in certain regions of Twitter.

Numerous people accused him of calling Tanden an ignorant slut. That's a really impressive misreading.  Unlike Tanden, they presumably were seeing Kennedy's words written out rather than having them whizzing past their ears; they were reading Twitter the way Donald Trump reportedly "watched" TV, with half his attention until a stray phrase made his ears perk up and he'd be keying a scrambled version onto Twitter.  So there was a lot of yowling about old white male patriarchs disrespecting Women Warriors of Color.  To be fair, these people might just have been trolls, hoping to stir up shit and not really meaning a word they wrote; but I think that like Trump, it was a combination: they half-believed it, but they also knew it would make people go berserk.

I'm still shaking my head over this one:, to be clear, Senator Kennedy says that's something she *didn't* say? why, exactly, is that specific phrasing relevant then? Why introduce profanity into the record that isn't even part of the issue in question?

This guy has got to be an AI, unable to parse anything but the most direct statements, because Kennedy's rhetorical figure is a very simple one, like "everything but the kitchen sink."  But quite a few people couldn't grasp it.

"Ignorant slut" is of course an allusion to a notorious Saturday Night Live sketch from the 1970s: the "Weekend Update" fake news segment included a Point/Counterpoint "debate" between Jane Curtin and Dan Aykroyd, in which Curtin concluded her argument by insulting Aykroyd ("But you wouldn't know about that, Dan, because there's no old saying about what's behind a miserable failure") and Ackroyd responded with the iconic epithet: "Jane, you ignorant slut." 

Younger people can't be blamed for not recognizing the reference, though the skit remains famous to this day -- it has 3.6 million views on YouTube -- and I'm a bit surprised that I recognize it, but as it happens I saw it when it originally aired.  Even those who do know it probably remember it mainly for the abusive language, and Aykroyd's character's misogynist slur, and not for its mockery of broadcast "debates."  That, after all, is how most people think debates are supposed to go.  Also, though Aykroyd and Curtin used their own names, they were playing characters, reading a script.  (As I've said before, many people seem to believe that actors just go before the cameras and wing it.)

Some people did follow what was happening in the exchange between Kennedy and Tanden, but more didn't, and that's not counting the people who expressed their shock at it without going into detail.  Once again I found that though I thought I was hard to shock, I was stunned at literate people's inability to read a sentence.  Even if you don't know the TV source of "ignorant slut," it doesn't take a genius to see that Kennedy wasn't calling Tanden names, or calling Sanders names either -- which is more than can be said for Tanden.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Really Gives You Something to Think About

NPR's Weekend Edition did an item today on Fox News's cancellation of Lou Dobbs, which may or may not have something do with the $2.7 billion lawsuit SmartMatic filed against Fox. By way of illustration, the segment included a recording of Dobbs and Rudy Giuliani declaring that SmartMatic was founded by some Venezuelans seeking to undermine American democracy by tampering with our elections.

NPR's reporter declared that SmartMatic was not founded by Venezuelans, and that the company has nothing to do with Maduro or the late Venezuelan "dictator" Hugo Chavez.  I thought that the reporter hesitated very slightly before he bore down on the word "dictator," as though he might have been about to say "President" but remembered just in time that this is America.

Or maybe not, it might have been my imagination.  But Hugo Chavez was legally and democratically elected, and managed to stay in office until his premature death of cancer despite a US-supported military coup in 2002 and ongoing US monetary and other support for the Venezuelan opposition. The criteria for calling him a dictator are unclear, given the US' enthusiastic support for dictators elsewhere in the world, so I'll just assume that the reporter was conforming to American propaganda guidelines, as NPR and other corporate media normally do.

It's doubly ironic, because Chavez did not institute a reign of terror after the 2002 coup, which compares favorably with many US liberals' drive to pass new, draconian laws in the wake of our own January 6 insurrection. Democrats are now trying to claim that Russia and China were behind the insurrection.  Even now, the unelected US-designated leader of Venezuela, Juan Guaido, is still at large despite his calls for a US invasion to install him (Trump thought it would be "cool", Lindsey Graham said it was "too early"), for an uprising against the democratically elected President Maduro, and his utter lack of popular support.  That's what NPR considers "democracy" to be.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Right in Your Own Backyard

Just as people like to accuse their enemies of outrageous, fantasized sexual transgressions, we also like to accuse them of a lack of education.  It's the obverse of the way we overestimate the brilliance and competence of those we approve because they're on our team.  These are all what Patricia Roberts-Miller called "demagoguery,", also known as Othering, or among those who haven't fully expunged their inner racist, "tribalism."  What it's called is less important than what it is.

Maloney's statement is repellent in its contempt for the less-educated, but there's an even more serious problem with it: the Trump base, and a sizable number of those who stormed the Capitol on January 6, are.largely college-educated, and middle- or upper-middle-class.  It was hardly obscure to anyone who followed the arrests of the rioters, but Maloney and a disturbing number of liberal Democrats have chosen to ignore it.

A new article in The Atlantic bears this out:

Third, the demographic profile of the suspected Capitol rioters is different from that of past right-wing extremists. The average age of the arrestees we studied is 40. Two-thirds are 35 or older, and 40 percent are business owners or hold white-collar jobs. Unlike the stereotypical extremist, many of the alleged participants in the Capitol riot have a lot to lose. They work as CEOs, shop owners, doctors, lawyers, IT specialists, and accountants. Strikingly, court documents indicate that only 9 percent are unemployed. Of the earlier far-right-extremist suspects we studied, 61 percent were under 35, 25 percent were unemployed, and almost none worked in white-collar occupations...

Fourth, most of the insurrectionists do not come from deep-red strongholds. People familiar with America’s political geography might imagine the Capitol rioters as having marinated in places where they are unlikely to encounter anyone from the opposite side of the political spectrum. Yet of those arrested for their role in the Capitol riot, more than half came from counties that Biden won; one-sixth came from counties that Trump won with less than 60 percent of the vote.

Yet I keep seeing liberal Democrats on denouncing the Right as ignorant, uneducated, low-class trash.  No matter how much evidence to the contrary they're confronted with, they won't let go of the illusion.  (Much like the QAnon-brainwashed Trump cultists they deride.)  They don't believe it because it's true, but because it lets them feel comfortable.  Why that should be is difficult for me to understand, because the Trump Right is a serious threat to this country whether its members are educated or not.  I think their refusal to face reality is of a piece with the same Democrats' belief that with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in office, they can relax and go to sleep for the next four years.

That bit about "more than half [of arrested rioters] came from counties that Biden won" is important too.  Maybe living in a red state like Indiana spares me the sweet illusion that the bad guys are somewhere else.  Time and again liberals are shocked when they find that the menace was living next door, that the bigots were so much nearer and more numerous than they had ever guessed.  As a Hoosier queer I've never been able to have that false comfort.  But then I 've known other Hoosier queers who could.

This willed ignorance -- knowing so much that isn't so -- is why I don't trust liberals as a class, and why I refuse to indulge their complacent certainty that they are, in one of their favorite terms, "reality-based."  In that respect they're not much different from conservatives I've known, who fancied themselves more rational and realistic than woolly-minded, wishful-thinking liberals -- until I spelled out the atrocities and horrors their heroes supported and carried out.  They'd go green and sweaty and back down, but they'd forget it in a day or two.  Liberals are, I admit, made of somewhat sterner stuff: they simply get indignant and accuse me of wishing Bush or Trump was still president.  But the Right has learned from them and adopted their approach; don't let anyone tell you conservatives don't learn from experience!

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Beating the Socialist with the Socialist's Shtick

Is anybody else old enough to remember when right-wingers were furiously circulating a meme that showed Barack Hussein Obama putting his dirty feet on the precious, sacred desk of the Oval Office?  The desk that was a gift from Queen Victoria of England, so it was like Barack "Not Their President" Obama was stomping on the Virgin Queen!  No?  Well, it was a long time ago, almost eight years, nobody can remember that far back.

Militant leftists from Medium to took delight in finding pictures of Obama's predecessors, from Nixon to Dubya, kicking back with their feet on the sacred desk, and soon the fuss died down.  It was recalled when Donald Trump's advisor Kellyanne Conway was photographed with her feet on an Oval Office couch.  

The two cases were obviously completely different, of course: Conway, unlike Obama, is white.  Besides, it wasn't clear from the photo whether Conway was wearing shoes, though her pose inadvertently revealed that she is actually a male homosexual.

I remembered this today when I learned that the San Francisco Chronicle had published an op-ed attacking Bernie Sanders for exhibiting white privilege when he appeared at the Biden inauguration wearing the now-notorious coat and mittens, instead of a custom Schiaparelli gown.

The author, Ingrid Seyer-Ochi, began with a salad of culture-of-therapy jargon that reads like an outtake from the Onion:

Three weeks ago I processed the Capitol insurrection with my high school students. Rallying our inquiry skills, we analyzed the images of that historic day, images of white men storming through the Capitol, fearless and with no forces to stop them. “This,” I said, “is white supremacy, this is white privilege. It can be hard to pinpoint, but when we see, it, we know it.”

Across our Zoom screen, they affirmed, with nods, thumbs-ups, and emojis of anger and frustration. Fast-forward two weeks as we analyzed images from the inauguration, asking again, “What do we see?” We saw diversity, creativity and humanity, and a nation embracing all of this and more. On the day of the inauguration, Bernie Sanders was barely on our radar. The next day, he was everywhere.

... wearing, as Ms. Seyer-Ochi put it, "a puffy jacket and huge mittens."  This indicates that she doesn't "see" very well:

That's not what I'd call "puffy."  I'll return to that presently.

Seyer-Ochi continues:

We talked about gender and the possible meanings of the attire chosen by Vice President Kamala Harris, Dr. Jill Biden, the Biden grandchildren, Michelle Obama, Amanda Gorman and others. We referenced the female warriors inspiring these women, the colors of their educational degrees and their monochromatic ensembles of pure power.

One of the markers of privilege is wearing outfits that give little or no protection against cold weather, especially for women.  It signifies that they will be whisked out of their heated carriages for a few minutes, then whisked back into shelter.  Such women aren't "warriors," they are clotheshorses, whose costumes bespeak the wealth of the men who pay for them.  Anyway, after listening for years to Barack and Michelle attacking poor and working-class black people for being unworthy of them, I'm not interested in this kind of discourse.  

And why should Bernie Sanders, who is definitely not part of Biden's inner circle, dress as though he were?  He was up in the cheap seats on a working day, dressed for warmth by Vermont standards.  But all Seyer-Ochi could see was a "a wealthy, incredibly well-educated and -privileged white man, showing up for perhaps the most important ritual of the decade, in a puffy jacket and huge mittens."  What (as the poet Muriel Rukeyser wrote) do we see? What do we not see?

Seyer-Ochi is nothing if not fair and balanced: "I mean in no way to overstate the parallels. Sen. Sanders is no white supremacist insurrectionist. But he manifests privilege, white privilege, male privilege and class privilege, in ways that my students could see and feel."  I mean in no way to suggest that Seyer-Ochi is an anti-Semite, but her bizarre attack on a Jewish politician manifests Gentile privilege.

I think Sanders knows quite well the privilege he has, given his working-class parents and childhood, the Brooklyn accent that infuriates so many people, and his left-wing politics.  He also knows that as a senior US Senator he has tremendous privilege.  (There is a large literature on the conflict, even guilt, many working-class people feel about the gulf an education and a profession opens between them and their parents; it's been a big help to me personally.  If Seyer-Ochi is unaware of it, she should check it out, for the sake of her students.)  Seyer-Ochi also has a lot of privilege, as "a former UC Berkeley and Mills College professor, ex-Oakland Unified School District principal and current San Francisco Unified School District high school teacher."  Perhaps she thinks she can atone for her privilege by writing an empty-headed screed like this.  As analysis of a politician's sartorial choices, it ranks down there with the Great Tan Suit Scandal of 2014.

She bears down on the "blindness I see, of so many (Bernie included), to the privileges Bernie represents. I don’t know many poor, or working class, or female, or struggling-to-be-taken-seriously folk who would show up at the inauguration of our 46th president dressed like Bernie. Unless those same folk had privilege. Which they don’t."  So is Seyer-Ochi saying that if poor, working-class, etc., people showed up for the inauguration in anything but their Sunday best, she'd shame them, or nod approvingly while others did? 

The best reply to Seyer-Ochi, I think, is the reply given to frothers who countered the pictures of Obama using his desk as a footstool with pictures of other Presidents doing the same.  In Sanders's case, there are two.  There's this one, of the context:

Of course all those other people are just showing white privilege too, maybe they'd been assigned to the White Privilege section.

And then there's this one, of the new Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, desecrating the holiest day of the past decade with her white privilege.

C'mon, would it kill her to smile a little?

I understand why Seyer-Ochi's students might be confused by the way Sanders dressed on that day, just as I understand the confusion of late 20th-century American Indian students who enter graduate school armed with 19th-century essentialist concepts of race and culture, only to discover that the discourse has changed.  I don't understand (well, okay, I do) why a teacher would let them stew in their assumptions instead of encouraging them to think about the meaning of the norms of dress and deportment that had shaped their lives and those of their parents and grandparents.  The class assumptions in African-American culture, the Talented-Tenth arrogance of those who managed to get an education and a profession against brutal odds, the Paper Bag Test which valued light skin over dark, are also understandable, and they're tragic, but they shouldn't be treated uncritically.  It doesn't mean that Seyer-Ochi's students should dress like Bernie Sanders if they go to an inauguration, but they do need to know what their choices mean, no less than Sanders'.  As Virginia Woolf may or may not have said, the real trouble with privilege is that everybody doesn't have it.

Monday, February 1, 2021

After Awhile, Pedophile

There's been something of a fixation lately on QAnon's conspiracy theories about pedophilic cannibals, especially since a lapsed member of the cult declared to CNN's Anderson Cooper that he no longer believes that Cooper eats babies. I'm glad that guy no longer believes Anderson Cooper eats babies, but I was struck by the "shocked! shocked!" energy liberals were putting out: How could people believe that their fellow Americans are cannibals?  My magpie memory began bringing up other cases of similar beliefs, until I realized that they're normal.  That doesn't mean that they're true, of course, only that normal, reasonably sane people keep reinventing such beliefs, and it's very hard to pry them loose from those beliefs. 

First I remembered that the early Christians were accused by outsiders of having nocturnal orgies, which climaxed in the ritual killing and eating of babies. I don't know how widespread the accusation was, and I find it somewhat suspicious, because the sources for it seem to be Christian apologists, answering heathens' lies, and I don't consider the apologists to be reliable sources on anything.  I also recall reading somewhere that when Tertullian, a notable Church Father of the same period, switched from the Catholic Party to Montanism, he accused the Catholics of ritual cannibalism, but insisted on the innocence of his own sect.  In any case, the fantasy that the hated Other rapes or eats children is clearly ancient, whether pagan or Christian writers harbored it. Probably both did.

Later, Christians accused Jews of ritually murdering Christian children and using their blood to make Passover Matzohs.  But the Satanic Ritual Abuse witchhunt of the 1980s and 1990s seems closer to the QAnon scare, and it was recent enough that it ought to be surprising that people have forgotten it.  I dug out my copy of Debbie Nathan and Michael Snedeker's book Satan's Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt (Basic Books, 1995; quoted here from the Kindle edition).

Children caught up in this maelstrom often reported that they had been molested by people dressed as clowns, in Halloween masks, or in uniforms. In many cases, they talked of being taken to cemeteries or funeral homes, of having to touch or eat feces and urine, and of excrement covered in chocolate. Incongruous people, like movie actor Chuck Norris, prosecutors, social workers, and television anchormen, were named as perpetrators. Abuse was said to have occurred underground or in airplanes, and animals were usually involved, occasionally as sex objects but most often as victims of sacrifices. Nude picture-taking sessions, rituals, and sex acts were almost always reported, as was blasphemous behavior and language, as well as murder, either for religious reasons or to make snuff films. All these themes—pornography, masks, rituals, uniforms, excrement, blasphemy, and murder—appeared in the checklists, guides, and questionnaires that investigators used when they questioned children.

All this was the work, not of a bunch of extremist weirdos, but of mainstream figures.  As Nathan and Snedeker point out, feminists played a significant role in the craze, but so did fundamentalist Christians, police departments, and psychologists. A professor of sociology at the Big Ten university where I worked was a vocal proponent and defender of the witchhunt.  I also knew people who didn't believe every detail of the stories, but still insisted that an international network of Satanists was plausible.  During that period of more than a decade, Nathan and Snedeker recall,

It was also possible to turn on the radio and hear Joan Baez performing “Play Me Backwards,” her song about a youngster who witnesses a diabolic ceremony in which adults dressed as Mexicans slaughter a baby, remove its organs, and make other children play with them. One could stand in a supermarket checkout line and read the women’s magazine Redbook, with its survey indicating that 70 percent of Americans believed in the existence of sexually abusive satanic cults, and almost a third thought the groups were being deliberately ignored by the FBI and police. If one sought out a psychotherapist, the chances were good that he or she believed these cults were organized into a vast conspiracy whose crimes were responsible for many patients’ emotional problems. And if one were to examine the files of district attorneys’ offices throughout the country, there was a considerable likelihood that some would contain allegations of ritual sex abuse.

Baez was still performing "Play Me Backwards" as late as 2000, when the witchhunt had largely subsided and been debunked, sometimes by the same media that had promoted it a decade earlier.  Many of the people who'd been convicted and jailed for non-existent crimes had been exonerated and released; I don't know how many weren't. Judging by the comments under various YouTube videos of Baez' song, not to mention hostile reviews on Amazon of Satan's Silence, there are still numerous people who believe in the original stories.

I don't know why many people are so eager to believe that their neighbors eat babies in secret nocturnal orgies, but I'm not at all surprised by QAnon's fantasies.  I suspect that many of the people who believe QAnon are diehards from the Satanic abuse witch hunt, which as you can see was much more ecumenical and inclusive than QAnon: millions of Americans were willing to believe that their neighbors were Satan-worshiping cannibals.

Another curious thing: though many people will jump to embrace fantasies of imaginary horrors perpetrated on innocent little children, they will resist doing anything about actual child abuse, and will protect abusers, even when the abuse happens before their eyes. The Penn State scandal was a striking example of this, but belief in "seductive" children leading sex-starved adult men to their doom seems to be as common as belief in lizard-people Illuminati predators.