Hail Satan Podcast Ticks All the Boxes of Sophomoric Authoritarianism
It’s unfortunate when Satanists adopt authoritarian politics. But is is also common. Many Satanic groups have documented histories of trucking in right-wing apologia, of tolerating or platforming neo-nazi and white nationalist perspectives and voices, and whitewashing conformity of thought and uncritical bootlicking under the pretense of rebellion and free thought.
The Hail Satan Podcast is just another node in a network of many nodes performing this same service to white supremacy. If one wishes to be pro-justice, then this necessitates being anti-white supremacist. In pursuit of such, it is not sufficient to be anti-Evangelical and anti-theocracy (even though those two things are steeped in all types of bigotries packaged in ways that are easy for Satanists to ridicule), because if there is any credence to the horseshoe theory of politics, it is that people from all over the political spectrum will find a way to be racist together. It seems that certain sets of people who self identify as right, left, or center always manage to rally around shared bigotries.
The specific incident that sparked me to write this is The Hail Satan Podcast’s “Satanic Social Experiment” series of episodes. It makes reference to a survey where many questions from The Discourse were answered by Satanists. The discussion of how respondents answered, however, shows a lack of critical thought and nuance. The analysis conforms to social media talking points and reactionary dog whistles, and as with all such analysis, demonstrates a torpid passivity in its approach to including the findings of science and genuine intellectual output on the subject matter.
Let us consider some of the shortcomings of some of the questions, one-by-one, in the discussion of the second half of the survey.
In the United States, everyone accused of a crime should be treated as innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
The consensus of the hosts is that everyone accused of a crime should be treated as innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Immediately, the hosts jump into “cancel culture” and social media, which to me reinforces that this question is asinine to begin with, but I will focus on the legalistic aspect first. If I’m the victim of a crime and I witness the perpetrator commit it against me, of course I am not going to treat that person as innocent; I am going to regard them on the basis of what I know about them. Beyond this, there are entire laws in states about permissible ways to deal with people burglarizing your property, for instance, that allow for victims to not wait for a court to render its adjudication prior to acting. The entire concept of self defense demonstrates the absurdity of extending the presumption of innocence beyond the courtroom.
Building on this, conflating “cancel culture” and individuals having opinions with the notion of “presumption of innocence under the law” is bad analysis. These two things are not the same, and they have never been the same. Furthermore, prioritizing a court of law over public opinion when it comes to an individual’s right to make an informed assessment about a person who has been accused of a crime is the height of paternalism, and is fundamentally authoritarian and anti-democratic. A basic premise of Satanism, of identifying with the rebelliousness of Satan, is that we’re not interested in relinquishing our personal power to form opinions to arbitrary authority. Many Satanists position the Christian God as the iconic arbitrary authority, but if you eat of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you know human courts are flawed, and that institutions of law and order are not synonymous with justice.
The question, then, is what is the just approach to dealing with people accused of crimes, or even bad, noncriminal behavior? How can we further the pursuit of social justice in any given situation? Sometimes, the answer will be obvious, but even in those cases that it is not, a blanket presumption of innocence for the accused is a paradox. Why? Because false accusations are, themselves, criminal. If we assume someone accused of violating someone else’s rights is innocent, but we also assume the accuser is innocent of making a false accusation, what are we saying? (“He hit me!” “No I did not!”) And if we focus on the accused in public discourse, without centering the justice due the victim, will we achieve justice? Keeping in mind, of course, that the Constitution makes no requirements of people participating in public discourse to adhere to any presumptions of innocence or guilt. That is strictly a legal procedure aimed at doing away with medieval traditions of torture and compelled confession to “prove” guilt. Because if we were really presuming innocence, would jails even exist? Could anyone ever be arrested? Think about it.
Which is more important, inclusivity or fairness?
This question was discussed in the context of transgender participants in sports. The discussion was, sadly, rooted in patriarchy and bioessentialism. At no point were the more basic questions of, “what is even the point of high school sports” or “why are ability at sports and financial remuneration judged the way they are” even touched upon. You cannot answer the question of the participation of transgender people in sports until you answer those questions and sit with the reality that sports are the products of thousands of years of misogynist culture, passed down and largely accepted as meaningful. But we assign sports all their meaning. All of the metrics of ability and all of the concomitant awards are arbitrary.
Instead of engaging in bioessentialist arguments amounting to “men are stronger and faster than women,” or more poignantly, “one invented category is better at an arbitrary measurement of an arbitrary activity than those of another invented category,” the Satanist might want to consider why so many sports exist that privilege the assumed inherent abilities of one socially-constructed category of people. Why is it relevant in the game of golf how far someone can drive a golf ball? “The rules of golf,” of course, but why? And if high school athletes are rewarded with scholarships based on their performance relative to their gender identity group, instead of laundering transphobia as “protecting opportunities for girls and women,” perhaps it is worth asking why that is. You do not have to think about this question very long before you reach the conclusion, “because men are willing to pay money and devote attention to watching other men do X activity to or with each other” is driving these processes, and that this is the result of a history that has nothing to do with fairness or inclusivity. In fact, it is the result of a history that has been quite opposed to both fairness and inclusivity, and when we extend our thinking beyond that, we are forced to consider that fairness does not exist without inclusivity, and that this entire question is a false dichotomy.
The Supreme Court should define and ban or limit hate speech.
Unsurprisingly, in keeping with a position on free speech that accords with Enlightenment whiteness, the hosts do not believe the Supreme Court should do this. It’s worth noting that this framing of the question is authoritarian, as it bows to the Supreme Court as the arbiters of justice, and does not contend with the material reality of the consequences of hate speech for many people (nor the reality that Congress creates legislation, but I digress). To ignore or not even consider a material analysis is to be comfortable with one’s own rights being predicated on externalizing the negative consequences of our own actions. Is that just? Climate activists definitely think it is not just in the context of carbon emission. Is hate speech different if examined at the material level?
It is beyond the scope of a piece like this to address this issue with sufficient clarity and detail to make a complete argument. What I wonder is if Satanists, many of whom would say they prize knowledge, are willing to educate themselves on the subject? Because free speech absolutism has been crushed again and again by academics and legal scholars. The knowledge is out there to be gleaned, if only people wish to learn.
One of the best sources I know of on this topic is Words That Wound, one of the foundational texts of critical race theory. Read it, and open your mind to how, in addition to the First Amendment, we have the Fourteenth Amendment, and creating legal language that enshrines the civil rights guaranteed in both of those amendments is not as simple as “hate speech is censorship and censorship is bad.” Consider that each of us (and the law itself) has our own line beyond which we believe speech is no longer protected and should be penalized or censored, and that if we go with our gut or with a willfully-ignorant understanding of the scholarship and reasoning surrounding this issue to decide where that line is, we are being irrational and unscientific. And for anyone thinking they are taking a principled stand, I am sorry to report that principles can be irrational and unscientific.
Which is most true, we need less police, we need more police, or police need more training, which will cost more money?
This segues immediately into a discussion of whether we should defund the police, but fails to analyze why people are saying to defund the police or what that even means. The hosts align with “police will need more training, which will cost more money,” but again do not interrogate the material reality of this statement, or consider the idea that restrictions could easily get better results than training, and could be far cheaper.
Police have been getting progressively more training for as long as there have been police. And to what result? Police violence is an epidemic, and police departments are hotbeds of white supremacist activities. And who is going to decide what that training is? Because the material reality, again, is that taxpayers have frequently been paying for truly horrible training. Do we really want to pay for white supremacists to be better killers?
Getting caught in slogans and talking points misses the arguments that police abolitionists have made, and fails to engage with actual data on this issue. This is sophomoric and not up to Satanic muster. It is not hard to read a book by abolitionists about why they believe what they do and learn why they believe “more training” is a nonsense argument that flies in the face of decades of evidence, or even just read a Wikipedia article about it if engaging with scholarship is too much effort. This might also make for a better podcast, assuming the audience does not comprise anti-intellectual reactionaries.
I demand that Satanists hold themselves to higher standards than social media talking points, already-debunked jibber-jabber, and pissing contests. You will never learn anything about anything if you think meaningful discourse can be boiled down to 280-character tweets, or that if “the Medium is the Message” and Facebook is the medium, anything good will ever come from it. It won’t.
Perhaps I come across as harsh, and I know from the followup podcast that the hosts faced some backlash for their opinions and positions, but… good. These ideas deserve criticism, because even if the hosts do not mean to carry water for reactionaries and bigots, ignorance is not an excuse, and the fact one of the hosts later defended himself by denigrating the “woke mob” speaks volumes, because anyone with a modicum of interest in social justice knows that using “woke” disparagingly is leaning into a white supremacist, alt-right appropriation of a term from AAVE whose meaning and history have nothing to do with caricatures of “outrage culture.” When you make the choice to lean into alt-right disparagement of Black protestors, you make the choice to form an allegiance with hate and ignorance, and any apologies made while employing defenses that cling to racist, authoritarian tactics are worthless. It’s not that it’s offensive, but that it’s bigoted. People in the United States are free under the law to offend, and even to hold bigoted world views, but being offensive or bigoted carries consequences, and instead of getting irate or upset that the prospect of consequences makes you uncomfortable about sharing your views, maybe it is time to examine your views.
On the bright side, if you’re a Satanist, the blanket rejection of arbitrary doctrine means you have the opportunity to learn and grow. Maybe even to receive earned forgiveness. But that process starts with knowledge. Arm yourself with knowledge, and you cannot shoot yourself in the foot with ignorance.