moral panic


America’s War on Pinball,

In the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s pinball became one of the most popular games in America.  However the popularity of pinball came with a downside; suspicion from older generations who did not understand the game.  Conservative elements of the country saw pinball as a scourge which corrupted the youth and weakened the moral fiber of the country.  Many saw pinball as nothing more than an easy form of gambling marketed towards young people.  Religious elements saw pinball as a game of the devil, with satanic influence designed to lead the faithful astray.  One of the most ridiculous arguments leveled against pinball was that the machines were controlled by, and a source of income for the mafia.

In response to the moral outcry against pinball, Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia led a campaign to end pinball once and for all.  In his city, New York, he sponsored laws and ordinances to ban pinball.  On January 21st, 1942 pinball was banned in New York City.  Reminiscent of Prohibition, police raided gaming centers, arcades, and amusement parks, smashing the games with axes and tossing the remnants in a local river.  Mayor LaGuardia himself did several photo ops of him participating in raids and personally destroying pinball machines.  Also reminiscent of Prohibition, pinball went underground, and became controlled by the seedier elements of society such as organized crime and the mob.

Inspired by LaGuardia, other cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago likewise banned pinball.  By 1950 pinball was banned in most major cities.  The ban would last until the 1960’s and 70’s.  The pinball ban in NYC lasted until 1976 when the law was challenged by pinball aficionado Roger Sharpe challenged the law.  Today pinball is legal most everywhere.  There are still exceptions.  For example in 2010 Beacon, NY shut down a pinball museum due to its ban dating to the 40’s.  In San Francisco owners need a special permit from the city.  In Alameda and Oakland California, pinball is still illegal, though there is talk of legalization in Oakland.

While the only people who use the post office today are eBay buyers who are too cheap to spring for actual shipping, there was a time when the whole idea of regularly delivered mail was considered revolutionary. At least it was until it became clear women were going to ruin everything.

This is basically how corresponding worked before countries started nationalizing the postal service: A woman would write a letter and then give it to one of her parents or her husband. If they were rich enough, a servant would then be dispatched to deliver the letter. Or if the recipient lived far away they would give it to a guy on a fast horse, and the person on the receiving end would pay for the letter. Why all the hassle? Because this system ensured that everyone knew who women were writing to at all times.

That all changed when author Anthony Trollope, while working for the newly formed postal service in the United Kingdom, had pillar boxes installed all over England. These, along with newfangled “stamps,” meant that suddenly women could correspond with whoever they wanted. And everyone knew that the people they really wanted to exchange letters with were men of questionable character who were going to get them to do sex stuff before marriage.

4 Everyday Things That Caused Huge Panics When They Were New


Dungeons and Dragons, The Devil’s Board Game,

The granddaddy of all role playing board games, Dungeons and Dragons is perhaps also the most popular and important RPG in gaming history.  Introduced in 1974, D&D quickly became a hit game among youngsters, teens, and college aged gamers.  By 1980 it was the most popular game board game, with an estimated 3 million players and 750,000 copies being sold annually.  

Like all things new, it wasn’t unusual for D&D to earn the suspicion of older generations.  Many people thought the D&D was a corrupting influence on American youth, blaming the game for moral decline and leading to psychological illness.  Then in 1979 the disappearance of a college student named James Dallas Egbert III fanned the flames into a roaring inferno.

Egbert was a student of Michigan State University, and a troubled teen who was being forced by his overly controlling parents into a career he did not want to pursue.  On the night August 15th, 1979 Egbert disappeared after entering a steam tunnel.  A large search was conducted but the boy was never found.  His parents blamed his disappearance on his favorite game; Dungeons and Dragons, claiming that in a fit of D&D induced mania their son had a psychological break from reality and went off on a real life D&D adventure.  The story made national headlines, and faster than the roll of a dice the evils of D&D spread across the country.  As it turned out Egbert had entered the tunnels to commit suicide, but instead ran away to become an oil worker in Louisiana.  He was discovered several months later and forced to resume his education by his parents. He committed suicide a year later.

The truth behind Egbert’s disappearance did little to stem the tide of anti-D&D sentiment, especially when the cause was taken up by the growing Christian Conservative movement.  Soon preachers and televangelists such as Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, Oral Roberts, and Jerry Falwell were railing against the board game at the pulpit.  Fundamentalist Christians accused the game of having satanic influence, encouraging occultism, black magic, and witchcraft.  Christian groups decried the game as an instrument of the devil and a propagator of evil among the nation’s youth, causing murder and suicide. 

Reaction against D&D was far from rational.  Christian Groups often successfully pressured schools and colleges into banning the game. A few successful groups even convinced local government officials to adopt ordinances forbidding the game within their boroughs or towns.  Inspired by MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), a woman named Patricia Pulling founded BADD (Bothered By Dungeons & Dragons) with the aim of banning the board game everywhere, and if that couldn’t be done, then suing the game into bankruptcy.  Other groups raised money from donors, bought as many D&D sets with it as possible, and destroyed them in large bonfires.

Dungeons & Dragons was not the only victim, but a host of other 80’s icons such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Care Bears, Transformers, GI Joe, and many others faced similar accusations of satanic influence and evil.  In fact, the whole country was awash in a moral and religious panic over occultism and devil worship.  The subject became the focus of every talk show on TV.  The corporation Proctor & Gamble was accused of being a satanic company due to its centuries old logo, while rumors abounded that it’s president donated much of the company’s profits to The Church of Satan.  Hundreds of childcare workers were imprisoned on the charge of child abuse based on the claim that they had conducted “satanic rituals” on the children.  Many of the kids were toddlers, who were dragged into interrogation rooms and shouted at by detectives until they broke down and admitted to being the victims of weird satanic abuse. BADD head Patricia Pulling made the claim that 8% of the American population were satanists, which at the time amounted to around 20 million people.  When questioned by a reporter where she came up with that number, she claimed that 4% of teens and 4% of adults were satanists, hence 8%.  There was even a ridiculous claim parroted by the media that around 1 million people a year were murdered in occult human sacrifice rituals.  

The war on D&D and the satanic panic ended in the 1990’s when a number of scientific organizations debunked the rumors.  Among them were studies by Centers for Disease Control and the American Association of Suicidology which found that D&D had nothing to do with murder, suicide, or anti-social behavior.  Regardless the stigma is still held by a few.  In 2013, 700 Club leader Rev. Pat Robertson claimed on national TV that D&D, Harry Potter, and other “demonic games” was the source of teen suicide.

The lead story on the BBC News Magazine today is all about "The great 1980s Dungeons & Dragons panic". It’s a nice little summary of a situation which I wish we could all scoff at and say would never happen again with anything. Fat fucking chance.

"In 1982, high school student Irving Lee Pulling died after shooting himself in the chest. Despite an article in the Washington Post at the time commenting "how [Pulling] had trouble ‘fitting in’", mother Patricia Pulling believed her son’s suicide was caused by him playing D&D.

Again, it was clear that more complex psychological factors were at play. Victoria Rockecharlie, a classmate of Irving Pulling, commented that “he had a lot of problems anyway that weren’t associated with the game”.

At first, Patricia Pulling attempted to sue her son’s high school principal, claiming the curse placed upon her son’s character during a game run by the principal was real. She also sued TSR Inc, the publishers of D&D. Despite the court dismissing these cases, Pulling continued her campaign by forming Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons (BADD) in 1983.”

Whilst I knew about the general situation, I’d never investigated BADD before. So I did a bit of rooting around, and found this: a scan of one of BADD’s propaganda booklets, with commentary. PRIMARY SOURCES ARE THE BEST SOURCES.

If you’re even vaguely interested in the subject, I highly recommend you give this a read. It’s ludicrously fascinating… and a reminder of just how much effort people will put into crusades that are so fundamentally warped.

Hi kids! here’s a little message for you,
Why don’t you go shoot up your school?
Steal your daddy’s gun and shoot for fun
At the bullies and teachers. Won’t that be cool?
We are the media, who glorify the killers,
And we need more killers as we need more filler
Material. The why’s; the ways in which we psycho-analyse you
(And torment your parents) for doing what you do.
We need people to tune in, welcome back to columbine revisited
A twenty-four hour special, news recycle, the same stories,
Different scenarios. Different schools. So you’re a loser
And a loner, and also a violent video game owner,
Well here’s a rifle and a couple of magnums.
You’re the prime candidate,
See if you can get that death toll up to eight or so,
You know, we’d love to hate you on our show.
Surely being infamous is way better than being anonymous?
And best of all, no-one will know the blame is really on us.

Glory Killings

By Ryan Havers

I need more band blogs to follow!!

Reblog if you post:

All Time Low
Of Mice & Men
Like Moths To Flames
Green Day
Panic! At The Disco
Neck Deep
Tonight Alive
Memphis May Fire
Go Radio
My Chemical Romance
The 1975
The Color Morale
In This Moment
La Dispute
Motionless In White
The Amity Affliction 
Chelsea Grin 
System Of A Down
Avenged Sevenfold
Our Last Night
Blink 182
The Used
A Day To Remember 
Veil Of Maya

In the 1980s, allegations of ritual abuse at a preschool in Southern California led to the longest, most expensive trial in U.S. history. The McMartin Preschool case which resulted in zero convictions became emblematic of a much more widespread phenomenon known as Satanic Panic.

"In Satanic occultism, that which is good is bad. And that which is bad is good. As you view this learning and educational tape, pay attention to notice the reverse of everything that is normal becoming abnormal."

Thus begins The Law Enforcement Guide to Satanic Cults, available for viewing on YouTube under the tag “Occult Hilarity.” It’s impossible to know if this 1994 oddity was ever used as an actual police training tool (hopefully not), but it’s presented matter-of-factly. It features input from “experts” like blatantly homophobic “former Satanic priest turned Christian” Eric Pryor (a fascinating guy in his own right), who interprets graffiti and sets up altars, presumably for the benefit of the wide-eyed police officers who suspected their communities were being overrun by a Satanic menace.

The video offers a glimpse at the context that spawned not just the McMartin trial, which ran from 1987 to 1990, but also at the widespread fear that a battle of good versus evil was raging just below the surface of American culture. Heavy metal songs (and the subliminal and backwards messages supposedly contained therein) and album art, horror movies, and fantasy games like Dungeons & Dragons all offered easy, obvious targets. (As seen in the classic TV movie Mazes and Monsters.)

Something all True 1980s Kids experienced.

When your friends begin fighting and you don’t want to get involved…

And you’re just stuck between them like this
Health Goth

*Goths always think the straights are going to strangle them, even though they’ve been more-or-less around since 1764 AD and nowadays they have more sub-cult flavors than Baskin Robbins.

*If Goths can “discover the color brown” and become steampunks, how come they can’t go to the gym? Lord Byron was a champion swimmer.  Let the guy have his Spandex.

*Here, Goth kids: put a little sweat-through in the armpits of this gear, get flat shoes and some lifting gloves, you’re good to go:

PS  Also I have been in MARIE CLAIRE and I suffered no ill effects. I am alive years later and still own the same Missoni tie.