Wednesday, March 01, 2017

They trusted the experts

Alan Jacobs looks at a new book on the Satanic ritual abuse scandals of the 1980s and early 1990s:

structures of presumption: case studies
As Jacobs notes:

We don’t hear many claims these days that day-care workers, or anyone else, are forcing children to participate in Satanic rituals. But reading Beck’s narrative, I couldn’t help reflecting on the ways in which certain structures of presumption that drove that “moral panic” thirty years ago are still in place and still having massive social effects just in somewhat different contexts.
He bravely points out that while the MSM doesn’t fall for Satanic ritual abuse claims anymore, there are parallels to current media obsessions:

The precise logic I have outlined above is at work today in two prominent venues, sexual assault cases on college campuses and the increasingly widespread diagnoses of gender dysphoria among young people. Just as child abuse is real and tragic and often in the past was diminished or ignored so too with sexual assault and profound gender dysphoria. But as Beck’s narrative shows, attempts to correct past neglect can go wildly, destructively awry; and the “structures of presumption” I have laid out above make it virtually impossible to have a reasonable discussion of how to assess claims that have immense consequences for human lives.
To that list I would add a third:the MSM-promoted hysteria which fueled Black Lives Matter and their agitprop narratives.

Three quick points:

1. The ritual abuse panic was just an extreme example of the Rosenhan problem in criminal investigations. When an investigator or prosecutor makes up their mind their theories are immune to falsification.

Criminal justice and the Rosenhan experiment

Rosenhan II

Rosenhan redux

Revisiting the Hanssen case
2.) The abuse panic and the related popularization of “recovered memories” exposed modern psychology as a pseudoscientific cesspit. Frederick Crews demolished its intellectual foundations in the NYRB. Those essays and the resulting correspondence make for exhilarating reading.

3. The panic did not express itself in unthinking, proto-Trumpian lynch mobs. Instead, the damage was done by “experts”: police investigators, journalists, social workers, lawyers, psychologists.

Forgotten witch hunts
Note that very few of these “experts” paid a professional or personal price for the lives they ruined. They had no skin in the game. This sort of makes one think that an awful lot of media-approved experts qualify for Intellectual-Yet-Idiot status.

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