Date: 31 Mar 1998
First, a note of apology to everyone: sorry things have been so quiet as of late. I've gotten a manuscript reading with a major NYC agency and while they don't think there's a big enough target audience for _Sifting Through the Ashes: A Witch's Guide to the Burning Times_, they are potentially interested in the stuff I've written about Gaelic goddess-lore. So I've spent the last couple weeks talking to them, trying to get my ancient Mac to print off a legible copy of my manuscript, and tidying up the last chapters.
Iuna, I think the point you raised touches on the heart of stereotyping: what makes people believe that some extraneous factor (religion, sex, skin color, sexual orientation) causes some undesired trait? I don't know -- but I think the world would be a much nicer place if we could figure this out. <g>
Maybe it makes people feel safer. My co-workers always used to get panicky whenever there was a murder or a rape in our area. And I noticed that a lot of the talk seemed to be reassurance -- this won't happen to me. People were always terribly disturbed when a "normal" guy, a Christian like them, did something horrible. Why? Because all their friends were like that, and if "decent" people could do monstrous things, how do you keep yourself safe? It was much more comforting if you could identify something "weird" in the situation. That happened down in the black section of town (and I don't live there). Well that girl that got raped was Hispanic (and I'm not) and I bet she got in that guy's car voluntarily (which I would never do). The killer was a Satanist (and I don't hang out with that type of person).
I also think that when people see something horrible (like serial killings) we have an urge to distance ourselves from it. Our first thoughts are, "How could anybody do something like that?" And our second is something like, "They must be very different from me. Therefore people (and the media) emphasize the "weird" things about the killer.
I share your high opinion of Special Agent Lanning. <g> In that _Out of Darkness_ collection I've cited, his article was the only good one. And it was superb! He agrees with you on how problematic the label Satanic Ritual Abuse is. We don't normally categorize crimes by the religion, gender, race, etc., of the killer. There's no such thing as Christian Ritual Abuse, for instance -- and nobody would think of suggesting such a category. Christians would rightly scream "religious discrimination" if that happened!