Book Review PAINTED BLACK, by Carl A. Raschke. Harper + Row, 1990. Hardcover, 276 pages, $

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Book Review PAINTED BLACK, by Carl A. Raschke. Harper & Row, 1990. Hardcover, 276 pages, $16.95. by Shawn Carlson, PhD For the last ten years, communities throughout America have suffered at the hands of profiteers of the irrational who see the Devil under every quilt and cornerstone. Churches have been burned, minority religions harassed, and millions of tax dollars wasted in efforts to expunge a non-existent "satanic conspiracy" from our lives. And just when it seemed that the fires of anti-satanic hysteria couldn't burn any hotter, along comes another tanker of kerosene in the guise of Carl Raschke's new book, "Painted Black". In it, Raschke lands a firm clout on the jaw of reason by hailing Satanism as the force behind child abuse, teen suicide, and drug addiction. Despite Raschke's position as a professor of religious studies at the University of Denver, the text is bursting with sloppy research and fuzzy thinking. Howling errors and half truths leap off every page. Raschke messes up even the simplest facts. He refers to the "Ordo Templi Orientis", an extremely well known occult group, as the "Ordo Templi Orentalis" (p. 92 and index). Practitioners of the "Palo Mayombe" religion call themselves "Paleros," but Raschke invents the awkward "Palomayombists" (p. 11) and misrepresents their beliefs. During an interview on KGO Radio in San Francisco, he even mispronounced the name of the most infamous figure in twentieth century occultism -- Aleister Crowley -- and then dismissed a caller's correction, saying, "you must be a follower of [Crowley] if you know how to pronounce [his name]." Not true, Carl -- people with only a passing knowledge of the occult get it right. Raschke's retort to the caller illustrates his tactics; he prefers intellectual bullying to persuasive reason. "Painted Black" bullies with a clever trick -- it barrages the reader with many unbroken sequences of one paragraph summaries of newspaper stories with recount reported satanic horrors. The word "item" leading each such paragraph produces a dramatic impact -- looking over these pages the reader sees "Item ... Item ... Item ... Item ... Item ..." for page after page giving the impression that satanism is running wild. But Raschke doesn't help his readers think critically. In the chapter, "Bad Moon Rising," for example, Raschke presents 41 separate "Items" without a single citation and neglects to mention that some of the stories are over ten years old. An appendix does contain a list of "sources" used in each chapter, but Raschke covers his tracks by listing these alphabetically (sometimes by title, sometimes by author) with no way of telling which, if any, relate to a given "item." Worse, Raschke apparently didn't follow up any of these reports, as though he just believed them to be complete and accurate. In fact, newspaper accounts are rarely such. I've found that most newspaper stories of "satanic crime" are more often due to the reporter's ignorance of minority religions and cultures than to Devil-worshiping cultists. Raschke puts nothing in context. He talks of the rising satanic tide but doesn't mention that of the 100,000 murders committed in the U.S. over the last five years, fewer than 100 involved occult or satanic overtones and most of these were committed by mentally disturbed adolescents who were doing violence years before they took up the occult. Raschke makes much of the tragedy in Matamoros, Mexico in which the leader of a drug running cult ritually sacrificed fifteen people in order to obtain Magickal [sic] control over the police. But Raschke doesn't report that to find another example of ritual human sacrifice one has to go to Cuba over eighty years ago. In fact, according to the FBI, there hasn't been a single documented case of a stranger being abducted and ritually murdered in the United States in U.S. history. So where does Raschke get his information? In his preface he thanks one Dale Griffis "for his mentoring and Avuncular oversight" (p. X). He borrows heavily from "Dr." Griffis' materials throughout the book, lauds him as a "leading expert in the investigation of occult crime" (p. 76) and even uses his endorsement on the book's back cover. But Raschke omits the fact that "Dr." Griffis is a one man anti-satanic crusade whose degree is from an unaccredited diploma mill and whose work has never been considered reliable by serious researchers. Raschke's material on Jayne Mansfield comes from May Mann, who wrote "Jayne Mansfield: A Biography" after Jayne's ghost supposedly returned from the grave demanding that Mann complete the biography. How much of this work was dictated by the ghost is unclear. Raschke acknowledges the ethereal connection (p. 199), then uses the book as the definitive source on Mansfield's involvement with the Church of Satan. Many of Raschke's other sources are equally dubious. It's not that good information isn't available. Many skilled researchers have investigated satanic crime. Yet Raschke dismisses or ignores the Justice Department, the FBI, The National Child Safety Council, and numerous scholars and police officers as "cult apologists." When he singles out a detractor by name, Raschke can be extremely vicious, even petty, in his attacks. For instance, referring to FBI special agent Ken Lanning, Raschke writes "... satanist criminals have had one of their best friends ... at the highest level of national law enforcement" and opines that Lanning's paper, "Satanic, Occult, Ritualistic Crime: A Law Enforcement Perspective", is "written with the literacy, the research sophistication, and the rhetorical finesse of a high school sophomore" (p. 75). According to Raschke, Lanning's paper consists of "volley after volley of emotional diatribe, innuendo, non sequitur, glittering and unsupported generality, and bogus appeal to his own authority [as an FBI agent]" (p. 75). In fact, Lanning's report, with its solid reasoning and clear command of the facts, earned him the respect of his colleagues and cemented his position as a premier authority on Satanic crime. After Raschke finishes his sophomoric tirades, he goes on to systematically misrepresent Lanning's ideas. In short, "Painted Black" is a masterpiece of the new "satanic" McCarthyism. Horribly researched and hysterically reasoned, it sets new standards in panic mongering. Although its unclear how many people will be hurt by the social scares it is sure to generate, one thing is certain -- "Painted Black "is the EXXON VALDEZ of rational journalism. Some American communities will be years in recovering from Harper & Row's decision to publish it. [Physicist Shawn Carlson works at Lawrence Berkeley Labs, is the science columnist for the national "Humanist" magazine and is on the Board of Directors of Bay Area Skeptics]


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