Every Satanist, abortion activist and clinic escort I know is exhausted.
Because, once again, abortion rights are under attack in America, and once again, The Satanic Temple has elbowed their way to the front of the discourse with wild claims, specious reasoning, and a concerningly frantic “only we can fix this” narrative.
The state of Texas has, effectively banned abortions in all but language and has been signaled by the 6-3 conservative Supreme Court that it will be allowed to do so with impunity, despite Roe v. Wade still standing, for now.
The law as written circumvents Roe v. Wade and federal restrictions on enforcement by empowering citizen vigilantes to sue pregnant people seeking healthcare and anyone assisting them in any way.
The Satanic Temple claims that abortion is a “Satanic ritual” (more on this revolting, misguided claim later) and therefore protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
Rather than risk misrepresenting their position and justification, I’ll simply post the claim below, in their own words:
There is a lot to unpack here, but on the surface, it’s entirely plausible how perfectly reasonable people who aren’t necessarily familiar with the vagaries of the RFRA, or, you know, even Constitutional law (in which everyone, especially your drunkest uncle, is an expert) might think this simplistic, almost hand-waving reasoning is rational, even accurate.
Especially if you overlook the fact that The Satanic Temple is asking the FDA for permission to secure, store, and distribute prescription medication. That’s the lede here. Let’s not bury it.
But the fact remains that we still have to argue with people who became aware of The Satanic Temple five minutes ago, and have absolutely no background or basis for these opinions, just screeee-heeeching into every single space we occupy. Therefore, before we examine why this specific argument is nothing but potentially destructive, we have to look at why the very idea that The Satanic Temple thinks it can, does, or should work this way is an indictment of the argument itself.
We have to give a shit about this nothing because what The Satanic Temple dumps in the water in Salem, Massachusetts, washes up dead whales on every other beach.
They feel entitled to this preeminent and authoritative (and ultimately artificial) position in the media without the responsibility of due diligence, care, or even basic competence.
The Satanic Temple Really, Really Sucks At Law
This is, frankly, Bad News Bears for an organization nebulously organized first, as a joke for a documentary, and then as a vehicle for performative legal trolling. Back in those heady, breastless-Baphomet statue Kickstarter days, a lot of people, myself included, loved the tongue-in-cheek idea of a Satanist group that would act as a “poison pill” to Christian Dominionism – using things like celebrating school prayers for hailing Satan, to show that “religious freedom” doesn’t necessarily always mean what you think it means.
Of course, to do this, they still had to trade on the stigma that Satanists are bad, and no one should want them in public forums. This was probably not an ideal position for most contemporary Satanists who are just mostly trying to live their lives without political violence.
That didn’t really work, for two reasons.
- The “hypocrisy gotcha” doesn’t work in a society dominated by Christian thinkers and enforcers. You can’t “trick” them into working against their own interests. They don’t care about the hypocrisy. They care about “winning” no matter what.
2. The Satanic Temple Really, Really Sucks At Law.
#1 makes the exercise pointless apart from attention-seeking, and #2 is completely untenable for an organization based on sassy rhetorical pranks.
I don’t expect you to take my word for it, however. Try to find proof of their successfully arguing, well, anything, in court since they were founded. Naturally, they blame this entirely on the unfairness of Christian courts (while simultaneously predicating their entire existence on those courts magically acquiescing to their legal brilliance) through handwringing newsletters and angry Patreon screeds.
But the fact is, it keeps happening. At the time of this writing, the closest thing to a legal victory for The Satanic Temple was a settlement from Netflix, who very stupidly used their inane statue as a model in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. The Satanic Temple was right then, due to someone else’s egregious mistake, and settled out of court. You’ll notice, however, that they attempted to sue Netflix for $150M, so even when they’re right, they’re really stupid about it. They also shit on and lost like 3/5 of their extant membership (a number which they present, unverified, to media regularly and, much like a trophy bass, gets wildly bigger with every telling but no substantial proof, alas), another consistent pattern we’ll touch on later.
The extent to which The Satanic Temple has had their asses handed to them in court is exhaustive, so to save us some time, I’ll replay some of their greatest hits, and you can follow up independently:
Scottsdale Arizona – The Satanic Temple sues to give an invocation before council meetings, the case is dismissed because Nothing Works The Way The Satanic Temple Thinks It Does, and it hurts itself in its confusion.
Jefferson City, Missouri – Inserting itself into reproductive rights in much the way we’re seeing now, The Satanic Temple’s misunderstanding of law leads to a legal disaster that, if anything, only served to hurt more competent organizations bringing similar arguments. It was also one of their more visible cases of ambulance-chasing, abuse, and thanks to their petulant co-founder, an illustration of how they go on to treat people they’ve abused.
Belle Plain, Minnesota – 9 out of 10 arguments dismissed by the judge out of hand in the world’s most straightforward monument lawsuit (TST raised a bunch of money for a veteran memorial and then fumbled the lawsuit about it, which is their MO).
Louisiana – The Satanic Temple, Inc. v. Lamar Advertising of Louisiana, LLC. TST sues a billboard company alleging religious discrimination. Completely misses a viable point about corporate monopoly and instead blows their own case by willfully misrepresenting their tacky content, and admitting that they’ve worked with Lamar before, completely destroying their religious discrimination claim. Womp womp. This was very loud at first, even uncritically picked up by AP, but then allowed to quietly fizzle as the legal embarrassment it is.
Seattle, Washington – A SLAPP suit in which The Satanic Temple tries to sue former members for speaking out about it, trips over its own feet, claims Antifa and BLM are “extremist elements” they are willing to sue people over associating them with, procedurally screws their ability to amend their arguments, and gets the bulk of their argument dismissed for really, really sucking at law. TST even went so far as to specifically create a Gofundme page with the intention of disrupting the defendants’ ability to fundraise for themselves.
The Satanic Temple vs. Twitter, a.k.a. The Moment In Which The Satanic Temple Had Officially Outlived Its Usefulness – When Satanic Temple co-founder Doug Misicko a.ka. Doug Mesner and Lucien Greaves (ed. note – real names are provided not out of an intent to punish or unmask, but because 1. These names are a matter of public record along with their connections to pseudonyms, and 2. These pseudonyms appear to mostly be deployed to obfuscate past behavior and comments, so keeping them connected is important) got into a nasty Twitter exchange as he is wont to do, with unhinged child star Corey Feldman, that resulted in “Lucien Greaves” losing his pwecious pwatform for a few whole days while being denied a pwecious bwue checkmark. Which immediately initiated a petulant demand to speak to the manager of Twitter.
In the process, “Greaves” publicly fundraised for the lawsuit, while accepting “pro bono” help from recently disbarred attorney Marc Randazza. This decision, hatefully defended by Greaves at every turn rather than acknowledging the inherent optics and ethical issues associated with accepting representation from an alt-right celebrity, ultimately caused a cataclysm within The Satanic Temple, forcing the most established chapters, competent actors, talent, and generally, people who aren’t comfortable with alt-right and overt Nazi ties, into leaving TST for good. Quite visibly. An event that remaining veteran hangers-on refer to as “The Shittening”.
Just to really solidify their tie, they hired him again for some nebulous thing involving the Mississippi state flag that of course went nowhere:
Returning to our context of The Satanic Temple once again inserting themselves into life-and-death reproductive rights issues, we can only walk away from the above evidence with a handful of truths:
1. The Satanic Temple really, really sucks at law. Whether you think they’re constantly handed bad deals by Christian judges, or are just grotesquely negligent, the fact remains that they have been tremendously, sometimes harmfully, unsuccessful at their own proof-of-concept. Either the law can’t be manipulated the way they expect, or they don’t have the professional and intellectual capital to do so. Pick your reason this project has failed.
2. There is a petulant man-child at the helm who brings this step-dad hating mallgoth energy to legal battles carried out by monstrous institutions and, generally, adults, and it isn’t working for anyone – least of all the members of The Satanic Temple.
3. There is absolutely no reason to believe that anything works the way these people think it does. It never has, and betting on that pony has lost every time.
That Which Can Be Destroyed By Truth Should Never Be Spared Its Demise
So here we are, once again, with The Satanic Temple making egregious claims and mostly just being hateful to any questions or criticism. We’ve done a years-long heel turn from pranking courts (albeit unsuccessfully) to illustrate the absurdity of Christian dominion, to lobbying the FDA for the right to collect and distribute controlled drugs.
The most essential question that TST fails to answer is: Why do we need you to do things this way?
What risks does your bumbling pose to hard-won and Indigenous-favorable legislation? What are the repercussions of them establishing precedent for religious institutions to subvert federal law by distributing prescription medication? Is that something we want Christian churches to be allowed to do because The Satanic Temple was allowed to do it? Do we want to open the door to legal precedent for conversion therapy? Do we want peyote to end up back in court thanks to this legal lurching around for relevance, where a conservative judge might overturn it?
Again, you get to decide if you think The Satanic Temple just doesn’t think about these things, or if they just don’t care, as long as “Lucien” gets to be in the news for five more minutes. Are they malicious? Are the demonstrable Nazi and alt-right ties within the organization significant, or is this just a monumental exercise in Dunning-Krugerism?
Here’s the thing: The Satanic Temple doesn’t exist in a meaningful sense outside of specious overtures of lawsuits. They’ve demonstrably contributed nothing to the canon of the Left-Hand Path; if anything, they’ve watered it down through nebulous, superficial, mostly-to-convince-the-courts-we’re-real engagement. When they do try to react to global events in a non-propagandized way, it’s a complete fucking mess.
Yes, there’s an “art gallery” that mostly serves as a home to “Lucien” when it isn’t being used to celebrate open white supremacists. While it’s true that they’ve at least tried numerous programs, most of these simply fail and quietly fade away with no real accounting to anyone; the After School Satan Club comes to mind, and the big campaign about corporal punishment in schools never amounting to more than a few billboards (remember the company they sued for discriminating against them? Those billboards.) One chapter claimed to gather thousands of gallons of water for homeless people, only to let it rot behind a building when no one could organize collection.
When TST, as an entity, does something good for anyone, anywhere, it’s usually because a chapter (now called “congregations”, because TST can’t stop eating its own ass) did 100% of the labor, probably despite the best efforts of their now-defunct council.
Their “ordination” program, which of course involved reading Ragnar Redbeard’s Might is Right as canon, was roundly laughed at by pretty much anyone who isn’t them. They claim their mailing list as their membership numbers. They’re highly visible, and yet, amazingly, they ain’t shit.
The receipts of all this good work just aren’t fucking there.
TST survives by allowing people to believe things that aren’t true.
Well, that’s not necessarily the entire story, either. Allowing people to believe something isn’t the same as thoughts explicitly placed by TST and then just allowed to percolate by groupies and credulous beat journalists.
But among those thoughts, they’re allowed to believe that “Lucien Greaves” is a Harvard graduate (specifically that he’s some kind of neuroscientist. Uh, good luck finding evidence of that anywhere). They’re allowed to believe that The Satanic Temple does “a lot of good work” (Show me.).
They’re allowed and encouraged to believe that every one of TST’s failures can only be due to anti-Satanist bias from outside, and not TST’s own demonstrable incompetence, often enshrined in the federal record but also in a litany of testimonials from ex-members around the world citing abuse and neglect in the best of cases. Doug Misicko/Mesner is a brilliant philosopher-king who definitely graduated Harvard, it must be the Fake News Media refusing to give him his due! Or the Christians! Or the Shitteners! Or, or, or!”
They’re allowed to believe that The Satanic Temple was able to assert some magical rights that no other religious group has been able to, that will protect you from lawsuits in Texas. They’re allowed to believe that “only we can fix this”.
The fact that The Satanic Temple is at least media savvy if nothing else really doesn’t help, when media outlets uncritically recirculate whatever its spokesperson says. That isn’t journalism, that’s just parroting for Internet Click Bucks™. I assure you, a 23-year-old VICE writer being paid in horse tranquilizers doesn’t have a stake in whether any of this is true or accurate or not, as long as people look.
And they do, because;
This Isn’t Religious Activism, This Is A Spectacle
Spectacle Films is the media vehicle for TST co-founder Cevin Soling, a.k.a. “Malcolm Jarry”. As referenced above, The Satanic Temple was originally “founded” as the subject of a mockumentary in which “nice Satanists” were the “good guys”.
That isn’t to say that organizations can’t evolve; that something wholly unserious can’t become serious, which is what Cevin and Doug both claim when confronted with these truths. It sounds good. It could be true. People could be allowed to believe it.
The truth, though, is born out in whether it can be demonstrated that Cevin ever moved beyond the spectacle business.
While details of their actual foundation are of course obscured and completely absent at the time of writing from their official About Us page, the official party line is that The Satanic Temple was founded in 2012, by Malcolm Jarry (Cevin Soling) and Lucien Greaves (Doug Mesner). An article from 2013 by then-virulent-white-nationalist Shane Bugbee in VICE details his involvement in the founding. Shane and Doug also participated in a 24-hour marathon podcast for white nationalists, during which Doug said some things he gets really upset about still having to answer for. For perspective, he said these things, defended eugenics, and did so in a conversation with a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. These are things conveniently left out of “but this was TAKEN out of CONTEXT”. The context makes it worse. You can learn more about it here.
As late as 2016, four years after The Satanic Temple’s founding, Cevin Soling’s media company, Spectacle Films, published a film titled Mr. Cevin and the Cargo Cult (2016) in which Cevin, the titular character, exploits indigenous people by pretending to be notorious figure John Frum. Watch him hand islanders Salad Spinners instead of medicine or supplies. It’s really gross.
Worse than that, one of Cevin’s other more recent pet projects is the “Alliance for Integrity and Justice“, which is a front for specifically manipulating media and smearing pro-Palestinean individuals and organizations:
Still think this is a good person engaging in good faith with the politics of reproductive rights?
Spectacle Films produced the horrifically propagandized video introducing this organization, which was somewhat guiltily removed from Vimeo, but remains embedded on their homepage, in case you want to follow up for yourself.
Cevin is also a good friend and collaborator with respectable white supremacist Stephen Molyneux in a baseless and unhinged campaign to destroy public schools. That we even have to argue about whether these people belong at the forefront of a Satanic movement is completely insane. Just, go look for yourself. You’ll see why they don’t advertise this Jay Sherman-looking goober‘s involvement, despite him also very visibly trying to make fetch happen with his diseased ideas at the Salem Gallery to not much enthusiasm. Are you beginning to see a pattern where they AREN’T GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION by palling around with white supremacists, racists, transphobes and other shitbastards, but yet can’t seem to get away from them?
Oh, and of course this right-wing libertarian wankfest is also supported by Spectacle Films. Because of course it is.
If Everything Is Bullshit, Then Why Does It Keep Working?
Great question. Glad you asked. Pull up a seat because it’s time for a quick lesson in rhetoric.
“Trust, sympathy, persuasion. The true con doesn’t force us to do anything; he makes us complicit in our own undoing. He doesn’t steal. We give.”Maria Konnikova, author of The Confidence Game
It turns out that none of us are immune to being scammed. I want you to look above at the section on Cevin Soling, his projects, and his own words about how his organization combats “pro-Palestinian groups” differently than other organizations, who try to use a pesky thing called truth. Not Cevin. He’s a very aware wielder of propaganda. Manipulating checked-out media and using facetious emotional appeals to manipulate people is perhaps the only thing he actually does well. None of his shitty ideas particularly get traction, thankfully, but they fail very visibly. He gets them in front of people, which is the next best thing to actually being righteous.
Think about what you’ve seen and read about “Lucien Greaves”. Is he a willing participant? A driver of challenging, revolutionary ideas? A great writer, speaker, and contributor to Satanic thought? Or is he maybe just kind of this pseudointellectual nobody in which Cevin saw a useful idiot for this cockamamie scheme?
I’m the first to admit that the idea beggars belief. There are certainly a lot of people with their identities all twisted up in this crap who would be outraged to vomiting blood that their useless messianic figure was, in fact, on the balance, actually incredibly useless.
But show me the net gain. Show me the actual benefit to real Satanists using cases of discrimination that actually happened to them, that weren’t manufactured by TST for headlines, in which The Satanic Temple, the illuminating light of Lucien Greaves, descended on the scene and secured a real win for Satanists.
You either already know that you can’t, or you aren’t going to try because you know you can’t, and instead are going to be mad about it. Either way, the fact remains.
I don’t have the space here, and you probably don’t have the inclination, to lay out every instance of possible bad-faith manipulation on behalf of The Satanic Temple. All I can do is arm you with the tools you need to see it for yourself when you measure their statements and responses to things.
All I can do, personally, is speculate on the extent to which I think The Satanic Temple’s enterprise is an intentional scam, or a well-meaning cockup, or a machine that has been honed, over time, to extract wealth from the Dumbledore’s Army variety of checked out liberals who don’t want to have to care how anything actually works, and who respond to accusations of wrongdoing, or tarnishing of their beloved “charity” with angry hand-waving.
Whether or not TST’s leadership is doing that on purpose, they have certainly cornered a very convenient audience with which to ply that craft.
At its most superficial, The Satanic Temple has curb appeal. Their assertions are made with such conviction that they couldn’t possibly be as wrong as they are. How that bears out in court is irrelevant. Their simple, proposed solutions sound elegant, in a world where if things only worked that way.
People are scared. And TST offers a simple answer, one they desperately want to believe.
People are right to be scared, and the multiple compounding crises of capitalism and white supremacy coming due means that there’s never been a better time for people en masse to question not just themselves but also the legitimacy of a society that has repeatedly let them fall through the cracks if not pushed them directly.
The downside is that these crises create the perfect opening for grifters like TST to show up as the aesthetically perfect counter-institution to offer a way forward, all in exchange for not looking too hard at what that entails – or the opportunity cost of rejecting the multilateral coalition building through which social change is historically actually brought.
I think TST’s leadership knows that. I think they allow people to believe they have solutions where they know, or at least strongly suspect, they do not. After all, no one knows better than them and their donors about their legal track record.
I think they force their way to the front of issues in which they are by any standard not the ideal, or especially qualified entity to handle it, and peddle false hope to frightened people because this virality is good for their unaccountable and convoluted bottom line. I think they’re very, very happy to let the cognitive dissonance of those same frightened people dish out abuse, deflection, and hateful denial on their behalf. That’s extremely convenient.
I’m A Dipshit, You’re A Dipshit, Everyone’s A Dipshit
This is Lucien Greaves’s favorite name for anyone who disagrees with him. Only an idiot would disagree with a Very Smart Harvard Graduate . So too, it’s going to be the case that everything referenced in this article is wrong, or didn’t happen, or isn’t real, or doesn’t matter if it is real, and I’m only saying these things because of some terrible shortcoming on my part, or on the part of The Luciferian Dominion, which he might hastily Google and, maybe, come up with some kind of absurd non-position like “T-t-they’re a prepper cult!”, which is the only mean thing they’ve been able to come up with thus far, based on the idea that we’re also concerned with ecology and climate collapse.
In no universe, however, is he going to acknowledge a word of this as being true or consequential because, as I hope I’ve illustrated, these aren’t capable, good faith community leaders with qualities like the capacity to acknowledge fault, admit guilt, or grapple with terrible optics.
No, he’s just going to call me a dipshit. And that’s fine. As far as I’m concerned, this non-person never should have been fished out from behind whatever Hot Topic cash register Cevin found him in. That is, assuming he’s ever been gainfully employed. There’s not really any evidence of that, either.
I have no doubt whatsoever that there will be some frantic, dismissive “answer” for anything and everything contained herein, and that’s if they allow it to circulate at all.
This article isn’t for them. It’s for you, the exhausted people who have been arguing with the scared, vulnerable people who have taken up the cause of this shitty organization without any background or interest in their history, qualifications, or track record.
This is me, telling you: You’re fucking right.
Oh, And By The Way, Please Stop Saying Abortion Is A ‘Satanic Ritual’
We absolutely agree that everyone should have unfettered access to all forms of healthcare, including abortion.
But please stop saying outright, intimating in a mushmouthed way, or especially snarking to journalists, that abortion is a “Satanic ritual”.
As if we don’t have enough problems, leaning into dangerous Christian conspiracy theories at a time when rightwing adherents are more cognitively damaged than ever, and empowered to carry out violence, the last thing we need is this disingenuous narrative that abortions are somehow specifically Satanic.
Body autonomy is Satanic. Choice is Satanic. Choosing not to be ruled by idiot Christian theorcracy is Satanic.
Abortions are healthcare. Claiming some half-assed “ritual” attached to them as part of your doomed effort to manipulate a court that is in no way buying what you’re selling further stigmatizes something that’s already physically dangerous for pregnant people.
But you don’t listen to actual clinic escorts about it, so I don’t really expect my appeals to be heard either.
A Final Note For TST’s Legal Counsel
It isn’t defamation just because it makes you look bad.
It isn’t libel when there are screenshots.
You fucking need it.