How moral panics became the defining issue of the election.

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There are a case to make Satanic Panic return, only with more rhythm in the internet age.

This is true in the literal sense: over the past two years, conservatives have begun to increasingly portray their enemies and their policies and Notions they don’t like – or just find it weird Where foreign– as “satanic”.

But it’s also true in a deep-seated sense of conspiracy theory: after all, what is QAnon if not a dark fantasy of evil debauchery and destruction? (A investigation Underline by NBC News found that a full quarter of its respondents believed that “Satanic ritual sexual abuse is widespread in this country.”)

This midterm cycle, there was panic over “groomers” – a concept popularized by politicians such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and influential right-wing social media mavens, including “TikTok Libs.” The panic, whether organic or fabricated, has led to targeting LGBTQ teachers or just teachers who affirm LGBTQ students. (Other very real results of all this include the “don’t say gay“laws and”hide the pridebook-ban type.) The panic took an even scarier turn when it focused on gender-affirming care. Trans kids were bullied; children’s hospitals confronted violent threats; and Texas ordered state child welfare to investigate parents of trans children who received gender-affirming care for child abuse. Recently, the daily thread organized Proud Boys and other protesters in Tennessee for a “Rally to end child mutilation.” At the rally, new non-Democrat Tulsi Gabbard told the crowd “our kids are having their childhoods stolen from them.”

The critical race theory panic of recent years has also been presented as a matter of innocence under attack. Those who sought to cover up the sins of American history did so for political reasons, but the stories that circulated were more personal: anecdotes of “brainwashed” liberal teenagers tearing apart previously peaceful families or , worse, traumatized white children who came home from school devastated. to learn that they were the bad guys.

And let’s not forget abortion, which has always been portrayed as a matter of saving unborn souls. You can’t hang around in straight conversations for long without coming up with a mention of pure, devilish driving by the other side. To take a recent example, while search the writings of a right-wing candidate for the Alabama State Senate, I found this particular (but representative) gem in June Publish the candidate had written of the abortion: “It essentially amounts to human sacrifices like the ancients who sacrificed babies to Moloch for the perceived blessing of a demon god.”

These are campaign issues, which are played out everywhere. At the local level, of course, the panic about what children are exposed to has sparked a wave of school board disputed races. But a deranged, blood-soaked possession has also taken over the election at the national level. just look this scary announcement, directed at moderate Virginia Democrat Abigail Spanberger, who warns of a world in her clutches where “if you don’t chemically castrate your children, the state will take your child away from you.” Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano recently accused his opponent of “staying on the sidelines while Philadelphia Children’s Hospital is catch homeless children and foster children, apparently, and experience gender transition on them.

This message and this moral panic cannot be separated from the rising tide of Christian nationalism in this country. The ideology, which posits that the United States was founded – and should be governed – as an officially Christian country, with no formal separation of church and state, has energized many major campaigns, especially that of Mastriano. At election-related Christian nationalist events hosted by former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, extremist Christians have mocked long on the demonic forces they face in the form of Democrats. Many personalities present at these events are associated with the New Apostolic Reformation, a movement that combines elements of charismatic Christianity with right-wing politics. This growing charismatic tradition, which embraces talk of prophecy and demonic possession and the real-world intrigues of Satan far more than mainstream evangelical Christianity does, is obsessed with politics. Quite literally, many conservatives see this midterm cycle and the upcoming elections as a sacred battle for the souls of the innocent – and the souls of their country.

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