A Brief History of Sensationalism
I know this is going to come as a shock to people out there, but Geraldo Rivera is a sensationalist reporter. To say he thoroughly fact checks his reporting is like saying that Flat Earthers are onto something. Geraldo made a career for himself after an exposé on the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island. Basically, he walked into the place with cameras rolling and filmed footage of the overcrowded conditions, and disabled people covered in their own shit. Considering how poorly operated the place was, I wouldn't call this a great accomplishment. The real legwork (read: actual investigative reporting) was done by the local Staten Island newspapers. Geraldo just burst in with cameras and asked embarrassing questions. This all landed Rivera a Peabody Award for his exposé and put him on a career fast track.
His type of "investigative journalism" became apparent when he got his own talk show. Over the 11 years it was on the air, Geraldo pretty much invented "Trash TV". In addition to his show, he also did a number of television specials, likely in an attempt to recapture the acclaim he got from his Willowbrook exposé. Some of you older readers may remember the time he made television viewers wait two hours to open one of Al Capone's vaults to reveal that there was nothing but dirt inside. He also interviewed Charles Manson, which was an hour-and-a-half-long interview that was chopped down to 15 minutes to make Manson sound like a raving lunatic, or at least less coherent than usual.
One such special was titled Devil Worship: Exposing Satan's Underground. A special that attempted to expose how Satanic groups were, apparently, infiltrating the United States and ruining children because, the devil. This special came out in 1988, a year when fear of the devil was an all-time high. About that...
A Brief History of Satanic Ritual Abuse Hysteria
Since time out of mind, God-fearing Christians have feared the devil. I'm going to skip ahead of all the witch trials and burning at the stake and other fun pastimes of our grossly uneducated ancestors used to get. Let's bring it forward to the 1970s when people started believing in a literal devil existing. You can thank the Exorcist and the Amityville Horror for that. Especially the Amityville Horror since the "true story" is a crock of shit. It was also at this point that Anton LeVey's Chruch of Satan was gaining quite a following. Then you had human monsters like Richard Ramirez, David Berkowitz, and Henry Lee Lucas, claiming that their horrific murders were part of some kind of Satanic rituals. Because, you know, serial murderers who like fame and attention and constantly change their stories are totally trustworthy.
As you can expect, evangelists saw dollar signs, cashing in on the hysteria, and making it sound like there were Satanists taking over the entire country. The "proof" they would often provide, would be convincing violent criminals to accept Jesus Christ as their savior. Naturally, a lot of these guys did so and would conflate things by parroting whatever Satanic nonsense these religious snake-oil salesmen were schilling. Anyone with a basic understanding of psychology could tell you that anyone on death row will do and say anything to get their death sentence commuted. Also blaming it on the devil was a means of deflecting blame for their horrific crimes. A serial killer doesn't have to think about the horrors they committed if they can pawn it off on the influence of a supernatural boogey-man who communicates through the neighbor's dog.
Much like evangelists, Geraldo Rivera saw an opportunity to cash in on the hysteria. Which brings us to this special..
Exposing Satan's Underground!!!
If you haven't seen this laughable, yet infuriating, special, it is available on YouTube. Check it out:
If you watch this special and realize that Geraldo quickly cuts off anyone who challenges the narrative that he is trying to spin, then you're probably not going to be surprised that he didn't want to do any real research. I can excuse people in 1988 for not having the resources we have today, and sure, some of the events were still unfolding at the time... But Geraldo was obviously going for sensationalism rather than facts. Here are the things that Geraldo got horribly wrong....
Wrong, Right Out of the Gates
During the course of this special, you can hear Motley Crue's song "Looks that Kill" playing whenever they needed to do a montage of "spooky" Satanic stuff. If you're not familiar with the song, here it is:
If you actually listen to the lyrics, it has nothing to do with Satan or worshiping the devil. According to the Internet, the song is either about a prostitute, musician Lita Ford (who basis Nikki Sixx was apparently dating at the time, according to this source), or about his mother. I really don't care about the history of Motley Crue enough to really dig into it, but it is almost certainly not about Satan.
A more appropriate song would have been "Shout at the Devil" which was from the same album, also titled "Shout at the Devil". However, these lyrics are about denouncing those who cause you harm using Biblical allegory. Even then, if Geraldo wanted to twist the meaning of any Motley Crue song, "Shout at the Devil". So right off the bat, you know that these idiots have no clue what they're talking about.
So let's start ripping this apart...
I'm going to skip through the teaser since all of the clips and interviews are done in greater detail later on. Geraldo Rivera takes the time to tell people that the fear of Satanism is real and that there are Satanic organizations that are trying to recruit children into their rituals all over America. He points to heavy metal music as one of the "gateways" to Satanism. Blah blah blah.
Well, that's one fact that is incorrect right off the top. While Geraldo was running around like Chicken Little wondering why "nobody was doing anything" about these Satanic cults, the FBI was seriously investigating it. The report didn't come out until 1992 when, no surprise, Satanic Ritual Abuse hysteria was dying out.
So right there, Geraldo is wrong in his assessment, because he was accepting the hearsay of alleged victims, who may have had ulterior motives, or were coerced in one way or another to make such outlandish claims. Let's get into this.
To start, Geraldo starts talking about how heavy metal music is heavily focused on Satanic imagery. While he asserts that "most kids who listen to heavy metal don't worship Satan, some do." This, of course, is an arbitrary statement that has no facts to back it up. But he interviews a kid named "Spike" who claims to be a former Satanist.
Spike with the Shit Tattoos
Spike has some really shitty tattoos, which Geraldo seems to think confirms his membership in a Satanic Cult of some kind. The first is what Spike calls an "Inverted cross. The sign of the devil."
This laughably bad tattoo is not an inverted cross. If anything, it looks like a very crudely drawn Patriarchal Cross. Which is a variation of your generic Holy Cross. This is like a Holy Cross for super nerds who like details like an extra line denoting the fact that Jesus also had a plaque nailed to the cross that read "INRI" which was a half-assed abbreviated name tag that the Romans liked to put on their crucifixes like the world's worst speed dating competition.
Even if it was an inverted cross, that's not Satanic either. The inverted cross is the Cross of Saint Peter. This is because when Saint Peter was crucified, his executioners decided to change things up by crucifying him upside down.
The inverted cross as a symbol of the devil has only been a product of the 20th Century and popular culture. No surprised the most gullible and ill-informed believe that it's an evocation of the devil. It's like alien abductees parroting popular science fiction.
What else do you got for us Spike?
He also goes on to show his equally terrible Ozzy Osborn and Motley Crue tattoos. He says that all of music he listens to is Satanic.
Sure, Black Sabbath sang a lot of songs about the occult, but as Ozzy puts it later in this special, they were just songs. Also, to say that Ozzy is Satanic is laughable. He's a member of the Church of England and prays before every show he performs. Motley Crue just wanted to fuck and do drugs, which last I checked don't have anything to do with worshiping the devil.
Joe and Kim, the Cutting King and Queen of Satanism
This then cuts to "Number of the Beast" by Iron Maiden, and we're given more arbitrary statements. One from a guy named "Joe", who claims that he and his friends used to cut themselves and let their blood drain into a cup and then they would drink it.
Before they can do any sort of fact-checking, they do a whip cut to a girl named "Kim" who also claims that she and her friends would do "violence with blood" and "eating blood". She shows off her cutting marks for the camera. Clearly, someone who confuses eating and drinking is an individual whose testimony should be taken at face value.
Geraldo, These are Cries for Help, You Narcistic Piece of Shit
Instead of filling these kids heads with Satanic rituals, you should actually send them to go see a trained mental health professional, Geraldo. They are exhibiting non-suicidal forms of self-harm. The reasons behind this behavior is complex and a certainly not the work of Satan. If you want to get technical, some Christians also practice self-harm. If you don't agree with me, look up "self-flagellation" and then sit in the corner, the grown-ups are talking. The one important question Geraldo doesn't ask (or seem to care about) is if these kids self-harmed before they decided to give it all the Satanic window dressing (if they even did that to begin with). But again, Geraldo is only looking to make base assumptions to support his narrative on the subject.
Geraldo then goes on to say that bands like WASP make blood drinking part of their live performances. Which, he is correct, but it was all theatrics. WASP was a shock-rock group. I don't think we be that scared of a band that peaked in 1989 and has a website that looks like he was made in 1996.
Flock of Seagulls Lou
Then we have "Lou" who claims that he got turned on to Satan because of drugs an alcohol. Specifically, he says it was marijuana was a gateway drug to the devil. If you laughed hard enough to spill your bong water, you know how preposterous that statement in. Marijuana may make you appreciate the Grateful Dead, but I would like to see some data on its ability to cause an ontological crisis in youth.
This Kid Also Needs Help
You'll note that the kid says he started drinking and doing drugs before he became a "Satanist", yet at no point does Geraldo ask why the kid started drinking and doing drugs, to begin with. Clearly, the kid had some issues and glommed onto something that made him feel like he was wanted. As anyone with a substance abuse problem, drugs and alcohol don't fix things. It dulls those bad feelings and they only come back even worse. But no, let's blame the devil for this one also.
King Diamond: Voice of Reason
Then Geraldo focuses on King Diamond, who says flat out that people are too clever to be influenced by entertainment. He goes on to say that if people were that gullible, they would just need to turn on the news since that shows all the real horror in the world. While Diamond goes on to say that he is a Satanist, he doesn't push his views on others. It's funny how Marilyn Manson would go on to say practically the same thing 14 years later when he appeared in Bowling for Columbine. (Another documentary that missed the point, but I digress)
To this, Geraldo says "BULL!" Saying it's King Diamond's lyrics that state the contrary because they talk about violence and death.
Bzzzt! Wrong Again Geraldo!
What Geraldo doesn't even bother looking into is the fact that, at the time, King Diamond was a follower of LeVayan Satanism. If you've read The Satanic Bible, you'll note that there is no advocation of killing people. Sure, it preaches social Darwinism and treating others the same way they treat you. Wrath, in other words, is a tenant. However, at no point do they advocate murdering people or causing harm to anyone who doesn't deserve it. Moreover, the "religion" of Satanism uses Satanic imagery as a means of forcing others to virtue signal by means of stating that their religion is good, while others are bad. It's basically used to point out the hypocrisy of other faiths (particularly Christianity) by flatly stating that we're just animals and "sins" are nothing more than human nature that should be indulged responsibly.
Geraldo then moves on to interview a bunch of teenagers at a concert. They all say that Satanism has nothing to do with the concerts and that it's just entertainment. One kid even says "it's the parents that are screwing their kids up".
Unswayed by any of this, Geraldo goes on to say that "teenage acts of Satanism are on the rise" in the United States. He offers no facts or figures, or explain exactly what he means by that.
We're Just Getting Warmed Up
Well, Happy Easter everyone, this concludes part one of this fact check. This was just the first nine minutes of this special, but trust me the claims become more outrageous and incorrect statements keep going. In the next part of this Fact Check, we're going to be blasting some credentials of some of the idiots who thought Satanists were taking over the United States. Joins us won't you?