Satan Wants You is a story about how one book was able to plunge the Western world into a Satanic panic in the 1980s. Michelle Remembers (1980) quickly became a bestseller with its shocking allegations about blood sacrifice, orgies and ritual violence that Satanic cults were organising right under people’s noses. The book is written by Canadian psychiatrist Lawrence Pazder and his ex-patient Michelle Smith, whom he later marries. The book covers therapy sessions between Pazder and Smith, where hypnosis reawakens repressed memories from Smith’s childhood and brings back the horrors she experienced as a victim of a Satanic cult. Quickly, Pazder was acclaimed as an expert of Satanism, and soon he and Smith were in the spotlight appearing in the TV screens of almost every American living room.
The documentary is an intriguing depiction of the mass hysteria that escalated into unexpectedly large proportions. Collective fear and lack of source criticism enabled even the most insane conspiracy theories to get airtime in the media. The panic spread all the way to Finland too, and for a while, it was the hottest topic even here.
In retrospect, the scope of the phenomenon can seem unbelievable, but as the document draws parallels between the Satanic panic and the contemporary conspiracy theories such as Qanon, it reminds that a new moral panic might not be as impossible as we think.
Content warning: discussions of abortion/miscarriage