Serpent

Full Disclosure: On the internet, there’s a sucker born every millisecond

Schadenfreude.

Most people today know this—the feeling evoked when watching someone make a fool out of themselves while just sitting back to watch the whole thing play out as it’s so amusing. We the audience know there's a trap, but the fall guy walks right into it. That’s why shows like Candid Camera were so popular in their day, and why clips from similar Japanese prank shows rack up hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. It’s harmless fun and everyone laughs at the end about how silly the whole thing was—and are thankful the joke wasn’t on them.

Recently we were contacted by a local publication in Boulder, CO called The Rooster and asked for our perspective on a few issues. We responded, as we always do, pointing them to our website where we’ve taken the time and effort to detail our positions and answer many frequently asked questions. They assured us (twice, in fact) that they’d read the articles to which we’d supplied links and asked to speak with someone to get a few specific quotes which we happily coordinated. In our conversations, they told us they’d already been in contact with The Satanic Temple, so we knew the game was afoot! And in the tradition of those unlucky folks on Candid Camera, walking right into a trap for everyone else’s amusement, The Rooster did not disappoint. You too can join in the fun by reading their piece Membership in satanic churches soars in Trump's America. Unfortunately for our red feathered friends, we’re not sure they’ve been let in on the joke yet. Hopefully this isn’t too embarrassing.

And as with most pranks, the more people in on the punchline the better. That, and we thought it would be even funnier next time this happens if we’ve already let you all in on the fun. Of course this is all easily googlable but we’ll save you the trouble. For those that don’t already know The Satanic Temple is a practical joke being played on the media à la The Yes Men. One need look no further than this 2014 Village Voice piece [1] for this to become obvious, and early collaborator Shane Bugbee (who’d already publicly left the organization)[2] has been kind enough to post the full transcripts from his interview [3] which make it all the more clear. In 2013 Vice Magazine published this puff piece [4] which, given the hindsight provided by the later pieces, makes the relationship and set up obvious. In fact earlier that same year Tin Foil Hat Time had already put the pieces together [5] - highlighting the hired actors and models pretending to be "true believers." And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention their recent publicity work [6] promoting hollywood films [7] or this resignation video from their first High Priest Brian Werner [8] noting that people within the organization brag about never having read any of the existing literature on Satanism.

For history buffs, it’s especially fun to look at the official Satanic Temple website through the lens of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. Launched in the beginning of 2013, it’s delightful to watch them claim to believe in God and Satan and then a few months later try to distance themselves from that. To see them claim to have been founded in 2006 by someone named Neil Bricke then a few days later change that to 2012 and then eventually scrap that whole origin story all together. (Neil Bricke is actually the founder of SMART, addressed in detail here. [9]) In a good prank usually this formative spitballing is hidden from the public, but thanks to everything on the internet lasting forever, there you have it. And when you look at how many goofball products they were selling on day one the later revelations that the whole thing started as marketing ploy begins to make perfect sense, and their actions since then become the obvious publicity stunts that they are. It’s so obviously a spoof that it’s almost amazing anyone believes it’s real at this point. But again, anyone interested in the facts would have to spend 5 or 10 minutes searching the web to find these, which, much to our amusement, many people don’t.

And, just like in the comics, Batman needs his Joker and Superman needs his Lex Luthor, The Satanic Temple has tried since the beginning to paint us as their adversary—a passive and lazy right wing to their activist left wing. This claim is readily gobbled-up by gullible and lazy writers and just as easily debunked by spending a few minutes on our website. We’re always happy to play the role of adversary, we are the Church of Satan after all, but we usually prefer more worthy opponents. So we put the writer in touch with one of our Reverends well versed in pushing buttons. The important concept is, as an individualist religion, what we’re opposing depends entirely on your perspective. It’s a sign of intentional coattail riding that, rather than create distinctive terminology and iconography, these pranksters decided to crib ours, and this creates a giant hole in their joke for anyone looking. Though these days they deny that it’s a joke (as any good jokester should) - but still, if they are trying to put their activism first they could be much more effective if they weren’t spending so much time aping and then trying to differentiate themselves from us. We know Satan is a powerful and potent symbol that attracts the curious, which is why our founder Anton LaVey created and defined the philosophy of Satanism over 50 years ago—the first time in history that Satanism was used as a positive term for a life enhancing philosophy. That legacy, along with our ongoing efforts, is why we’re stronger today than we’ve ever been. People who explore our literature find Satan to be an inspirational metaphor for their commitment to our individualist, atheist perspective.

Circling back to the piece in question, it’s one giant factual error after another stuffed in-between out-of-context quotes desperately trying to sculpt a fictional narrative. Of course, like the audience on Candid Camera, we expected nothing less and have this lovely mental image of the author sitting down on a chair with an inflated whoopee cushion in place. It’s especially rich seeing them sing the tune of the reported Satanic Temple membership growth because this means not only did they not look at our website, not search Google, but didn’t even look at their site to see that "membership" in The Satanic Temple is simply "click here to join our mailing list," hardly a sincere commitment to a philosophy. We take pride in being a little more discerning about who we let associate with us. While it would take more time than we care to spend pointing out each and every error in his piece, the suggestion that the Church of Satan is somehow aligned with Trump is especially laughable especially considering our Policy On Politics is linked directly in the main navigation on our site, and we have recently covered Presidential endorsements and our philosophy on our Twitter account. What the Rooster chose to leave out of Reverend Antony's comment was that since we support pluralism within our ranks and simple math of our sheer numbers means there's probably a lot of Trump voters within the Church of Satan, but also lots of members who voted for all of the other candidates, and some who might not have voted at all. We hope by this point The Rooster might be clued-in enough to be laughing along with us about the trap they walked right into. If not, we’re happy to keep laughing at their expense, just the same. Schadenfreude is a fine garnish for such "journalistic" pratfalls.

They used to teach fact checking to aspiring journalists as the starting point for any article. Expediency seems to reign and facts become scarce when pre-conceived click-bait rather than accurate reportage is the final goal. To future potential marks out there, we offer this: a little bit of homework goes a very long way.

By Reverend Joel Ethan

Update: In an interview published on Nov 22, 2016, the Satanic Temple representatives said, when asked about their membership that “Anybody can go to the national site with a simple email address you can sign up for the newsletter and become a member… You don’t even have to be a Satanist, you can just be a strong ally who believes in the political and secular actions without being super stoked about all the aesthetic aspects” which makes it evidently clear that The Satanic Temple admits it’s members aren’t even Satanists, and should put to bed indefinitely the notion that they speak for or represent Satanism in anyway. It’s more obvious than ever that they are only using the symbology and terminology to get press attention.


Expanded References:

[1] - Trolling Hell: Is the Satanic Temple a Prank, the Start of a New Religious Movement — or Both? By Anna Merlan, Village Voice - July 22, 2014

"You don't really believe that," the cameraman pressed.

"I do!" the horned fellow replied. They looked at each other stonily.

The camerman's skepticism was well founded: The man with the horns wasn't a Satanist. He was an actor from New York, hired by a film crew making a mockumentary about "the nicest Satanic cult in the world." The film was to be called The Satanic Temple."


"reporter Michael Van Sickler found a casting call for non-union actors to play "minions" and Satanic extras. "We are seeking people from all walks of life, goths, grandparents, soccer moms, etc., to be the followers of a charismatic yet down-to-earth Satanic cult leader," read the ad, posted online at Actors Access. "The shoot will be on January 25th in downtown Tallahassee. Actors will be required to wear tasteful Satanic garb." The job was unpaid.

The Satanists for Scott story went viral, but the Temple leadership realized that it wouldn't do to have an actor play the group's leader. Doug Mesner, one of the group's founders, replaced him."


"With the exception of Christian publications and Fox News, most of the press has played Satanic Temple stories for their entertainment value. The American Civil Liberties Union opposes the group's Baphomet monument campaign, albeit politely. The ACLU is suing Oklahoma to remove the Ten Commandments monument, and they seem to feel the Satanists are muddying the waters a bit.

"Their basis for saying we have a right to have this on the Capitol lawn is inconsistent with our case," Brady Henderson, the ACLU's legal director, told Al Jazeera several months ago. "The state shouldn't have a religious monument at all."


"Gilmore argues that the Satanic Temple amounts to no more than a bunch of trolls giving Satanism a bad name in a bald quest for attention. True Satanists, Gilmore asserts, don't act out their beliefs in public. The Church's members, he tells the Voice, "don't alert the media while going about their business. They have no interest in having the world gawk at them and treat them like freaks."

[2] - Religion: a master and slave relationship By Shane Bugbee, personal website, January 22, 2014

"Spectacle Films, the production company behind The Satanic Temple paid me as a consultant. I am the person who laid the marketing groundwork for much of what you see and read in the news today regarding Lucien Greaves and his newfound religion, The Satanic Temple. Yes, I took their money, but that was to promote what was presented to me as a practical joke, a Satanic "Yes Men" style group making a mockery of the constant push to intertwine Church and State by Christian fanatics and kooks.

I was approached about this project by my old pal Doug Mesner, a one eyed kid from Detroit and the person I unmasked as Lucien Greaves in Vice Magazine a couple of months ago. Doug and I share a rich history together, it’s a small part of my history and a large part of Doug’s. We forged a relationship of over a decade ago through creative projects he would sometimes help with, he played my straight man on a radio show I did many years ago, and would leave offerings of artwork in hopes I’d use it in my publishing pursuits. Doug was in general a very willing participant and devout student.

Initially, I was asked to take the role of Lucien Greaves, which I flatly refused. The group then hired an actor to portray "Lucien Greaves", but when he did not work out, Doug stepped into the role, and suddenly the practical joke turned serious. My influence over these years — my words, thoughts and philosophical ramblings among others works have been woven into the fiber of The Satanic Temple’s foundation, but those thoughts have been terribly misrepresented and combined with the temples own questionable agenda."


"I’ve become very skeptical of The Satanic Temple, its motives, and its owners. Two of the three behind The Satanic Temple have never been associated with Satanism or any occult group, nor do they appear to have any substantial achievements that can be credited with anything but buying their way in with their family’s money. Spectacle Films is rich kid Cevin Soling, Harvard graduate, director, producer, and the person pulling and paying for the strings of The Satanic Temple. Rich kid #2 is David Guinan, producer, director and creative director at Arise Media."

"what I’ve said regarding "no real relationship with Satanism" is that cevin and his partner david guinan have no ties to any satanic organizations and cevin has absolutely no understanding of the satanic culture... this was questionable to me and made me think that is was possible they were just using doug to get close to a subject that they’d eventually make look as silly as religious zealots of all beliefs and that is in direct opposition of Anton LaVeys work, of Crowley’s work, of my work and other freethinking artists and movements progress."

[3] - Village Voice quotes me, full interview included... the satanic soap opera. - By Shane Bugbee, personal website, July 23, 2014

"I never worked for Doug or the satanic temple, I did work for Cevin Soling AND his film company spectacle films... Doug was/is also employed by Cevin. I started advising Doug as his pal before the Rick Scott thing and, before the Rick Scott deal I was asked to play the role of Lucien Greaves.

I turned down the roll of Lucien Greaves simply because they couldn’t meet my contractual request of editorial approval of how my image would be used and my name exploited."


"I like a good joke and a joke on the public at large and, in general, the grossly inept media. it was thrilling to participate in. the hoax on the media might be part of the satanic temples slant I didn’t make clear enough in the piece I wrote for my site, part of the joke was to make the media look bad, to highlight their lack of research or the lazy work ethic of taking a press release and running with it... regardless of facts."

[4] - Unmasking Lucien Greaves, Leader of the Satanic Temple By Shane Bugbee, Vice - July 30, 2013

"VICE: Is the Satanic Temple a satanic, or a satirical group?

Doug: That is a common question. I say why can’t it be both?


Reminds me of a darker version of the Yes Men.

Yes. Just as the Yes Men use very catching theatrical ploys to draw attention to a progressive agenda, we play upon people’s irrational fears in a way that hopefully causes them to reevaluate what they think they know"


"I was brought in originally as a consultant due to my expertise in the history of witch hunts and my understanding regarding conceptions of Satanism. While the original thinking was that the Satanic Temple needed to hold to some belief in a supernatural entity known as "Satan," none of us truly believed that."


"What can you tell me about the documentary you're filming? This is the project that launched the Satanic Temple, correct?

When the Satanic Temple was conceived, the idea was that a documentary would be assembled from the various actions we would perform to put a new spin on the entire Church/State debate."

[5] - Doug Mesner/Lucien Greaves: the huckster behind the Harvard Black Mass and similar shams uncredited, May 30, 2014

"Atheist activist Doug Mesner seems to have begun calling himself Lucien Greaves after deciding that Satanism was a better vehicle with which to ruin organized religion. Mesner/Greaves is leader of The Satanic Temple, a group that other satanists don’t particularly care for. If you continue reading, you’ll understand why.

The Satanic Temple organizes silly events such as the satanic gathering in support of Florida’s Governor Rick Scott, the Harvard Black Mass debacle, and the plans to erect a Baphomet statue outside the state capitol in Oklahoma City. And also the "pink mass" performed by Mesner/Greaves to turn the deceased mother of Westboro Baptist Church’s founder into a lesbian in the afterlife.

According to his former associate and friend, Shane Bugbee, The Satanic Temple began as a "filmmaker’s parody to lampoon outdated politics and to produce a future documentary."

[6] - I Attended A Satanic Ceremony For THE WITCH By Devin Faraci, Birth Movies Death, Feb 17, 2016

"The Satanic Temple is not quite in line with LaVey’s Satanism, especially when it comes to the more Objectivist stuff. They have explicitly distanced themselves from LaVey’s social Darwinism, and their politics - and they are exceptionally political - are actually more in line with those hippie dippie counterculture types who I couldn’t quite jive with as a kid. They just dress this stuff up in controversial Satanic garb."

[7] - We Attended the Satanic Temple's Naked Ritual Endorsing 'The Witch' By Lauren Duca, Broadly, Feb 26, 2016

"Cell phones were supposedly banned from the Satanic Temple's ritual endorsing of The Witch on Wednesday, February 10, but numerous screens flashed throughout the audience. The event was a genius act of marketing."


"I've always been interested in protest groups," she told me, adding that she graduated from the political activist program at Wayne State College. "I was drawn to the Satanic Temple, when I realized it was another medium through which to make social change."


"The formula for the deliberately unorthodox event was cast in sharpest relief in the crowded hotel room upstairs where a dominatrix beat a slave. Her activity was broadcast on a TV throughout the night—a scintillating addition to the evening no more obviously related to Satanism than the fact that Tony Hawk was there, wearing his winter coat inside."

[8] - High Priest Brian Werner resigns from The Satanic Temple By Brian Werner, Dec 23, 2014

* This 10 minute video details how the organization is being run by people who are unfamiliar with existing literature on Satanism and see TST as a high profile vehicle for their own political activism.

[9] - Douglas Mesner and the Lucien Greaves Satanic Temple Connection - SMART Ritual Abuse Pages

"In the article "Satanists to rally in support of Gov. Rick Scott" at wbpf. com on Jan 14, 2013, it was stated "Neil Bricke, founder of The Satanic Temple, will speak at the rally, Greaves said." No "Neil Bricke" was reported to have spoken at or to have been at the very small rally.

The Satanic Temple’s website states: In 2012, Neil Bricke, raised in a multigenerational Satanic Temple tradition of worship, decided, with the blessings of his fellow Satanic devotees, to officially found the Satanic Temple.

SMART believes that this was meant to be an attack on Neil Brick, the founder of SMART. Neil Brick works to educate the public about the different types of child abuse and their existence."


"The Miami Herald Naked Politics blog in an article by Michael Van Sickler exposed the group (January 2013).

"Greaves is listed as the casting director of a feature film called ...wait for it... The Satanic Temple. A casting call was posted on the web site Actors Access on Jan. 7 seeking non-union actors for no pay.

"We are seeking people from all walks of life, goths, grandparents, soccer moms, etc to be the followers of a charismatic yet down to earth Satanic cult leader," the post stated. "The shoot will be on January 25th in downtown Tallahassee. Actors will be required to wear tasteful Satanic garb." The casting call said the movie was a mockumentary about the "nicest Satanic Cult in the world." It was seeking actors for eight speaking roles "to play minions" and 10 featured extras....Greaves said he lives in Cambridge, Mass." (It is believed that Mesner lives in Cambridge, Mass.)

An article at newsbusters.org by Ken Shepherd, "MSNBC’s Bashir Falls for Hoax, Reports Satanists to Rally for Rick Scott; Turns Out It’s Part of Mockumentary" states:

"But alas, the Satanic Temple is not a real, well, Satanic temple."