Pokémon Satanic Panic

From Right Wing Watch:

On Monday, “Trunews” host Rick Wiles recounted a story about how he called the police after seeing a man taking photos of his office building, only to discover that the suspicious man was simply playing Pokémon Go on his phone.

“What if this technology is transferred to Islamic jihadists and Islamic jihadists have an app that shows them where Christians are located geographically?” he asked

…This conversation led “Trunews” cohost Edward Szall to read a fake quote from the creator of Pokémon allegedly endorsing Satanism.

“They’re spawning demons inside your church,” Wiles said… “this technology will be used by the enemies of the cross to target, locate and execute Christians.”

This is an old theme in a certain strand of evangelicalism; way back in 1999 the Denver Post reported from the Colorado Springs Grace Fellowship Church, where a “minister used a blowtorch and a sword during a church service this week to drive home his belief that Pokemon games and toys are only sugar-coated instruments of the occult and evil”:

children’s pastor Mark Juvera… burned Pokemon trading cards with a blowtorch and struck a plastic Pokemon action figure with a 30-inch sword. Juvera’s 9-year-old son then tore the limbs and head off a Pokemon doll.

During the demonstration, the children chanted: “Burn it. Burn it,” and “Chop it up. Chop it up.”

The rise of Pokémon Go has now revived these fears, and Wiles’s warnings are echoed by Michael Snyder, a conspiracy theorist whose views are promoted within neo-Pentecostal evangelicalism by the Charisma media empire:

Is Pokemon Go Evil, Dangerous or Demonic?

…Even the Washington Post admits that there are creatures such as “a flaming demon” in Pokemon Go. As players progress through the game, they collect these monsters and demons, train them, and have them fight against Pokemon owned by others.

…Often seeing something in a movie or coming across something in a video game can spark an interest or open a door into something deeper. For instance, occult organizations admit that one of their best recruiting tools is Harry Potter.

Snyder also draws attention to the assessment of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry that the game “conditions the child who… into accepting occult and evolutionary principles”, and he notes an old article by “occult expert Bill Schnoebelen“, who claims that “The Pokémon games and comics, etc., teach what I have called a magic worldview that is completely opposed to the Bible”.

This endorsement of Schnoebelen is particularly pernicious here: the supposed “occult expert” does not simply have a spiritual objection to occult ideas, but promotes numerous inflammatory conspiracy theories based on an eventful pseudo-autobiography. According to a profile published by Jack Chick, he trained as a Catholic priest, but due to “the influence of liberal professors” he instead became a Wiccan. Occult “Spiritual Masters” then directed him to become involved with “Freemasonry, cultural spiritualism (Voodoo, etc.) Thelema (the Aleister Crowley cult), Rosicrucianism, the Catholic priesthood, Mormonism, and various Eastern philosophies”, before he inevitably ended up at the Church of Satan, and then “underground Satanism” (quote marks in original).

Of course, as a Freemason Schnoebelen wasn’t just your average trouser-leg roller: he supposedly became a “32nd degree Mason, Rosicrucian and Knight Templar,” and joined the Illuminati. Oh, and he’s also an “ex-vampire”, too. It seems there isn’t single group that this Forrest Gump of occultism doesn’t have the goods on.

As I mentioned just a few days ago, this may all seem a bit marginal and silly – but some of us remember the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, and view with concern a revival of this kind of conspiricism. We can giggle at credulous American fundamentalists and ranting radio hosts getting worked up over Japanese fantasy animals, but the ideologues in this paranoid milieu have the potential to cause real harm, as they have done so in the past.

2 Responses

  1. It’s certainly dangerous – the information security holes within the game’s interaction with internet services are significant, and a smart hacker could easily steal data. Evil? Satanic? Nah…

  2. The PokemanGo controversy is a rehearsal of similar claims made about Dungeons and Dragons fantasy games LONG before the advent of the internet.

    The OTT fundie who inspired this train of paranoia was Pat Pulling. In the early 1980s this woman became convinced that playing fantasy board games had driven her child to suicide. It was of course a direct descendant of the Ouija-Board scare started by the fundies in earnest in the mid 1970s.

    Some psychiatrists might have found another reason closer to home but in an attempt to absolve themselves of blame in caring for their truculent adolescent kids parents like Pulling made an industry out of fears that Fantasay Games would drive children into the arms of The Devil to kill others or themselves.

    Originally Pulling, a fundie, honed the scare on the fundie circuit where the characters used in DD were (to them) clearly seen as a battle between good and evil and when a player ‘became’ a character they had in fact become possessed by that character and therefore an agent of Satan. However when the SRA myth came along a few years later Pulling hit the big time giving lectures to cops, social workers and the other gullibles in the child-scare-industry and writing voluminous articles and interviews which were published in the U.S. and the U.K.

    The umbrella group she started ‘Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons’ i.e. BADD, is still ongoing but has of course been eclipsed by technology and the very success of the Gaming industry.

    Richard apologises for mentioning the 1990 Satanic Panic. You had all better remember the Satanic Panic and stop apologising for it, because it has driven much of the ill which has befallen this country in the 21st century and rendered many damaging societal conflicts which do not to the casual observer, seem directly connected.

    For instance, one of the prime fundamentalist movers in the 1990 panic who lectured police at Bramshill police college and who was instrumentally involved with social work training and all the ‘celebrated’ SRA cases was also directly in touch with and swapping info with Pat Pulling at the time!

    They who do not remember the past…..

    John Freedom,
    The Sub-culture Alternatives Freedom Foundation


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