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The Satanic Temple

Guest Article

The Satanic Temple

December 19, 2023

The Satanic Temple and Christian nationalists are on the same side

TST isn’t engaging in “successful trolling” or undermining Dominionists; they are actively fueling a culture war that benefits both reactionaries and corporate Satanists

Christmas is a booming season for The Satanic Temple. Submitting winter holiday displays to counter Christian nativity scenes is a tradition for the Temple that goes all the way back to the Florida Capitol in 2013, back during TST’s very first year existing in public when they were still just a prank documentary film project based in New York trying to figure out how to actually get credulous media attention.

Their first Florida attempt failed and was overshadowed at the time by the more attention-grabbing giant Baphomet with Children statue that was supposed to counter the Oklahoma 10 Commandments monument. However, that monument has never actually been part of any successful “poison pill” action, meanwhile in subsequent years, local TST organizations across the country have successfully petitioned states to include their displays which range from “a three-panel poster board that looks like it was made by a high schooler on a deadline” to “very decent, actually.”

This year, though, a display for Des Moines, Iowa, has captured much more attention than usual, not the least of which because the right wing backlash led to a man actually assaulting the local Baphomet display in an act of protest.

Here’s how the Associated Press summarized the situation in Iowa that has generated hundreds of headlines since it started:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis offered to chip in to the fundraiser for the man who destroyed the display, which as of Dec. 19 was sitting at more than $75,000. The Satanic Temple Iowa had their own fundraiser going, so far earning more than $6,500. Doug “Lucien Greaves” Misicko ramped up his media appearances, challenging DeSantis to a debate. TST even got some favorable coverage in the New York Times.

In general, people will call The Satanic Temple’s activities “successful trolling” or drawing attention to “the direct conflict between Christian Dominionism and the US Constitution”, claiming it’s the reactionaries who are falling for something every time.

Looney Tunes’ Ralph Wolf and Sam the Sheepdog clocking in to work with punchcards, amicably standing and smiling with their own lunch pails
The Satanic Temple and Christian nationalists, punching into work.

In reality, the idea that the right wing is being hoodwinked assumes that they aren’t benefitting from exactly this, and that these conflicts do not boost both sides taking part in it, each running their own grift for their own reasons.

Partially, this is dynamic exists because Misicko and Cevin “Malcolm Jarry” Soling are fundamentally reactionary Gen X edgelords whose politics never go further left than right-wing libertarianism.

Lucien Greaves probably does legitimately hate Christian conservatives, but he hated them when he was in his white nationalist-adjacent and openly pro-eugenics period, too. Meanwhile, Cevin Soling gets along with the far right quite well for other purposes like opposing public schools and decrying “politically correct” college campus culture.

The reason TST and the Christian nationalists are on the same side is that both of them materially benefit from pointing to the other as “the enemy”.

If Republicans didn’t have TST, they’d want to invent them (and have). The Temple is their perfect foil.

Actually, Moises Esteves, current Executive Director of Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), made almost exactly this argument to the Christian Broadcasting Network in regards to the effect After School Satan clubs have on their own, many times larger student clubs.

These Satanic panics get both parties more attention, a higher profile, and more money as folk primarily motivated by anti-partisanship reflexively support something opposed by the groups that those folk hate. “This’ll really piss off my conservative uncle/liberal niece.”

We wrote this about a different nativity display that was getting attention a couple of years ago, this one in Illinois. It’s still largely relevant.

This is certainly not the worst thing that The Satanic Temple does. Yes, it is fun to tweak the Christians a little bit.

But it’s important to realize that the Catholics and Republican politicians are benefitting from this, too. Maybe even more than TST given the way the conservative movement functions. The right-wing grifters are telling their audience that Satanists and Democrats are teaming up to indoctrinate your children, destroy your religion, and murder your family, and that’s why you should vote for them or should support your local church in these end times or should stock up on the bunker supplies their website sells.

That is mainstream conservatism these days. Your neighbor is not reading George Will books and articles; he’s listening to Dan Bongino for hours every day and being primed for stochastic terrorism.

Just as importantly, it’s the negative space in these stories. What’s not being covered so that all of them, left-right-and-center, can lean into their conflict narratives?

Yes, it seems like it’s fun and a good thing to watch The Satanic Temple piss off people you hate. But that feeling is exactly the lubricant that makes the grift work.

We’ve long said that the best way to describe The Satanic Temple to someone unfamiliar with them is “Scientology for mall goths“.

So imagine instead it were Scientologists doing this.

And if media only ever treated Scientologists like merry pranksters, never getting into the front companies, treatment of former members, or histories of the literal owners of a corporate religion, would that coverage actually be informing people of what’s going on? Or would it be doing the exact opposite.

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