Version classiqueVersion mobile
OpenEdition Books

Violences juvéniles sous expertise(s) / Expertise and Juvenile Violence

Aurore François
Veerle Massin
David Niget

Expertise as Fluency in Rhetorics of Fear

Deviant Youth and Institutional Morals

Gregory Vance Smith

Texte intégral

1Public discourse regarding youth violence in the United States has been clearly connected to cultural commodities by politicians and other position takers during moral panics that have occurred since the 1940s. The discourse that develops the panics often paints dire portraits of teens committing deviant acts from murder to rape and child sacrifice to suicide. Position takers espouse statistics and produce experts who support the perception that a problem exists and is growing, and these experts have the widest broadcast of expertise.

2This chapter focuses on moral panics that created significant changes in U.S. culture with comic books through the 1940s and 1950s and with popular music in the 1980s, and it concludes with examples of how Norway and Italy adapted the expertise. From the first years of television through the present, U.S. expertise in juvenile violence has been delivered through televised media limiting expert voices to those that fit the stories produced by special interest groups, political figures, and adapted by the media as reality. Over the same period of time, evangelical rhetoric, a rhetoric that presents the secular world in the trappings of religious binaries of good and evil where people and things contain supernatural qualities, becomes the rhetoric of expertise. In order to limit the field of cultural production for each moral panic, I limit detailed cataloging of original sources in favor of completed studies that present developed views of both the public discourse and of the deployment of the expertise.

1. Expertise in the New American Middle-class

  • 1 Lynn Spigel, Make Room for TV: Television and the Family Ideal in Postwar America, Chicago, U. Chi (...)
  • 2 Spigel, Make Room…, p. 34-37.

3Media Critic Lynn Spigel presents a picture of postwar America where “domesticity was a central preoccupation of a burgeoning middle-class”1. She observes that following the war, early marriages, rising birth rates, and governmental incentives, including mortgage loans, allowed young middle-class families to purchase single family homes. “This resurgence of the family unit was met with a new model for living – the prefabricated suburban tract home, so affordable that young middle-class couples, and at times lower-middle-class, blue-collar workers, could purchase their piece of the American dream.” During this period, she marks the “house” had become a place of leisure and amusement for the family unit, and the concept of family “togetherness” entered women’s magazines and advertisements2. Both the consumer culture and media age began with the expansion of the middle-class as suburbanites as the television became a prominent feature of the idealized leisure home.

  • 3 Ibidem, p. 59.

4Spigel presents the years of expansion and adaptation to the television as years when experts in child development overwhelmed families and offered information that often failed3.

  • 4 Ibid., p. 45.

Dr. Benjamin Spock, whose Baby and Childcare had sold a million copies by 1951, gave an endless stream of advice to mothers on ways to prevent their children from becoming antisocial and emotionally impaired. Not only was childrearing literature big business, but the state had taken a special interest in the topic of disturbed youth, using agencies such as the continuing committee on the Prevention and Control of Delinquency and the Children’s Bureau to monitor juvenile crimes4.

  • 5 Ibid., p. 52.

5During these early years of television, competing interests and views flooded the media landscape, building on the arguments of morality as moral watchdog and censorship advocate Anthony Comstock “attempted to regulate content in dime novels” and the Payne Fund Studies used the credibility of science to promote the idea that movies had a negative effect on children5. Spigel notes many experts and opinions introduced the idea of positive or negative effects for children, but

  • 6 Ibid., p. 53.

the most vocal critic was psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, whose Seduction of the Innocent became the cornerstone of the 1950s campaign against comic books. For Wertham, the tabula rasa conception of the child was paramount […] Although most social scientists and psychologists had a more nuanced approach to mass media than Wertham had, his ideas were popularized in the press and he even served as an expert witness in Estes Kefauver’s 1954 Senate Subcommittee hearings on juvenile delinquency6.

6Wertham became the model expert for the television age. His reputation grew through popular publications, and his expertise earned credibility through political position takers and media outlets. The attractive simplicity of his findings, removing offending media from children would prevent them from becoming delinquents, offered a broader base than nuanced expertise. Because his findings fit the preexisting story of the juvenile delinquent, Wertham’s credibility and findings did not need to be questioned.

The war that Wertham waged against mass culture struck a chord with the more general fears about juvenile delinquency at the time, and parents were given armor in what popular critics increasingly defined as a battle to protect the young from the onslaught of a hypercommercialized children’s culture.

  • 7 Ibid., p. 54.

7In the years surrounding WWII, a series of position takers with different institutional backgrounds created a moral panic that comic books would lead to deviance, and this model of future panics moved from generalized concerns and location specific problems to target mainstream commodities of national youth culture. “Senators, congressmen, and FCC commissioners considered the problem”, validating the dangers and the expertise7.

2. Scapegoating Delinquency in the Postwar Field of Cultural Production

8Bourdieu writes that the literary field of cultural production rests not only in the formulation of the style and structure that limits possibilities but also in the political and ethical motives of those with power in the system of commodity production.

  • 8 Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production, New York, Columbia U.P., 1993, p. 183.

The strategies of the agents and institutions that are engaged in literary struggles, that is their position-takings (either specific, e.g. stylistic, or not, e.g. political or ethical), depend on the position they occupy in the structure of the field, that is, on the distribution of specific symbolic capital, institutionalized or not (“celebrity” or recognition) and, through the mediation of the dispositions constituting their habitus (which are relatively autonomous with respect to their position), on the degree to which it is in their interest to preserve or transform the structure of this distribution and thus to perpetuate or subvert the existing rules of the game8.

9In a pattern that began early during the television era, politicians chose expert witnesses who spoke directly for a particular constituency.

  • 9 Spigel, Make Room…, p. 54.

10Regarding the question of television as a cause of juvenile delinquency, Spigel writes that “Researchers and reformers were similarly concerned with television’s effects on children’s moral and physical welfare”, and these groups included the Parent-Teachers Association, National Council of Catholic Women, Detroit’s Common Council and National Council of Catholic Men9.

  • 10 David Hajdu, The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America, New York, (...)

11David Hajdu of Columbia University presented a historical survey detailing several of the people and patterns that led to a cause and effect comparison of comics to juvenile delinquency. In his book The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America, Hajdu defines delinquency, a term “with its multisyllabic, legalistic severity, sounded serious and institutional, and brought with it implications of judgment and authority”10. The delinquent was the abstract youth gone bad who Hajdu cites as “a disappointment” to social expectations of behavior. The progression of the comic scare establishes how communication networks create the templates for the convergence of institutional rhetorics and the movement of expertise from an individual through a localized institution to a language recognized by multiple institutions and a large segment of the population.

  • 11 Hajdu, The Ten-Cent…, p. 75-77.
  • 12 Ibid., p. 85.

12One of the primary voices against comic books came from an anticommunist, pro-Catholic publisher, Bishop John Francis Noll, who spearheaded the development of the National Organization for Decent Literature (NODL) in 1939. A readership of 3,000,000 read a list of banned materials that they were prohibited “by debt of sin from selling, buying, keeping, lending, or reading”11. The NODL targeted newsstands and drugstores, and in the Acolyte, they published their intention of making the materials inaccessible “to any, Catholic or non-Catholic”. Hajdu notes that the Catholic criticism addressed comics as a cause that incited “delinquent” behaviors including sex and violence12. This activist Catholic rhetoric of fear converged with secular concerns that had existed in the public discourse in the previous years, and through the religious morals, painted the evil of the comics on those who took part in their cultural production and consumption.

  • 13 Kenneth Burke, Grammar of Motives, Berkeley, U. of California P., 1945, 1969, p. 406.

13Kenneth Burke theorized that “criminals either actual or imaginary may thus serve as scapegoats in a society that ‘purifies itself” by ‘moral indignation’ in condemning them, though the ritualistic elements operating here are not usually recognized by the indignant”13. By marking anyone involved in the consumer cycle of a publication as “sinner”, the NODL produced scapegoats that defended their sanctity and redefined the religious and secular boundaries.

  • 14 Hajdu, The Ten-Cent…, p. 85.
  • 15 Mauricio Mazón, The Zoot-Suit Riots and the Psychology of Symbolic Annihilation, Austin, U. of Tex (...)

14Secular groups also created scapegoats and actively punished them. During World War II, the mostly Mexican-American zoot-suit culture became a symbolic of delinquency and of delinquents14. Mazón writes about a complex symbolic drama that played out in attacks of military personnel on youth wearing zoot-suits15. The riot that the media presented cast zoots as gangs of delinquents and the style of clothing, the primary symbol of this deviant identity. Mazòn presents the riots as attacks of servicemen who ridded themselves of the guilt of their conflicted feelings of forced service and of their actions as soldiers by placing their own defiant and rebellious feelings on the visually rebellious zoot-suiters teens.

One of the significant tragedies of the riots was that they, in fact, “confirmed” the criminality of Mexican-American youth – a stigma that was institutionalized by the investigatory activities of youth authorities and law enforcement officials, and that was immortalized in the postwar profile of barrio youth as the quintessential picture of delinquency, marginality, and deviance.

15The rhetoric of zoot-suit deviance grew to encompass deviances of class and culture, violence against the self and others, and specifically, the suit, the visible symbol of corruption that was made illegal to wear.

3. Fabrication of Delinquents by Combining Church and State

  • 16 Hajdu, The Ten-Cent…, p. 83.
  • 17 Ibid., p. 84-86.
  • 18 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, New York, Vintage, 1995, p. 256.

16Hajdu states that America’s entrance into WWII set up the groundwork for media stories relating the “effect of the war on home-front families” and “reports of uncaged young animals tearing up their neighborhoods”16. Building on these public anxieties, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Some of the crimes youngsters are committing are almost unspeakable. Prostitution, murder, rape… 17”. Foucault writes the fabrication of delinquency produces a scientific layer for the role of the prison on panoptic society, as disciplinary institutions both create roles and validate their existence through the continued fabrication of the delinquent. “In fabricating delinquency, it gave to criminal justice a unitary field of objects, authenticated by the ‘sciences’, and thus enabled it to function on a general horizon of ‘truth’”18. Hajdu marks that the early issues of delinquency had remained abstract when relegated to sermons, magazine short subjects, and news reports, but that a documentary, Youth in Crisis for the March of Time theatrical series, gave Americans visual evidence of deviance and a recognizable identity. He demonstrates how the film established a problem by showing well behaved, “eager young men lining up for draft induction, then contrasted them with images of Selective Service rejects and teenagers, too young for military service, running wild – drinking, smoking, jitterbugging, turning over cars and burning them in the streets, rioting, and being led into paddy wagons”. While this film played in the theaters to critical acclaim, the Senate moved juvenile delinquency from a minor issue to a primary issue in hearings related to the effects of war on the US civilian population.

  • 19 Hajdu, The Ten-Cent…, p. 87-88.
  • 20 Ibid., p. 89.

17An important distinction between the secular and Catholic decries of delinquency, the Catholic belief that “sin could transpire in thought, word, and deed” a belief and perception that placed comics as agents, creating sin in the young readers. But for the concept of comics to move from Catholic communities of thought to mainstream America required specific examples for a causal interpretation. Hajdu cites the example of 14 year-old Melvin Leeland who lived with his mother, stepfather, and seven younger siblings in a Washington D.C. suburb19. After stealing a gun from his grandmother’s farm, he showed a friend how to play Russian Roulette, killing himself in the process. The mother told the police that comics had influenced the episode. Two months later near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, another boy hung himself, and his mother said that even though she burned every comic she found, he always found a way to hide comics from her. This case acted as a catalyst for the Allegheny County coroner to publicly declare that he would campaign for a ban on comics about crime and “weird adventures”. The Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, meeting in Wilkes-Barre that summer, had passed a resolution denouncing comic books as “the source of inspiration for brutal crimes committed by teen age youths and a major cause of the rapid rise of juvenile delinquency”. Following this resolution, the police chief from Carnegie, Pennsylvania took the issue to the national Fraternal Order of Police where he stated “We should do it for the nation’s mothers… They are helpless to protect their children from the lurid booklets through [which] cavort half-nude women … and belittle law enforcement and glorify crime”20.

18While this was not the end of the panic surrounding comics, this survey of the events and rhetoric demonstrates the basic patterns inherent in the social constructions of public problems involving youth. First, the field of cultural production is populated by institutional voices, and it is through the institution, in this case the Church, that a critic presents a problem to a mass audience. The critic is a representative voice of the institution, but not an expert in the problem as addressed. The rhetoric of the critic is mimicked by others who have no expertise other than a circumstantial interaction with the deviant. The county coroner listed the official cause of death in the suicide as “comic books.” While the coroner has authority in medicine and law enforcement, his claim had nothing to do with biology or criminal activity. Instead a simple declaration of responsibility, an accusation of evil intent or action, lifted him from medical examiner to moral crusader.

19Violent youth and the commodities that define them occur within fields of cultural production where position takers like media personalities, politicians, and religious leaders reinforce preexisting perceptions of deviant youth. The problem begins in the discourse of one institution where it is defined using the institutional rhetorics of fear. Institutional rhetorics of fear then combine, as the comic book-as-sin also became the comic book-as-criminal. This rhetoric can be interpreted and enter the dialog of other institutions built on the negative binary in their rhetorics of fear. Secondly, the media broadcasts the problem using the rhetorics of multiple institutional discourses to deliver information for the orientation of audience members. The media uses information provided by position-takers and their sponsored supporters, or it produces experts through contextualized interviews. Experts develop by using the preexisting rhetorical models to oppose the cultural artifact and its consumer as they exist in the negative binaries.

4. Technology and Evangelical Rhetoric as Expertise

20While the fields of cultural production operated using the same rhetorics of fear through the second half of the twentieth century, technology and economics created a broader youth consumer base. Two technological innovations changed the field of cultural production in the 1980s and found themselves on trial before a US Senate committee and the media. Music Television (MTV) and a growing cable industry sold youth consumers both music and a lifestyle.

  • 21 Todd Gitlin, Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives, New York, (...)

21Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, presents the historical evolution of US media as having a foundation of information tied to emotion, and changes occur as technology and economics allow for an ever isolating mediated experience21. Specifically, televisions that had for a brief time been the exclusive domain of the rich became part of the majority, broadcasts targeted at a general population. With the proliferation of cable and its demographically specific programming, programming for the masses gave way to personally constructed experience. By the mid-1980s, public discourse presented the youth of the US as both victims and deviants under the power of the self-satisfying music media that appeared in the decade.

  • 22 Kevin Howley, “Prey TV: Televangelism and Interpellation”, in Journal of Film and Video, 52(2), 20 (...)
  • 23 Ibid., p. 23.

22The cable and satellite broadcaster Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) presented programming on local broadcast channels as did other nationally syndicated or pay-for-play evangelists like Jimmy Swaggart, Jerry Falwell, and Jim Bakker’s PTL Club. Some hosts followed the format set by CBN’s Pat Robertson and they presented their message with a combination of contemporary news and religious rhetoric. These television evangelicals became the gatekeepers of an explicit evangelical Christian world view in the media because they had access to a larger percentage of the population than any single church and a unified message. Kevin Howley notes that evangelists rhetorically pit problems of modern life against a “traditional” lifestyle and offer a return through viewers’ ideological and financial support of the evangelist22. Howley quotes one evangelist who begins direct questions to his audience with the phrase “doesn’t it bother you that” each time he presents a statistic like “25 kids a day are killing themselves”. Howley posits that the evangelists create “a world of rampant immorality, sexual perversity, drug abuse, gang violence, terrorism, rape, and murder”23 through constant and consistent broadcasts. And in this world, Satanic conspiracies, demons, and witchcraft seek to destroy lives and damn souls to hell. In short, the televangelist creates a world to fear, populated by threats recognized as such by a middle class.

  • 24 Kenneth Burke, Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose, Berkeley, U. of California P., 1984, (...)
  • 25 Ibid.
  • 26 Burke, Permanence…, p. 74-75.

23Kenneth Burke offered an argument that people have a limited perception of the world and its possibilities based on their rhetorical frames. In each person’s orientation, symbols are charged through connotation and formal denotation of positive and negative aspects of the rhetorical frame. “Orientation is thus a bundle of judgments as to how things were, how they are, and how they may be”24. Using the evangelical model, the world of rape, murder, drugs, and gang violence is classed in opposition to the godly evangelical who offers a heavenly past without the threats and fear of the modern world. According to Burke, an orientation “forms the basis of expectancy – for character telescopes the past, present, and future. A sign, which is here now, may have got a significance out of the past that makes it a promise of the future”25. Specifically, judgments are made through an individual’s orientation that match the expectancies and blind other interpretations through piety, making things fit within a system of belief26. Expertise must satisfy the orientation of the audience, and in the 1980s, the expert existed to support the rhetoric of fear.

  • 27 Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, New York, Oxford P., 1985, p. 134
  • 28 Ibid., p. 133.

24Critics of youth commodities used the evangelical rhetorical model that something better existed in the past that could be salvaged, and the experts who supported the critics framed their expertise in the same language, often using the nonexistent institution of family. A rhetorical step has been taken in framing the family in legislative terms. Institutional terms like “parents,” “minors,” and “youth” remove the familiar elements from the family unit. Raymond Williams warns in his analysis of “family” that one should consider the previous meanings of the term “when we hear that ‘the family, as an institution, is breaking up’ or that, in times gone by and still hopefully today, ‘the family is the necessary foundation of all order and morality”27. As he traced the concept of family, it became both a separation from one’s income (work to raise family) and it became a symbol of “the only immediately positive attachments in a large-scale and complex wage-earning society”28. By the mid 1980s, the family became an abstraction for the positives in all institutions, and any threat that removed the family offered potential for institutional deviances to come into existence.

5. “Family” as an Institution Needing Government Regulation

25In 1985, the United States Senate held hearings on the need to label music for content that some parents found objectionable. The rhetoric of the event quickly escalated to senators and critics stating or implying a need to controlling the distribution and production of music, album art, and performance. This need to consider labeling music or censoring it resulted in a rhetoric of fear that established contemporary music altered listeners’ behavior and resulted in a breakdown of the family. Senator Paula Hawkins frames the familial aspect.

  • 29 United States, Congress, Senate, Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Hearing on th (...)

I speak as a legislator. I speak as a parent, a veteran who has brought three children through adolescence. I know the temptations dangled in front of teenagers and I know the frustrations parents experience all through this process. The sense of hopelessness when you get the feeling your child will not listen to you. There is in these times often a need to look to a force outside yourself for help. The question we must ask is, should the force be the Government, and that is what this hearing is designed to determine29.

26The hearings also mark an example of the strategic play of expertise as several institutional rhetorics converged in a national spotlight as they condemned popular music, artists, and by association, the youth who listened to the music. The testimony transforms the family into a weakened disciplinary institution at the mercy of the corrupting music industry. No longer does family represent an economic unit, a separation from work, togetherness, or the leisure club of postwar suburbia. Politicians embodied institutions, claiming expertise as parents, and they used an academic’s title to add plausible credibility to their evangelical rhetoric.

  • 30 Robert Walser, Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music, Middleton, (...)
  • 31 United States, Hearing on the Contents…, p. 117-118.

27Joe Stuessy, a music professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, promoted the hypodermic model of media influence, claiming music causes listeners’ behaviors to change directly because of the musical content through repeated listening and subliminal influence. Sociologist Robert Walser marks Stuessy as the source of message for the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) and PMRC cofounder Tipper Gore’s later book30. Stuessy gave academic credence to the PMRC’s claims that listeners would engage in violence, drug and alcohol use, deviant sex, and occult religions. In his testimony, Stuessy makes claims about memory, influence, behavior, and a direct statement that research has supported his claims that music has direct effects on listeners, but he also qualifies what he will say by telling the committee that the written statement he delivered offers substantiation to his claims that would not be part of the speech31.

  • 32 Ibid., p. 119-122.
  • 33 Ibid., p. 118.

28Reading through Stuessy’s speech and prepared statement using the same evaluation standards applied to undergraduate efforts in public speaking courses shows a presentation that does not meet argumentative or ethical standards. Stuessy presents several fallacies in his oral presentation, and his written document offers more fallacies and false representations of research32. He states a nonsequitor trying to support his hypodermic model by presenting a literary analysis of George Orwell’s 1984 where the critic explicitly writes about music as presented in the text of the novel. Stuessy quotes, “The most striking feature of these references is the constant, blatant propagandizing and mind controlling function that the music serves”. Beyond this glaring breach of ethics and attempt to misrepresent another academic’s work, Stuessy makes comments of causal fallacies like “Bugle calls and marches have historically been used to intensify courage on the part of men in battle. The right music prepares us to charge over that next hill, bayonets poised, ready to meet the enemy (or our own death)”. Without substantiation, Stuessy positions music as a mood altering, mind controlling phenomenon. In a hasty generalization, he claims without external support: “Although each study addresses slightly different aspects of this general premise, the aggregate conclusion is clear: music affects human behavior”. When he provides citations, Stuessy decontextualizes other’s claims made in research regarding advertising and presents them as substantiation for music as a primary controller of behavior. In his oral testimony, he closes with a rhetoric appropriate to the PMRC and not the academy. He states, “Parents are fighting this scourge all over the country. We plead for help from city councils, radio stations, advertisers and the record industry itself. I hope that this committee will find a way to send a message to the industry: clean up your act or we will do it for you33”.

  • 34 Ian Christe, Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal, New York, Harper (...)
  • 35 Ronald Reagan, “Address before a Joint Session of the Congress on the State of the Union, 6 Februa (...)

29These 1985 hearings took place in a larger field of political and technological change occurring during the second term of President Ronald Reagan whose platform of deregulation of industrial production and distribution in America was a concept not desired by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) as it lobbied to collect a tax on blank recording media34. Deregulation had been the core concept of Reagan’s State of the Union Address earlier in the year. “Reducing unneeded redtape and regulations, and deregulating the energy, transportation, and financial industries have unleashed new competition, giving consumers more choices, better services, and lower prices. In just one set of grant programs we have reduced 905 pages of regulations to 31”35. The Senate hearings acted as a challenge to the administration’s position on government’s role in the private sector. One of the senators on the committee was future vice president Albert Gore, Jr. and his wife Tipper Gore testified in her position as a cofounder of the PMRC.

30The Gores, as central figures in the issue and the hearing, did not call for censorship that would challenge constitutional law nor did they focus on the concept of government regulation that would provoke a response from the administration or a public that supported the administration. As cultural critics set on imposing a political alteration of the production and distribution of popular music, they focused on the “American family”, a term designating a norm that would be upset by the deviancy inherent in the music and its listeners. Tipper Gore testified:

  • 36 United States, Hearing on the Contents…, p. 13.

We are simply asking that these corporate and artistic rights be exercised with responsibility, with sensitivity, and some measure of self-restraint, especially since young minds are at stake. We are talking about preteenagers and young teenagers having access to this material36.

31As established by the PMRC and several of the Senators, the problem was one of music as an opponent to the family and the hierarchy of parental dominance. Rhetorically, the critics borrowed from the evangelical system, creating a world of dangers and a simple solution for those who fear them. In the bid to protect preteenagers and young teens from the damaging effects of the music and art, the call came to conform content to a specific expression that mirrored the values of the PMRC and the committee, establishing the concerns of the middle class family who did not have to worry about feeding the family or finding money to pay bills. The Senate hearings allowed the PMRC to contest Reagan’s policy of deregulation and present the uncontrolled agency of music, its performers, and industry as a threat to values and a middle-class way of life.

  • 37 Bourdieu, The Field …, p. 40-41.

32As position-takers in the field of cultural production of 1980s popular music, the PMRC not only attempted to transform the sales of music, they wanted to subvert the deregulation of the Reagan administration by creating a threat of family. The institutional struggle mirrors Pierre Bourdieu’s analysis of the heteronomous principle of hierarchization where the holders of power and wealth may dominate those with less capital in production37. The attempt, or threat, to reframe the field for the benefit of a politically interested group who have no other economic interests in the production of popular music rested on their ability to present a plausible credibility to a middle-class population.

33Dr. Stuessy’s recognition as an expert is endowed by the PMRC who use him as their spokesman from the academy, and his only claims to expertise are a Ph.D. in Music and having taught a history of rock and roll course. His submitted written statement and oral presentation do not hold up to academic standards or the ethics of the academy. Tipper Gore continues to cite him as a scholarly expert in her 1987 book. Stuessy’s expertise is recognized on a national stage by the PMRC and is not questioned by the Senate committee. The academy and its standards of expertise are absent from the discourse because the hearing is based on the PMRC’s position and not on the relevancy of an academic argument. The PMRC made Stuessy an expert because he adds symbo olic capital, the authority of the academy granted in his s degree and position, to what w would otherwise be empty claims by political wives.

34Sociologist Deena Weeinstein writes about the hearings:

  • 38 Deena Weinstein, Heavy Metal: The Music and Its Culture, Cambridge, MA, Da Capo P., 2000, p. 43.

It is no accident th hat those who testified against heavy metal at United Stattes Senate hearings in 11985 were representatives of parental interest groups (PMR RC and PTA), fundam mentalist ministers, and physician-owners of psychiatrric hospitals specializinng in the treatment of adolescents. Heavy metal’s inhere ent power, tied to rheto oric and imagery that puts forward themes that adult socie ety tries to repress, is a an act of symbolic rebellion, another chapter in generation nal conflict38.

35As the PMRC membbers delivered their introductory address to the com mmittee, percentages and rates o of violence were mixed with descriptions (many dubiious) of lyrical content, album art, and stage performance. The statistics are prese ented as proof of generational chhange. Cofounder Susan Baker, the wife of Secretary of State James Baker, stated:

  • 39 United States, Hearing on the Contents…, p. 11.

The Noedecker Rep port states that in the United States of America we have t the highest teen pregna ancy rate of any developed country: 96 out of 1,000 teena age girls become pregna ant. Rape is up 7 percent in the latest statistics, and the suici ide rates of youth betw ween 16 and 24 has gone up 300 percent in the last thr ree decades while the addult level has remained the same39.

36The construction of thhe rhetorical context presents a problem where youth commit acts of violence or othher deviance because they are influenced by lyrics,, art, or performance. Accordingg to sociologist and musicologist Robert Walser:

  • 40 Walser, Running…, p. . 144.

Gore labors to port tray such violence as an aberration of youth and commerciial exploitation, scapeg goating heavy metal musicians and fans for problems that a are undeniably extant b but for which she holds entirely blameless the dominant soc cial systems, institutions s, and moral values she defends40.

37Stuessy’s expertise w was rhetorical support for the PMRC and reinforced the basic construct of the evangelical orientation by presenting the threat of music and d art as a direct agent in the destruction of youth. By association, the construct of the family as a cultural institution of f class expectations at risk by commodities for youth h and at risk from current politiical policies demonstrates a struggle to define class through rhetorical posturing. TThrough the support of authority figures who pu urposely constructed their testim mony to confuse expertise with fallacies, popular muusic, its associated commodities, and teen consumers became part of a perception of deviance in a world full of violence and perversion.

6. The Disposable Expert and the Fabrication of Deviants

  • 41 Kenneth Burke, Counter-Statement, Berkeley, U. of California P., 1931, 1968 (3rd ed.), p. 163-165.

38Commodities of youth culture become charged with meaning through repeated representation in the media. One purpose for position-takers to bring experts to the media’s attention was to link claims to physical symbols, charging them within the position-taker’s context. Kenneth Burke posits that in a text, charged symbols rely on the symbolic which is independent of the text and the formal which requires an understanding within the context of the text41. As position-takers bring in experts, they create formal meanings for commodities, and they place the consumers in a context of the position-taker. For the evangelical orientation that understands dangers exist everywhere except in an idealized past, the commodity and its consumer becomes a danger. For those who do not possess the evangelical orientation, the symbols must fall into the rhetoric of other institutions. Once the problem moves from a specific institution to a wider discourse, it becomes necessary to charge the symbol in other institutional rhetorics for those who possess different orientations.

  • 42 Penelope Spheeris, Decline of Western Civilazation, Part II: The Metal Years, New Line Cinema, 198 (...)

39In 1988, a juvenile probation officer appears in the theatrical documentary, The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, directed by Penelope Spheeris42. The documentary contained dramatic interviews of glam and heavy metal performers, Los Angeles Sunset Strip fans, and outside observers. The documentary played for a mainstream theatrical audience, and it portrays a probation officer explaining a problem of juvenile offenders who need to be “de-metaled” as part of their rehabilitation from violent crime. The majority of her screen time is spent explaining the criminal aspects of metal music fans and the need to rid them of the symbols of metal to bring them back to normalcy, but after developing metal music fandom as a criminal enterprise, she merges the criminal with the worship of Satan, the criminal and the supernatural.

  • 43 “The Children of Heavy Metal”, corr. Stone Phillips, 20/20, ABC, 21 May 1987.

40As she speaks to the camera, she pulls out clothing associated with rock, punk, and metal fans, detailing how the each article could be used as weaponry. As a probation officer, Darlyne Pettinicchio is given credit for firsthand knowledge and her claims are never countered or probed by the director. Her testimony is not limited to the film and also appears in a broadcast of ABC’s primetime news show 20/20, where her name is attached to an organization who believes that teens act under the influence of music and need the equivalent of an intervention or an exorcism to be freed from the music’s control43.

41Pettinicchio sits behind a desk and speaks forcefully to the camera, “One of the things that we have found which we call de-metaling is a program that actually gets the kid out of heavy metal”. This authority figure explains the deprogramming regime of metal fans used by a private operation called Back in Control, punctuating that metal dress includes acting symbols that must be removed in order to move the fans away from the criminal path. While she speaks, scenes of teens being led through metal detectors and patted down punctuate the deviance that she describes.

We have certain rules, removal of heavy metal albums or tapes, not allowing the child to dress in any style of heavy metal, which would mean taking these kinds of things away from him, not allowing him to wear the heavy metal t-shirts that depict the band members with pictures of monsters, or skeletons, or whatever graves on them.

42Pettinicchio plays on the secular fears of out-of-control youth and constructs a criminal identity whose symbols act as weapons as much as they offer an identity. To deprogram the youth, once the uniform and symbols have been removed, the negative influence ceases to exist. The rhetorical framing of the symbols as criminal weapons, influence, and uniform uses fear to imbue the symbols and those who wear them as embodied criminals.

43Position takers had a public voice, and they brought in experts who either reflected the rhetoric of their position or the preexisting rhetoric of the community. The experts were not the primary voice of a movement, and their expertise could not be justified by their knowledge or experience. In the case of Pettinicchio, her official position on the fringes of criminal justice merged with personal “deprogramming beliefs and activities”, producing an expert who validated the rhetoric of fear. Several institutional rhetorics existed that credited juvenile violence in the frame predicted by the institution, reinforcing the institution’s definition.

7. Expertise: No Questions Should be Raised or Answered

  • 44 Kenneth Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives, Berkeley, U. California P., 1950, 1969, p. 333.
  • 45 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, New York, Vintage, 1995, p. 177-1 (...)

44Coinciding with the growth of the Satanic panic from the mid 1980s through the early 1990s, teens who wore symbols that had been charged with criminality fit the symbolic profile of institutionally “deviant” and supernaturally “evil”. In Kenneth Burke’s theory, man aspires to create hierarchy, and in doing so, he is always in search of the perfection of the hierarchical formula. In terms of a Christian orientation, all hierarchy is graphed on a plane between God, the perfection of good, and Satan, a perfection of evil. “All classes of beings are hierarchally arranged in a chain or ladder or pyramid of mounting worth, each kind striving towards the perfection of its kind, and so towards the kind next above it…44”. For those with the fundamentalist Christian orientation, any symbol not included in the hierarchy of the perfection of good could only belong in a system that aspired to evil. Even in a secular form of evangelical rhetoric, symbols not aligned with the norms of the institutional orientation place the symbol in a hierarchy of the negative. For it to gain symbolic strength it has to have a connotation to a known negative or someone has to denote that symbol as negative. In Foucault’s examination of disciplinary hierarchies, he marks this as a two part system that rewards and punishes through the formation. Institutional hierarchies reward and punish, and in doing so, produce a disciplined system, the institutional normative45. In the rhetoric of the institutional, the language establishes the normative pattern where hierarchies establish positive and negative positions, rewards for aspiring to a higher level of being and punishments for acting in a way that lowers one in the hierarchy. Those brought into the public discourse could earn the position of expert by portraying the symbols and hierarchies without deviation, and in doing so, the media and other position-takers would not question expertise, even though the speaker lacked traditional logical and ethical means of judging credibility and specifically evidence.

  • 46 Randy Lippert, “The Construction of Satanism as a Social Problem in Canada”, in Canadian Journal o (...)

45Randy Lippert gave an example of an unqualified expert in his 1990 sociological study of the social construction of the Satanic panic in Canada46. In response to generalized and unsupported claims made by “retired police captain” Dale Griffis in a 1987 Canadian newspaper interview, Lippert stated that his expertise was never detailed, “What is made clear is that he is an expert and, therefore, such questions need not be raised”. In 1993, Griffis testified in a trial that painted three teens as the ritual murderers of three seven year old boys. Before looking at Griffis’ testimony, it is important to see the symbolic convergence of the rhetorics of fear in the media and community that accepted his testimony.

46The testimony was filmed for the documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky for Home Box Office/

  • 47 Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, HBO, 1996, Docurama, 2008.

47America Undercover47. The documentary followed the trials, families, and community after three young boys were found murdered. The boys’ bodies were found in a water filled ditch, but there was no evidence, not even blood found at the scene. Three teens were arrested after a probation officer had pointed an investigator to one of the young men, Damien Echols. In this case, the perceived knowledge of the probation officer superseded the scientific testing, and following the pattern Lippert saw in Canada, the probation officer becomes a local expert on teens and the occult.

  • 48 Judy Sarles, “Cult Expert, Wiccan’s Clash at Seminar”, in Evening Times, 25 February 1994.

48In February 1994, a few days before Echols’ and Baldwin’s trial began, Mid-South Hospital of Memphis sponsored “Occult/Cult and Their Effect on Society”, and an article in a local paper reports that it was a public talk “to help people in the local community, where it is alleged the suspects in the brutal murders of three West Memphis boys last May were dabblers in Satanism, recognize signs and practices of the occult”48. Of significant importance to the West Memphis case and one of the featured speakers was “Jerry Driver, Crittenden County’s chief juvenile intake and probation officer”. Mr. Driver was Echols’ probation officer, and he helped point the investigation toward him. Following Lippert’s definition of the satanic problem expert, Driver created his expert position without any verification of expertise and without having to prove his claims.

At the talk, Driver offered his knowledge to the crowd. Driver reported that six out of 10 schoolchildren know somebody involved in the occult. Drugs, alcohol and sex are part of the occult activities attracting more and more young people, who are products of societal problems such as the disintegration of the family and the growth of the influence of eastern religions.
About two years ago, Driver said he started noticing signs of dabblers in the area, especially graffiti on deserted structures and bridges and the remains of animal sacrifices. He took photographs and compiled records, which he sent off to experts around the country. Driver said black gangs are now picking up the traits of cult activity, which had been generally the province of white youths, and he’s seeing similarities between the way cults and gangs operate.

  • 49 Bill Barol, “Some Bad Raps for Good Rap”, in Newsweek, 1 September 1986, p. 85.

49Driver’s comments demonstrate the ease of the rhetorical shift from one problem to another. The traits of Satanic cults are shifted to racial profiling of African-American gangs, shifting the concern from religious to racial binaries. In a 1986 Newsweek article, Tipper Gore is quoted as saying “[Disillusioned kids] ‘unite behind heavy-metal or rap music, and the music says it’s OK to beat people up’”49.

50The article is referring to the general criticism of popular music but focuses on rap after a gang fight that left several injured and stopped a Run D.M.C. concert before the performers made it to the stage.

51Judith Cummings, a Los Angeles correspondent for the New York Times, demonstrated a direct threat to white middle-class culture in another 1986 article. Cummings proposes expertise without citing specific experts, and she makes a clear link between a threat to the white middle class, music, and youth violence.

  • 50 Judith Cummings, “Youth Gangs Rise in Suburbs in West”, in New York Times, 12 January 1986, p. 14.

Officials in California say gang membership is increasing among white, middle-class suburban youths, and the officials say these gangs are engaging in such criminal acts as gang fights and robbery, and that some take part in Satanic rituals. Many [authorities] cite such factors as decreasing parental supervision over children and the breakdown of traditional family units because of divorce. Some of the white gangs adhere to a white supremacist philosophy and employ Nazi symbols, according to the police and social workers. […] [The gangs] are described in such overlapping variations as heavy metal, punk-rock and stoner gangs. Some are distinguished by enthusiasm for certain rock music, others by their use or sale of drugs50.

52Cummings creates a landscape where established markers of deviance, Nazi and Satanic, combine with heavy metal and punk fandom, establishing the deviant youth as those who display symbols of the fandom. Both Gore and Driver spouted criticisms that established generalized identity for fans based on a denotation of their taste in music and connotations of threats to religion and race. In Gore’s logic, the audience as a whole could have been capable of causing the violence, and the actual threat of the gangs within the audience became a general threat of those who consumed the rap commodities. Eight years later, the threat of class exists in the rhetoric of Driver, and the connotations to the threats to the 1980s white middle class cults from within has been removed to a threat of black organized violence that shares similarities with the cults.

53All of these position takers and experts provide generalized statements and specific claims outside of context or evidence. The Satanic Panic of the 1980s offered a rhetoric of fear and charged symbols that could be removed to mark a new youth subculture as violent, subverting the proof required in claims against race and economic classes. In 1994, this worked in the favor of the prosecutors as they placed Griffis on the stand.

54Griffis acts as the perfect expert in a trial where the accused are convicted of a satanic ritual murder even though no evidence of ritual exists nor any evidence connecting the accused to the crime. Four years before the trial Lippert cited a 1987 article in the Calgary Herald as an example of how a claims maker is not questioned by the media when he or she has been labeled expert.

  • 51 Lippert, “The Construction…”, p. 431.

Retired Captain Dale Griffis from “thousands of kilometres away” somewhere in the US tells us: “In an area like Alberta, where you have a blighted economy, Satanism does well, because people are searching for answers”. Whether Griffis ever visited Alberta, how he came to decide that it has a depressed economy, or how a depressed economy leads to Satanism is left unclear. What is made clear is that he is an expert and, therefore, such questions need not be raised51.

55While Lippert noticed the lack of evidence and logic in citing Griffis as an expert, he fails to see that the “proof” of his expertise was the ability to make generalized claims and connect the symbols of multiple institutional rhetorics of fear. A general claim of an economy with weakness allows for a strong economy as a rhetorical possibility, and this establishes the necessary conditions of evangelical rhetoric where a world full of dangers, economic and supernatural, can be thwarted through allegiance to the expertise of the speaker. By establishing an institutional position that supports the hierarchical search for perfection, Griffis can jump from religion, economy, criminal justice, and blend them in a rhetoric based on the perfection of readers’ orientations. In the Arkansas trial, a community steeped in the fundamentalist, protestant Christian rhetoric of the Satanic panic, an expert must act with evangelical certainty when a crime occurs that goes beyond the scope of normal deviance.

56Lippert stated that the 1987 news article did not question Griffis’ claims, his expertise, but in the trial shown in the Paradise Lost footage, the defense attorney did question him. He asked about the university degrees and Griffis had to answer that his application required sending in lots of paperwork, that he did not attend any classes for either of his degrees, and he never had instruction in the occult. The defense attorney finished his questioning by asking Griffis if the court should believe in his word. Griffis answered certainly “yes”. Griffis began his climb to expert status when he wrote A Law Enforcement Primer on Cults: With a Guide to the Deceptive Recruitment into Cults, which according to was self-published in 1985. Being cited as an expert may lead to further citations of expertise, and demonstrating Lippert’s analysis, he had been called on to be an expert because he had previously been cited as an expert. Above all, Griffis did not waiver in his certainty. His answers to the prosecutor’s questions build on the symbolic capital of the Christian hierarchy cataloging negative symbols. In the first question, Griffis builds on black as an inverse of purity, a pattern of evil. The expertise is based on his observation and his reputation, and it positions evidence that the defendants were criminal and Satanic.

Prosecutor: In looking at young people involved in the occult, do you see any particular type of dress?
Griffis: I have personally observed people wearing black fingernails, having their hair painted black, wearing black t-shirts, sometimes they will tattoo themselves.

57In Griffis’ testimony, there is no connection to a specific occult practice or an identified cult. The symbols operate independent of any factual account, but they did appear consistently in heavy metal culture. In answering the second question, Griffis lists holidays in a foreign language and comes back to symbols of popular culture, the full moon and sacrificial blood.

Prosecutor: Do you have an opinion as to whether or not there are occult overtones or evidence of occult involvement in these particular murders?
Griffis: Well, the date being close to Beltane, (prosecutor: what’s that) a holiday, May 1st, also the day before that is Walpurgisnacht. Then you go into the fact that some groups, occult/cult groups will use a full moon. In several occult books, they will talk about the life force of the blood. Usually the younger the individual the more pure it is. The more power or the force it has. A lot of times they will take blood and store it for other services and other use, as well as consume it… or bathe in it.

58This statement inverts the rituals of Christianity and mortification in the hierarchical order. Man sacrificed an innocent for the betterment of his self, and he did it on a holiday devoted to his sin. Satanism as an inversion of Christianity is the rhetoric of fear because it invokes the binaries to the pure state of God/Satan. Whether or not the defendants are guilty, expert testimony deliberately invokes and creates inverted Christian symbols that take away the personality and imbue in them divine evil in the perception of the community. According to Burke,

  • 52 Kenneth Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives, Berkeley, U. of California P., 1969, p. 277.

When a figure becomes the personification of some impersonal motive, the result is a depersonalization. The person becomes the charismatic vessel of some “absolute” substance. And when thus magically endowed, the person transcends his nature as an individual, becoming instead the image of the idea he stands for. […] In this respect he becomes “divine” (and his distinctive marks, such as his clothing, embody the same spirit.52

59The media and the expert have created a perfect perpetrator for the murders: a devil-worshiper, child murderer, molester, and monster. This construction fits an anti-Christ motive, and this allows symbols like black clothes and hair to become charged with demonic intent, a motive understood as pure evil. The scapegoat has been rhetorically dressed and can be applied to anyone with the “distinctive marks” of the Satanic, the charged symbols of youth commodities.

  • 53 It was later made public that Misskelley, a 17 year-old with an IQ of 71, had been interrogated fo (...)

60The directors of Paradise Lost included the top story from a local newscast that aired the day the two teens were arrested. The report begins by explaining that a third teen, Jessie Misskelley, confessed to police that he witnessed Echols and Baldwin rape, choke, and mutilate the three boys53. The video shows pictures of Echols with long hair and a black t-shirt and Baldwin in a t-shirt with artwork for the band Metallica. The report changes scenes to an outside press conference where Chief Inspector Gary Gitchell is asked “On a scale of one to ten, how solid do you feel your case is?” In the absolute rhetoric of the evangelical, Gitchell replies, “Eleven”.

61In a sudden move, the reporter states, “It now appears that Satanic worship may have played a role in the murders”. She goes on to qualify the remark by stating people have come forward with reports of Satan worship since the murder occurred. The report closes with a local preacher, Rev. Stacy, an authority figure, passing on hearsay condemning Echols.

I do know that my youth director talked to Damien extensively after revival that we had, and he told him that he could not be saved, that he could not give his heart to Jesus, and my youth director then tried to get him to take a Bible. And he made the statement that he couldn’t take a Bible, because if he did, the rest of them would get him.

62Reverend Stacy created a context of the Satanic panic, a world where “they” were everywhere doing evil, and he took the comments seriously, even though they were delivered second hand. The community and the local media had maintained the Satanic panic, and in response to the crisis of three children murdered, they used the symbols of the panic, to believe “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the teens who wore black shirts, long hair, and had tattoos must have been part of a conspiracy of Satanists. The evangelical rhetoric at its strongest took the symbols that had been charged with supernatural and criminal deviance, and placed the identity of murderers on the accused teens.

  • 54 Burke, Grammar..., p. 3-20.
  • 55 Burke, Grammar..., p. 406-418.

63In Grammar of Motives, Burke theorized that as in fiction, behavior could be explained through the ratios that create an act54. In one level, an act has a circumference in which all elements take place. In the case of the murders in West Memphis, the act was not just the murder of three boys, nor was it a mass murder. It was a ritual murder, and the act was both mediated and tried according to that scope. In Burke’s concept of understanding motives, the act had to be in ratio with the scene. This means that the murders took place in a world where devil-worshippers existed. The murder of three children went beyond any secular understanding of the community by the community, but the murder fit the idea of evil for the sake of evil. The motive requires that the person who committed the murder be capable, and a reason has to exist that makes the murder purposeful. For residents of the Christian fundamentalist communities in Arkansas, the metal symbols made the convicted teens agents of the devil working toward the perfection of evil. The media, experts, and the prosecutors used symbols of youth culture, the preexisting rhetorics of fear, and orientation of the community to construct a scapegoat55.

64“Beyond the shadow of a doubt” is a concept that can only work when the story fits a person’s orientation to the world. What is at stake is the motive as understood by the jurors in 1994, and their orientation demonstrates that hegemonic belief in the community and the isolation of the separation from the diversity of other U. S. cultures. Within that southern, protestant orientation, the mediation from outside slips in and the rhetorics merge. Experts without expertise combined elements from preexisting problems (gangs, violence, drugs, etc.) with elements from the southern protestant hierarchy and created a story to construct a purpose and motive to cleanse the community with the scapegoating of those wearing metal symbols.

65A rhetoric of fear predicts a motive with a purpose that inverts the hierarchal perfection of the culture. As Echols and Baldwin did not exhibit the symbols to be more Godly and, instead, wore symbols that had been associated with devil-worship, the protestant orientation perceives the striving for perfection of humans as Satan. The Satanic panic rhetoric grew from a convergence of rhetorics of fear: classifications of deviance created in the disciplinary institutions, mediated to the public, and reformed in the rhetorical mold of religious hierarchy as antichrist motives.

8. The International Movement of Rhetorical Based Expertise

66Rhetorical based expertise can influence cultures outside of its origin, but the difference in institutional hierarchies and cultural orientations means that the rhetorical frame will differ from the original culture. After Lippert had written his study of the failure of the Satanic panic to become fully realized in Canada, events occurred in Norway that made the rhetoric relevant in a very different culture.

  • 56 Michael Moynihan, Didrik Soderlind, Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Undergrou (...)

67Writers Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind coauthored Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of Satanic Metal Underground, a comprehensive account of the Norwegian scene with interviews, artifacts, and research of the black metal community. According to Moynihan, 88 % of the population associate themselves to the state church, only two to three percent of the population are active within the church, yet the government must always be staffed by at least 50 % associated with the church56. Within the culture, only one horror film has been produced in the over 70 years of having a film industry, and most imported films are heavily censored for violence or face an outright ban. Even with a protestant sensibility invoked by the presence of the church, a social democracy attempts to hold a status quo supported by an economy enriched by offshore oil.

  • 57 Moynihan, Lords…, p. 95-99.

68In the early 1990s, a series of crimes and the related media attention brought the underground black metal culture to public consciousness. In a culture that is structured on conformity and moderation, the crimes and the connected black metal underground stood in contrast to all expected behaviors57. Crimes included murder and church arson, and the performance stood out as dark and extreme as the crimes. The concerts included overt Satanic references, mutilated animals, guttural vocals, and violent lyrics. The underground movement came to public attention when one of the performers attached himself and the group to the burning of one of the nation’s historic wooden churches, and he connected the act to an organized group of Satanists who would continue the work.

  • 58 Ibid., p. 226-257.
  • 59 Ibid., p. 250-251.
  • 60 Moynihan, Lords…, p. 142.

69Norway’s religion differed greatly from the American orientation of the evangelical’s evil world, but Norway began to associate the Satanic panic rhetoric with the black metal subculture. Moynihan and Søderlind present a culture scrambling to make sense of something foreign to their orientation. Through a series of interviews, the authors demonstrate that the Satanic panic and the active investigation of a policeman in unfounded Satanic crimes gave the black metal performers the version of Satanism presented to the press58. Asbjørn Dyrendal, a graduate student who studied the hysteria presents a portrait of a media created panic before the first crimes that gave the youth the “myths” to act out. In fact, the areas of the Sweden where black metal subculture took hold were strongholds of evangelical Christianity that perpetuated the Satanic rumors59. Moynihan and Søderlind comment on a 1998 police pamphlet, Kirkebranner og satanistisk motiverte skadeverk (Church Fires and Satanically motivated Criminal Damage) “Sadly, some of the material seems to be derived from American Fundamentalist Christian sources” and “occasionally regurgitates a hodgepodge of Christian Satanic scare propaganda of the sort that fueled the ‘Satanic panics’ … and invariably turned out to be unfounded”60.

70While Norway tended to be culturally distanced from the “expertise” of the Satanic panic era, Italy had a much closer orientation to the concept. A 1998 murder in Milan exemplifies the continued use of the expertise combined with the developments from Norway.

  • 61 Sam Bagnall, “Investigating the ‘Death Metal’ Murders”, BBC2 This World, BBC News, 23 November 200 (...)
  • 62 Mark Duff, “Italy police seek 'Satan squad'”, BBC News, 11 December 2006.

71A young couple, Fabio and Chiara, disappeared in Milan after having spent the evening in a metal club. As a 2005 BBC2 broadcast outlines, Chiara had “satanic literature” and both were members of a group who “were into the most extreme forms of heavy metal music – death metal and black metal, music obsessed with images of murder and Satanism – and the role of the music is central to the story”61. The elements of the story become more grotesque when, in 2004, one friend admits beating Fabio to death with a hammer and connects the group to a larger sect of Satanists called “Beasts of Satan”. Fabio’s father, Michele Tollis, is quoted as saying, “No one can contradict me when I say that heavy metal and Satanism are closely linked”. The concept of metal as a scapegoat for crimes that parents and communities do not understand has a long history of well-publicized accusations and trials, and in each case, a rhetoric of fear engages the community, directing their ire toward the music and its performers. When the murderers in this case accuse a larger movement for prompting them to commit ritual murder and suicide, the police respond with an official request to create a special unit of police, psychologists, and a priest to “tackle the growth of new religious sects, particularly a violent breed of home-grown Satanists”62. According to the article, “more than a million Italians belong to other minority religions, and some experts are worried that the new police squad could target members of them as well – even though, despite their perhaps strange beliefs, they are entirely harmless”.

9. Expertise as Fluency in Rhetorics of Fear

  • 63 Hajdu, The Ten-Cent…, p. 229-231, 263-265.

72In 1939, a Catholic Bishop created a formal movement to ban indecent material from communities. In a rhetoric based on the Catholic orientation where thought can be an act of sin, comic book violence entered that institutional discourse as a both a motivator to sin and an agent of sin. Representatives with authorities in other institutions began establishing the dualism of the comic as causal and reader as deviant once a few suicides were blamed on comic books. The cultural anxieties of that time in history related to how children and teens would develop with fathers away at war and mothers in the workplace, and in that anxiety, the media created the identity of a violent deviant at war with society. By 1954, psychiatrist Fredric Wertham took his scholarly credentials and placed them on a nonscholarly book, The Seduction of the Innocent, and in the Ladies Home Journal where he rhetorically positioned all comics as criminal63. Despite his lack of credibility and the obvious absence of the scientific method from all of his claims, he became an expert who was asked to testify before a Senate committee on the relationship of comics to delinquency.

73This established the pattern of U.S. expertise where the message had to fit the political position takers and fit a story recognizable to the larger population. that would be picked up thirty-one years later when the PMRC stood before a Senate committee and delivered music as a causal agent in youth violence. The music became a primary threat to the family, a positive symbol in institutional hierarchies. Position-takers like Albert and Tipper Gore sponsored the expert testimony from an academic who presented a chain of fallacies as evidence of music’s causal effects on youth. Other experts entered the public discourse and turned youth commodities into charged symbols of institutional deviance, establishing the youth who wear them as striving for the perfection of the criminal, the violent, and the negative binaries of other institutional hierarchies. These negative binary identities formed the foundation for institutional rhetorics of fear, obscuring underlying economic and racial profiling of the position-takers.

74Position takers used the rhetorics of fear to position the middle class values against the negative binaries, creating the need for sponsored experts to validate their positions. Experts consistently speak the evangelical rhetoric, blending institutional rhetorics of fear that position threats in multiple institutional orientations. By charging commodities of youth culture with symbols of institutional fear, experts have a cause and identity for social problems or for crises like the murders in West Memphis, AR or the later school shootings. Expertise during this period required neither knowledge, experience, nor logic. The positioning of fear caused the comics industry to fail and young readers to be potentially seen as violent deviants. The PMRC hearings had a significant impact in narrowing some genres of music and placing pronouncements of class and potential deviance on all. Claims of music causing rape, murder, and suicide marginalized genres and fan cultures, and made fans the perfect scapegoats for social crises.

75Experts in the second half of the twentieth century laid the groundwork for social problems and moral panics that presented youth consumers of youth commodities as violent deviants. Expertise delivered in an evangelical rhetoric primed the engine of social construction of social problems and moral panics, and the media broadcast the expertise, helping to establish symbolic capital of the expert and spread a symbolic capital of deviant identity.


1 Lynn Spigel, Make Room for TV: Television and the Family Ideal in Postwar America, Chicago, U. Chicago P., 1992, p. 33.

2 Spigel, Make Room…, p. 34-37.

3 Ibidem, p. 59.

4 Ibid., p. 45.

5 Ibid., p. 52.

6 Ibid., p. 53.

7 Ibid., p. 54.

8 Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production, New York, Columbia U.P., 1993, p. 183.

9 Spigel, Make Room…, p. 54.

10 David Hajdu, The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America, New York, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008, p. 83.

11 Hajdu, The Ten-Cent…, p. 75-77.

12 Ibid., p. 85.

13 Kenneth Burke, Grammar of Motives, Berkeley, U. of California P., 1945, 1969, p. 406.

14 Hajdu, The Ten-Cent…, p. 85.

15 Mauricio Mazón, The Zoot-Suit Riots and the Psychology of Symbolic Annihilation, Austin, U. of Texas P., 1984, p. 113.

16 Hajdu, The Ten-Cent…, p. 83.

17 Ibid., p. 84-86.

18 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, New York, Vintage, 1995, p. 256.

19 Hajdu, The Ten-Cent…, p. 87-88.

20 Ibid., p. 89.

21 Todd Gitlin, Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives, New York, Henry Holt, 2002, p. 50-53.

22 Kevin Howley, “Prey TV: Televangelism and Interpellation”, in Journal of Film and Video, 52(2), 2001, p. 27.

23 Ibid., p. 23.

24 Kenneth Burke, Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose, Berkeley, U. of California P., 1984, p. 14.

25 Ibid.

26 Burke, Permanence…, p. 74-75.

27 Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, New York, Oxford P., 1985, p. 134.

28 Ibid., p. 133.

29 United States, Congress, Senate, Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Hearing on the Contents of Music and the Lyrics of Records, 95th Congress, 1st session, Washington, GPO, 1985, p. 10.

30 Robert Walser, Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music, Middleton, CT, Wesleyan U. P., 1993, p. 139.

31 United States, Hearing on the Contents…, p. 117-118.

32 Ibid., p. 119-122.

33 Ibid., p. 118.

34 Ian Christe, Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal, New York, Harper Entertainment, 2004, p. 124.

35 Ronald Reagan, “Address before a Joint Session of the Congress on the State of the Union, 6 February 1985”, The Public Papers of President Ronald W. Reagan, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library,

36 United States, Hearing on the Contents…, p. 13.

37 Bourdieu, The Field …, p. 40-41.

38 Deena Weinstein, Heavy Metal: The Music and Its Culture, Cambridge, MA, Da Capo P., 2000, p. 43.

39 United States, Hearing on the Contents…, p. 11.

40 Walser, Running…, p. . 144.

41 Kenneth Burke, Counter-Statement, Berkeley, U. of California P., 1931, 1968 (3rd ed.), p. 163-165.

42 Penelope Spheeris, Decline of Western Civilazation, Part II: The Metal Years, New Line Cinema, 1988.

43 “The Children of Heavy Metal”, corr. Stone Phillips, 20/20, ABC, 21 May 1987.

44 Kenneth Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives, Berkeley, U. California P., 1950, 1969, p. 333.

45 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, New York, Vintage, 1995, p. 177-184.

46 Randy Lippert, “The Construction of Satanism as a Social Problem in Canada”, in Canadian Journal of Sociology, 15(4), 1990, p. 431.

47 Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, HBO, 1996, Docurama, 2008.

48 Judy Sarles, “Cult Expert, Wiccan’s Clash at Seminar”, in Evening Times, 25 February 1994.

49 Bill Barol, “Some Bad Raps for Good Rap”, in Newsweek, 1 September 1986, p. 85.

50 Judith Cummings, “Youth Gangs Rise in Suburbs in West”, in New York Times, 12 January 1986, p. 14.

51 Lippert, “The Construction…”, p. 431.

52 Kenneth Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives, Berkeley, U. of California P., 1969, p. 277.

53 It was later made public that Misskelley, a 17 year-old with an IQ of 71, had been interrogated for 12 hours without an attorney or parent, and only the confession was recorded. Other concerns have been raised about inconsistencies in the confession and leading questions from the interrogators.

54 Burke, Grammar..., p. 3-20.

55 Burke, Grammar..., p. 406-418.

56 Michael Moynihan, Didrik Soderlind, Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground, Los Angeles, Feral, 2003, p. 40.

57 Moynihan, Lords…, p. 95-99.

58 Ibid., p. 226-257.

59 Ibid., p. 250-251.

60 Moynihan, Lords…, p. 142.

61 Sam Bagnall, “Investigating the ‘Death Metal’ Murders”, BBC2 This World, BBC News, 23 November 2005.

62 Mark Duff, “Italy police seek 'Satan squad'”, BBC News, 11 December 2006.

63 Hajdu, The Ten-Cent…, p. 229-231, 263-265.


(University of South Florida)
Gregory Vance Smith is an independent scholar who received his PhD in Communication from the University of South Florida (US). His work focuses on issues of identity production of youth and explorations of deviance in the media. His dissertation Rhetorics of Fear, Deployment of Identity, and Metal Music Cultures analyses the rhetorical construction of identity through public discourse. His work is forthcoming in Cinephile and in Dixie Passages from University Press of Florida.

© Presses universitaires de Louvain, 2011

Conditions d’utilisation :