Jex Blackmore
Photo: Hail Satan?/Magnolia Pictures

Jex Blackmore is a Satanic activist and performance artist whose work— focusing on reproductive rights and the struggle for bodily autonomy against an increasingly draconian state system—couldn’t be more timely. She’s also, in a recently released documentary, a bit of an unexpected villain.

That documentary is Hail Satan?—director Penny Lane’s intensive, multi-year look at the activism of the Satanic Temple, a group that often uses high-concept legal trolling to tweak the noses of the Christian right and point out their hypocrisy. Without question, its most shocking moment concerns Blackmore, then a national spokesperson for the organization and the founder of its Detroit chapter. In a raw private ritual, surrounded by partially clothed people and pig’s heads impaled on spikes, Blackmore declares, “We are going to disrupt, distort, destroy… We are going to storm press conferences, kidnap an executive, release snakes in the governor’s mansion, execute the president.”

That moment—particularly, those words about “the president”—marked the end of what Blackmore and the Satanic Temple both say was an already strained relationship with the organization. Both she and TST spokesperson and co-founder Lucien Greaves say that he called her after learning about the ritual and, in a brief phone conversation, asked her to step down as a spokesperson. Blackmore obliged, and left TST entirely.

But what started as a quiet fissure between Blackmore and TST almost immediately widened into an acrid public feud. In a Medium post published several months after she left, Blackmore alleged that there’d been wide-ranging issues in TST regarding “inclusion and equitability,” particularly for women and people of color in the organization.

Greaves, the organization’s most visible face, has called Blackmore’s version of events and her depiction of diversity issues within TST false. He’s claimed that before she was asked to leave the group, she “disappeared” from the day-to-day workings of the group, and that in her absence, Greaves formed a National Council for the organization, to establish more formalized protocols on how TST would be run, whose reasonable rules Blackmore chafed against.

“We merely asked her to keep us apprised of events and stop billing herself as a TST spokesperson,” Greaves wrote in a recent email. “She did neither. Even the event that earned her termination might have had a different result had she not specifically invited the documentarians who were working on a documentary about TST while still not telling TST about the event.”

For her part, Blackmore refutes those statements, and says during the time she was accused of “disappearing,” she was working hard for TST on reproductive rights campaigns. She also points out that the ritual that caused her to leave the group wasn’t, in any way, billed as a TST event, something Hail Satan? director Penny Lane agrees was the case.

“Jex did not represent it as a TST event,” Lane wrote to me recently. “That was very clear and deliberate. We were there because she was prominent (and amazing) member of TST & we hadn’t yet had the chance to film any of her ritual performances. We had no idea it would turn out to be so consequential.”

In a wide-ranging conversation with Jezebel, arranged by the Hail Satan? filmmakers, Blackmore spoke about her activism, her writing, her departure from TST, and what she intended with the infamous ritual portrayed in the film.

(Full disclosure: I was interviewed for Hail Satan? though the interview isn’t included in the final cut of the film. I wasn’t paid for my time, though the filmmakers did gift me a tiny wooden devil, enclosed in a wooden box. I was also allowed to attend a premier of the film for free.)

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


JEZEBEL: You’re a performance artist and politically active Satanist. You’ve described your work as exploring the “relationship between moral religious rhetoric, sexuality and political policy.”

JEX BLACKMORE: That’s right.

And we should clarify for the uninitiated that you’re a non-theistic Satanist. As I understand it, that means you don’t believe in or worship a literal Satan, or a literal God, but embrace Satan as a symbol of rebellion against tyrannical authority. Non-theistic Satanists have guiding principles that include intellectual inquiry, respect for human beings’ free will, and an emphasis on bodily autonomy.

Yes. The Satanic figure is one that challenges corrupt authority.

Tell me about how you got involved with TST. You were both a national spokesperson and a spokesperson for their reproductive rights campaigns, is that correct?

Yes, and that was prior to me starting the Detroit chapter. One of the Temple’s first actions was a lecture at Harvard University, and a friend called me and asked if I’d heard about them, because we self-identified as Satanists. A lot of my friends attended that.

I was also writing about radical voices throughout history for a blog I had at the time, so I went to Boston to meet with Doug [Mesner, another name used by Lucien Greaves] to just learn more about the Temple. I realized they were still in the early stages of formulating it as an idea, but we agreed that Satanism is something that should be engaged in activism. We started to collaborate and work on ideas. I served as an advisor for a while before becoming involved as a spokesperson.

That was 2014. The Detroit chapter I started in 2015. I’d already been doing a few interviews prior to that, but I thought it was really important to get people engaged on the ground level, so it wasn’t just three people presenting the entire organization. We decided to try launching a chapter model using Detroit as the model or experiment.

Everybody involved in the early days of TST was either using a pseudonym, like you and Doug/Lucien, or they were remaining entirely anonymous, like the person referred to in the film as “Malcolm Jarry.” Would you be comfortable telling me about how you chose the name we know you by?

I would prefer not to. The reason why people are uncomfortable sharing personal information is because there are extreme religious zealots who have threatened us and threatened our safety. That’s all I can really say.

This work is genuinely unsafe at times.

Most certainly.

I wrote in 2015 about an abortion diary you published, which was both a very elegant and granular accounting of your own abortion experience, and a guide to what other Michigan women could expect. It felt strikingly personal to me for a group that often operated behind many layers of identities and often shied away from sharing any personal details.

So this is something that I struggle with a little bit. I am an activist and an artist. I was an activist and artist prior to joining the Satanic Temple, and essentially saw myself as lending those skills and interests to support an organization for a period of time. So there’s things I engaged with outside the Satanic Temple sanctioned activities and actions. That blog in particular, Unmother, was one of those things. It was to address a particular issue, which is that we often don’t hear the voices of women, not just about their abortion experience, but what it’s like to [be] awaiting an abortion and the pressure and stress that comes along with that. It was somewhat missing from the narrative and dialogue, which focuses a lot on what it’s like to get the procedure and how you feel right after.

I see. So I misremembered that as something connected to TST when it really wasn’t.

It lent itself to supporting the activist work and engagement I was involved with, with the Temple, when it comes to abortion rights, but it was also a personal project.

Abortion activism and talking about Christian supremacy’s effect on women’s liberty has continued to be part of what you do, both in your writing as a contributor for Vice and in your performance art. Tell me a bit about Unmother and End Forced Motherhood. Are the key issues that your art and performance art revolve around issues of bodily autonomy and abortion rights?

When I talk about moral legislation, I think that that is primarily my focus. And for me personally, it manifests most obviously when it comes to regulations regarding reproduction and sexuality. But it’s not just limited to abortion. Essentially, it comes down to the fact that the government is legislating a particular moral viewpoint, which happens to often be a Christian moral viewpoint. I often find myself trying to dismantle or work with that in a way that feels liberating. It’s otherwise extremely oppressive. So it’s not just abortion access. Bodily autonomy goes into all these different spaces. And fundamentally it’s related to moral ideologies being promoted by the state.

You’ve also done things like debate the Westboro Baptist Church and an evangelical street preacher. You’re pretty engaged in talking to and even confronting people on the other side of these issues.

When we are addressing moral tyranny in our communities, there’s multiple different ways of addressing the issue. Depending on the goals, one can be performance art, but another is dialogue. In those cases you mentioned, those debates were conversations in front of a class of students. I thought it was really important to engage with them because we’re often, especially in this political environment, faced with people who have different views, and views that are quite abhorrent. How can we engage in a meaningful dialogue that maybe isn’t intended to change someone’s mind, but is intended to provide an example of how we can coexist in a space and deeply disagree, and hold people accountable for those ideas in a way that’s productive and not just violent?

We’re often faced with people who we have deep disagreements with. So, it’s really trying to set an example and find a model for engaging in a way that isn’t letting someone off the hook, but is advocating for a point of view that’s also providing an example for people who are observing the conversation.

For a lot of people, it seems like the Trump era was the first time a lot of people realized there are many people in this country they don’t agree with. I imagine that was not a particular surprise to you. I’m curious if working in the Trump era has felt different or more extreme or if it’s just a continuation of what you’ve been doing.

People asked me right after Trump was elected if I’d noticed an influx of interest in engaging in activism or membership with the Temple. For me, it was just a continuation of the same things. I was doing a lot of work to communicate on the issues involving religious extremism and bureaucratic policies for a few years prior to the last presidential election. One of the main goals of some of the private performance pieces was about getting people to wake up and recognize their own apathy, that it was dangerous.

But I do notice there’s a lot more engagement and activism going on currently, and people innovating in different ways of communicating. And that, I think, is very positive.

Can you say more about private performance pieces? How are those different from public actions?

Every performance or action has a goal and a purpose. One of the goals was to inspire activism and engagement within the subculture community that I’m involved with myself. In the same way that a religious or political meeting, like a church or a caucus meeting, that is more private, can inspire action and create solidarity and community, there were a series of private performances that we developed to build trust and solidarity and network in a community, in a safer space than being aggressive out in public. That was in many ways an attempt to empower people and give them the tools to be engaged.

The last one we did was in the film. It was a private ritual and event, but they’re certainly ongoing. They’re a critical part. It comes back to the value of ritual as I see it, as important to build solidarity and support one another.

It’s a contrast to how people might usually see Satanic activism, as something meant for outsiders, as a spectacle meant to be viewed by people who don’t believe what you do.

Right.

So, to return to TST for a second, and to that last ritual you just referenced. The scenes involving you are a really stark contrast from the rest of the film: the event you staged is so visually striking and emotionally intense. It feels very powerful and—I don’t like this word, but primal compared to a lot of organizing scenes we see of people typing mildly on laptops and appearing before planning commissions.

I certainly noticed that. It feels like that has been what’s picked up most by the media and the press covering the film. There is this perception that performance art in particular is somehow engaging in a less serious activism. That it’s not strategic or as valid or appropriate as more traditional forms of activism and engagement.

Like legal challenges.

Right. So what’s disappointing to me about that is these things were purposeful and strategic. We engaged in all kinds of activism other than performance too, but for us performance is a tool that anyone can use, especially those of us with no power and no resources, to respond to political injustices with reverberating effects. And it’s a mode of communication that transcends and challenges the notion that public expression of discontent must take particular, respectable forms as defined by the state. So, it’s not necessarily given space to talk about [in the film], and it’s kind of underscored towards the end that there was this unhinged member [laughs] who was involved in chaos and couldn’t be controlled. But we were all developing these performances in a room of activists using whiteboards and rehearsals to feed into a performance that we had a strategic goal for, one that I think was wildly successful. I think it’s one of the reasons why someone was interested in making a documentary about the organization, that there’s this performative element that speaks to people and asks them to challenge preconceived notions about activism and respectability politics involved with abortion activism.

Political performance art has played a vital role in every single civil rights movement and every single political movement, to some extent, historically. So it’s certainly valid and powerful, and I’m concerned when we dismiss the value of alternative forms of political engagement and communication, what we’re doing is supporting and lifting up the same institutions that we are fighting against that are oppressive and state-controlled. Audre Lorde’s phrase, the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house, is important to consider.

So the press has not, since the film came out, interrogated that point and has somewhat regurgitated the Temple’s position that something went too far or was too radical. There’s something to be said there, about who holds the power to behave in articular ways and who doesn’t.

I watched Hail Satan? sitting next to Doug/Lucien, in a packed theater full of TST fans, which was a surreal experience for someone who’s been covering the group for a long time. It seemed like he felt like the movie was generally a positive and validating look at the early history of TST. What was it like for you to watch?

It was incredibly surreal. And challenging. It’s an incomplete picture of the history of the Satanic Temple, and it’s highly curated by an artist, essentially, Penny Lane and her team. For me, the most powerful thing about the Satanic Temple is that it was able to empower and inspire people who would otherwise not be engaged in activism to be activists. To me that’s an incredible feat. However, there’s this perception generally that we have to belong to a particular institution or be given permission to engage in activism in a way that’s detrimental to society. What was missing to me from the film is that there are people who continue to engage in activism and Satanism outside of the Satanic Temple because they felt wronged by the organization. To not include that aspect in the story felt like a missed opportunity. To imply that everybody is still a member and that the organization grew in such a way that they’re just doing great work isn’t accurate and doesn’t do justice to the amazing activists who continue to do work outside it, and who stood by their beliefs and convictions regarding some of the misconduct they believed the Satanic Temple was engaged with.

You wrote in a post after you left that some cracks started to form between you and TST’s national council well before that event you staged. There were disagreements about a diversity of tactics, about how much control the national council should have over what local chapters should do, and I think on their part there was a feeling that you weren’t accountable to the national organization in the way you were supposed to be.

I want to say one thing about that: a year prior to the performance piece that they were upset about me doing, I had left as a chapter head. I’d stepped down. It was too much work for me to be running a chapter and also engaging with the reproductive rights activism and the spokesperson role also.

I had recommended two members who’d been participating and showing up to meetings for years to take that place. Those two members started engaging in this application process that the national council had created and were ignored or dismissed. So the claim that I wasn’t accountable to them isn’t quite accurate; there was no accountability process set up when I was a chapter head, and once they started making those formations there, I’d already stepped down for a year.

In the film, they say they didn’t know what was going on with me for a year, but that’s not true. They knew there was this application process for other chapter heads coming in. There were also members of the Detroit chapter who were on the executive council, so that’s misleading.

So you stepped down as chapter head a little bit before the national council started to formalize things like applications. So from your perspective you didn’t disappear for a year.

We were talking and I was working on reproductive rights issues. I didn’t disappear for a year. Perhaps to the council I wasn’t speaking with them, but there wasn’t a reason to necessarily. I was mostly writing press releases and working in that area.

I will also say that the executive council was formed because an idea i had with another member. I was originally the person vetting all chapters and all chapter issues. It became hugely problematic and way too much work, but also the idea was that there shouldn’t be a centralized source of power, but that it should be shared among a group of people. So my lack of engagement with the council was also intentional. It didn’t seem appropriate to have control over the decision making process of this group of people who’d come in later and were engaged in these other chapters. I was just a spokesperson at that point. So it was a way of distributing power that to me felt more equitable.

So let me describe the pivotal scene involving you in the film. We see people throwing what look like wood slats into a raging bonfire. Then we cut to what looks like an enormous warehouse, where there are hooded mostly nude people in chains on a stage, flanking you. There are also pig heads on spikes. You’re wearing a snow white fur hat, and it’s obviously freezing in the warehouse; your breath is visible. So you’re at a lectern, and you’re reading something that goes, in part: “We owe our oppressors. We owe them hostility, inextinguishable justice, and uncompromising destruction. We outnumber them. We possess the fortitude to bring down powerful men and dismantle racist systems… We are going to disrupt, distort, destroy… We are going to storm press conferences, kidnap an executive, release snakes in the governor’s mansion, execute the president.” According to TST’s national council, it was that last part that ultimately led to your ouster from the group. Did that feel like a pretext to you, or did you think their discomfort with that language was legitimate on some level?

It felt like a pretext to me, in part because there are many members active within TST who use bold and extreme and potentially violent language that they’ve chalked up to artistic expression.

Part of this is also that there was no conversation with me about the intention and purpose of that performance art piece, which I’ll add was a piece of my own and not billed or promoted in any way as affiliated with the Satanic Temple whatsoever. It wasn’t a Satanic Temple piece. It was a piece of my own in a private space that somebody attended, and I think essentially was looking for something to call out and be upset about.

The filmmakers, you mean?

Likely someone affiliated with the national council. There was nobody who was like, “I saw this and I have a question about this thing that was said.” Instead, it was like, “Somebody said you threatened the president”—which I didn’t do—“And therefore we need you to leave.” It was a 10-minute conversation after years of working together, where I said, “I don’t want anybody policing my work as an artist or a writer, so I’m going to gladly leave.” There was no attempt to understand why the language was used or what the purpose of the performance was from my perspective at all.

There’s been a lot of very stereotypical criticism about that piece which stems from a deep misunderstanding or a disinterest in understanding the purpose of performance art. That performance in particular was intended to mimic a current political rally that happens across America frequently that involves inflammatory, often violent-sounding speech, uses people as props and has wild rhetoric. So the purpose was to create a performance that mimics that feeling of fervor but reverses it, so it uses inflammatory language that speaks to average people who don’t actually have access to or feel like they’re part of the political process. In particular, it was a criticism of oppressive power structures and an attempt to empower individuals to engage in activism on their own terms.

You’ve said in the post that you wrote that the language was symbolic—“the president” and not any particular president—and that it wasn’t an actual, literal call to violence. But I wonder if you were sympathetic at all to the idea that TST as an institution was always pretty nervous about facing some kind of governmental repression or crackdown, and they were nervous that this could be used as a cudgel against them, even though it wasn’t a TST event.

It didn’t seem like a reasonable fear to me for a number of reasons. The language that I used in particular was not illegal. The interpretation potentially that I was calling a real threat to a real person was questionable, but that’s not the language I used.

So what we’re talking about is that people are willing to silence members and collaborators based on the fear of judicial retribution, which would be unjust. Therefore, they’re lifting up and perpetuating judicial overreach and abuse. If we’re not able to support the right for people to speak about radical-sounding things, and instead we’re going to be silenced and carefully choose our words because we’re afraid we might be criticized in court, [that] really doesn’t support members of our community at all.

In addition, we’re talking about the Satanic Temple, a Satanic organization. They’re already facing a perception of them as illegitimate. To say we’re going to police everybody and make sure everyone mimics and mirrors and matches the perception of a normative or appropriate activist to gain favor within the courts, again, that perpetuates the problem of people being oppressed by the judicial system.

Sometimes I think people forget you’re a Satanic activist, you’re not trying to work within a normal political system or, as you say, gain some respectability in the eyes of those mainstream systems.

Well, also, there’s this non-violence question that came up. When we talk about a nation that’s steeped in violence, the most powerful people in our government regularly engage in violent rhetoric that has very real ramifications. To say somehow that that’s legitimate or appropriate, but that the speech of a powerless person in a private context expressing the same kinds of rage isn’t appropriate or should be censored, we’re saying the only people allowed to engage in flagrant rhetoric and behavior is the state. That’s when we start to face real serious problems in the expression of our defense and personal beliefs.

I saw some of the fallout from this as it was happening; in particular, I was copied on some emails that Doug sent you that accused you of lying about how events had played out. I felt, in particular, pretty sad that you and Doug/Lucien, two people I do really respect, were parting as colleagues on such terrible terms. I don’t know if you felt any sadness, or just anger? Has it been long enough to sort through that experience emotionally?

I did not feel sad. I had seen, already, a series of problematic behaviors and attitudes internally within the organization that were really distressing to me. In addition, there were like the emails that were sent to me that were an attack and the criticism afterwards which has been a behavior trend with Doug basically threatening and degrading anybody who criticizes the behavior or decision-making process of the temple is indicative of a much deeper problem of respecting and lifting up the voices of your colleagues and peers. That email exchange was short, but illustrative of deeper structural problems that I was relieved to be free from.

You were critical in the film of TST becoming formalized as a more traditional institution. What do you think about them gaining nonprofit status as a religion? I’d always understood that as something they weren’t going to do.

I think that there’s a perception that I am against formalized institutions. That’s not the case. I work with organizations all the time. I developed a lot of structural formalities for the Temple. But I believe in equitable and transparent organizations, and that’s where the problem lies here. There’s not enough financial transparency, when it comes to how the Satanic Temple raises money and disperses those funds, who can get paid what, all these questions. Now we also have an organization that’s also basically reversing a strong political position on tax exemptions for religious organizations, claiming they need to exercise this power to function on the same level. Fundamentally, I think that demonstrates a common problem with activist organizations, thinking they can replace structural institutions they see as oppressive and not breaking down the structures that are oppressive to begin with. The same thing comes up with replacing a president: The structural problems and tyranny that a president can execute under their control doesn’t change depending on what political party is in power. The issues are still there. That’s what’s at stake here. If we’re trying to mimic and mirror the same oppressive institutions we’re fighting against, we’re not doing anything.

I’m wondering if you think I and other journalists were too soft or too friendly in how we covered TST. I’ve wondered if I was so delighted by the basic idea of the legal trolling and the tweaking of Christian extremists’ for their hypocrisy that I didn’t pay enough attention to the internal politics and controversies of the group until they got too big to ignore.

There was certainly and continues to be a delight and fascination with just the concept of a Satanic activist organization. Over time, journalists have seemed to ignore a real question about who the organization is and how they function, which is really important. It’s an important thing to interrogate and dig into a little bit. It’s not just about the outward public actions; it’s the integrity behind those actions. Who’s really being empowered. There were obvious issues from an outward standpoint where you had a white male debating on abortion issues and saying they wanted to fight for reproductive access and gender equality. Why would you send a male to speak on woman’s issue?

There were a lot of things like that, that were glaringly obvious to me but it was dismissed because it was fun that someone was challenging people in general under the guise of Satanism.

I also was guilty of ignoring a lot of problems as they came up in thinking there was a greater good that could be accomplished despite structural issues. And it was a learning process for me to understand that you can’t achieve those goals without first addressing those structural issues. It’s not something that should be dismissed as an internal drama, which is something I’ve heard come up over and over. It’s offensive. It’s not just “drama,” it’s not [as though] someone slept with someone else’s boyfriend. It’s a problem that’s prevalent in so many other activist organizations. It’s about listening and interrogating leadership and distribution of power and responsibility within a group. It’s indicative of structural problems in organizing in 2019 more broadly.

As you know, a lot of other TST members have left and several chapters, like London and L.A. are trying to form new organizations entirely. There’s been some criticism from some of those folks because Penny Lane, Hail Satan?’s director, became a “card-carrying TST member” during the filming, which means she paid $20 for a membership card. She’s said in another interview that she didn’t take that action very seriously, and I believe her, but I wonder how you interpreted it. Did it feel like a bias in favor of TST?

That, to me, doesn’t demonstrate a bias. I think the membership part is essentially meaningless. But I do think the final product and promotion of the film is clearly a promotional piece for the Satanic Temple. Especially because there are references to how little money they make, but there’s no interrogation of how their finances work. There’s a misrepresentation of the number of chapters involved and engaged currently and no reference to people being upset and leaving. That’s a really vital part of understanding TST and their journey. To avoid talking about it because they’d like to tell a better story is a biased position that’s promoting the organization in a way that’s not a neutral position.

I realized after you left TST that I didn’t know much about you outside of your involvement in the group. I don’t really expect you to talk about it much, for the safety reasons we’ve discussed, but I am wondering if your art and activism feel like a separate space for you, or if they’re very tied into your day-to-day life. Does that make sense? Do you have some alter ego as a tax attorney?

[Laughs] No, I’m not a tax attorney. TST did consume my life for a few years. I rearranged the way I made money and the way I spent my time to benefit the activist work. Now, I work as a writer who writes about political issues, and I’m involved with supporting the work of nonprofit organizations that are interested in equitable arts engagement in under-privileged neighborhoods. My activism and work are very much tied together. Every day is like a 15-hour day of doing nonprofit work, and then switching over to organize and engage with arts and activism in a similar way that I was doing with the Temple.

Do people know you as a satanist in your non-profit work? Is that something you’re private about?

The people I work most closely with do know about my work as a Satanist, and they’re supportive and provide space for that, which I’m lucky to have.

How do you think about your Satanism? As just a political or social perspective? Or do you see it as a spiritual home too?

I certainly see it as a spiritual foundation to the way that I interact with the world. That’s something that’s incredibly fundamental to me. The place where everything stems from. I have a personal ritual practice at home. I do a lot of thinking about that. There’s been a tendency with Satanism throughout history to be coopted into the realm of men. Many white supremacists have identified as Satanists. I was just talking to someone about this. To me, that’s demonstrative of white men, especially historically rich aristocratic white men, fetishizing this exotic culture of Satanism. The people who have been impacted by the yoke of Satanism as a pejorative have been women and queer people and outsiders who’ve challenged established systems.

I thought the Satanic Temple was a wonderful opportunity to correct that. But we’ve again seen an organization consolidate power into the hands of a group of men or people who support and act as a mouthpiece for those men. In terms of the power of Satanism as an activist movement, I’m a little bit disillusioned at this point. I’ve seen time and time again people cut out from engagement at a political level.

So fundamentally for me, Satanism is a philosophical and spiritual practice. Its effectiveness as a public activist movement is now, to me, something I’m interrogating.

I can see that. How do you relate to the Satanic Bible, if at all? I have to say, when I re-read it recently I felt like it had grown kind of hokey with age. LeVey talks a lot about “mating rituals” and he’s really into these kind of moldy gender binaries. I’m not sure if it’s part of your Satanism at all.

It’s absolutely not. I studied classical archaeology, so a lot of my research was focused on sexual symbols from antiquity and in ancient Mesopotamia. Understanding the perceptions of sexuality and morality from that period of time really shaped my understanding of what Satanism means. I read the Satanic Bible after that and saw that, first of all, it doesn’t have a lot of new ideas. But it’s also clearly seen through the lens of this 1950s male worldview where women are objects. It’s absurd and out of date. It can be viewed as a compelling document for the period in which it was produced, but for it to be some kind of guiding document today would be absurd.

How do you see the future of Satanic activism or Satanists in public life? What do you hope for?

I see Satanic activism as a lens to interrogate the imposition of moral policies informed by oppressive religious ideologies. It’s a tool in aid of understanding our inner selves and provides power in organizing with others who seek to be liberated from the repressive dictates of an increasingly emboldened theocracy.

I hope that Satanism provides a space for people to organize and build solidarity in the face of oppressive moral and theocratic dictates. However, I will say that, quite frankly, the Satanic Temple hasn’t been very successful in achieving those things. They’ve succeeded in getting a few places to give up prayer at public meetings, for instance, but a lot of their other lawsuits haven’t been effective. So more than anything, it’s a powerful tool for organizing and creating solidarity, and going from there and finding issues that can be rallied behind.

You have a more complicated view of what Satanism can be as a result of your experiences, I think. Is there anything else we haven’t touched on here that you want to mention?

One thing. From my perspective, the way my work has been covered in the context of this film, there’s this perception that my activism or performance art is chaotic or not legitimate, and that I’m not active anymore. It’s important to me to challenge that. I’m working with people every single day to continue to organize.

There’s this notion that you have to subscribe to appropriate, state-defined ways of challenging injustice. That’s by design. That’s to disarm us. And we’re actually very powerful as individuals. It’s important to remember you can engage in powerful activism by organizing among ourselves. We don’t have to belong to or get permission from a particular group in order to do that.

Satanism provides a way to recognize religious oppression. That, in and of itself, is an act of liberation.

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About the author

Anna Merlan

Anna Merlan was a Senior Reporter at G/O Media until September 2019. She's the author of Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power.

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