the children of satan by luther blissett
The Harder They Come
Luther Blissett doesn't begin to get interested in these events 'till July 1996. I think I must explain the reasons for this slowness of reflexes. In Bologna the trans-national collective pseudonym "Luther Blissett" is adopted by a large number of people coming from the "underground" "counterculture" and/or the "ultra-left" scene (squats, community radios etc.). Il Resto del Carlino has often been the target of LB's actions; these were media pranks that would expose the reporters' racism, sexism and professional misery. We would use the competing newspapers in order to claim authorship of such hoaxes.
Despite the attention we usually pay to the local news, when Dimitri was framed we underestimated the importance of the scam: we considered Dimitri nothing more than a charlatanish headbanger. An acquaintance of ours, who's also friends with Piergiorgio Bonora, exhorts us to take care of the case. We start to gather information, and realize this thing is much bigger than we expected.
Dimitri founded the Children of Satan Corporation Ltd. because he hoped he would make some money out of gadgets, T-shirts and 'esoteric advices.' He became a victim of his own promotional activities (being hosted on tv talk-shows, posing before the press during black masses etc.) when he bumped into a clerical pressure group looking for a folk devil to lynch. Besides this, Dimitri and Bonora have the double misfortune of being a gay couple (which is a further reason for the obstinacy of their foes) but not a politically correct one (which means that most homosexual groups don't want to handle the case). As to Gennaro Luongo, ill luck had it that his young lover was a neuropathic ice-cream vendor who falsely claimed to be eighteen; Simonetta's mother did all she could in order to sabotage their relationship, until Luongo got tired and broke away. Simonetta's vengeance came in the form of the chloroform-and-rape story.
Just as in Salem, Massechusetts, the witch hunt originated in the rancour of an Abigal who'd been seduced and abandoned. That rancour was readily channeled by a clique of priests, hacks and careerist magistrates. This was extremely easy given the climate of panic and suspicions that existed as a result of the arrest of Marc Dutroux, the "monster of Marcinelle."
Later on, the psychological malaise of a little kid was misunderstood by his parents, staunch Catholics who first went to Father Clemente, then directly to the GRIS office. The case was immediately mislinked to Simonetta's testimony. We'll find out that she heard about Federico from the mouths of Prosecutor Musti and the investigating authorities. First she said she didn't know anything, then, converted by a light from heaven on her way to Salem, she confessed her participation in the alleged sexual ceremony. In the following months, she will vomit forth a running stream of incredible details, including the ritual assassination of an African immigrant and a Roma ("gypsy") child. It goes without saying that the inquisitors will never find a single corpse. Moreover, Simonetta will involve people at random, e.g. the mother of Federico's baby-sitter/cousin (all charges being dropped at the Preliminary Hearing, October 28th) and, later on, Marquis Ippolito Bevilacqua Ariosti:
I'm Ippolito Bevilacqua Ariosti. I'm fifty; I work in farming and estate trading. I'm a practicing Catholic. A girl whom I have never known accuses me of having raped minors, pushed drugs and taken part in satanic rituals with one Marco Dimitri, whom I only saw on tv [...] The girl also says that we made human sacrifices, stabbing 21 times a non-European in the basement of my country residence, Palazzo de' Rossi. I came to know this the other day, reading Il Resto del Carlino, which cites me as indicted for homicide . It is not true [...] When I read that I'm suspected on the basis of those ignoble statements, I was astonished... I think I have the right to have the press inform without slandering my name, and to have the justices investigate, verifying the facts and not allowing absurd calumnies. [P.Cascella, "The Marquis's rage: 'I'm not a satanist,'" La Repubblica, Bologna, January 24th, 1997.]
We decide to take the field. How? Luther Blissett doubts that traditional "counter-information" (based upon the ascertainment of "the Truth") is very effective. On the reverse, s/he wants to push things to their limit till the usual interpretations of facts are overturned and disintegrated. It is necessary to venture into the inner depths of the system of simulation, to overload and divert paranoias, to make their game ("disinformation") more paradoxical, to pass on to the media bounty killers the most incorrect information (i.e. accounts of absurd conspiracies, unbearably ambiguous evidence etc.). Make the Absolute Weapon out of the system's inner logic, media homeopathy: we will outlive the intoxication (moral panic) by increasing the dose of venom (conspiracy psychosis). This can immunize us and allow us to expose the absurdity of their stunts.
Besides passing in review all the articles published in the local press since the arrest and publishing the results, we plan an "old-fashioned" campaign of solidarity and a series of long-term and short-term hoaxes, both on the local and national levels. Through an informal survey, we get to know that in Viterbo (Latium) some multi-use name bearers have had more or less the same idea, although their local context and their reasons were different. Since February 1996, Blissett's been cheating the local press (especially the Corriere di Viterbo) by spreading foolish rumors and fake news about black masses and similar things. S/he's even invented a sort of anti-Satanist underground group called Committee for the Safeguard of Morality, CoSaMo, in the name of which s/he's started to tip off the papers about the Evil One and his presence in the Etruscan countryside. No hack ever checks the facts, and such distorted information regularly ends up on the frontpages. It is the prelude to a maxi-prank that will have repercussions all over the country and will be sensationally revealed by LB one year later (see Appendix 2). We join the Viterbese brothers and sisters, and begin our homeopathic cure.
We happen to write for Zero in Condotta [ZIC], a fortnightly journal edited by Valerio Monteventi, who is a city hall counselor (he ran as an independent candidate supported by the Refounded Communist Party), as well as a former 1977-style ultra-leftist (and an ex-con), a former Green Party member, and an old-time enemy of law-and-order justice. Therefore, it's from the pages of ZIC that we announce our first action:
I found by chance a human skull and some bones (very old stuff, which came from some college laboratory or avant-garde theatre). I put them in an old rucksack that I later deposited in the left-behind luggage office at the Bologna train station, enclosing this message:
Left luggage office. Item: human skull and bones stolen from the famous rite before their arrival. It was intended for the child. More things between the Appennin and the low Padany than your chronicles can contain. There's also a Viterbo trail. By this message we also warn the public about our presence in town. 'And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown: they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever' (Revelation 20, 10). Signed: Cosamo.
We also enclosed in the rucksack an article from the Corriere di Viterbo of May 14th, 1996, of which I report the headline and subtitles:
'HUNTERS OF "SATANISTS"
After the retrieval of a "spell of death" in the pinewood of Valle Spina, there comes an alleged Committee for the Safeguard of Morality.
"We almost captured a group of worshippers of the occult who were practising the rite of evil death." In the city centre reappeared the number 666, indicating the "Beast of Apocalypse," and swastikas.
(Several months later, Luther Blissett tips off the Viterbo press about a completely fictional satanic revival, spreads around remnants of weird ceremonies, invents opinion movements, and the papers publish all this WITHOUT ANY VERIFICATION!). Then I posted the ticket to the Carlino, to the kind attention of the worst hack, along with kind of a kidnappers' message made out of paper headlines: "Collect the bag at the station. It's about the Children of Satan. Important." While I write I still don't know if the reporter has picked up the parcel and if the swindle has reached its peak (the so-called punch-line). It's not so important anyway. But if everybody decided to bust the bounty killers' balls, if the press were contacted by an army of resolute mythomaniacs, all the speculation about "satanism" would be exposed as a joke, everything would lose credibility, and the pushers of indignation would be ridiculed once and for all. Come on, hurry up: all this silence can't go on! [L. Blissett, "A skull for the Carlino," Zero in Condotta, no.19, Bologna, July 12th, 1996, p.23.]