Saturday, December 20, 2014

Scotland Yard, British "VIP Pedophilia Rings" and Satanic Panic

   Just thought I'd go ahead an lay my epistemic cards on the table. I'm skeptical about this story, as reported in the Guardian.
   I ran across this on /r/worldnews, and the explosion of absolute credulity was...bizarre. (And, incidentally,  quickly spawned, e.g., sub-threads about the CIA kidnapping "thousands" of American children every year for slavery, rape, and murder...)  Needless to say, I'm in no way asserting that the story is definitely false. I'm saying: if I had to place a bet on the veracity of the story, I would bet against it. But as in the case of the Rolling Stone/UVA gang rape debacle, I'm actually more focused on the response to the story. It seems fairly clear to me that a story of this kind should send most people at least to epistemic yellow alert. What I've seen so far, however, is not only perfect credulity, but anger and derision directed at anyone who expresses skepticism.
   I've got actual stuff to do presently, but I'll say, in brief, that the story sounds implausible to me for the same kinds of reasons that the Satanic Panic stories of the '90's sounded implausible. In fact, the similarity is rather striking. Obviously pedophilia exists. (Is this the part where I'm obligated to say what goes without saying? I'm never sure where that part is supposed to go...) and obviously it's a terrible crime. But that in no way means that every accusation is true. And this one fits the Satanic Panic-type template too closely for me to accept it uncritically.
   In particular, the murder parts do not seem plausible. It does not seem likely that the perpetrators would kill person A in front of person B, but then let person B go free. (Though if A and B are children, that might mitigate the implausibility.) And running down someone in broad daylight? It could happen...but I'm baffled that there is so little skepticism about it. Were the accusations of murder made without the accusations of child abuse, I can't see them being believed on the basis of the evidence thus far presented. But when they are conjoined with accusations of pedophilia, people seem to think them more likely rather than less so... 
   And, as I said in comments a few posts back, the fact that the police seem to have declared the accusations to be true without corroborating evidence strikes me as bizarre in the extreme. 
   Of course if I'm wrong, I'm going to get hammered on this...whereas if I'm right it will fade into the past without acknowledgement...so it's rather a gamble to be up-front about this...but there it is...

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