Since Sabine McNeill received a nine-year sentence following conviction on four charges of stalking and six charges of violating a restraining order, public interest in the Hampstead SRA hoax has surged.
Writing in the Times yesterday, David Aaronovitch cited the Hampstead case as part of a disturbing trend toward false allegations of sexual abuse. He referred to her as a “respectable septuagenarian”, having presumably not been made aware of her previous activities, but quite rightly pointed out that
McNeill was part of a relatively tiny group of people creating mayhem around a set of such utterly ludicrous allegations that no part of the established media ever gave them credence. Even so, the suffering they caused was prodigious.
Referring to the video of the school playground which we recently noted on Richard Carvath’s blog, Aaronovitch said, “Others have taken up where the imprisoned McNeill has been forced to leave off”.
Indeed they have, though the campaign has definitely lost the majority of its steam since Sabine’s conviction and sentencing. It’s no longer a coordinated, multi-pronged attack, but has been reduced to periodic skirmishes and hurled threats and insults.
What could be worse than Satanic baby-killers?
Writing on the Slacktivist blog, Fred Clark offers some fascinating insights into the motivations of people like Sabine:
Sabine McNeill spent years bearing false witness against her neighbors, but the purpose of those lies was to shore up her own self-deception. And now her entire sense of identity — of who she is and of what she is — is based upon the lies she’s been telling herself about herself for as long as she can remember. Those lies are a bearing wall. Admit that they are false and everything she is, everything she knows, will come tumbling down.
Clark points out that for those who promote false allegations of Satanic baby murdering, the lies they tell must be very, very big, in order to justify the bearing of false witness, and to allow the liars to believe that they are the truly righteous ones.
And that worst possible thing, inevitably, is Satanic baby-killers. It is ever thus when people of limited imagination who have been raised in Christendom try to slander others with the worst possible thing they can imagine. What’s the worst possible thing you can do? Murder. And who would be the worst possible victim of that? Babies — sweet little chubby-toed babies. And, um, they don’t just murder those babies, they also, like rape them. And then they eat them too, of course. And why would anyone do such unimaginably horrible things? For the worst possible reason: for Satan himself.
In Clark’s view, the liars—think Sabine, Angela Power-Disney, Belinda McKenzie, Charlotte Ward, Kristie Sue Costa, Thomas Dunn, Andy Devine—are aware that they are lying, but are able, in the moment, to convince themselves that they are the ones telling the truth.
They know that what they are saying about their neighbors is false. They know that those neighbors are not monstrous Satan-worshipping baby-killers. And they know that this bearing of false witness against those neighbors is wrong. But then the function and the purpose of the whole Satanic baby-killer mechanism kicks in and they tell themselves that even if that’s true, even if lying is wrong and bad, it’s Not As Bad As murdering sweet little babies and then cannibalizing them in service of the Dark Lord. What’s a little thing like lying compared to that?
Defining one’s self in opposition to the Worst Possible Thing, Clark says, enables those who push these hoaxes to not only lie about others, but to lie to themselves.
We would add that to lie to one’s self convincingly, it’s important to repeat the lies frequently and at high volume.
And it probably helps to gather around you a coterie of others who, like you, are willing to put their consciences on hold and their capacity for rational thought in neutral, in order to feel that they are pursuing a good and righteous path.
It doesn’t matter what I do as long as I define myself by my opposition to the worst imaginable thing. And there can’t be any greater priority than that of opposing the worst imaginable thing. So if I build my entire life and faith and purpose and identity on my opposition to that worst imaginable thing it doesn’t matter if I’m also lying about others in order to lie to myself. I’m still righteous and good. And if my righteous person’s righteous battle against the Satanic baby-killers requires me to continue bearing a little bit of false witness against neighbors I don’t even know, then that is what I must do because those Satanic baby-killers must be stopped by good and noble and righteous people like me.
Racing around that circle of reasoning over and over as loudly as she can to herself is all that Sabine McNeill has left at this point.
Even more tragically, it is all that any of the hoaxers have left.
On some level they know this, and that tiny glimmer of understanding, that sliver of awareness that they are fighting not to save children from non-existent baby-eating Satanists, but to shore up their own egos by telling monstrous and destructive lies, is part of what fuels their desperation.
As Clark says about Sabine,
She has spent decades doing real harm to real children in order to stroke her own ego with the fantasy that she is a heroic defender of (imaginary) children from (imaginary) monsters. Admitting that, after all these years, might well kill her. But it’s also her only chance to awaken from the living death she’s trapped herself in.