Don't Look Back: Move On to the Next Cause

Mike Farrell, best known for his role as doctor BJ Hunnicutt in the 1970s television series M*A*S*H, is back in the news in California. Farrell is an ardent opponent of the death penalty, and this month's cause celebre is convicted killer Kevin Cooper, whom Farrell and others are attempting to save from the electric chair.

The justice system "entraps the innocent," Farrell warns. And he ought to know, because in the early 90's Farrell was a leading light in a crusade against satanic ritual abuse. At the time, a nation—wide panic had doctors, social workers and prosecutors convinced that a secret web of satanists were preying on children coast—to—coast —— in schools, day carecenters, even churches. On the basis of these wild accusations, scores of innocent people were flung into prison. Incredibly, some of them are still there. Others were released after having lost their homes, jobs, families and reputations.

Farrell's contribution to the witch hunt was to host and narrate a video entitled "Children at Risk: Ritual Abuse in America," made by an independent film company called Cavalcade Productions (interestingly enough, Cavalcade no longer lists any ritual abuse videos on its website). In the video, Farrell introduces people involved "actual ritual abuse case histories." We meet parents who honestly believed that their children were drugged, caged, and made to slaughter babies in their neighborhood daycare. We meet children who claimed that they had been made to participate in satanic ceremonies. One little boy says matter—of—factly: "We used to cut heads off, that was very, very sickening. I used to get sick on it."

"We're dealing with a problem that may in fact go back for generations," adds Farrell, who then introduces a segment with three women who speak of the blood—curdling abuse they endured as children at the hands of Satanists. What Farrell doesn't explain is that none of these women knew they were tortured and raped on the High Altar until they went into therapy and "recovered" the memories with the help of their psychologists.

Farrell's video was produced during a wave of ritual abuse hysteria that swept North America, leading to such miscarriages of justice as the McMartin Day care case in California, the Fells Acres/Amirault case in Boston, and dozens of others. Many compared the ritual abuse panic to the Salem witch trials. Farrell has compared the backlash against celebrity activism to McCarthyism, but he actually participated in a true witch hunt, one that caused untold misery.

The satanic panic subsided after cognitive researchers established that children were being pressured into making false accusations by zealous social workers, gullible parents, and irrational law enforcement officials. The two psychologists featured in the Cavalcade video, Drs. Bennett Braun and Roberta Sachs, have since been sued for millions of dollars by their former patients for falsely implanting grisly memories of satanic tortures which never happened.

Although Farrell claims to be concerned about justice, he has yet to confront his own complicity in one of the most monstrous injustices of the last century. Farrell has yet to make amends to people like Gerald Amirault of Boston, still in prison and awaiting release. Or Daniel and Fran Keller in Texas, also still in prison. The children in their day care accused them of, among other things, taking them to the cemetery and forcing them to dig up dead bodies. Or Patrick Figured of North Carolina, still in prison. He was accused of burning Bibles in front of his child victims and making them drink dog's urine. These wrongfully convicted people could use a champion, but Farrell has moved on to his next cause, and ignored the human wreckage he left behind.

Lona Manning is a freelance writer and advocate for those wrongfully convicted of ritual abuse. She lives in Canada.

Mike Farrell, best known for his role as doctor BJ Hunnicutt in the 1970s television series M*A*S*H, is back in the news in California. Farrell is an ardent opponent of the death penalty, and this month's cause celebre is convicted killer Kevin Cooper, whom Farrell and others are attempting to save from the electric chair.

The justice system "entraps the innocent," Farrell warns. And he ought to know, because in the early 90's Farrell was a leading light in a crusade against satanic ritual abuse. At the time, a nation—wide panic had doctors, social workers and prosecutors convinced that a secret web of satanists were preying on children coast—to—coast —— in schools, day carecenters, even churches. On the basis of these wild accusations, scores of innocent people were flung into prison. Incredibly, some of them are still there. Others were released after having lost their homes, jobs, families and reputations.

Farrell's contribution to the witch hunt was to host and narrate a video entitled "Children at Risk: Ritual Abuse in America," made by an independent film company called Cavalcade Productions (interestingly enough, Cavalcade no longer lists any ritual abuse videos on its website). In the video, Farrell introduces people involved "actual ritual abuse case histories." We meet parents who honestly believed that their children were drugged, caged, and made to slaughter babies in their neighborhood daycare. We meet children who claimed that they had been made to participate in satanic ceremonies. One little boy says matter—of—factly: "We used to cut heads off, that was very, very sickening. I used to get sick on it."

"We're dealing with a problem that may in fact go back for generations," adds Farrell, who then introduces a segment with three women who speak of the blood—curdling abuse they endured as children at the hands of Satanists. What Farrell doesn't explain is that none of these women knew they were tortured and raped on the High Altar until they went into therapy and "recovered" the memories with the help of their psychologists.

Farrell's video was produced during a wave of ritual abuse hysteria that swept North America, leading to such miscarriages of justice as the McMartin Day care case in California, the Fells Acres/Amirault case in Boston, and dozens of others. Many compared the ritual abuse panic to the Salem witch trials. Farrell has compared the backlash against celebrity activism to McCarthyism, but he actually participated in a true witch hunt, one that caused untold misery.

The satanic panic subsided after cognitive researchers established that children were being pressured into making false accusations by zealous social workers, gullible parents, and irrational law enforcement officials. The two psychologists featured in the Cavalcade video, Drs. Bennett Braun and Roberta Sachs, have since been sued for millions of dollars by their former patients for falsely implanting grisly memories of satanic tortures which never happened.

Although Farrell claims to be concerned about justice, he has yet to confront his own complicity in one of the most monstrous injustices of the last century. Farrell has yet to make amends to people like Gerald Amirault of Boston, still in prison and awaiting release. Or Daniel and Fran Keller in Texas, also still in prison. The children in their day care accused them of, among other things, taking them to the cemetery and forcing them to dig up dead bodies. Or Patrick Figured of North Carolina, still in prison. He was accused of burning Bibles in front of his child victims and making them drink dog's urine. These wrongfully convicted people could use a champion, but Farrell has moved on to his next cause, and ignored the human wreckage he left behind.

Lona Manning is a freelance writer and advocate for those wrongfully convicted of ritual abuse. She lives in Canada.