Oprah and Fictitious Non-fiction
'My next guest was used also in worshipping the devil, participated in human sacrifice rituals and cannibalism,' Oprah Winfrey told her audience in a show aired in May of 1989. Oprah didn't say, 'My next guest alleges she was used in worshipping the devil.' Oprah stated it as a fact.
Lauren Stratford, the author of a memoir titled Satan's Underground, was also a guest on the same show. Oprah declared that Stratford
'...was part of a group of young women and children forced to surrender their bodies into some of the most evil rituals imaginable. Her own child was used in a human sacrifice.'
Back then, Oprah was not as zealous for fact—checking as she is today. On last Thursday's show, she indignantly scolded Nan Talese, editor of James Frey's fraudulent memoir, A Million Little Pieces, for publishing a supposed non—fiction book without making sure the events Frey described really happened. Oprah charged Talese.
'...how can you say that [the book is brutally honest] if you haven't checked it to be sure?' She added, 'Otherwise then anybody can just walk in off the street with whatever story they have and say, 'this is my story'.... That needs to change.'
Yes that needs to change, and better late than never, Oprah. Her ritually—abusing, infant—sacrificing guest, who was identified only as 'Rachel,' was one of the deluded and pathetic women who were caught up in the ritual abuse satanic panic of the 1980's.
The wild stories about satanic worship and infant sacrifice were part of a nation—wide panic about child abuse that saw hundreds of people accused and dozens convicted for bizarre crimes that had no basis in reality.
Historians believe the ritual abuse panic was sparked by several fraudulent memoirs, notably Michelle Remembers and Satan's Underground. The authors and publishers of these books are responsible for causing thousands of families untold harm. Not only were people falsely accused of ritual child abuse, but thousands of women seeking therapy for depression were led to believe that they had repressed memories of ritual abuse from their childhoods.
Nan Talese tried to argue that
'a memoir is different from an autobiography. A memoir is an author's remembrance of a certain period in his life.'
Frey—like evasions about larger truths or personal realities don't exempt Talese or any publisher from the consequences of publishing or broadcasting falsehoods. In the case of the satanic panic, those falsehoods helped send Nancy Smith, mother of four, to a life sentence in Ohio for crimes that never happened. The lies of James Frey are insignificant compared to the harm caused by Michelle Remembers.
After Oprah's ritual abuse show aired, she later apologized for airing remarks that linked infant sacrifice to Judaism. She understood the consequences of such irresponsible statements. But a compassionate person like Oprah could do so much more to help the victims of the ritual abuse panic, such as Bernard Baran, in prison in Massachusetts, Fran and Daniel Keller, imprisoned in Texas, or Nancy Smith and Joseph Allen in Ohio, to name a few. Their ordeal is unimaginably tragic and they desperately need the kind of publicity and influence that only someone like Oprah can give.