Within days of a monumentally important U.S. election, Twitter is now blazing with comments about "spirit cooking" — about allegations that Hillary Clinton and her chief campaign advisors practice Satanic rituals involving liminal substances, semen, blood, and urine. This meme is being planted and hyped, of course, by the alt-right, and quite deliberately so.
Think about it for a moment:
- Rumors associating targeted groups with liminal substances — semen, blood, urine — go far back in "Christian" history. Think Jews + blood libel.
- Rumors associating targeted groups with liminal substances — semen, blood, urine — go deep in "Christian" history. Think witchcraft trials.
- Rumors associating targeted groups with liminal substances — semen, blood, urine — go deep in "Christian" history. Think accusations that African Americans practice baleful rituals with liminal substances.
The goal of smearing people with rumors about liminal substances is to make them unclean, so that people will shun or attack them. Women are ipso facto associated in the "deep" imagination of many cultures including Christian ones with the taint of blood due to menstruation.
And so it's not a surprise that the alt-right would use this ugly, psychologically powerful strategy to try to tip the scales in Trump's direction at the last minute in this bizarre election cycle — Trump the slayer of witches and demons. What might be a surprise to many of us who have not been paying attention is the extent to which some of us lust for the recrudescence of charges of Jewish blood libel, of dangerous talk about witchcraft, of overt racism — and the extent to which we are now prepared to go in a so-called civilized and "Christian" society to rehabilitate hateful old suspicions of the Other that many of us had hoped had lost political resonance at this point in our history.
It is not in the least beside the point that all of this happens as a woman contends, for the first time, for the presidency of the U.S., as the candidate put forward by one of our two major parties.
The graphic: an etching of a drawing by Francisco Goya (1799) of a witch trial. The original is at Los Angeles Museum of Art. The etching has been uploaded to Wikimedia Commons for sharing online.