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12 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The classic false memory., 3 Jan. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Michelle Remembers (Paperback)
Is this prototype satanic ritual abuse account true? That depends on whether Catholicism is true. Bluntly, unless one uncritically believes in the immortal Blessed Virgin Mary then Michelle Remembers can be nothing beyond religious claptrap. Put more politely, without corroboration satanic ritual abuse will never leap from being a matter of faith into a confirmed fact.
To illustrate, like most (if not all) Satanic-cult 'survivor' accounts verifiable details such as names, dates, and places are excluded from Michelle Remembers. Exceptionally, one Satanist-paedophile is named: Michelle's mother. However she had sadly died by the time of publication, meaning - conveniently for the authors - no-one refutes the accusations, no-one can check the allegations, and no-one sues for libel. Thus, if the account is believed in, it is not because of any weight in its evidence.
On the other hand, this does not mean Michelle Remembers can entirely escape investigation, and enquires have shown the 'memories' to be seriously flawed. For instance, its murderous/kidnapping/child-molesting Satanic-cult is said to be linked to the "world-wide" Church of Satan. Not only is no such organisation known, the closest to it is Anton La Vey's Church of Satan and, as Michelle claims she was 5 years-old at the crucial time, this dates to the mid-1950s. The Church of Satan was not founded until 1966.
What the book describes as its "only evidence" are some poorly reproduced photographs. Some are of the author's ceremonial burning of a bench carved with 'Satanic' symbols. Their caption reads, "Dr. Pazder, an experienced photographer, took these ... [and they show] a glowing presence" of the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus moving across the pictures. Readers are invited to inspect these snapshots for themselves, but I cannot see anything remotely resembling the divine beings. It is true the photos have some anomalous streaks, but (speaking now as an ex-professional photographer) such images are normally caused by internal lens flare, a phenomenon easily observed when television cameras point at a bright light. In this case the night-time fire is the likely source for the smudges, and it is also true some Catholics 'see' the Blessed Virgin Mary when others see, for instance, only the sun. All Michelle Remembers proves, therefore, is people see what they want to see, and believe what they want to believe.
Michelle Remembers is also seriously deficient in what it does not say. One fact going unmentioned is Michelle Smith and Dr. Pazder's marriage. Whilst this omission is not necessarily dishonest, nor is a physician eloping with a younger patient completely unknown, it rests and remains both authors were already wed. Given that Catholicism strictly forbids divorcees' remarrying, and given that Michelle Remembers unyieldingly endorses Catholic theology, herein lay the most likely reason for omitting this fact. Also unmentioned is the begging question of what Michelle's family (excepting her now deceased mother) were doing at the time of the alleged satanic ritual abuse, a most remarkable exclusion for a supposed investigation into the most horrendous child sex offences imaginable. Again, this is most likely explained by her father and sisters elsewhere denying anything remotely like Michelle Remembers happening to her. The closest incident is when, early in Michelle Remembers, the 5 year-old Michelle wondrously foils death by clambering out of a blazing car then ascending a mountain. Her family do remember a 5 year-old Michelle getting hysterical at the sight of a traffic collision in which a woman was seriously injured. Which of the two explanations is to be believed is answered by local newspapers routinely reporting even the most minor road traffic accident. Nothing approaching the conflagration as vividly described in Michelle Remembers can be traced in any contemporary report. So it is with Michelle's then neighbours and teachers. All remember a perfectly normal girl from a typical American family, whilst all educational and medical records fail to corroborate anything in Michelle Remembers. Even her imprisonment, lasting several months, is not reflected in her school register ('Satan's Silence', Debbie Nathan & Michael Snedeker (1995)).
In short then, not one iota of corroboration exists, and there are ample reasons to doubt its veracity. The only verification Dr. Pazder seems to have attempted was checking 'Satanic' feast days, claiming they tallied with the dates his patient proffered, and interviewing an elderly paediatrician who could "vaguely recall" treating Michelle for injuries. Better leads, such as Michelle's alcohol and marriage problems plus a depression following three miscarriages were seemingly not followed up or, if they were, these too are unmentioned. As Robert Hicks explains in 'In the Pursuit of Satan' (1991),
"Pazder's assessment is psychiatrist's talk, not a police officer's. Feeling the authenticity of Smith's story may aid a physician's clinical work, but police officers must operate on a well-founded, reasonable suspicion and make arrests based on probable cause."
Whilst Dr. Pazder's goal of Michelle's emotional well-being is, of course, laudable, hypnotic therapy does not substitute hard evidence, especially in a criminal investigation, and all the more so where it would be expected.
Catholics who visit Medjugorje and Lourdes to 'see' the Virgin Mary will probably believe this book because they will have no trouble in 'seeing' her in photographic smudges as well. So too those who want to believe in the existence of satanic ritual abuse are similarly likely to believe its contents because it confirms their suspicions. But both groups will ignore the many reasons to doubt, chief amongst them the fact that not one shred of evidence supports these most serious allegations. So for those who assert crime is considered proven only the basis of hard evidence Michelle Remembers is a classic false memory.
Read it and be amazed how such a religious polemic could generate so much belief.
Peter Ward, Barrister & Lecturer in Law
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Initial post: 30 Oct 2011 14:10:32 GMT
An excellent summary of the debunking of this dangerous nonsense.
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