“Embracing cannibalism”? THE NEW YORK TIMES July 2022 (and the backlash)

I guess it was only a matter of time before cannibalism became part of the culture wars. A light-hearted article in the New York Times July 23 by freelance writer Alex Beggs looked at the undeniable plethora of cannibalism narratives in contemporary movies, TV series, books and news reports, including the TV series Yellowjackets and the recent novel A Certain Hunger by Chelsea Summers, in which a (female) restaurant critic develops a taste for (male) human flesh. The article asserted:

“Turns out, cannibalism has a time and a place. In the pages of some recent stomach-churning books, and on television and film screens, Ms. Summers and others suggest that that time is now.”

Alex Begg has also written for Bon Appétit magazine, making her well qualified to write about food, of whatever provenance. Cooking shows are full of lumps of meat being baked and braised and broiled and smothered in sauces; why not add humans to the livestock list? There certainly are billions of us.

The appearance of cannibalism in secular culture reflects the fading of traditional morality. As Dostoevsky warned in The Brothers Karamazov, without a belief in “immortality” (implying divine judgement), “everything would be lawful, even cannibalism”. Our reflexive distaste for cannibalism (and our fascination with it) comes from the belief that humans are somehow not animals, or animals that have transcended animality – it all comes back to the Biblical statement that we are made in “the image of God”, whatever that means.

Such a belief, with or without support from on high, is called anthropocentrism, or sometimes speciesism, and is maintained by the practice of killing other animals in ever increasing numbers, to prove our superiority. Jacques Derrida called that “carnivorous virility”, but what happens when the lust to kill outruns the limits of anthropocentrism and is instead turned back on fellow humans? We have people who see humans as just another edible species, like Sawney Bean, Sweeney Todd, Albert Fish, Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer and of course Hannibal Lecter. Not all of those were real people, and not all the facts about the real ones are real facts, but one fact remains: humans are animals, and animals are made of meat. When a society reaches a point where the old ethical agreements are disintegrating, it can either forge new ones or dissolve into chaos, war and, yes, cannibalism. At a time when the news is full of pandemics, climate change, famine, school shootings and political turmoil, is it so surprising that cultural representations show us eating each other?

Did I mention culture wars? Those who despise the New York Times (a certain and fairly large section of America apparently) came out with their anti-cannibalism guns blazing (they like guns, love meat, don’t like cannibals – it does seem a little inconsistent.)

Rod Dreher, a senior editor of The American Conservative opined:

“It’s a sign that our culture and civilization has become so decadent, so enamored by sensation, that we actually fetishize eating death…. We now live in a Culture of Death, in which we regard books, television, and film drama about the eating of human beings as pleasurable, as exciting.”

On Twitter, reactions poured in such as that of writer Emmanuel Rincón:

Zack Kanter tweeted 

“A zero sum worldview, irrational fear of overpopulation, and hatred of success will inevitably lead NYT journos to the literal conclusion of ‘eat the rich.’”

Journalist Tom Fitton tweeted

“NY Times, taking a break from promoting the mass killing of the unborn through abortion, promotes cannibalism.”

Others linked the article back to the QAnon mythology of Democrats torturing and eating children (particularly Hillary).

American Thinker said (under the headline “Cannibal Communists Crave Kids”):

“maybe there was more to that Pizzagate conspiracy than I realized!”

Many had clearly not even bothered to read the article:

And a blessedly brief journalist, Sameera Khan, tweeted

“THIS IS SATANISM”

Greg Gutfeld on his high rating Fox talk show (if you haven’t seen him, imagine a fairy waved a wand and turned The Colbert Report into a real boy) took the opportunity to pack every cannibal pun imaginable (“it’s an ATE part series”) into a short segment, as well as several digs at other shows run by Liberals such as Samantha Bee, and their regular target, CNN. Gutfeld accuses comedian Tom Shillue (formerly of The Daily Show!) of thinking he would be delicious, because he is all white meat.

The gist of much of the criticism was that the Liberal elite are trying to normalise cannibalism, as a way to – what? Reduce overpopulation? Feed the hungry? The website Editorials 360 accuses a “globalist cabal” of planning to make us all eat insects and humans, and drink recycled sewage, a fiendish plot “to enslave, denigrate and dehumanize humanity.”

The website TMZ recalled that the movie Soylent Green was set in 2022, which was then fifty years in the future, but is now, well, now. Are we in fact normalising cannibalism, because it is the logical end-point of voracious consumerism?

Soylent Green is a good place to start the analysis of this “normalizing” phenomenon. Even after fifty years, it is still the movie many people name when cannibalism comes up in discussion (as it seems to do quite a lot whenever thecannibalguy is around). The movie [spoiler alert] was set in 2022 New York, which is portrayed as part of a failed state, in which overpopulation and global warming has led to a chronic shortage of food, leading the authorities (secretly) to grind up humans who have died (or agreed to be euthanised) and convert them into nutritious protein crackers called Soylent Green. Setting it in 2022 was a bit pessimistic, but let us remember that the world’s human population has almost doubled since the movie was made fifty years ago, and that CO2 concentration was 330 parts per million in 1973, compared to around 420 now. Are we entering a time when our voracious consumerism will so deplete the planet that, as Cormac McCarthy suggested, the only thing left to eat will be each other?

Chelsea Summers put it in a political context, relating cannibalism to capitalism:

“Cannibalism is about consumption and it’s about burning up from the inside in order to exist.”

The magazine Evie, which describes itself as “the sister you never had” explains the extraordinary growth of interest in cannibalism stories by referring to the quasi-religious conceits of anthropocentrism:

“Cannibalism is the extreme conclusion of the idea that humans – and their bodies – do not have inherent value that demands respect. American society has been traveling down this philosophical road for a while. It started with legalizing abortion: After Roe v. Wade in 1973, any baby born or killed was just a “choice” at the mercy of their parents. They were not recognized as having inherent value with rights to their body or their life. More recently were the mandatory lockdowns, mask wearing, and vaccinations for Covid-19. Again, a lack of respect for human bodies and for our ability to make decisions for ourselves occurred. The encroachment on human dignity could potentially continue to progress into cannibalism – where the bodies of others have no inherent meaning, value, or sacredness that separates them from the animals we do rightfully and naturally eat.”

Lots of problems with that explanation, not least no attempt to explain the “inherent value” of humans or the assumption that we can eat other animals “rightfully and naturally.” But it is a pretty good summation of the unexamined assumptions at the heart of most writings on cannibalism, or carnivorism, or vivisection, or hunting – the idea that humans are somehow more than animals, and less than edible, while every other species on the planet is stripped of all moral value.

However, talking about cannibalism can put people off the slaughter treadmill altogether. When fact checkers came to ask Chelsea Summers about the way the book’s anti-heroine gastronomically prepares her murdered lovers, their questions about the intricacies of human butchery so disturbed her that she went “full raw vegan for two weeks.” Tobe Hooper gave up meat while making The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, saying “the heart of the film was about meat; it’s about the chain of life and killing sentient beings”. He also claimed that Guillermo Del Toro, no shrinking violet himself in abject filmmaking, gave up meat after seeing it. Bryan Fuller, creator of Hannibal, gave up eating meat during filming of the first season, telling Entertainment Weekly he had been:

“writing about cannibalism for the last three years but also doing considerable research on the psychology of animals, and how sophisticated cows and pigs and the animals that we eat actually are.”

Shows like Hannibal and The Santa Clarita Diet show human flesh as “just meat.” But to do that, they have to (their legal departments insist) come up with ways of simulating the human flesh without actually killing people (or digging them up like Ed Gein). The Yellowjackets prop team chose to use venison (think Bambi). But, the showrunners warned,

“they’ll have to find an alternative for future episodes, because many in its cast are vegan.”

Portrayals of cannibalism, whether actual or fictional, can make some people hungry, and turn others against eating flesh.

Gutfeld points out that:

“In the mind of the NY Times, it’s probably more humane to eat a human being than an animal.”

By “animal”, Gutfeld presumably means every multicellular, eukaryotic organisms in the biological kingdom Animalia except one – Homo sapiens. We know we are a species of great ape, but spend much of our time pretending we don’t know that.

Being humane, being ethical, is largely about respect and consent. Which was precisely the defence offered by Armin Meiwes when arrested for eating a man who had made it very clear he wanted to be eaten. Cannibalism texts, in ever-increasing numbers, joyfully confound the human/animal divide, and show the human body as edible flesh. So it is not surprising that such questions will be raised, and that, as the NYT said, “that time is now.”

However, Ted Cruz, who likes cannibalism jokes as much as the next meal, came up with a brilliant two-word solution that will put people off human flesh for a considerable time:

Tomorrow I will cook him – “ARMIN MEIWES” (SKYND, 2022)

Seems to be the month for cannibal music videos. Last week we looked at the new song CANNIBAL by Marcus Mumford, directed by Steven Spielberg. A beautiful ballad about metaphoric cannibalism, the kind of cannibalism that relationships can turn into, particularly abusive ones. Mumford seems to be referring to child abuse, accusing his abuser of taking “the first slice of me and you ate it raw. Ripped it with your teeth and lips like a cannibal.”

This week’s video (the clip is at the top of this blog) is by the industrial/electronic music duo SKYND, who pioneered the true crime music genre, which presents stories based on murders and other crimes. They have previously written about the death of Elisa Lam whose body was found in a hotel cistern in LA, the manslaughter of Conrad Roy whose girlfriend sent text messages encouraging him to commit suicide, the mass suicide in Jonestown, the Columbine High School massacre, and killers such as Gary M. Heidnik and Katherine Knight.

Most of those songs weren’t about cannibals (Katherine Knight maybe, who killed and cooked her husband, although she didn’t eat him). But the song we are reviewing today retells poetically the story of one of the world’s most famous cannibals, Armin Meiwes, the German man who advertised for someone who wanted to be eaten, and then ate him.

The song starts with the repeated refrain

Let him be fat or lean, let him be fat or lean
Tomorrow I will kill him, tomorrow I will…
Let him be fat or lean, let him be fat or lean
Tomorrow I will cook him, tomorrow I will

This is a reference to the fairy tale Hänsel und Gretel, recorded by the Brothers Grimm and published in 1812. You may remember this one giving you nightmares when you were very small – two children are abandoned in a forest by their penurious parents and, on the verge of starvation, come across a gingerbread house which they proceed to chew on, only to be captured by the owner, a witch, who wishes to enslave Gretel and eat Hansel, be he fat or lean. The story was reimagined a couple of years ago as the splendid movie Gretel and Hansel.

You may also remember (at least, Fannibals will) that Hannibal Lecter referred to this fairy-tale when he was serving up dinner to Abel Gideon; Gideon’s own leg, smoked in candy apples and thyme, glazed, and served on a sugar cane quill.

Armin Meiwes advertised in 2001 on a fetish website called The Cannibal Café for “a well-built 18 to 30-year-old to be slaughtered and then consumed”. The only reply that seemed sincere, indeed eager, was from a man named Jürgen Brandes, who was not really well-built or 18-30, but Meiwes was a tolerant sort of bloke, or perhaps desperate for his first human-meat meal, so they got together and, after getting to know each other (which included slicing off Brandes’ penis and cooking it), Meiwes left his friend to bleed out in the bath, and then proceeded to butcher his carcass and eat the meat, in a variety of cuts:

Cutlets
Ham
Goulash
Steaks
Knuckles
Bacon
Portion by portion
Cator, you’re a part of me now

Forever

There is also a reference to Meiwes in the Hannibal episode “Digestivo”, when Mason Verger is planning on eating Hannibal and refers to Meiwes and Brandes eating the latter’s penis, even though it was radically overcooked.

If you want to know more about the case (for which Meiwes is still serving time), there are several excellent links on the Skynd case files website (these guys do their homework!).

Skynd said in an interview:

“When I investigated the case, I watched an interview with him. Meiwes didn’t seem like the typical beast you’d imagine when you think of a ‘cannibal.’ But then again, you might ask yourself, ‘What does a cannibal even look like?’ It’s a story that hasn’t left me for years and I feel like I have finally translated it into music.”

There are a lot of documentaries on this event, which mostly involve ominous music and hushed narratives and absurd comparisons to Hannibal Lecter. Also a movie in which their names were changed, and another one in which they weren’t given names at all.

Or you can just watch this video, which sums up the salient points rather succinctly.

Table set for tonight
Waited for this all my life
Candle lights shining bright
Pull the cork, pour the red wine
Long, big steak on my plate
Potatoes and sprouts on the side
I savor my first bite
Satisfied my appetite
.

But before the killing and eating, which Meiwes had wanted to do for most of his life (and which Brandes seemed to want just as much), there was the question of what the “livestock” industry likes to call “humane slaughter”, one of the great oxymorons of the modern world. Brandes apparently wanted to be eaten alive, feel teeth tear into his flesh, but Meiwes was more considerate – pain may be a fun sexual fantasy, but it can really hurt. So they stopped on the way home (Brandes had only bought a one-way train ticket) and bought cough medicine (BREToN, which according to Google is Tulobuterol Hydrochloride and is for “asthma exacerbation”, although the website does rather hilariously say:

Breton Syrup may also be used for purposes not listed here”

Two bottles of that, a fistful of sleeping tablets washed down with a bottle of schnapps, and Brandes was good to go. They collaboratively cut off his penis (again, it was supposed to be a tooth job, but it was too tough) and cooked it. It was inedible, and Meiwes threw it out (although an urban myth has developed that he fed it to a dog). Then Meiwes put Brandes in the bath to bleed to death and went off to read a Star Trek novel.

Pain killers, cough syrup
Sleeping pills, bottle of schnapps
Sink your teeth, chew it up
Take a knife, make a clean cut
Roast the flesh, medium heat
Add garlic, pepper and salt
Meat is too tough to eat
So I’ll feed it to the dog.

Waiting for him to bleed out
Reading Star Trek for three hours
Finally kiss him once and kill him then slaughter him like a piece of…
Like a piece of livestock
.

The clip ends with Father (the multi-instrumentalist other half of the duo) appearing as Meiwes, sitting down to have ‘an old friend for dinner’.

Of course, that is the point of this story. Farmers claim to love their animals and then send them off to a terrifying death, hung upside down with their throats cut. There is evidence that Meiwes probably witnessed the slaughter of pigs when he was a child, and found it arousing. In an interview, Meiwes said the butchering was simple:

“It was like cutting up a pig. Meat is meat.”

Meiwes was originally convicted of manslaughter, which caused an uproar in the media. His story was soon adapted in movies, and in the song Mein Tell” by Rammstein, who then faced the threat of being sued by the cannibal for plagiarism!

Meiwes’ verdict was later amended to murder, a strange decision – can you murder someone who wants to die? His simple claim in his defence was that, unlike pigs, sheep, cows, chickens and other animals, here was a willing victim who consented to, indeed demanded, his own slaughter and consumption. Is it not clearly more ethical to eat an animal who wants to be eaten, whatever the species, than one who does not?

Marcus Mumford and Steven Spielberg: CANNIBAL (2022)

Does Steven Spielberg make music videos? Well, not usually. But he whipped out his phone for this recording of a new single from Marcus Mumford (of Mumford & Sons) – his first solo venture, and the first song from his soon to be released (September 16) album called (Self-Titled). The album is produced by Blake Mills and featuring Brandie Carlile, Phoebe Bridgers, Clairo and Monica Martin.

Fans of Mumford & Sons have been perturbed to hear about Marcus’ solo album, wondering if it denotes the end of a great band, particularly considering that founding member Winston Marshall left the band in 2021 after calling controversial journalist Andy Ngo’s book Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy “brave”. But Marcus has confirmed that the band will not be disbanding and he will not be leaving, saying his solo album has the “full blessing and permission of the band”, who wrote on Instagram that:

“We are excited about the next chapter of Mumford & Sons, we’re working on what that looks like, but for now we hope you can enjoy this person, our friend, being a human being.”

Anyhow, the first song we have seen from the album is called CANNIBAL (the clip is at the top of this blog) which is lucky, as otherwise I would have had no excuse to crap on about it on this cannibalism blog. Marcus stated on his Instagram account that he had faced and danced with “demons” for a long time during COVID-19 isolation, and wrote “Cannibal” in January 21.

Rolling Stone wrote that the video was shot on July 3 in a high school gym in New York. Steven Spielberg “directed his first music video, in one shot, on his phone”.

Abby Jones on the Consequence website describes the song:

“Cannibal is a somber, rootsy tune that feels a bit like a pared-down version of Mumford & Sons’ arena-sized folk rock — that is, until around the three-minute mark, when the song transforms from an acoustic ballad into a rousing barnburner.”

The song is about the cannibalistic nature of relationships. The one described in the song appears to be complicated and toxic, arousing love and hate. For example,

I can still taste you and it kills me
That there’s still some sick part of it that thrills me
That my own body keeps betraying me
There is such power that it may destroy me, but it compels me

Camille Paglia in her controversial book Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson describes the sparagmos rite of the Dionysian cult in which the body of a god, or the animal (human or other) representing it, was torn apart and eaten raw, otherwise known as omophagy. Rending the body of the god and spreading the parts acted to inseminate the earth, so was an act of love, and Paglia suggests that oral sex retains a suggestion of omophagy – raw cannibalism.

What is this connection between love and cannibalism? Hannibal Lecter of course has an answer, pointing out (in the episode where everyone is sleeping with everyone) that

“farmers who hand-raise lambs can love them and still send them to slaughter.”

Metaphoric cannibalism, particularly in terms of affectionate or sexual imagery, is a vast topic that cannot be adequately covered here. Suffice it to quote Italo Calvino in his book Under the Jaguar Sun perfectly summed up what he called “universal cannibalism”:

“…our teeth began to move slowly, with equal rhythm, and our eyes stared into each other’s with the intensity of serpents’ — serpents concentrated in the ecstasy of swallowing each other in turn, as we were aware, in our turn, of being swallowed by the serpent that digests us all, assimilated ceaselessly in the process of ingestion and digestion, in the universal cannibalism that leaves its imprint on every amorous relationship.”

CANNIBALcould be about the challenge of living and continuing to love someone during interminable COVID isolation. But at least one review suggests it is about childhood trauma and abuse, and posts a trigger warning. If that is one of your triggers, approach with caution. Such truths are hard, sometimes impossible to talk about: “when I began to tell, it became thе hardest thing I ever said out loud. Thе words got locked in my throat.”

I can still taste you, and I hate it
That wasn’t a choice in the mind of a child and you knew it
You took the first slice of me and you ate it raw
Ripped it in with your teeth and your lips like a cannibal
You fucking animal!

Sigmund Freud wrote that the two original prohibitions of humankind are incest and cannibalism, and it sounds a lot like Marcus Mumford has definitively linked them in this piece. The song finishes with a cry of pain: “Help me know how to begin again!”

“After you’ve taken everything, what will be left?” THE FEAST (Lee Haven Jones, 2021)

First things first, and this is a first – the first time THECANNIBALGUY.COM has reviewed a Welsh film. They are not as rare as we imagine (particularly in Wales) but the fortunate coincidence of Welsh language and cannibalism has not raised its head before. Luckily, this one makes up for lost time – Dread Central called it

“a delightful, sumptuous dish from start to finish”

And that is exactly what we are served – a fancy dinner party in which the hired help, Cadi (Annes Elwy) has a lot more to offer than just laying the table and preparing the feast. The feast is to be held in the Welsh mountain home of a rich family who clearly owe their fortune to outrages against the environment. They have invited a sleazy businessman, Euros (Rhodri Meilir), who has been drilling for oil on their land.

The film opens with the contrast of the green fields (and how green is Wales!) being penetrated, raped, by a giant exploration-drilling rig. A man standing next to the machine is then seen staggering through the fields, only to collapse with blood streaming from his ears.

This is a cannibalism blog, and the cannibalism takes place near the end of the film, so I apologise for spoilers. The Feast is on Hulu or available for purchase or rent on the usual platforms, so if you’re going to watch it, and don’t like spoilers, go and watch it then come back (please) for my analysis. Then again, the Director recommends watching it several times, saying you’ll get more out of it each time. So it is not really a mystery, more a mood piece, and knowing what is going to happen may actually enhance the enjoyment of the story.

Cadi as a hired kitchen hand is the epitome of the saying “you can’t get good help anymore” taking ages to actually do any work, and getting it all wrong – she knows nothing of human etiquette. Turns out she is a nature goddess, disturbed by the drilling, taking the body of a woman who has just drowned, and she knows the humans in that house are up to no good. She is badly frightened by the sound of the father, the local (and clearly corrupt) politician, shooting rabbits. Her hands excrete mud, and she stains the pure white tablecloth she has just laid out; messy nature is invading the stark and sterile human house. When he brings the rabbits for her to skin, she flees into the fields, where one of the sons tells her that’s why his father likes to come back to Wales from Parliamentary duties in London.

The MP’s wife Glenda (Nia Roberts) takes over the skinning of the rabbits, much to Cadi’s disgust. Nature, as Tennyson told us, is red in tooth and claw, and rabbits routinely come to a sticky end by way of fox or disease or trap. But Cadi, who it seems is not too worried by bloodshed when it comes to humans, is horrified not at the slaughter and plunder, but at the use of technology to do it – guns, oil rigs. Nothing natural enters this human world, because civilisation, in its modern technological form of patriarchal capitalism, is built on the rejection of animality and domination of nature.

The man most guilty is Euros (Rhodri Meilir), an oil driller who is hoping to use the dinner party to persuade the family’s neighbours to allow drilling on their land. Euros arrives in his fancy car and admonishes Cadi for slacking off, whereupon he drops (perhaps with her magical intervention) a bottle of expensive wine. Told to clean it up, Cadi tastes the wine on the driveway and then inserts a piece of the broken bottle in her vagina, with no sign of any discomfort. This acts as a vagina dentata; she subsequently uses it to kill one of the sons by offering him sex.

He’s the one who had left medical school to prepare for a triathlon, part of his training involving eating nothing but raw meat. And he’s not the weirdest person there. Nor is his the most gruesome death.

Some people don’t like subtitles, but generally hearing the words in another language adds a dimension, a music or poetry, and this film would not have been as powerful in English, even though the patriarch is an MP who spends most of his time in London. As the Director put it,

“Our culture’s incredibly rich in terms of myths and legends.”

The film adapts various Welsh folk legends. One is the story of Blodeuwedd, who was made of flowers by two magicians in order to help their protégé, Lleu Llaw Gyffes, who’d been cursed by his mother never to take a human wife. Jones explained:

“This wizard harnessed the forces of nature and put her in a body of flesh and blood. But, of course, Blodeuwedd was very frustrated by that, and therefore decided to get her revenge. The character of Blodeuwedd is very definitely in the DNA of Cadi.”

The drilling site is called “The Rise”, a burial site that is considered sacred, although modern, rationalist people like Glenda scoff at this, claiming it was just a way to frighten children away from the fields. But Cadi is the goddess who was resting in The Rise, and they have disturbed her. She is out for revenge.

Freud wrote about the “death drive” which propels all life in the direction of death, a return to its original organic form. In The Future of an Illusion, he described how humans connect this death drive to nature, which is interpreted as the enemy of civilisation. Humanity therefore fights an unremitting war with nature, seen as the cause of the excruciating “riddle of death”, a war in which we may win every battle but, as mortals, we must lose the war.

German philosophers Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno wrote in Dialectic of Enlightenment that

“Human beings are so radically estranged from themselves and from nature that they know only how to use and harm each other.”

Humans invented the “seven deadly sins” to judge themselves and others. So now Cadi, or the goddess who controls her body, judges and executes judgement on the family according to their sins. The father represents greed (taking bribes even though he is already rich), the mother exhibits envy, trying to bully her friend, who is content being a simple farmer, into giving in to the oil company’s plans, and the sons exhibit wrath and lust (one is a drug addict who is furious with his family for confining him in the country, and the other has been fired from the hospital for raping sedated patients). Then there is Eunos, the skinny man who offers the perfect image of gluttony; the corrupt capitalist is voraciously eating everything left on their plates, his face plunged into the food, not bothering with cutlery. The mother, in a trance, butchers her son’s body and puts slices of his leg in front of the insatiable Eunos, who gobbles them down. This is the “feast” of the title, and it’s the last supper for that family.

Eunos falls into food catalepsy, and when he awakes, Glenda has a shotgun pointed into his mouth, and asks him the question that sums up the film, our society, Western civilisation and the era that has come to be called the Anthropocene.

“After you’ve taken everything, what will be left?”

The final scene of the film is a tour de force by Annes Elwy, no longer Cadi but now the goddess, covered in blood, at first smiling at her triumph, but then sinking into grief at the prospect that the war will continue until either humanity or nature (including us) is destroyed utterly.

Like Helen Mirren in The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, she is looking directly at us, the viewers, accusing us of complicity, both in the war and the cannibal feast.

The film scored a very respectable 82% on Rotten Tomatoes, meaning that four times more critics liked it than didn’t. Those who didn’t carped about it being slow in the first half, a criticism that is often levelled at movies sold as horror but offering more intelligent themes than just slasher gore. The acting is superb, the photography is stunning, particularly of the natural environment and the contrast with the stark family home, and the soundtrack is never less than interesting, and often (especially the Welsh songs) quite enchanting. Well worth seeing, and perhaps, as the Director suggests, more than once.

The Butcher of Plainfield: ED GEIN (Chuck Parello, 2000)

Ed Gein is an important figure in the study of American cannibalism, not because he ate a lot of people (we can’t be sure how many) but more for the inspiration his deviant activities furnished to some great books and movies, after his arrest and incarceration.

This film, called Ed Gein in the US and Australia and In the Light of the Moon in other markets, follows the life and crimes of the Wisconsin man who became known as “The Butcher of Plainfield”. Plainfield is a little town in Wisconsin, about forty miles from Chicago. Gein would haunt the cemetery at night to dig up corpses of recently deceased women, take them home and make all sorts of things out of their body parts. As well as chairs and lampshades covered in skin, bowls made of human skulls and belts made of nipples, ideas inspired by his fascination with Nazi atrocities, Gein would make women suits out of human skin (which inspired Jame Gumb – “Buffalo Bill” – in Silence of the Lambs) and then dress up as his Mama (which inspired the book and later hugely successful 1960 Hitchcock movie Psycho). His facemasks made out of human faces inspired the character Leatherface in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Truly a seminal figure in cannibal studies!

The plot is pretty much an accurate retelling of his hijinks, as far as anyone can tell without asking him (and he claimed he couldn’t remember anything about the murders, plus he’s dead now anyway). Ed (Steve Railsback, who had played Charles Manson several years earlier) grew up with a mother (played by Carrie Snodgress of Diary of a Mad Housewife fame) who was a vituperative fundamentalist and beat the fear of God into her children.

Ed worshipped her and thought she was a saint, and went batshit crazy when she died.

But in a tiny little town like Plainfield WI, everyone was a bit weird (the film starts with some genuine interviews of the locals, and they look even stranger than Ed). Local people thought him odd but harmless, and even employed him to babysit their kids. He seems to have had no interest in women, until the ghost of his mother appears to him in a burning bush (I kid you not, this is how much he is Biblewashed).

Meanwhile, Ed spends his nights digging up recently deceased women and souveniring their parts, particularly their lady-parts, which he has researched pretty solidly.

His house if full of his trophies: lamps made from human spines, and shrunken heads.

But what he really wants is for Mama to return from the dead. He practices on his excavated corpses to see if he can command them to “AWAKE – AND ARISE!” and one seems to turn her head, but by now we are deep in his psychosis. He visits his mother’s grave and begs her to return.

He reads books about head-hunters, Nazis, and even the pulp detective comics that he used to get into trouble for wanking to in his younger days.

There are flashbacks to those younger days, including the funeral of his brother (whom, the movie tells us, he killed, which may also be true). Ed hugs his Mama, telling her it’s just the two of them now, but she pushes him away, feeling his overenthusiastic erection. Ed is a sinner, and he needs his saint.

So anyway, Mama’s ghost tells him that the women of the town are all sinners, whores, and he must visit God’s judgement upon them, then she will be able to return to him. Pretty clear to us, the audience, that he is having psychotic delusions, but to him it’s all very real, so he heads off to shoot, kidnap and eventually fillet and cook two of the townswomen – the one that runs the bar in town and the one that runs the general store. He also collects mementos like noses and breasts, and he particularly likes vulvas.

The rest of the bodies are not wasted either.

He has no neighbours within screaming distance, so he can get up to whatever he wants, including dancing in the moonlight in what Hannibal would call a “vest with tits”.

But bloodshed is not really his thing (even though he killed his brother, but that was for insulting their mom). The men of the town go off hunting deer as soon as the season starts, but Ed tells one of his prospective victims that he hates hunting.

But Mama has other ideas, and it’s clear that Ed has learnt, as a good Wisconsin carnophallogocentric man, how to dress a carcass. The men of the town are spending their nights inculpably slitting open harmless ruminant mammals of the family Cervidae, but are shocked and nauseated when the carcass in Ed’s basement turns out to be of another species. The word “butcher” has dual meanings – the butchers of Plainfield are horrified by activities of the “Butcher of Plainfield”. Put a capital B on the word butcher and it moves from blameless to shocking. But it’s hard not to notice that, until his psychotic delusions of mother take over, poor Ed is doing what everyone else is doing, but he’s doing it to dead bodies rather than living white-tailed deer.

Once the cops finally accept that Ed is not a harmless eccentric, they find lots of interesting things in his house.

This was a huge story in 1957!

So that’s Ed, our modern, domestic cannibal – a man (usually) who seems a bit odd but, everyone thinks, is apparently harmless. Think of the big names of modern cannibalism – Albert Fish, a sweet old man who took ten-year-old Grace Budd off to a purported children’s party, but really took her home for his dinner. Jeffrey Dahmer, who took young men home for photography and sex but then drugged them, drilled holes in their heads and ate parts of them. Armin Meiwes, who advertised on the Internet for someone who wanted to be eaten, and ate the successful applicant. Issei Sagawa, who shot a fellow grad student at the Sorbonne because he wanted to have sex with her corpse and then eat bits of her. Each of them were described by their neighbours as either “normal” or a bit odd but harmless.

Chuck Parello and Steve Railsback won Best Film and Best Actor respectively at the 2000 Sitges Film Festival, one of the leading festivals featuring horror and fantasy films. But the film scored a wretched 10% on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics calling it “dry and dull.” I beg to differ. Ed is played as dull, because he appeared to be so, right up until he imagines Mama riling him up to declare war on loose women. His dullness and misapprehension of social and religious conventions that are usually unquestioned, is the whole point of the film, and the two main actors, Steve Railsback as Ed and Carrie Snodgrass as Mama, do a superb and convincing job. The slow, rural pace makes the sudden appearance of violence and body parts all the more shocking, and there’s plenty of both. The deaths when they happen are slow and wretched, as they would no doubt be in real life. There’s a surprising amount of suspense, the soundtrack admittedly is incredibly annoying, but other than that it’s a pretty great cannibal film, with lots of interesting philosophical questions to chew on.

Is Anne Hathaway a cannibal?

The short answer, as far as anyone who knows anything about it knows, is NO.

The long answer is still no, but involves a Twitter experiment, which turned into a viral storm.

It started on Saturday, June 25, when a fan posted a picture of Anne Hathaway (below) from Elle France magazine. When I last checked, this post had over 300,000 likes, 23,000 retweets and 4,600 quote tweets.

That’s where it got complicated, because while most of the comments declared undying love for her, one of the quote tweets, from a user named hotpriestt, stated 

“every tweet about anne hathaway going viral like police didn’t find human remains and evidence of cannibalism in her LA home that she sold in 2013”

The original quote tweet was later deleted, but others have since tweeted the same, rather confusing, text.

This understandably caused some consternation, since we are all sure that everything printed on the Internet generally, and Twitter in particular, is invariably true.

One tweeter demanded: SHOW PROOF, to which the original tweeter replied with a picture of the supposed house in which the purported cannibalism had taken place. Not sure that evidence would stand up in a court of law as proof, but apparently it was pretty convincing for some Twitter users.

Some thought that the fact she never seems to get any older indicates that she is eating human flesh, or at least bathing in the blood of virgins like Elizabeth Báthory. Or else eating human fetuses, like Mrs Li in Dumplings.

One Hathaway fan declared that she “doesn’t look like” she had eaten people. Another replied:

“What are you meant to look like when u eat people?”

After leaving this internationally important debate to brew for a few hours, the tweet’s author returned to Twitter on June 26 to say:

Harvard University has provided no information to the media regarding this purported study, or any evidence that Anne Hathaway has any connection to cannibalism, and it seems unlikely that a University would involve itself in a study that sounds decidedly defamatory. Meanwhile, the user who posted the viral tweet cancelled their Twitter account.

So it was, amazingly, all a fake. One Twitter user admitted to having spent “15 minutes googling this shit.” Another admitted:

There’s a moral there somewhere.

Hathaway does have some odd eating habits though. She went vegan in 2011, not for ethical reasons but to lose weight for the role of Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises. She kept it up until a dinner with Matt Damon during the filming of Interstellar in 2014, when she tried some fish and “my brain felt like a computer rebooting”.

That statement of course is somewhere between wishful thinking and deliberate obfuscation. She felt like fish and ate it without qualms, because she had not gone vegan in order to spare fish or other sentient animals from the agony of being farmed and killed, but simply for her own appearance. The idea that anything other than drugs can instantly affect the brain before even being digested, let alone distributed to the cells of the body, is absolute bullshit (which is also not vegan). To me, the fish story is the silliest untruth of this blog, more so than the cannibalism story.

 Hathaway went vegan again recently (raw vegan this time) to prepare for the role of Rebekah Neumann in the new series We Crashed, which premiered on Apple TV+ in March 2022. That didn’t stick either, and she is reportedly back on burgers.

So. Anne Hathaway is not a cannibal, in that she doesn’t knowingly eat human flesh. She is a mammal eating mammalian flesh though, so I guess that makes her (like most people) a kind of cannibal.

And after all, who knows what was in that burger?

“Drowning in a river of blood”, SON (Ivan Kavanagh, 2021)

Children as cannibals seems to be the fashion, with fans of Timothée Chalamet waiting impatiently for the new cannibal romance movie Bones and All due towards the end of 2022 (maybe). Chalamet teams up with Taylor Russell, who plays a girl that has been a cannibal since she grew her first teeth. Yeah, I read the book, but no spoilers here. A couple of weeks ago, we looked at the movie It’s Alive, which featured a man- (and woman-) eating newborn baby. Combine that hungry little fella with the cannibal kids in The Girl With All the Gifts and some baffled doctors in Rosemary’s Baby or The Exorcist or The Omen and we get this little boy named David (Luke David Blumm from The Sinner), who is a sweet little boy, except that he kills and eats people.

His mother, Laura (Andi Matichak from Halloween) kicks off the movie as she escapes from a religious cult, hugely pregnant, and gives birth in her car as a King Lear level storm rages outside. Yes, there be some devil work afoot – those demons love a young virgin. Or is she escaping extreme sexual abuse? Or is she chronically delusional?

Eight years later, Laura and David are a happy, well-adjusted family of two, until one night she goes into David’s room and there are a whole bunch of people standing around his bed, which she is not happy about – has the cult come back for David? He seems OK, though, with the normal hopes and dreams of an eight-year-old boy.

The cops think she’s crazy, except for Paul (Emile Hirsch from Into The Wild) who seems to have no police work to do other than sympathise with Laura. David starts having seizures, skin irruptions and internal bleeding, which the doctors are baffled by, as they normally are in this genre. Some of them seem to be in cahoots with the cult members who want not Laura, but David. The cult’s slogan is “HE IS COMING”. It turns up, written in blood, all over the place.

There is only one thing that makes David feel better – a nice dose of human body parts. Not a cure exactly, but it seems to clear up the crusty sores and vomiting of blood very nicely. Laura escapes the hospital with David when she figures the doctors are all involved in the cult, and flees to the home of her friend Susan. She leaves David with Susan while she gets a few essentials from home, but when she comes back, David is feeling much better, and Susan much worse. Yes, some fresh human flesh is a great aid to healing, apparently.

And so it goes. Laura washes David down in the shower and subsequently listens to his entreaties (“It hurts, mom!”) and his threats (“Get me some fuckin’ food, you bitch!”).

But eventually, she does what any good mother would do when faced with a hungry child – she finds him some food. But not just, you know, anyone; like Hannibal who prefers to eat rude people, or Sheila from Santa Clarita Diet who wants to eat “someone bad, who deserves it… the prototype would be a young, single Hitler”, Laura sees a very nasty pimp beating up one of his girls, and decides to invite him around for dinner.

Of course, one of the worst parts of being a parent is cleaning up after dinner.

So it’s a cannibal mystery. Laura is really named Anna and, according to the newspapers of the time, she was repeatedly raped by her father and a whole lot of men to whom he sold her from the age of ten. A paedophile cult!

If you can’t accuse someone of being a cannibal, call them a paedophile. But her childhood friend, who admittedly is now a hopeless junkie, tells her that in reality her father didn’t touch her; she was sacred.

The cult would torture and kill animals in her bedroom then force her to chant a spell to summon a demon named Palystes (fun fact, that is not the name of a demon but of a spider) who would rape her and, yep, get her with child. Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen for a new century, a new, improved version, now with cannibalism. Her shrink (retired) tells the police, who are interested in talking to her about the hollowed out friend Susan, that she is psychotic and imagined the whole cult thing. The cops, even Paul who’s really into her, decide she is having a psychotic episode and is the one killing and dismembering people.

Well, it’s a new movie and you might want to catch it, so no spoilers (although so many reviewers say the ending is obvious). The directing by Irish filmmaker Ivan Kavanagh is sure footed, the Irish certainly know their way around devils and the children of supernatural beings. The actors are great, particularly Andi Matichak as Laura and Luke David Blumm as the junior cannibal, the plot rolls along well and if the continuity is a bit jumpy, well, that’s part of the psychotic story arc. For those who like that sort of thing, there is a LOT of gore, and having a cute little boy doing the killing and eating is a nice touch. Although why no one believes a little boy could be a cannibal killer baffles me. I was a little boy once, and I wouldn’t put anything past the kids I knew.

Son scored a respectable 76% “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes, with the Los Angeles Times calling it “an amped-up version of everyday parental paranoia” and the San Jose Mercury News saying “it’s engrossing and well-made, but you’ll need a strong stomach to get through it”.

Son asks some interesting questions about trauma, believing victims but also questioning false memories, fear of the past and vengeance. It also reminded me of people who are shocked at cannibalism movies, but even more shocked at vegans who, they complain, are neglecting their children by not feeding them meat. David has no such problems in this movie. As Hannibal would say, “nothing here is vegetarian”.

“Reports of widespread cannibalism” – NO BLADE OF GRASS (Cornell Wilde, 1970)

Cities are locked down, citizens are trying to escape from a deadly virus, food is rationed, rumours abound of dark government plots to kill off sections of the population. No, it’s not a COVID-19 movie but a speculative fiction film from over fifty years ago. From the trailer (above):

“Mankind destroyed what made most of the world liveable. Nature – wounded, diseased, and enraged – took revenge on her murderers. She cut off their food supply, and then waited, while they consumed each other.”

Yes, it’s a cannibal film based on a cannibal book, and its premise is the human war against nature, the way victory inevitably turns into defeat, and then perhaps extinction. The book it was based on, The Death of Grass by John Christopher, came out in 1956, which makes it quite prescient, and a bit of a shame more people didn’t read it back then, when carbon dioxide levels were 314 parts per million, compared to today’s 422ppm. Here’s a quote from that book:

“…he could no longer believe that there would be any last-minute reprieve for mankind. First China, and then the rest of Asia, and now Europe. The others would fall in their turn, incredulous, it might be, to the end. Nature was wiping a cloth across the slate of human history, leaving it empty for the pathetic scrawls of those few who, here and there over the face of the globe, would survive.”

Those who did take it seriously were film-makers like Ray Milland, who made Panic in Year Zero! in 1962 with a very similar plot, and this one, No Blade of Grass, an adaptation of Christopher’s book made by the acclaimed American actor turned director Cornell Wilde, whose 1965 film The Naked Prey was in many ways a forerunner of the Italian “Cannibal Boom” films of the 1970s and 1980s.

The film, set in the UK, starts with scenes of environmental destruction, as did its more famous American rival Soylent Green three years later. Soylent Green specifically nominated global warming as the cause of the collapse of the food system, due to the human population peaking in a way Thomas Malthus might have found terrifying.

In No Blade of Grass, it’s a virus sweeping the globe (right up to date, again); this one is killing all the grasses, including wheat, oats, barley, rye and rice, the food staples, without which the human species (and many other animals) will starve. We’re already getting a taste of this, as discussed in last week’s blog, with the blockade of Ukraine, the grains from which make up a majority of the food supplies for some of the poorer countries.

Of course, that is ‘over there’ and while we can feel sorry for the starving masses, we also have remote controls so we can turn off the sad news and enjoy our dinners. Just so, in this film we get unsubtle examples of starving children, interposed with rich, entitled, white British folks scoffing their roast beef and looking superior as they hear the news from overseas where, we are told, 600 million people have died of starvation, and the Chinese government is using nerve gas to kill 300 million of their own citizens to keep the state from total anarchy. The news continues:

“In the countries which no longer have any form of government, there are reports of widespread cannibalism.”

But even the comfortably bourgeois patriarch John Custance (Nigel Davenport) is making plans, in his light-hearted, Pythonesque way, to take his family up to visit his brother in the country. Do come along, old boy, he tells his daughter’s boyfriend, a scientist who has insider knowledge of what’s going to happen, because:

Anarchy breaks out in London and major cities. Fighting their way out of London, John and his family adopt the savagery of the collapsing society, robbing and killing those who stand in their way.

The car is stopped and John is knocked unconscious, while his wife (Jean Wallace, Cornel Wilde’s wife and frequent collaborator) and daughter (Lynne Frederick, later to be the last of the many wives of Peter Sellers) are raped. This rape scene, not the famine and cannibalism, turned out to be the controversial part of the movie, since Lynne Frederick was only 15 at the time. Nevertheless, Michael never loses his eyepatch or his cool or his alpha masculinity, while the women mostly do what they are told, and their hair remains perfectly coiffed.

A short-wave radio news bulletin reports:

“All the evidence indicates that France, Germany, Italy, in fact all of Western Europe along with a major part of Asia, South America and Africa have ceased to exist as part of the civilised world. In the midst of complete anarchy, and mass starvation, the horrors of cannibalism are already widespread.”

Only America and Canada are left, in the words of the US President, to “survive and preserve… the heritage of man’s greatness.”

When they finally arrive at John’s brother’s farm after a battle with a bikie gang that seems to owe more to the early Western than to science fiction, they have collected a whole lot of salt-of-the-earth farmers, whom the brother is not pleased to see, as he doesn’t want to feed them. The final showdown is therefore a modern iteration of Cain and Abel – the battle of the brothers.

The really odd thing about this cannibal film is that, while we witness the descent of civilised British gentlefolk into savagery, we never see any actual cannibalism. We hear a lot about it occurring in other countries, and speculation about it being about to happen at home, but the British seem to find each other particularly unappetising.

Cornell Wilde was an activist director, intent on convincing his audiences that the world was going pear-shaped in a hurry, and he was not big on subtlety. Unfortunately, the audience expects not just social commentary but also entertainment, and despite a lot of shooting and explosions and murders and rapes, the film suffered from some wooden dialogue and irritating flash-forwards which extinguished any suspense. The film received a desultory score of just 40% on Rotten Tomatoes.

No Blade of Grass is over fifty years old, which doesn’t excuse but partly explains the overt sexism, classism and racism that it addresses while also often seeming to endorse. Yet the film’s environmental theme is even more current today than it was on its release fifty years ago. Pollution is killing off agriculture, the water is contaminated and unfit for drinking, animals are dying out everywhere. The two little boys in the car even mention global warming, years before most of us had heard of it.

When COVID hit in 2020, people queued for food and water and guns and (most urgently) toilet paper, and there was much talk of famine, the breakdown of social order and, inevitably, the rise of cannibalism, just as we see in this film (although being British, they never discuss or seemingly require toilet paper). With no grains and no domesticated animals, people naturally turn to the only available meat, that which grows on the ape called Homo sapiens. But fifty years on, we don’t seem to have learnt anything from such speculations.

The film ends with a narrator announcing:

“This motion picture is not a documentary; but it could be.”

Indeed.

Cannibalism News – IS THE UK ABOUT TO GO CANNIBAL?

If you have been in a shop recently, you will probably have noticed that a lot of shelves are empty, and what is there seems to have increased dramatically in price. Not just your normal inflation, this is part of a world-wide shortage of lots of things, but particularly food.

A major part of the problem is that the Ukraine is unable to ship wheat and cooking oils out of its main ports, due to Russia’s blockade. Lockdowns in China are also causing serious disruptions to supply chains.

The Governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, warned on May 17 that is the world should brace for serious food price rises. He added soothingly

“Sorry for being apocalyptic, but that is a major concern.”

In a column for The Sunday TimesJeremy Clarkson, who knows a thing or two about prices (of cars anyway) stated

“I don’t pretend to be an expert in geopolitics any more than I pretend to be a farmer, but I really think the world has slipped into a pair of margarine trousers and is now hurtling down a well-watered slide into the pit of hunger, misery and death… Politicians say they are ‘monitoring the situation’, which means they aren’t doing anything at all, but one day they will have to because while people can live without heat or clothing or even sex, they cannot live without food. 
Hunger makes people eat their neighbours.”

The Guardian reports that around forty countries rely on Russia and Ukraine for more than half of their wheat imports, and some of those countries, such as Syria, Yemen, and Somalia, are among the poorest and most vulnerable in the world. 

Well, the Russians were glad to hear Clarkson, who they seem to imagine is one of the UK’s most respected commentators, warning about the consequences of aiding the Ukraine in its battles against the Russian army. TsargradTV – which is owned by Vladimir Putin-supporter Konstantin Malofeev – has used Clarkson’s comment in an article headed:

“Cold, Hunger, Cannibalism: London fell into its own Ukrainian pit”

The article was accompanied by a vision of a future London – two cavemen peering through some Union Jack flags.

If you needed any further proof that politics is just a slightly more polite form of cannibalism, another article earlier in the year reported that the former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, had (before the invasion began),  advised President Volodymyr Zelensky not to hold direct talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

 “If Vladimir Zelensky starts negotiating independently with Vladimir Putin, he will eat him for breakfast.”

Maybe THAT will ameliorate the food shortages a bit.

Talking of food shortages and cannibalism, next week’s film review blog concerns just that. The 1970 film No Blade of Grass is set during a world-wide famine caused by a viral disease which destroys all grasses, including wheat, rice and maize. Like Soylent Green, made only a few years later, it posits a near future of too many people and not enough food, and the answer to that seems, well, obvious.

Food for thought?

THE UTAH CANNIBALS – Satanic Panic in Utah County

While we’re talking cannibalism investigations (it’s what we do on this blog), we’ve now got the Utah County Attorney going public to deny accusations that he and his wife are cannibals.

Here’s how it went down.

On June 1, the Utah County Sheriff’s Office (UCSO) sent a media release stating that:

Special Victims Unit Detectives and investigators from multiple county and federal agencies are investigating reports of ritualistic child sexual abuse from as far back as 1990.

The statement specified investigations into child sexual abuse and child sex trafficking that occurred in Utah County, Juab County, and Sanpete County between 1990 and 2010.

Sgt. Spencer Cannon with the UCSO stated that:

“We have gotten to the point where we believe we have been able to verify some of the information that we’ve been told.”

The Utah County Attorney, David Leavitt, held a press conference that day, calling for the resignation of Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith and for an investigation into his activities for misuse of taxpayer and county resources. He said that he had been wrongly accused of cannibalism, as well as the murder of small children.

Leavitt said that he had been provided a copy of an alleged witness statement from a person he called a “tragically mentally ill woman.”

“And for the first time in the reportedly 15 or 20 years since the report was given, I learned that my wife and I were part of those allegations, alleging that we were guilty of cannibalizing young children.”

Leavitt says the woman in question made sex abuse claims against 15 to 20 people before he was ever in office in Utah County. That case was dismissed, he said, because the allegations were deemed not credible by the special victims unit. He called the allegations “ludicrous” and “outlandish” and a “pack of lies.”

When asked whether Leavitt is a subject of that investigation, the sheriff responded: “We don’t talk about who is under investigation.”

But Leavitt insisted that the report names him. He believed the timing of the announcement from the sheriff’s office was suspicious, since Leavitt is running for re-election — and ballots are expected to go out next week.

“I am calling upon Sheriff Mike Smith to open his office to an outside investigation,” Leavitt said, “where outside, independent investigators are able to investigate and confirm or deny that documents from a debunked investigation from more than a decade ago were or were not used for political purposes in a Utah County Attorney’s race.”

Sheriff Smith said he won’t resign, and he doesn’t apologize for using county resources on the investigation. He stressed that this “was not a politically motivated investigation,” and that a year ago his office was contacted by people reporting crimes that were similar in nature to those brought up by Leavitt.

“Leavitt,” said Sheriff Smith, “is using his authority and his pulpit to bully, distract, and mischaracterize the facts of an ongoing investigation.”

The sheriff emphasized that while Leavitt focused on accusations of “cannibalism”, the primary investigation involves sexual abuse.

The only forum where Leavitt is publicly alleged to have been involved with the sex ring is purportedly published online by a man who Leavitt’s office is prosecuting for a 2008 rape case. Prosecutors allege that the man faked his death in the United States, and is now living in Scotland under a different name. He has denied, through his attorney, that he is the person prosecutors allege he is.

That website claims that County Sheriff Sgt. Spencer Cannon confirmed that Leavitt was the head of a “widespread ritual sex abuse ring in Utah.” Cannon said Wednesday that he spoke to the man, but never confirmed to him that Leavitt or any other specific persons were suspected.

Conspiracy theories are not a new phenomenon, and they have often involved cannibalism, often in the form of drinking blood, such as the blood libel accusations levelled at Jews during the Middle Ages, and resurfacing in the development of antisemitic movements from the nineteenth century until the Nazis, and even present day.

Since the 1980s, accusations of “ritual sex abuse” have been rife in the United States, and in Utah in particular. The US has seen over 12,000 alleged cases of satanic ritual abuse, leading to the coining of a new term: SATANIC PANIC. Satanic cults were said to have engaged in bizarre sexual acts such as necrophilia, forced ingestion of semen, blood and faeces, cannibalism, orgies, liturgical parody such as pseudo-sacramental use of faeces and urine; infanticide, sacrificial abortions to eat fetuses, and human sacrifice. Accusations of Satanic groups engaging in torture and cannibalism of children were extensively made during recent US elections. The event called “#Pizzagate” arose from QAnon claims that Democrats were torturing and killing children in the basement of a (basementless) pizza shop in Washington DC, following which a dude with a rifle entered the shop to save the supposed victims.

Proponents of the conspiracy theory #Frazzledrip believe that a video is circulating showing Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin, a former aide, ripping off a child’s face and wearing it as a mask before drinking the child’s blood in a satanic ritual sacrifice. Supposedly, the video was later found on the hard drive of Abedin’s former husband, Anthony Weiner, under the code name ‘Frazzledrip’. Snopes found the whole thing to be a giant fake.

Looking forward to hearing new and, hopefully, more original cannibalism stories in the mid-terms!