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The Right Wing Art Degree Context Of Dawn Perlmutter’s “Expert” Testimony About Ritual Murder

Yesterday, I described the huge gulf between wild assertions being made of a blue moon Wiccan ritual murder down in Pensacola, Florida and the actual facts that are publicly known about the case of the killing last week of Voncile Smith and her sons Richard and John. Police are saying that they believe the crime is a ritual murder because:

– the murder took place during the same week as a blue moon… but three days before the blue moon. On the same day, tools were reported stolen from a shed on Hilton Head Island. Are we to believe that this was a case of ritual tool theft?
– the killings were done with a gun, a hammer, and a blade of some kind the cutting the victims’ throats… but since when are hammers and guns parts of Wiccan ritual assemblages, and are we to believe that every cutthroat is a Wiccan?
– the position that the bodies were found in, details of which have not been released to the public.

Today, Allie Conti, a writer for the web site Vice.com wrote an article in which she interviewed “Dawn Perlmutter, an expert on ritual killings”. Perlmutter told Conti, “These ritual murders happen a lot more than people realize. I guarantee if that sheriff is saying it’s a ritualistic killing, he has good reason for saying that. They know enough to know if a body’s been positioned a certain way. I’m sure that the sheriff has good reason to call it a ritual killing, and I doubt very much he would be exploiting that case in any way whatsoever.”

That’s a very confident statement for someone to make about a criminal case that so far is distinguished by the discrepancies between allegations and the available evidence. This confidence led me to wonder: Just who is this Dawn Perlmutter? What kind of education and training has she received that makes her so confident in declaring that the murders in Pensacola last week were ritual killings?

One thing we know is that Dawn Perlmutter has not herself been to the crime scene in Pensacola. So how can she be so sure that the murder is a ritual killing?

I looked up Dawn Perlmutter’s background. It wasn’t a quick and easy search, because Perlmutter has placed a large number of short profiles about herself online, and these blurbs don’t provide many specific about what she has actually accomplished. It seems clear that Perlmutter tried to establish a little consulting business operating under the name The Institute for the Research of Organized & Ritual Violence, and then under the name Symbol Intel, specializing in “the research, analysis and investigation of symbolic and ritualistic crime”. It’s also fairly clear that the consulting didn’t go very well. The web sites for these businesses limped along for a while, and have now gone defunct. Still, Perlmutter keeps publishing articles as if she is an established expert in her field.

Upon what, exactly, is that expertise based?

dawn perlmutter ritual murder expertDawn Perlmutter is fond of describing herself as having a “Doctor of Philosophy” degree from New York University. What she doesn’t like to admit is that her PhD was not in forensics, or criminal justice, or anthropology, or religious studies, but from the Department of Art and Art Professions. She describes herself as having a “master’s degree from American University”, but doesn’t share with her audience that her degree from American University was a Master of Fine Arts degree – the kind of degree that teaches you how to make art.

In short, Dawn Perlmutter has none of the academic education or professional training required to understand a crime scene. She may have done some reading on the use of ritual theory in art, but that is not at all the same thing as understanding the workings of ritual in a religious setting, much less in a criminal setting. If Dawn Perlmutter is considered to be an “expert on ritual killings” by some people, it’s because she promotes herself as such, not because she has any actual expertise in the matter.

This practice of asserting false expertise in identifying ritual murders is nothing new. In his book Satanic Panic, Jeffrey S. Victor identified others, in the 1980s, who represented themselves to the police as experts in Satanic ritual killings, when in fact, they didn’t really know very much about Satanism, about ritual, or about crime. The consequences of their hollow certainty was serious. Innocent people were sent to prison for long periods of time, convicted of Satanic ritual abuse that never actually happened, only to be exonerated years later, after the modern day witch hunt faded away.

Back in the 1980s, those who whipped up false stories about widespread Satanic ritual crimes were motivated by a confluence of religious and political zeal. The same appears to be true of Dawn Perlmutter.

Perlmutter doesn’t only write about alleged ritual killings. She also launches herself onto the public stage – almost exclusively in pro-Republican media, to champion right wing ideology. To understand where Perlmutter’s interest in ritual leads her, consider her comments about what she sees as an unjustified sanctification of Michael Brown, a young African-American man who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

Perlmutter seems to approve of the killing in this case. The unacceptable ritualism, in her opinion, came from protesters who demonstrated against the killing. She writes, “The quintessential symbol of the Ferguson incident is ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ which is both a hand sign and a symbol. It has become the protest meme for Ferguson and has been extremely effective in perpetuating the national myth that Michael Brown had his arms up surrendering when he was shot by Officer Wilson. This lie was essential to the legend that transformed Michael Brown from a felon to a folk saint. Hands Up, Don’t Shoot is the emblem of black victimhood and racist cops. Everyone from small children to the elderly, from Rams football players to members of congress have raised their arms making the gesture to demonstrate their solidarity with Michael Brown and the protesters in Ferguson. The gesture has become a rallying cry for this new anti-police movement. It will soon escalate to a sacred ritual practice in the veneration of the new saint Michael Brown.”

This kind of zealous right wing anger is typical for Dawn Perlmutter. She appears in the habit of complaining about liberals and working with right wing media outlets like Fox News and the Washington Times, where she is quoted talking about the political agenda of her symbolic services, saying, “We’re trying to get things out that, because of political correctness, are not allowed to go out.” Of course, Dawn Perlmutter’s right wing ideas are allowed to “to go out”. Her opinions are extreme, but they’ve been put in print and on-screen many times.

She has appeared, for instance, as a guest on the YouTube channel of Jamie Glazov, the author of a book with the title United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror. Glazov is also editor of FrontPage, a web site where Perlmutter’s words have been published amid articles with titles such as Obama Is A Traitor, It’s A No Brainer and Obama Alters Pledge Of Allegiance In Compliance With Islamic Law. Perlmutter herself asserts that the United States is now in the middle of a centuries-old holy war against Islam, and writes that to deny this obvious truth is to put our country at risk.

It’s possible, of course, that the murderer in Pensacola is a Wiccan. It’s also possible, though, that the murderer is a Sufi, or a Muslim, or a Christian, or a Buddhist, or a Rastafarian, or an atheist. I don’t know. If anyone does know who the murderer is, and what motivated the killings, they aren’t talking.

For anyone to claim that they know for sure something about this crime, when they haven’t seen the evidence themselves, in order to exploit the murder to support their political and religious ideology, is cruel and dishonest.

7 thoughts on “The Right Wing Art Degree Context Of Dawn Perlmutter’s “Expert” Testimony About Ritual Murder”

  1. Larry says:

    Ultra conservative wingnut!

  2. ella says:

    I read an article today that said investigators have found it to be a ritual killing. The killer laid in wait for his victims. He has been identified.

  3. Peregrin Wood says:

    Really, Ella. That’s interesting.

    Where did you read that article?

    The last article that the Pensacola newspaper features about the case was from 5 days ago. The paper fell silent all of a sudden when the witchcraft ritual killing angle didn’t pan out.

    There are no new articles on the Google News search engine either.

    The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, which has taken charge of the case, has no new press releases indicating anything about the case. The office released the following statement four days ago: “The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office is awaiting the return of lab analysis on evidence obtained at the scene of the triple homicide and other executed search warrants. Until then, no further information will be released. All media outlets will be advised in sufficient time for them to participate in further briefings.”

    But, then, you read an article today saying that investigators have found it to be a ritual killing, and the killer has been identified. My goodness, they get done with their criminal trials quickly down there in Pensacola.

    Would you mind providing a link to that article you read today, so that I can read it too, Ella?

    In an authentic update to this story, another body has been found, not far from where Voncile Smith and her two sons were found murdered. In the case of this body, there are definitive signs of ritual killing. More on this new development tomorrow morning.

    1. J Clifford says:

      Look at the sudden silence from news media once it became clear that the ritual wiccan blue moon angle was nonsense

      Here’s the pattern in articles on this story from journalists. They spread the sensationalistic rumors started by Sheriff David Morgan about blue moon ritual wiccan murder, but then, when the story didn’t pan out, they went silent.

      Note that the journalists didn’t write about how the ritual killing allegations were a load of hooey. They just fell silent, keeping alive the false impression that the allegations were credible.

      There is no new news story about catching a “guy” in this case, Ella.

  4. Peregrin Wood says:

    Really, Ella. That’s interesting.

    Where did you read that article?

    The last article that the Pensacola features about the case was from 5 days ago. The paper fell silent all of a sudden when the witchcraft ritual killing angle didn’t pan out.

    There are no articles on the Google News search engine either.

    The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, which has taken charge of the case, has no new press releases indicating anything about the case. The office released the following statement four days ago: “The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office is awaiting the return of lab analysis on evidence obtained at the scene of the triple homicide and other executed search warrants. Until then, no further information will be released. All media outlets will be advised in sufficient time for them to participate in further briefings.”

    But, then, you read an article today saying that investigators have found it to be a ritual killing, and the killer has been identified. My goodness, they get done with their criminal trials quickly down there in Pensacola.

    Would you mind providing a link to that article you read today, so that I can read it too, Ella?

    In an authentic update to this story, another body has been found, not far from where Voncile Smith and her two sons were found murdered. In the case of this body, there are definitive signs of ritual killing. More on this story tomorrow morning.

  5. Jim Cook says:

    Yeah, I agree with Peregrin. The most recent news article on the subject I can find is an analysis labeling the proclamations to be a case of overhyped moral panic: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/08/06/satanic-panic-strikes-after-gory-florida-murders.html .

  6. Susan Oldberg Hinton says:

    Have you reported all this to the Vidocq Society, whose latest newsletter promotes two problematic Perlmutter articles at FrontPage dealing with race? Thank you for several very helpful paragraphs making her right wing bias clear, which I found after the 2 Vidocq articles there raised red flags…. hadn’t seen the FP pieces you indicate here as totally anti-Obama disrespect but not surprised to learn of their presence.

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