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 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.