The strange story of how a Satanic Panic conspiracy theory about the lauded artist has re-emerged in the wake of a Microsoft promotional film.
You have to hand it to the far right – despite stiff competition, they can still wipe the floor with the looney left when it comes to groundless accusations and insane campaigns to cancel people. After all, they do it with a religious conviction and a level of psychopathy that the most irate social justice warrior can only look at with envy.
Take the thoroughly demented campaign against artist Marina Abramović that has been running since 2016, and has reared its ugly head again in the last few days. We’re not, in truth, huge fans of Abramović – we think her talent for self-publicity arguably outdoes her talent as an artist – but we can, nevertheless, understand her significance as a cultural figure. Her appearance in a Microsoft commercial for the HoloLens headset, as part of what the company called – with some irony, as it turned out – the promotion of “performance art without boundaries.” Unfortunately for Microsoft – and much more unfortunately for Abramović, I imagine – this raised the ire of the lunatic fringe of the far right, the sort of people who get their take on the world from InfoWars. Why? Okay, deep breath here, we’re heading deep into the crazy…
In 2016, the emails of Hilary Clinton’s former campaign chairman, John Podesta, were hacked and made public. Among the emails was an invite, forwarded by John’s brother, art collector Tony Podesta, from Abramović to people who had given over $10,000 to her Kickstarter campaign for an art institute that never came to fruition. Ten grand is no small amount to piss away on a non-existent institute, and so as compensation, donors were invited to attend an intimate dinner party with Abramović, called Spirit Cooking with Marina Abramović. The event’s name was a play on a series of 1990s performances where she used pig’s blood to write slogans on the walls of museums. Edgy stuff. Anyway, ten well-heeled guests turned up for what was, by all accounts, a very ordinary dinner that didn’t even have any black pudding on the menu.
Nevertheless, InfoWars’ Alex Jones – a man whose own lawyers admit is a performance artist who doesn’t mean what he says, but is nevertheless adored and believed by a swathe of the mentally unstable – used these dubious connections to call Abramović “a luciferian”. A Satanist by any other description, and not, we suspect, a non-theistic sort. No, Jones and his followers are ardent believers in the baby-eating Satanic cults of old, and immediately, the InfoWars followers were extrapolating a dinner invitation with a somewhat hippyish name into a “bizarre Satanic ritual” and a “sex cult with connections to human trafficking” – which seems quite a leap in assumptions, even if Abramović actually was a Satanist.
Nutty conspiracy theories like this – where someone makes up a whole lot of something out of a lot of nothing – spark and burn from the mainstream consciousness within a few days, but for believers, they are something that is continually discussed and added to. For years. And so when Abramović finally did something that brought her to the attention of the sort of person who might not have noticed press releases about her upcoming Royal Academy show, all hell (so to speak) broke loose. The Microsoft ad received some 24,000 ‘thumbs down’ on YouTube, as the lunatics on the internet rallied to post on social media about how Bill Gates was promoting his cannibal Satanist friend, and how this proved that his current dedication towards finding a vaccine for Covid-19 was nothing more than a global Satanic mind-control plan.
Anyway, so far, so crazy. Just another day on social media. But what Microsoft did next is staggering. They pulled the ad. They’re being tight-lipped about their reasons, but the connection seems hard to refute. Consider this – Microsoft has pulled a video featuring a globally acclaimed artist because the sort of people who already think that they are planning a mind-control programme were outraged by it, and have refused to explain why. God damn, guys, did you think this through?
As the Left continually attack all aspects of free speech and attempt to shut down voices of dissent, it’s easy to forget that the right can be every bit as oppressive, with an extra layer of batshit crazy on top. Even if they did so for noble reasons of protecting an artist from abuse, Microsoft’s decision here sends out all the wrong sort of signals to the kind of people who hardly need further encouragement.