“A persistent delusion exists Western culture: that shadowy, conspiratorial groups gather together in secret—preferably at night—to plot the overthrow of society. As part of their plotting, the conspirators supposedly ritually abuse, murder, and consume innocent children.
Ideas about this conspiracy have appeared repeatedly throughout our history. Historian Norman Cohn called this recurrent conspiracy theory “the nocturnal ritual fantasy.” Cohn argues that imperial Romans made these claims against early Christians; later medieval Christian authorities, in turn, made similar allegations against Christian heretics, Jews, and so-called “witches”. Belief in the nocturnal ritual delusion helped to justify deadly violence against these marginalized groups, and, in fact, played an important role in establishing their very marginality.
In all cases, the claims were false. They were nothing more than the imagined behaviour of fantastical enemies that existed more in the minds of those who feared them than in reality. The recent “Pizzagate Conspiracy” that came to a head during and in the wake of the recent American presidential election is a modern form of the nocturnal ritual fantasy. In this modern shape it is just as threatening as its past manifestations, with the threat of violence inherent in those who believe it.“