Travis Scott, TikTok Witches, and the Satanic Panic 2.0

Casimir Stone
November 9, 2021

This weekend, there was a genuine tragedy in the music world. 8 people — 2 minors, all below the age of 30 — died in a crowd crush at Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival. Not quite as existentially depressing, but still up there, is the response to the event. 

I’m obviously not talking about the inevitable outpouring of support for the victims or the gem of a human being that is Roddy Ricch, nor even, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the garbled PR nonsense Scott and the Kardashians spit out in defense of their consistent negligence. Since my focus here is not on the moral failings of man, but on how it manifests on the Internet, I’m talking about something much weirder.

Multiple groups have co-opted the tragedy as a talking point in their own arguments. Fox News affiliates have turned it into an opioid crisis thing, hyper focusing on a few incidental rumors of ‘spiking’ at the concert. (Slang for stabbing people with drug needles, which, as an Occam’s Razor enthusiast, I’m pretty sure didn’t happen to each one of the hundreds injured in a literal stampede.) Even more disheartening is the response from the fringe.

Several high profile conspiracy theorists — sadly very much a thing in 2021 — have decided that this mass casualty event is irrefutable evidence of Travis Scott’s devil worship. Yes, the Satanic Panic of the ’80s is back, only this time perpetuated by ‘baby witch TikTok teens shilling their paid astrology readings after each polemic’. 

Irrefutable evidence, presented on Twitter by reputable sources such as ‘Daniel The Reformer‘, apparently demonstrates Satan’s use of false idols to corrupt our children. This argument is historically rooted in racist objections to music popularized by black musicians — in the 1950s, rock and roll was attacked by Southern Christians as both ‘devil music’ and ‘congo rhythms’ or ‘savagery.’ Its renewed use to criticize a hip hop artist is unfortunate but unsurprising. As for the parallels pictured above, almost every religion and belief system contains the concept of ‘cyclic existence‘ — patterns playing out in human culture, behavior, and iconography, either because of cosmic karma or because we have 99.9% similar genetic content and don’t live in a vacuum. 

So, no, I don’t disagree with @SoooHeavenly that, consciously or sub, ‘everything is a ritual’. In the grand scheme, we’re only a few thousand years removed from Incan capacocha and Celtic wicker men. And, as a friend of mine put it, casualties from an hysteric rush to get closer to a leader with little regard for human life does resemble ‘textbook tribal sacrifice.’ 

But following it up with a link to book a consultation feels opportunistic at best, and indicative of the way in which Internet personalities — incentivized by a.) selling a brand and b.) having an opinion on everything — are as corrupt and false as idols come. We don’t need to look to supernatural forces to understand this tragedy. In a culture that prioritizes excess and ego above all else, it was and remains an inevitability. If you, like me, consider the Biblical Satan a metaphor for our inherent selfishness, then yes, Astroworld was as devilish as they come. As is the Internet. As are we. 

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