Welcome back to Satanic Sunday.
This week I’m covering one of the first concepts of Satanism I ever heard about – the goodguy badge. I’ll be referencing LaVey’s essay “The Goodguy Badge” from The Devil’s Notebook and the short documentary “A Drink With The Devil.”
I first heard the term ‘goodguy badge’ back in the 90s, when I was in middle school and started listening to Marilyn Manson:
Pseudo morals work real well on the talk shows for the weak
But your selective judgements and good guy badges don’t mean a fuck to meGet Your Gunn, Marilyn Manson, 1994
At that time I didn’t have access to the resources I do now; there was no Google (although I’m sure I tried looking it up on AOL). But I remember interpreting the concept with a fair amount of accuracy – a goodguy badge was something that made you look good when you really weren’t.
Fast forward many years later, when I picked up a copy of The Devil’s Notebook and was pumped to see an entire essay devoted to the subject. Towards the end of last year, I watched “A Drink With The Devil” and LaVey addressed the concept there as well. In this documentary, I found the most concise definition of the concept:
The goodguy badge, as I call it, has always been around. It’s really a way of salving one’s conscience…It’s doing something good, but [not] good to somebody you really love or somebody who’s close to you, or somebody that really appreciates it; it has to be almost on an impersonal level. It’s like wearing a sandwich board saying “I am good, I am contributing to this, and to that, and I’m sustaining this foundation, I’m giving donations to this group to show how concerned I am; to show how really and devotedly worried I am about the state of the world and conditions as they are.” It’s really wearing the charity or the benevolence on one’s sleeve that annoys me so much.Anton Szandor LaVey, A Drink With The Devil
Something important to remember here is that not wearing the goodguy badge doesn’t mean a Satanist never does anything good for anyone else. As Satanists, we save our love, compassion, and goodness for those closest to us, and those who we feel deserve it. The goodguy wears good deeds on his sleeve for all to see, without any deep or real concern for the recipient of the benefit. It’s all about the show.
Where did the concept of the goodguy badge originate? Unsurprisingly, Christianity played a big part.
As LaVey discusses in The Devil’s Notebook, humankind’s need to believe in something (religion-wise) is well-documented. “One need not believe in a set of religious principles; if one’s faith in a lump of mud is sustenance enough, well and good” (p. 21). He explains that, once someone’s belief does turn to religious principles, there are concepts of good and evil at play that will determine what they find acceptable in many aspects of life. Seeing as Christianity is the dominant religion in the world, society’s definitions of good and evil generally originate from Christian principles.
Thus, the need for the goodguy badge exists. People want to wear their goodness on their sleeves so that everyone can see what an upstanding, contributing member of society they are. “Christians are good people” and want to surround themselves with other good people. Once the goodguy badge is revealed, they will be accepted as “good.”
But the shiny goodguy badge is really just a distraction from the imperfect, complex human being that wears it. LaVey uses the example of eradicating a pain by inflicting pain elsewhere – usually, the distraction of the new pain is enough to make you forget about the original pain. “The Goodguy needs a bad guy to ease the pain of his own inadequacy” (p. 21). By focusing his energy on the eradication of some external enemy (homelessness, hunger, climate change), the goodguy is distracting attention away from his own inner turmoil. Maybe this goodguy cheats on his wife. Maybe he’s an embezzler, or secret drunk. But the shinier the badge, the less anyone will see past it to what’s really there.
LaVey’s essay gives several additional examples of goodguy badging, and how it applies in different groups. I won’t paraphrase all of that here – buy the book and read it yourself! But towards the end, he discusses a very exciting prospect: the future. And seeing as this book was released almost 30 years ago, we are in that future. He considers:
What of the future, when deceit and treachery will be as easily read as one’s name and address?
New findings in character analysis will render everyone a potential thought policeman. It will become as easy to assess another’s motivations as it is to tell the color of his eyes. The badge of the Goodguy will be visible in every mannerism, and no amount of affectation or protective plumage will disguise character flaws. And the truly good guy will be seen for his inherent goodness no matter how ‘evil’ his superficial trappings may be.p. 27
This passage seems to anticipate the culture we are living in now, fueled by 24-hour news cycles and obsessions with social media. It’s 2020, and whether you like it or not, information is out there on the internet about you. We are living in cancel, or call-out culture; this is not a post about my opinion on those things, so I won’t elaborate, but it’s impossible to ignore.
While no one really thinks that politicians are saints, they have a goodguy image to uphold as a public servant to all of their constituents. When photos show up online of them wearing blackface at a party, that goodguy badge starts to crack. Think of Michael Jackson, who outwardly supported numerous charities as an adult, both financially and by creating awareness through his worldwide platform. We all know what we was doing behind the scenes (‘allegedly’).
Politicians and celebrities like Michael Jackson, Paula Deen, Matt Lauer, and countless others have been called out and cancelled. I think LaVey would be pleased to see many of these goodguys being exposed for who they truly are – crooks and abusers who promote positive, wholesome images of themselves to appeal to and fool the masses to get what they want. And they don’t want little things – in the case of politicians, gaining support from constituents by wearing their goodguy badges *literally* has the power to change the course of history.
Exposing these people for who they really are is powerful. It also is creating change in our society, placing more value on authenticity; people are more willing to accept someone with flaws than someone who puts up a facade, which is later exposed to be false. No one wants to feel like they’ve been deceived – down with the goodguys!
Thanks for reading! See you next week.
All quotations are from The Devil’s Notebook by Anton Szandor LaVey, unless otherwise linked or noted.
Opinions and interpretations are my own; I am not a spokesperson for, nor endorsed by, the Church of Satan or any other entity.