25 February 2024

Witch Hunting in our society


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Witch Hunting in our society


Topic by Norma

Notes by Lawrence



The idea of witch hunting takes us back to the Middle and Dark ages and in many cases to The Inquisition. Whilst all this makes good history, for our purposes we need to look at the social and anthropology of today’s idea of witch hunting. Besides, the Inquisition, for example, was involved in hunting people who were accused of practicing witchcraft and invoking spells and curses on their victims.



Today, those who identify themselves as witches are allowed to go about their beliefs and activities as any other group of people in modern society. It is true that there are some places in the world where people still believe in witches with supernatural powers invoking spells and curses but these have more to do with unenlightenment rather than supernatural powers.



With reference to “our society” we can safely argue that today by witch hunting we mean persecution and victimization usually in the context of racism, minorities and political ideologies. Sometime, in modern times, we still see persecution for religious beliefs and maybe even culture practices.



One of the most famous witch hunts in the twentieth century was McCarthyism (check search engines), when Senator Joseph McCarthy was charged to find Soviet spies and communists in the United States.



But one of the most obnoxious witch hunting in the twentieth century was the anti Semitism by the National Socialists who, by the way, also persecuted other minority groups, such as gypsies. In the late 19th century and early 20th century in Europe, there were the pogroms in Eastern Europe of the Jews. Of course, these persecutions are not limited to Europe all cultures and states have their victims.


Today, in the twenty first century, we have the witch hunting of refugees, LGBT people, minority races, and in some countries, religious beliefs can still give rise to victimization.



So, what are some of the necessary and sufficient condition for victimization to qualify as witch hunting? If we take McCarthyism and the Nazi witch hunting as our model, we can identify certain specific conditions.



Ideology, usually in the form of irrational or biased beliefs, is certainly a sufficient condition of witch hunting. The Inquisition, McCarthyism and the Nazi all took their ideology beyond the bounds of reason and morality. The question here is whether a challenge to ideology or the integrity of a state is a reason to pursue irrational or immoral persecution of certain members of society.



Any disagreement or questioning of this ideology is considered as an act by an enemy of the authority and hence, the state. These people assume for themselves absolute power to pursue their victims; many times such powers are not compatible with natural justice or the principles of jurisprudence.



Another necessary condition involves the practitioners of witch hunting prescribing the methods to get their victims and prescribe the relevant guilt. Punishment is also a necessary condition of witch hunting. Usually punishment goes beyond what we might today regard as a civilized practice and certainly in breach of all human rights.



Finally, an important condition for witch hunting is the manipulation of emotions by those involved in witch hunting of the general population. A key condition of witch hunting is that the general population does not go against the ideology and practice. And as we all know fear can be a very strong emotion to manipulate the general population.


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