A witch hunt is usually thought of as a search for witches or practitioners of black magic. Throughout history however there have been many witch hunts, although those who were persecuted were not always called witches. Other names for them were communists, spies, and heretics. The arrests spawned from these witch hunts were usually based on false accusations, and the fates of those on trial, such as those portrayed in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, were usually decided before the trial even began. After discovering about witch hunts time and time again one begins to wonder why there have been so many witch hunts all over the world in all different times. Many experts believe that the causes of witch hunts, no matter what time period, is the result of “everyone is looking for someone to blame” (Shermer) for the troubles in their lives when they cannot take the responsibility themselves.
The most distinguished witch hunt took place in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts. Salem in 1692 was occupied by the Puritans who held a very strict moral code. In spite of this the people still committed sins. When the growing number of witch accusations got out many saw it as “a long overdue opportunity for everyone so inclined to express publicly [their] guilt and sins, under the cover of accusations against the victims.”(Miller) For example if a man were having land disputes with his neighbor he could just accuse his neighbor of witchcraft take his land and feel no guilt about it. Witch accusations began coming out for an assortment of reason many times including adultery. When people saw how witch accusations just conveniently lined up to the advantage of the accuser those people in turn did the same thing and thus the accusations spread until finally the result was chaos. In the end, “at least twenty residents lost their lives. Social paranoia was such that two dogs were even accused and executed! All convictions were based on ambiguous evidence.”(Bartholomew and Goode)
A lesser known witch hunt can be seen in the 1940’s and 1950’s in the era of McCarthyism. America had suffered through World War II and was now dealing with the Cold War. People needed someone to blame for the plague misfortune that had fallen on the country. When Senator Joseph McCarthy announced that he had in his hand a list of 205 communists in the State Department the public had someone to blame. “McCarthy's accusations fed an already-brewing anti-Communist hysteria in the country.”(Yanak and Garraty) During McCarthyism thousands of Americans were accused of being Communist or sympathizers of communism. As like with many other witch hunts, “Joseph McCarthy [ruined] hundreds of lives and careers.”(Arnold)
The most significant witch hunt can be seen today. This witch hunt however is not like all the other in that this one does not have a clear culprit.
“Clover Boykin says she killed her son. But it was her father's fault.
Stella Liebeck spilled hot coffee in her lap. But it was McDonald's...