Thursday, February 28, 2008

It's a witch!

Salem, Dreyfus, McCarthy, M.....?

Most people would probably believe that they would recognise a mob gearing up for a lynching if they saw it. Yet if they're part of the mob would they really recognise it then? All it takes is one or two people who have the respect of a group or community to point the finger and say that they had seen Goode Proctor or whoever doing something unsavoury with the Devil around the back of the woodshed or "She cast a Hex on me by looking at me in a funny way and then I fell down". Before you can say "Burn her!" the mob are tooling up with their best farm implements, checking their pockets for matches, and they're are off and running or ambling in the case of old farmer Pat to find Goode Proctor and watch her do the levitation quickstep.

The mob is a strange old beast and doesn't much bother to look for actual evidence if it hears that one of its own has seen a witch or been harmed by a witch. No one gives it seems too much time to pausing and asking what exactly was this 'witch' person they doing? when was this? was it related to anything you did? did you actually see then? or did someone relate a tale to you? Just what is it that causes otherwise rational people to suspend any critical faculties they possess? I honestly don't know. Yet it is strange that mobs can form just as easily today as they ever did, perhaps even faster.

Hypothetically one possible means to start a modern day witch hunt would be to post an allegation in a public arena or by virtue of a public platform a person has. By threading together a mixture of some fact - mostly irrelevant if possible, Goode Proctor is a member of the seamstress union - with some lies and a bit of whatever you're having yourself add in a healthy obfuscation of your own activities, you can cook up a very nasty allegation in no time at all. Then to ensure the mob is properly provoked engage in a parallel whispering campaign via some other means, by word of mouth or txting dropping in bits of other information. Naturally, we have rules and laws involving those with access to the public airwaves or the press to stop them abusing their position. But say if you get on the net and build a profile for yourself it can be very tempting I'm sure to simply post whatever takes your fancy. After all the law does not apply on line does it? Of course the older amongst use have been down this road already with the folks behind Cogair back in the mid 90s when the net was but a pup.

Still, however you do it once you've got your mob roused to action you can avoid due process, there is no need to present a case or even evidence, nothing. Just point your finger and ye're off. Of course it can works in the opposite direction. If you're popular you can accuse someone of calling you a witch and the mob is off in the opposite direction.

Should we really have one rule for a popular individual but another for someone no one knows doing the same thing? Isn't that why we have a legal system to provide for equal treatment irrespective of station? No, equal treatment before the law. Wait for evidence to be presented and then start to make your opinion heard about the nature of the evidence. I believe that some people have and are waiting for the evidence to be presented as it was said they should and are making their voice heard in that context. Even if a great many others in the complete absence of any evidence are happy to decide who is guilty or innocent.

So Salem, Dreyfus, McCarthy? Witchhunts and scapegoats, Yep! Mahon? No.

I'm off to give Goode Proctor a foot rub, all that dancing in the moonlight can tire a person out.

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