It is known that witches have always involved moral panic in public. Witch hunts represented the so-called searches for witches and often led to lynching and mass hysteria. Historically, witch hunts were legally sanctioned in cities and towns as official witchcraft trials. Ā Due to historical studies, the scope and intensity of witchcraft prosecutions are now well-known to the public. In Europe and North America, the period of 1450 ”“ 1700 is considered to be the classical period of witch hunts during which more than 40,000 executions took place (Ankarloo 55). People have always been intrigued by the magic of witches, although some people still do not believe in witchcraft.
In our times, witch hunting has a little bit different meaning, but the same nature. Today witch hunts occur in our society when an individual (or a group of individuals) persecutes another individual or individuals unfairly and blames them for the larger problems in their lives. This fact means that witch hunting is based on the expression of fear, violence and ignorance. The Holocaust is the major example of modern witch hunt, organized by the German Political party with Adolf Hitler at the head, who needed to find someone to be blamed for the losses in war.
One of the examples of witch hunts is the Salem witch trials in colonial Massachusetts that represented a series of legal hearings and prosecutions of women accused of witchcraft in 1692 -1693. The historical Salem witch trials still have an enormous impact on our society today. It is known that modern day witch hunts include the communist hunts, the political events of the 1950s which inspired the characters in the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller. The following groups were persecuted on political and behavioral grounds: political groups including Communists, Socialists, religious groups, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the groups of homosexuals.
The well-known modern day witch hunts include the O.J. Simpson case and the case of Casey Anthony, both of which are based on violence and oppression towards the victims of human injustice: O. J. Simpson and Casey Anthony. According to Joyce Meijering, Simpson was “arrested and prosecuted by people who knew him to be innocent”¯ (1). Casey Anthony was wrongly accused of killing her two-year old daughter. It is known that the jury found Casey Anthony not guilty of murder and aggravated child abuse, but guilty of providing false information to the law enforcement officials. The case of Casey Anthony was described as a social media witch hunt. These witch hunts can be compared to the Salem witch trials, during which 29 people were convicted of witchcraft, and the majority of them were executed for their crimes. The causes of Salem witch trials and the cases of Simpson and Anthony were based on political, religious and local contexts.
To sum up, our system of justice is focused on civil rights and liberties which are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. It is clear that “overly ambitious prosecutors should not be permitted to use trials as witch hunts by which to perpetuate their crime fighting aspirations”¯, according to Constantinos E. Scaros (321). Witch hunts that occur in our society are based on religious and political contexts. The majority of modern day witch hunts can be viewed as a kind of purification act that has the major goal ”“to purge an individual or a group of individuals “associated with anti-social tendencies from the social body in order to increase social integration”¯ (Janzen 25).