The witch-hunt metaphor

In 1994, the UK media abounded with tales of families that had been destroyed by brainwashed daughters. There were frequent references to Salem and witch-hunting.

In 2015, the UK media abounds with articles about celebrities and politicians being falsely accused. There are frequent references to Salem and witch-hunting.

It has been whispered that we are living in The Crucible. A dank, wild-eyed, black-hatted Salem. A moment of mass witch hunt seeping out of that formless knot of fear that so many people carry in their guts, spread by catharsis in these frightening times. Vanity fair.Feb 2013

What happened in Salem?

Why do sexual abuse deniers keep waffling on about it?

If they are going to use the witch-hunting metaphor  why at least don’t they refer to witch-hunting in Europe? What was so special about the 17th century colony in Massachusetts that it has immediate parallels with the trafficking of teenage boys from Welsh children’s homes in the 1980’s?

The answer seems to be partly because:

  • Abuse deniers in the UK just copied the analogy from the the false memory movement in the USA.

  • The remembrance of the Salem “witches” can be made to fit  any group of people who feel that they are hard done by.

So who were the people in Salem who were accused of witchcraft?, How have they been remembered at different times since then?


The first person to be accused of “witchcraft” in Salem was a woman called Tituba.. Her heritage is unclear because historical documents didn’t bother to document it. She may have had Native American or African heritage. Documents show that she a was slave housekeeper to a white family and that she had moved with them from Barbados to Salem. In Barbados racism was connected to commerce. In Salem it had more to do with ideology.

Below is an illustration from a nineteenth century children’s book which depicts Tituba frightening white children.

The slave housekeeper Tituba frightening children. 19th children’s illustration by Fredericks

During the Enlightenment the memory of the witch trials became one of the battle of Reason over superstition. Reason won. But even in the non-slave states of the USA it was a bit problematic to depict Reason as a black woman. So she became a white sort of Statue of Liberty type muse.

The Examination of a witch. T.H Matteson. 1853_edited
The Examination of a witch. T.H Matteson. 1853

In the 1990’s a doctor called Paul McHugh became one of the founders of the false memory movement in the USA. McHugh has also been active in campaigns against abortion, gay and transgender rights. He has written that people who identify themselves as transgender are actually suffering from a personality disorder.

This is rather ironic – because he seems to have been one of the people responsible for transforming the image of  the accused Salem witch from female to male.

Update Nov 2015

The NSPCC is also making use of the witch-hunt metaphor by hosting a public debate about the supposed existence of a witch-hunt in 2015.

The speakers for this debate are the journalist David Aaronovitch and the .policeman Peter Spindler

It is a pity they don’t also include an expert on language who can examine the witch-hunt metaphor. As it is they are likely to debate back and forth about the existence of witch-hunts without an examination of the word they are using.

In my opinion a panel discussion would have been more useful than a two-sided debate.

Further reading

Please see Ross Cheit’s book The Witch-hunt Narrative

The Goose Girl as a parable for abuse survivors

000000000000000000000000000(c) Walker Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
The Goose Girl. Valentine. 1900
The Goose Girl is one of the stories that was written down by the Grimms brothers.
It concerns a princess who had been on her way to marry a prince. She had been travelling with her servant but the servant had betrayed her. The servant stole the identity of the real princess and married the prince herself.
The real princess has been forced to cloose between dath or becoming a servant. She has chosen not to die and therefore herds gueese outside the castle where she should have been living.
The one witness to what has happened this was her horse. But he has been killed so he cannot not speak. His head has been put up in a stake at the entrance to the castle and the princess talks with it everyday. This is the only way for her to remember the truth about what has happened and who she really is
The Goose Girl talking to the head of her dead horse
Edith-Somerville-The-Goose-Girl 1888
The-Goose-Girl. Edith-Somerville. 1888
 The one thing the goose girl has left is her hair which is long and wild and blows out of control in the wind. You can imagine how hard it is for her to keep track of her hair and the geese at he same time when the wind is blowing and everything is going in differnt directions.
goose girl hair
 But somehow she does manage, and to cut a long story short, she eventually gets back to  her rightful place in the palace

On destroying families


In these strange days of bedroom taxes, food banks, zero hours contracts and no independent living allowances, it might be seem a bizarre idea to ask who is destroying reputations and families.
But for the Ministry of False Memories and Allegations these destructions start with psychotherapy and our derranged minds
And some media outlets are happy to go along with this if it brings in some cash
Its totally bananas, but they will keep on saying so as long as we don’t complain.

On shooting messengers


One of the techniques used by false memory people is to focus on a profesional person ( usually a woman ) and portray them in the media as being obessed with child abuse. This obsession leads them to discover evidence of child sexual abuse where it does not exist.
In the UK such people have included paedatricians, social workers, psychotherapists, journalists and most recently politicians
From the point of view of serious journalism however, the voracity and hatred in which these of these comparisions are penned is problemtatic.
Obviouly if  some professionals and people in public office find evidence of sexual abuse where it does not exist then this is very serious. They may be following guidelines which need to be examined and corrected. Perhaps there is a need for new research.
But how can one establish whether guidelines are being followed during a shoot-out?

Mindfullness causes false memories?

Well I never! Here they go again!

The Ministry of False Memory is now bravely informing the world that practicing mindfullness can lead to false memories

silly walks_edited

Not content with mice and bees they are now having a go at people with stressful lives who take time-out now and again.

They are having a pressfest with the Telegraph, Times, Daily Mail all in tow

Does this have anything to do with any up and coming court cases I wonder?

Where somebody may have suggested to another that practising mindfullness was a good idea?

Or has it more to do with the NHS and funding for services to survivors?

Mindfulness, the fashionable form of meditation promoted by schools and the NHS, leads people to “remember” things that have not happened, according to research.

I will wait and see


Alchemy 101: the art of making a witness statement vanish


 I have started to understand that false memory people and down-at-the-pub skeptics regard themselves as some kind of contemporary reverse alchemists.

But whereas the alchemist claimed to turn ordinary matter into the extraordinary – the skeptic or debunker turns the extraordinary into the mundane. So a skull becomes a coconut for example

Here is short news snipet from the Daily Telegraph  Nov 2002

Call for changes in child-abuse inquiries

A former police chief called for changes in child-abuse investigations to protect those wrongly accused.

Tom Williamson, the retired deputy chief constable of Nottinghamshire, told the annual conference of the United Campaign Against False Allegations of Abuse that interviews with those making the allegations must be tape-recorded.

Agh. the tape-recorder again.

Nothing that cannot be proved by controlled experiment in a laboratory is true. And seeing as sexual abuse tends not to come in laboratory controlled packages with in-built tape recorders, it does not exist

 Also present at this conference was a Peer of the Realm.

peer editedHe spoke about a case of apparent alchemy, where witnesses changed their story in the middle of a trial.

Apparently a defence lawyer had said to a witness

“You might as well admit it. You’re doing all this for the compensation, aren’t you?

And the witness replied

 “Yes, I am. And everything I have said in evidence is a complete pack of lies.”

Another witness did not turn up to court and instead sent a letter to the judge which read

I am not coming to court because all the statements I have given to the police are untrue.”

The judge then dismissed the case

Does anybody know what case the peer was referring to? Because if it is true then I would like to know if the witness were charged with contempt of court. Could you help me out here Earl Howe? Or are you currently too busy smashing up the NHS?


Safari newsletter no 1

Still life with coconuts. Paul Dilbert

The questions the keynote speaker never answered

 The new unit for forensic psychology opened in london this week. Lots of weighty skeptics were there ( basically the FM gang in gowns ) and one of them introduced the keynote speaker:

dwarkins intruducing loftus_edited

who talked about shopping malls


And how to brainwash your kids so they won’t get fat


Somebody asked the following questions but they didn’t get answered:

1) Why do you continue to sit on the scientific advisory board of the FMSF, an organization claiming to offer aid to those wrongfully accused of child molestation but that has no screening process to prevent against supporting pedophiles in establishing their defense? Why have you not demanded such a policy as a condition of your work there?

2) How do you respond to the charge that point 1 taken alongside allegations of “stalking” (for which you were sued) a self-reported sexual abuse survivor and allegations of ethical violations involving human subjects seem to establish a pattern of unethical and/or predatory behaviors?

3) Why did you continue to associate theories of traumatic memory with repression long after that paradigm was replaced by dissociation?

4) In your own words, why do you believe the traumatic memory research community finds your work so problematic.

5) What is you reaction to Ross Cheit’s archival project of over 100 collects cases in which “recovered” [sic] traumatic memories were authenticated?

6) What is your position on the charge that, in your promotion of “false memory” theories, you have negatively impacted the climate for legitimate sex abuse survivors to find support and validation in their “coming-out” process.


Another person asked about “moral panic” and how it can lead to to panics about satanic ritual abuse –  and they did get an answer.

Funny that.


Oh well. Better listen to Brucie..



 It would seem the the UK is suffering from a suffeit of DARVO just now

“The perpetrator or offender may Deny the behavior, Attack the individual doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender such that the perpetrator assumes the victim role and turns the true victim — or the whistle blower — into an alleged offender.”  Freyd

More on D.A.R.V.O here


The above illustration appeared in “the Spectator” last week.

how to create a satanic panic – in northern ireland

Psychological warfare has been defined as:-

“action which is practiced mainly by psychological methods with the aim of evoking a planned psychological reaction in other people.”

Psychological warfare and the concept of Satan was used in Northern Ireland by the British Armed Forces. This has been documented by Richard Jenkins in the book called Black Magic and the Bogeyman.

Jenkins shows how this psychological warfare was connected to a racist ideolology that the “irish” were more stuperstitous than the “british”.

black magic and bogeymen

The Guardian cited Jenkin’s book in an article from late 2014. Here are some quotes from the article.

“British Intelligence …. deliberately stoked up a satanic panic from 1972 to 1974, even placing black candles and upside-down crucifixes in derelict buildings in some of Belfast’s war zones.”

“army press officers leaked stories to newspapers about black masses and satanic rituals taking place from republican Ardoyne in north Belfast to the loyalist-dominated east of the city…..”

“By whipping up devil-worshipping paranoia, they created the idea that the emerging paramilitary movements and the murder campaigns they were engaged in had unleashed evil forces across Northern Irish society…”

“(The) Information Policy group, based at military headquarters in Thiepval barracks, Lisburn, hit upon the idea of summoning the devil as a way to discredit paramilitary organisations.”

“The manufactured hysteria was also useful in keeping younger children in at night and away from buildings that the military and police might have used for undercover surveillance.”

“military intelligence sought to create a “subtle” link in the public’s minds between …. true-to-life horrors of the Troubles and something more supernaturally evil”

Jenkins suggests that in order to understand the different ways in which the concept of “black magic” is used in comtemporary society one needs to take a multidisciplinary approach and compare evidence from anthroplogy, sociology, folklore and media studies.

What is multi-perpetrator stalking?

Michael Salter is conducting research into multi-perpetrator stalking and violence.
He defines this sort of stalking as:
  •  A form of violence against women
  •  Invloves multiple people who know each other
  • These people track the woman’s wherabouts
  • They may also abuse and attack the woman concerned
 There are different scenarios of this form of stalking. For example:
  • Perpetrators may come from within the woman’s family and community,
  • Perpetrators  may be known to her through a partner
  • Perpetrators may be known through an  ex-partner,
The origin of the word stalk
 According to an on-line dictionary, the word stalk comes from the old English word  stealcian or bestealcian meaning “to steal along, walk warily,” It is also related to the germanic ster- meaning “to rob, steal“.
 The comtemporary meaning of stalk as “harass obsessively” was first recorded 1991.
Visualising stalking
I’ve been looking at  on-line paintings about stalking and made some scary findings…
When describing hunting, stalking is the word used to describe how big felines ( like lions, wild cats ) hunt their prey. It was also used to describe a method that people in hunter-gathering societies  use to gather food. Somehow this got entwined with ideas about noble savages ( whether these were Highlanders in Scotland or Bushmen in the Kalahari ).
A terrible thing about colonialism is that noble savages can be both idealised and hunted ( cleared off their land ) at the same time!
This happens to women too
Researching MPSV
I would like to interview women (18+) who have experienced MPSV and the health and welfareprofessionals (such as mental health professionals, counsellors and social workers) who have had clients disclose MPSV.
The aim of the study is to identify the contexts in which MPSV takes place and to document the experience of survivors and the responses of professionals.
The interview will take between one to two hours in a place of your choosing or via Skype if youprefer.
Survivors will be asked about the circumstances that led to MPSV, their experience of MPSV,and the kinds of support and resources they feel is necessary to bring MPSV to an end.
I’ll ask health and welfare professionals about the challenges of addressing MPSV and their recommendations for ‘best practice’ responses.
The interview is designed to be safe and comfortable, and you are free to talk about what you want.
You are not required to talk about matters you don’t want to.
 Participants can withdraw from theproject at any time without consequences.
Please email me if you would like more information about the study, or if you would like to participate.
You can also pass this information along to other people who might be interested.Dr Michael Salter(
This study has been approved by the University of Western Sydney Human Research Ethics Committee. The approval number is H11231.”