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 Her heritage is unclear because historical documents didn’t bother to document it.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.
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.
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.
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.