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Letter: Modern-day witch hunts are simply a power grab

Modern-day witch hunts are simply a power grab

In November’s Smithsonian magazine, “Secrets of American History” author Stacy Schiff revisits a disturbing time in our country’s history where actual becomes sensational; where the fabricated and fictional presumed to be facts.

She focuses on the Salem witch hunts and those put to death and the persecution of hundreds more. She describes a community’s sense of vulnerability; fear gave power to civic leaders who capitalized on distorted reality. Schiff states, “We continue to favor the outlandish explanation over the simple one, we are more readily deceived by the great deception … than the modest one. … We like to lose ourselves in a cause, to ground our public hurt in public outrages. We do not want people to refute our beliefs any more than we want them to deny our hallucination.”

Schiff examined the testimony of a slave woman. Her stories of demons led to panic and rounding up of hundreds of suspects. Since 1692, have we changed? In October, a commission investigating Benghazi blasted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with 11 hours of questioning, casting doubts over her committed service at an unpredictable and volatile time.

This modern-day witch hunt was a power grab, where Clinton haters can hate some more, empowering those who will save them from her. We must question whether those in power are using our fears, hatreds or discontent to save us from the next boogeyman. Now the boogeymen are Syrian refugees. Not all want to exploit the public’s fear and prejudices, but there are those who claim righteous indignation and the angry public lets them. Many still play on the public’s fear given the illusion of fact from fantasy. I now have to look under my bed for a boogeyman, an illegal immigrant or communist or whatever.

Ted Pietrzak