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Why the Wicked Witch Isn't Dead
The timeless allure of witch hunting, by Johann Hari
April 20 2009

In this article at, Hari writes:

    Across Africa, I have witnessed witch hunts. I have stood in a hut deep in the Tanzanian bush where the blood of an 80-year-old woman was still wet on the walls, after her "evil" had been hacked out of her with a machete. I have been lectured in the Central African Republic by men who explain the collapse of their country is due to "these wicked women."


    You might think the spread of science would cure the plague. But literal witch hunting still recurs in the most backward and fundamentalist parts of even the Western world. Sarah Palin has boasted about being blessed by a Kenyan preacher called Thomas Muthee, who called on Jesus to protect Palin from "the spirit of witchcraft." It turned out Muthee took this very literally -- he boasted of driving elderly "witches" out of their communities back in Africa. The Republican governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, drives out "evil spirits" himself. In the Catholic journal New Oxford Review in 1994, he claimed that a "demon" possessed his "intimate friend" Susan -- and that he personally cast it out through a process of prayer and exorcism. He even wondered whether, in the process, he cured Susan's cancer.

    The allure of witch hunting can grip any of us if we abandon our adherence to reason and evidence. As a tribal, poorly evolved species, we are very vulnerable to believing... there is always a nasty irony: They believe they are expunging "evil" when in fact they are enacting it.

    Yet this doesn't explain why witch hunting keeps taking the same form every time, with only mild variations. Why, in particular, is it almost always targeted at women?

Hari disputes that it is; claims that women are just easier to go after and scapegoat. Maybe, if one considers other kinds of group-motivated atrocities (gays, blacks, Jews...) But women's evilness is written into religion, so when it's religion issues, "witch" issues, rather than merely scapegoating (even if religion is in there as a facilitator), women do seem to be specifically targeted. See the article.


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