Where The Witch Hunts Are Real
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  • Anthony

    As one conflates two ideas offered in today’s Quick Takes, the world remains a wild and unsettling place and many of our interlocutors may believe utterly absurd things and may be willing to act upon them,one must certainly give pause WRM.

  • WigWag

    “Jumpy American liberals who see theocracy behind every Mormon temple, Baptist convention or Catholic church are as ridiculous and over the top in their way as the Saudi witch hunters are in theirs. Both groups whip themselves into frenzies of terror over imaginary threats; both groups make ridiculous accusations; both groups mistake shadows for truth.” (Via Meadia)

    Could a post be more remarkably disingenuous? Does Via Meadia really expect anyone with an ounce of commonsense to fall for his analogy between Islamic fears about witchcraft and the putative paranoia of secular liberals?

    Is it secular liberals who are paranoid about their children reading Harry Potter (or watching the movies) because it encourages an interest in witchcraft or is it tens of millions of devout Christians?

    Who is it that whips themselves into a frenzy about perceived threats? Is it secular liberals or is it millions of devout Christians who worry about a made up “War on Christmas?

    Is it secular liberals who work themselves into a tizzy about the preposterous and phony “War on the Young” or is it the editors of Via Meadia and Professor Mead himself?

    Is it secular liberals who “mistake shadows for truth” or is it millions of devout Christians who bemoan the conspiracy to teach their children about evolution in school. After all, the world was created in seven days (including the day of rest required by the exhausted deity).

    Was it devout Christians who worried endlessly that fluoridating America’s water supply was really a surreptitious way for the Government to control the minds of American children or was it secular liberals?

    Is it secular liberals who worry that a child going trick or treating on Halloween may come to believe in witchcraft or is it devout Christians who worry about that?

    And who is it that believes in faith healing or even the power of a shaman-like adherent to certain religious principles to raise the dead; is it the secular liberals or hundreds of thousands (if not more) of devout Christians?

    When it comes to witchcraft Christians have it all over the secular liberals. Via Meadia gets it exactly backwards yet again.

  • Cunctator

    Your advice is absolutely correct and just as certain to be ignored.

    One sees the silliness already in the official UK and US reactions to the Egyptian presidential election. The new president, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), is far more hardline (in fact, as hardline as one can get without moving into al Qaeda territory), than the media or Western leaders describe. Instead, he is being portrayed as someone who is likely to take into account that he should represent all groups in Egyptian society. The fact that his value system is completely opposed to that of the liberal democracies of the West is lost on the fools in charge in Washington and London.

  • WigWag names a bunch of things that are not witchhunts, say on the order of the way the secular left treats cigarette smokers.

    And then there is faith healing, which is not unlike ObamaCare, or at least the way it is sold to us.

    Secular leftwingers (there are no liberals among them) are the ones who ban any activity in which neighbors trust neighbors to bring cookies to school or to sell lemonade at a sidewalk stand. Their witchhunts unfortunately have the prison and police systems to back them up.

    In the end, the flouridation nuts came to be secular leftists. (I remember the days when the environmental kooks were rightwingers, but that had changed by 1970, flouridation included.)

    And then there are the leftists who have been tearing science down in favor of “activism”, yet go ape when some Christian groups do not share their beliefs in lockstep conformity.

    And so on.

    BTW, since we’re now commemorating the War of 1812, we should bear in mind that the Shawnee brothers, Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa, started an anti-witch movement which then morphed into an anti-American movement. I.e. witches were construed to be those Native people who cooperated with the Americans. Some of those cooperators had a way of waking up dead. T&T’s resistance movement failed in the end, which perhaps should be a lesson for the Tea Parties that now follow in their footsteps. Their witch hunts were not nearly as effective as those that were conducted by the dominant culture.

  • Earl of Sandwich

    I believe this was covered in the cartoon Recess when King Bob creates the Ministry of Fun and Play to enforce the rules of rounders as written in 1935.
    In the end, all parties find out that perhaps rules need to be updated every once in a while. Hopefully, the Saudis can figure out the same lesson.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    Public ridicule at the highest levels is what is needed, not understanding. Let Saudi Arabia be shamed as inferior, uncivilized, and superstitious idiots before the whole world. America shouldn’t be seen dancing to the tune of these inferior cultures (this is taking diplomacy beyond reason); it is rather they that should be forced to dance to the superior American Culture’s tune.

    Multiculturalism is a stupid leftist lie, while people are created equal and should be treated equally under the rule of law, cultures are not equals. There are superior cultures and the way you tell the difference is by which culture is the most successful.

    “There is no arguing with success.”

  • Fred

    JL @6, You are right that savages are savage, hence the term. However, until we can acheive energy independence somehow, we have to deal with those barbarians. Knowing how they “think” and at least taking seriously the fact that they take their primitive superstitions seriously, helps us deal with them. You are also right that they warrant utter contempt, but showing that contempt would only harden them in their beliefs and make them harder to deal with than they already are.

  • Charles R. Williams

    From the statement you quote it is clear that Saudi authorities do not believe that witches have any occult powers. Their theology is 100% opposed to this notion. They are concerned that witchcraft is a threat – magicians cause “religious and social instability”. And in any pre-modern society, this is certainly true. Saudi Arabia is pre-modern society in many ways and religious conformity is a bedrock principle. Witchcraft by its very nature is private, anti-communal religious activity. Christianity and Judaism involve alternative communities that could in principle coexist with Islam in a subordinate position. And the Saudis would concede that this does happen outside of Arabia.

    Do we have certain bedrock principles or orthodoxies that are foundational for civil society? Political correctness, multiculturalism, affirmative action, diversity, respect for homosexuality (versus respect for homosexuals), a materialistic naturalism seem to fall into that category at least among secularists and in academia. The obsession about theocracy is a concern that the dominant orthodoxy will be challenged by some form of traditional point of view. It really doesn’t matter that no significant Christian group aspires to exercise the kind of coercive dominance the secularists enjoy. They simply challenge the prevailing orthodoxy.

  • Gene

    Re: WigWag-
    During last week’s House Homeland Security Committee hearing on “The Radicalization of Muslim-Americans,” Congressman Al Green (D-TX) took issue with the hearing’s focus on Islam and Muslims…

    … Green then asked: “Why not have a hearing on the radicalization of Christians?”

  • OSweet

    “Jumpy American liberals” should have a link to a Chris Hedges book…

  • thibaud

    Wig – a large percentage of Mead’s posts are just exercises in punking secular liberals, with no serious effort to make a coherent argument based on evidence.

    When he writes God save the Queen, or slimes the Times, or leads two and a half cheers for Putin, or claims that US schools need to be decentralized and that 3D printing is the path to recovery, Mead’s just pulling your leg.

  • silia

    Well, try saying something critical of Jews, MLK, or gays and see what happens to you.

    Rational USA puts a gay halo on the Obamessiah. We are so sane.

  • ChrisGreen

    Re: Wig Wag
    Nearly every specific case you mentioned was a straw-man or irrelevant. I’ve heard that somewhere that there are some Christians who objected to Harry Potter. I’ve never seen or met any of them even though I interact with Christians every day. I’m sure you could probably find a few crazy Christians out there to condemn Harry Potter, but they represent a tiny, tiny minority of Christians. However, that is besides that point because no Christian politician has ever sought to ban Harry Potter or enforce faith healings at hospitals. The point was to contrast a true theocracy with the non-reality of a theocracy in the US, in spite of the comments made by certain liberal newsfolk that electing a very religious person as president could lead to a kind of theocracy.

  • Daniel Kennelly

    Wig Wag, I know you intended your first question to be a rhetorical one, but it did remind me of this story: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1080525/Atheist-Richard-Dawkins-warns-Harry-Potter-negative-effect-children.html

  • Dan K

    While I don’t necessarily disagree with anything you wrote here — even the analogy to “Jumpy American Liberals” — an even hand might have pointed out some of the silly spectres of the American Right as well. “The Gay Agenda” & the “War on Christmas”, for instance.

  • Hu Ngu

    Re: Wig Wag
    Not even that obscure object of derision-the devout Christian-
    wants to live in a theocracy.

  • kcs

    At least some adherents of a death cult started by an illiterate, mass-murdering pedophile hold opinions that are beyond absurd to anyone rational.

    That should surprise nobody.

  • TBlakely

    I finally realized that secular liberals/progressives were full of [profanity removed] back in the 80s when the Islamic movement started to be noticed internationally. Here was a group that did everything the secular libs was accusing Christians of wanting to do: killing gays, oppressing women and openly demanding a theocracy. Now you would think given secular libs horror of Christianity and it’s purported evils that they would have vociferously condemned and fought the Islamists tooth and nail. Instead the secular libs tried to ignore the Islamists and when that didn’t work they rationalized its evil and/or blamed the West for it.

    So the big question is why does secular liberals/progressives hate Christianity so much more than Islamists when the Islamists actually do the things they accuse Christians of wanting to do? Well one reason is that most secular libs are gutless wimps. They know nothing is going to happen to them when they bash Christians so they can thump their chests and pretend that they are fearless revolutionaries. On the other hand they know they are at physical risk if they ever go after Islamists like they do Christians and that makes them wee their panties. The other reason is that they are frauds. They aren’t so much against Christianity as they are against traditional Western values. Most secular libs have a deep abiding loathing of the West, especially America. In the main they despise American history, culture and it’s people. ‘Fighting’ Christianity is just a foil for their real goal of ‘transforming’ America in their image. God help us all if they succeed.

  • Tantor

    We have made a terrible mistake, treating the Saudis as business partners and carefully respecting their culture, which is violent and irrational. Feeding it billions of petrodollars so that it could project its internal terror globally caused the deaths of thousands. It shows how good intentions do not lead to good outcomes. The world would be a better, safer place had we annihilated the Saudis and set up a puppet regime, perhaps populated by Israelis, on the oil fields.

  • Recovering Lutheran

    “…an even hand might have pointed out some of the silly spectres of the American Right as well. “The Gay Agenda” & the “War on Christmas”, for instance.”

    Really? There is no homosexual lobby pushing issues it finds important? And all of those efforts to remove Nativity displays from public property and discourage the phrase “Merry Christmas” never happened?

  • WigWag

    “WigWag names a bunch of things that are not witch hunts, say on the order of the way the secular left treats cigarette smokers.” (The Reticulator)

    “The point was to contrast a true theocracy with the non-reality of a theocracy in the US, in spite of the comments made by certain liberal newsfolk that electing a very religious person as president could lead to a kind of theocracy.” (Chris Green)

    “Not even that obscure object of derision-the devout Christian- wants to live in a theocracy.” (Hu Ngu)

    The purpose of Professor Mead’s post was clear enough; he thinks secular liberals cling to their shibboleths with the same ardor that Saudi Islamic fundamentalists cling to theirs. He may even be right.

    The problem is the good professor’s obsession with the idiosyncrasies common on the left while he ignores the idiosyncrasies of just about everyone else. To make matters worse, his analogy barely escapes being a non-sequitur; that is, if it escapes at all.

    When we’re talking about witches and witch-hunts, it’s a subset of devout Christians who most resemble the Saudi Muslim kooks that Professor Mead writes about in this post. A not insignificant number of devout Christians literally think that reading Harry Potter or celebrating Halloween encourages the practice of witchcraft.

    Witch-hunts are almost always characterized by moral panic and mass hysteria; this is precisely what paranoia about the “War on Christmas,” mass movements to ban the mention of evolution in biology textbooks and the fear of fluoridation of drinking water represent.

    Professor Mead excoriates both Saudi fanatics and secular liberals; specifically he says,

    “…both groups whip themselves into frenzies of terror over imaginary threats; both groups make ridiculous accusations; both groups mistake shadows for truth.”

    Is it possible to more frenzied over imaginary threats than people who worry about evolution, attacks on Christmas or the fear of Harry Potter novels are?

    Yes there is plenty of paranoia on the left; and stupidity too. Michael Bloomberg, who Professor Mead celebrated in a blog post about his financial acumen just a few weeks ago, is the perfect poster child for leftist stupidity. His war on large plastic soda cups may be well intentioned; but it is obviously dimwitted. So is exaggerating the threats of fracking or trying to brand smokers as social outcasts.

    But worrying about obesity, pollution or smoking induced lung cancer are all far better than worrying about Halloween, Harry Potter of the hatred of Christmas.

    When it comes to seeing witches everywhere they look, devout Christians beat the secular liberals hands down.

  • thibaud

    # 21 Wig – post of the day. Well done.

  • Nate Whilk

    Wigwag wrote, “A not insignificant number of devout Christians literally think that reading Harry Potter or celebrating Halloween encourages the practice of witchcraft”

    What is that number? Cite, please. And how many laws have been passed forbidding HP under pain of beheading or other capital punishment? And how many people have been beheaded?

    “Is it possible to more frenzied over imaginary threats than people who worry about evolution, attacks on Christmas or the fear of Harry Potter novels are?”

    The huge protests demanding the closure of Gitmo as a matter of “fierce moral urgency” under Bush, but which under Obama have completely disappeared even though Gitmo is still open.

    And both of your posts.

    “But worrying about obesity, pollution or smoking induced lung cancer are all far better than worrying about Halloween, Harry Potter of the hatred of Christmas.”

    In the first part of your sentence you left out racism, sexism and global warming. Sorry, that last should be global climate change.

    “When it comes to seeing witches everywhere they look, devout Christians beat the secular liberals hands down.”

    And your posts describe your own “witches” everywhere. Irony burns, doesn’t it?

  • Hu Ngu

    Re: Wig Wag 21.

    “When it comes to seeing witches everywhere they look, devout Christians beat the secular liberals hands down.” (Wig Wag)

    I beg to differ with the above conclusion. As far as keeping score, I’ll see you one Larry “urinate on likeness of Jesus” David, and raise you one John “nativity scene in the crotch” Stewart.

    Does the esteemed commenter share the same fear and loathing of Christian symbols as shown by t.v. funny men David and Stewart? Which is witchier: a fear of Halloween by a substantial subset of devout Christians in their own homes, or a live enactment of “P!%% Christ” on national television by funny man Larry David?

  • Mark in Texas

    Wig wag

    “But worrying about obesity, pollution or smoking induced lung cancer are all far better than worrying about Halloween, Harry Potter of the hatred of Christmas.”

    That is a judgement call. I, personally, think that they are equally silly but the difference is that those few people I have met who are worried about Harry Potter or Halloween are merely trying to keep their own kids away from what they view as unhealthy influences. Lefties *always* try to impose their preferences on everybody else.

    Compare and contrast that to the way lefties view the subject of how much danger children are under from a gun in the house and what they think should be done about that perceived danger. Consider also how receptive lefties usually are to statistics on the danger children face from guns, swimming pools and even five gallon buckets.

  • El duderino

    Wig Wag, on cue, reminds us that prolixity is no substitute for common sense and [something that Grandmother Mead would not have allowed to be mentioned at her dinner table].

  • Wigwag is mixing up the idea of democracy , where people can object to the government policies, and a theocracy, where religion dictates rules without the consent of the people.

    When schools assign books and ideas they disagree with:( such as making their children read Mark Twain or Harry Potter) when parents object, they are protected by their first amendment rights.

    In contrast, my Filipina relatives had to throw out their rosaries when they enter Saudi to work; there is no Christian church in that country where a million Christians live and work, and they could be arrested or deported if they dare to attend a church service in a private apartment (or attend a mixed gender party, or go to an all male costume party).

    As for witchcraft: this can be innocent paganism(e.g. wicca), but in Africa and other “primative” countries, often a “witch” is not a middle aged feminist who dabbles in herbs, but a person who gives one potions to poison one’s relatives, gives out abortifactant drugs that often kill both mother and child, or who arranges a ceremony that uses animal sacrifice or even human body parts to make sure your business succeeds.

  • WigWag

    Let me pose a question to you Nate Whilk (June 25, 2012 at 4:06 pm), you ask me to cite how many devout Christians think that reading Harry Potter novels or celebrating Halloween encourages witchcraft; why didn’t you pose a similar question to Professor Mead?

    After all the point of his post was that some number of secular liberals make “ridiculous accusations.” He doesn’t tell us how many secular liberals he thinks fall into this foolish cohort but obviously he thinks it’s a significant enough number to draft a post about. Isn’t your question to me as relevant to his comment? Yet you didn’t ask him. It is self evident that actual evidence is important to you only when someone makes a statement that you disagree with; you must consider ideas with which you are sympathetic to be so obviously true that evidence isn’t needed.

    I suspect that you will not be surprised to learn that I haven’t actually counted how large the subset of Christians is who fear for their children’s immortal souls, if they sneak a peak at Harry Potter. Do you think that Professor Mead (or the youngsters who drafted this post for him) have actually counted the number of secular liberals who worry that Christianists are coming to dominate the United States?

    There are some things we do know; “Focus on the Family” a well known group that claims to have millions of members has condemned the novels by Rowling. In it’s place they recommend C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien both of whom were believing Christians.

    A member of the Bush (George W.) admitted that the President decided not to give Rowling the Medal of Freedom for fear of offending the evangelical community.

    None of this would be at all problematic but for the attempt by some of the more extreme and bizarre members of the Christian community to actually bar the books from school libraries. Apparently they believed that not only should their children be shielded from the dangerous occult information they would find therein, but so should all children. By the way, Harry Potter books have been banned from much of the Muslim world because of the putative association with witchcraft which provides another point of confluence between Christians and Islamists when it comes to paranoia about the occult.

    Tioedong (June 25, 2012 at 7:50 pm) makes the obvious point that there is a difference between a theocracy and a democracy; of course this is true; whatever complaint Tiedong has should be lodged with Professor Mead. After all, he was the one who thought it was clever to draw a comparison between liberals and Saudi zealots obsessed with witchcraft.

    Mark in Texas (June 25, 2012 at 7:16 pm) blames “lefties” for always trying to impose their wills on everyone else. Perhaps he has forgotten about the effort by Christian “righties” to ban Harry Potter from school libraries and other public libraries. If he’s inclined, he can learn more about that effort here,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_debates_over_the_Harry_Potter_series

    Perhaps he’s also forgotten about the effort of “righties” to ban the teaching of evolution from public schools and to banish references to evolution from school textbooks. The teaching of evolution is banned in much of the Islamic world and efforts are even under way to ban references to evolution from Turkish classrooms.

    What we have then, Mark in Texas, is evidence that “righties” also suffer from the inclination to impose their philosophy on everyone else. The common approach to evolution is yet another point of confluence between devout Christians and Muslims.

    Which brings us back to my original point; the good Professor gets it wrong yet again- it’s not devout Muslims and secular liberals who have so much in common, it’s devout Christians and devout Muslims who are, so to speak, kinsmen in superstition.

  • teapartydoc

    I lived in Rhodesia back in the 1960’s. My Dad treated people who had been cursed by witch doctors and became ill. Testing would show nothing wrong with them. They would deteriorate and die regardless of what he would do. He thought it was some sort of hypnotic suggestion that was potentiated by fervent belief. Whatever it was those people died. Africans see this more than their European doctors. This is why they kill witches in Africa. Why they kill them in Saudi? Ask them.

  • ChrisGreen

    Wig Wag:
    “When it comes to seeing witches everywhere they look, devout Christians beat the secular liberals hands down.”

    You make some good points. P. Mead tends to focus on the hysteria on the left more then the hysteria on the right (you shouldn’t be surprized by this considering his libertarian leanings). However, as a devout Christian (who happens to be a Mormon), I can tell you that am perfectly OK with Harry Potter. Furthermore, I don’t actually know any Christians who are NOT OK with HP. That is why I think it is a straw man argument. It not a quesiton of ‘do they exist’, it is a question of, ‘are such ideas mainstream even among devout Christians’. Based on my experience, they are not. The left exagerates the number of ‘nuts’ on the other side. The right does the same thing. Do you do the same thing?

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