Christine Johnson, associate professor of history in Arts & Sciences
President Trump’s regular cries of “Witch Hunt!” — he has tweeted the phrase more than 300 times in his presidency — conjure the image of an irrational mob, whipped into hysteria by cynical political operators to pursue Trump, the unjustly accused victim.
We haven’t seen actual witch hunts in centuries, which is why comparisons to them are effective discrediting devices: They evoke a world in which ignorance, superstition and lawlessness reigned. While Trump is not facing the modern-day equivalent of the witchcraft persecutions that convulsed 16th- and 17th-century Europe, the original witch hunts were driven by perils from which the modern age has by no means escaped: a focus on individual culpability, an unfounded confidence about the sources of social ills and the use of the legal system to produce certainty after the fact.
Understanding the witch hunts can help us see how these factors continue to devastate communities today.
Read the full piece in the Washington Post.