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witch hunting

James Kirchick — Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington

Shermer and Kirchick discuss: archives and secret sources of secret histories • the cause of homophobia, and how and why homosexuality was thought of as a “contagious sexual aberrancy” • why there is no lesbian history of Washington • J. Edgar Hoover, Clyde Tolson and gay mythmaking • FDR and Sumner Welles • why at the height of the Cold War, it was safer to be a Communist than a homosexual • Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss • the McCarthy hearings and how the Lavender Menace became inextricably linked with the Red Menace • astronomer Franklin Kameny and the Mattachine Society • JFK and his tolerance of homosexuality • Richard Nixon’s notorious homophobia • Ronald Reagan’s conflicting attitudes toward homosexuality • George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and real progress in acceptance of homosexuality • the trans movement and its homophobic consequences.

eSkeptic for January 15, 2021

In this cover story article (written in October 2020) for Skeptic magazine 25.4 (December 2020), Daniel Loxton considers the unsavory origins and rising threat of the QAnon conspiracy theory. Written prior to the deadly QAnon-led occupation of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021, this analysis exposes the conspiracy theory as baseless, unoriginal, and harmful for believers and society at large.

QAnon Is Just a Warmed Over Witch Panic — and It’s Also Very Dangerous

In this cover story article (written in October 2020) for Skeptic magazine 25.4 (December 2020), Daniel Loxton considers the unsavory origins and rising threat of the QAnon conspiracy theory. Written prior to the deadly QAnon-led occupation of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021, this analysis exposes the conspiracy theory as baseless, unoriginal, and harmful for believers and society at large.

Pressured Apologies, False Confessions, Witch Hunts

Often someone who makes a public comment out of compliance with progressive opinion is set upon by online vigilantes, attacked personally, repents, and promises to do better next time. Using two cases as touchstones, Stewart Justman draws an analogy between the extraction of such an apology and the extraction of a false confession to a crime of violence, the critical point being that in both instances the pressured party may well begin to believe the accusations against him or her.

eSkeptic for March 13, 2019

In Science Salon # 57, Dr. Shermer speaks with legendary biologist and primatologist Dr. Frans de Waal about his empirical and theoretical work on animal societies, politics, intelligence, sentience, consciousness and, now, feelings and emotions. PLUS, using two cases as touchstones, Stewart Justman draws an analogy between the extraction of an apology and the extraction of a false confession to a crime of violence.

From the Skeptical Literature: Thomas Ady on the Role of Mental Illness in Witchcraft Confessions (1655)

Cover of Ady's book A Candle in the Dark

Daniel Loxton shares and discusses a quote from a skeptical volume which was written three and a half centuries ago as an urgent effort to curb the bloodthirsty witch hunting mania.

The Enemy Within

The term “witch-hunt” is used today to describe everything from political scandals to school board shake-ups. Long before the Salem witch trials, women and men were rounded up by neighbors, accused of committing horrific crimes using supernatural powers, scrutinized by priests and juries, and promptly executed. The belief in witchcraft — and the deep fear of evil it instilled in communities — led to a cycle of accusation, anger, and purging that has occurred repeatedly in the West for centuries…

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