The country is going through one of the increasingly common episodes of hysteria in modern times. In the 17th century, there was the period of The Salem Witch Trials.
From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft; dozens languished in jail for months without trials until the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts subsided.
The episode was begun by what sounds like hysterical symptoms occurring in the daughter of the new minister. Before it was over, a number of people of the village of Salem had been accused of witchcraft and 19 were executed and five others had died.
Suspected witches were examined for certain marks, called “witch marks,” where witches’ “familiars” could nurse. The hysteria ended as quickly as it began. By the end of 1692, it was over and all surviving accused were released.
The period of the hearings in America after World War II, in which many were accused of being communists, the so-called “McCarthy period,” is often compared to this era and a left wing playwright, Arthur Miller, wrote a play called “The Crucible,” which made the connection between the Salem trials and Senator McCarthy’s accusations the theme.
Miller wrote the play as an allegory of McCarthyism, when the U.S. government blacklisted accused communists. Miller himself was questioned by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956 and convicted of “contempt of Congress” for refusing to identify others present at meetings he had attended.
The principle difference is that there were no witches in Salem but there had been communists in America. The Russian Revolution in 1917 was a genuine revolution against the incompetent government of Czar Nicholas, who had taken the country to war without the proper organization of the army or the national will to succeed.
Under his rule, Russia was humiliatingly defeated in the Russo-Japanese War, which saw the almost total annihilation of the Russian Baltic Fleet at the Battle of Tsushima. The Anglo-Russian Entente, designed to counter German attempts to gain influence in the Middle East, ended the Great Game between Russia and the United Kingdom. As head of state, Nicholas approved the Russian mobilisation of August 1914, which marked the beginning of Russia’s involvement in the First World War, a war in which 3.3 million Russians were killed. The Imperial Army’s severe losses and the High Command’s incompetent handling of the war, along with other policies directed by Nicholas during his reign, are often cited as the leading causes of the fall of the Romanov dynasty.
What followed, however, was worse than anything he or his government did at a time that Russia was modernizing rapidly and might well have become a modern state. Photographs of pre-Revolutionary Russia suggest an exotic nation with many contrasts. However, there had been significant economic progress, much of it due to private initiative.
Industrial growth was significant, although unsteady, and in absolute terms it was not extensive. Russia’s industrial regions included Moscow, the central regions of the country, St. Petersburg, the Baltic cities, Russian Poland, some areas along the lower Don and Dnepr rivers, and the Ural Mountains. By 1890 Russia had about 32,000 kilometers of railroads and 1.4 million factory workers, the majority of them in the textile industry. Between 1860 and 1890, coal production had grown about 1,200 percent to over 6.6 million tons, and iron and steel production had more than doubled to 2 million tons. The state budget, however, had more than doubled, and debt expenditures had quadrupled, constituting 28 percent of official expenditures in 1891. Foreign trade was inadequate to meet the empire’s needs, and surpluses sufficient to cover the debts incurred to finance trade with the West were not realized until high industrial tariffs were introduced in the 1880s.
The image of the Russian Revolution freeing serfs in a uniformly primitive society is inaccurate and much of it derives from post-Bolshevik propaganda. The period from 1920, when the Reds had consolidated their gains, until the Second World War, was one of economic disaster. Nonetheless, the period was romanticized by western supporters, many of whom had little understanding of economics.
One of these was Lincoln Steffens, a New York reporter for the muckraking magazine, McClure’s. Typically, Steffens was the product of a wealthy family and he traveled extensively after graduation from the University of California.
From 1914–1915 he covered the Mexican Revolution and began to see revolution as preferable to reform. In March 1919, he accompanied William C. Bullitt, a low-level State Department official, on a three-week visit to the Soviet Union and witnessed the “confusing and difficult” process of a society in the process of revolutionary change. He wrote that “Soviet Russia was a revolutionary government with an evolutionary plan,” enduring “a temporary condition of evil, which is made tolerable by hope and a plan.
This was to be a theme about the Soviet Union for 50 years. Innocent leftists visited for brief periods and returned full of praise for a system that they had had little actual contact with. In Steffen’s own words:
After his return, he promoted his view of the Soviet Revolution and in the course of campaigning for U.S. food aid for Russia made his famous remark about the new Soviet society: “I have seen the future, and it works”, a phrase he often repeated with many variations.
By 1931, he was disillusioned but others were not.
Another enthusiast was John Reed, another reporter who became such a supporter that he wrote an adoring book about the Bolshevik Revolution, “Ten Days the Shook the World.” He died shortly after the book was published and is buried in the Kremlin Wall.
These men were enthusiasts about a system that they had brief contact with and which supported all their naive Progressive enthusiasms.
Less innocent was a New York Times reporter named Walter Duranty who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for reporting from the Soviet Union that concealed economic failures of the Soviets, especially the famines that killed millions in the Ukraine.
Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for a series of stories on the Soviet Union. Duranty has been criticized for his denial of widespread famine, most particularly the Ukraine mass starvation (1932–33). Years later, there were calls to revoke his Pulitzer; even The New York Times acknowledged his articles constituted “some of the worst reporting to appear in this newspaper.”
For all these reasons, there was considerable enthusiasm for Soviet communism in the US during the 1930s, a period when Capitalism was doubted. Much of this enthusiasm was naive and on the part of artists and writers who had no economic education. Some of it was among the political class and here it was less innocent. There were communist agents of the Soviet Union among members of the Roosevelt Administration. Some of these were probably philosophical but some were treasonous. Harry Dexter White was an economist and
senior U.S. Treasury department official. working closely with the Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr., he helped set American financial policy toward the Allies of World War II while at the same time he passed numerous secrets to the Soviet Union. He was the senior American official at the 1944 Bretton Woods conference, that established the postwar economic order. He dominated the conference and imposed his vision of post-war financial institutions over the objections of John Maynard Keynes, the British representative. At Bretton Woods, White was a major architect of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
In August that year he met Katherine (“Kitty”) Puening Harrison, a radical Berkeley student and former Communist Party member. Harrison had been married three times previously. Her first marriage lasted only a few months. Her second husband was Joe Dallet, an active member of the Communist party, who was killed in the Spanish Civil War.
He was never shown to be a communist party member but he did subscribe to radical causes.
Less innocent were David Greenglass, and his sister and brother-in-law, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, who were later executed as Soviet spies. There was considerable controversy about the Rosenbergs but, there eventually came real evidence of their guilt. In 1995, the Venona Project was declassified.
During the program’s four decades, approximately 3,000 messages were at least partially decrypted and translated. The project produced some of the most important breakthroughs for western counter-intelligence in this period, including the discovery of the Cambridge spy ring and the exposure of Soviet espionage targeting the Manhattan Project. The project was one of the most sensitive secrets of United States intelligence. It remained secret for over a decade after it ended and was not officially declassified until 1995.
Richard Nixon, a member of the House Unamerican Activities Committee was able to prove that what McCarthy was talking about, had actually happened. There were communist spies in the US government.
Staffed by right-wing zealots and conducted with the decorum of a kangaroo court, the committee had largely failed in its mission to flush out Communist subversives in America. Nonetheless, freshman Congressman Richard M. Nixon, Republican from California’s twelfth district, accepted a seat on HUAC. Nixon recognized that anti-Communism was growing in popularity in the United States. He had seized upon the issue in his campaign for Congress and had ridden an anti-Communist wave to the House of Representatives. Now he would use HUAC as his springboard to national celebrity.
The typical hostile tone of PBS toward Nixon does not conceal the fact that he was correct.
former Time magazine editor and admitted Communist Whittaker Chambers accused Alger Hiss of spying for the Communists.
The defense of Hiss was furious and became a cause for the American Left. Unfortunately for the Left, Hiss was guilty, as the Venona transcripts later proved. The “hysteria” of “Red Baiting” left a bitter legacy with the political Left but there was a real basis.
The next hysteria had no basis in fact. In the early 1980s, a fear of abuse of children in day care centers began. The entire matter began in Kern County, California.
In 1982, Alvin and Debbie McCuan’s two daughters, coached by their step-grandmother Mary Ann Barbour, who had custody of them, alleged they had been abused by their parents, and accused them of being part of a sex ring that included Scott and Brenda Kniffen. The Kniffens’ two sons also claimed to have been abused. No physical evidence was ever found. The McCuans and Kniffens were convicted in 1984 and given a combined sentence of over 1000 years in prison.
This began the panic which persisted for years. The “Satanic Abuse” aspects were attractive to the political left as an indictment of the religious who believed in Satan.
The convictions were overturned in 1996 and the two couples were released.
I first became aware of this when watching a PBS program on the Little Rascals Day Care Center in North Carolina.
In January, 1989, allegations were made that Bob Kelly had sexually abused a child. After investigation by a police officer and social worker, the conclusion was the allegations were valid and parents were urged to have their children evaluated for abuse. A total of 90 children, after many therapy sessions (in some cases up to ten months’ worth), also made allegations leading to accusations against dozens besides Kelly and charges against seven adults (Bob and Betsy Kelly, three workers at the day care, a worker at a local Head Start center and the son of a judge).
Possibly the most famous case, at least in California, was the McMartin Preschool case, which began in 1983 with the accusation by a mentally disturbed mother that her child had been molested.
Accusations were made in 1983. Arrests and the pretrial investigation ran from 1984 to 1987, and the trial ran from 1987 to 1990. After six years of criminal trials, no convictions were obtained, and all charges were dropped in 1990. When the trial ended in 1990 it had been the longest and most expensive criminal trial in American history. The case was part of day care sex abuse hysteria, a moral panic over alleged Satanic ritual abuse in the 1980s and early 1990s.
There were a series of cases in Florida in which Janet Reno, Clintons Attorney General was instrumental.
The next moral panic, in my opinion, was the the “Recovered Memories” panic of the 1990s. I became aware of this in 1994 while attending Dartmouth Medical School in a health policy program. I read a book by a local man whose daughter, while undergoing treatment for bulimia, became convinced that she had been molested by her father as a child.
While not a therapeutic technique in and of itself, RMT (Recovered Memory Therapy) generally is applied to such methods as hypnosis, age regression, drug-assisted interviewing (using substances such as sodium amytal), and guided visualization. While practiced by some individual therapists, these techniques were never recognized by the psychiatric or psychological community, and are generally not practiced in mainstream treatment modalities.
This subject became a major focus of clinical psychologists who were under considerable stress from managed care health insurance that limited mental health benefits. Eventually, the clinical psychology annual meetings began to offer courses in how to “discover” recovered memories in patients, many of whom were seeking therapy for behavioral problems like bulimia and alcoholism.
Studies by Elizabeth Loftus and others have concluded that it is possible to produce false memories of childhood incidents. The experiments involved manipulating subjects into believing that they had some fictitious experience in childhood, such as being lost in a shopping mall at age 6. This involved using a suggestive technique called “familial informant false narrative procedure,” in which the experimenter claims the validity of the false event is supported by a family member of the subject.
Many of the Recovered Memories cases involved other female relatives supporting the supposed memories of the patient. The book I read in 1994 described the painful experience of a father who lost his wife and two daughters to this hysteria. The methods of “recovering memories” are similar to those which produce false memories.
The entire Recovered Memory hysteria stopped suddenly after a father who had been accused by his daughter of molestation won a lawsuit against the psychologists and the hospital where his daughter had been “treated.”
The jury decided on a 10-2 vote that therapist Marche Isabella, Dr. Richard Rose, chief of psychiatry at Western Medical Center in Anaheim, and the hospital were negligent in their treatment of Holly Ramona, now 23. It awarded her father $500,000 in damages.
The case has received national attention because it marks the first time that a court has allowed a therapist to be sued for implanting false memories. It has been at the forefront of debate over recovered memory therapy, the most divisive issue to hit the mental health profession in decades.
Gary Ramona, who Holly said repeatedly raped her between the ages of 5 and 8, has been “totally vindicated” by the decision, the father’s attorney, Richard Harrington, said in an interview Friday night.
After that decision, the insurance companies providing malpractice insurance stopped coverage for “Recovered Memory therapy” and the practice vanished as quickly as the Salem Witch Trials had ended.
The episode had begun in the usual fashion.
Holly Ramona’s suspicions that she may have been molested surfaced in early 1990, when she was receiving therapy for depression and bulimia while attending UC Irvine. She testified during the trial that the memories were triggered by a trip back home in 1989, a Christmas excursion during which her father looked at her in a sexual fashion.
The daughter and mother remained convinced that she was telling the truth and the daughter later announced that she would work as a “therapist” for other “victims.”
I believe the latest example of a moral panic hysteria is the current “Rape Culture” being described in colleges. It has most of the characteristics of the other hysterias, except that the Red Scare of the 1950s had a basis in fact, if exaggerated by some.
Although the concept of rape culture is used in feminist academia, there is disagreement over what defines a rape culture and to what degree a given society meets the criteria to be considered a rape culture.
Elements of rape culture are correlated with other social factors and behaviors. Rape myths, victim blaming, and trivialization of rape are positively correlated with racism, homophobia, ageism, classism, religious intolerance, and other forms of discrimination.
Thus the entire culture of victimology is involved in part. An excellent example at present is the notorious Rolling Stone magazine article alleging a gang rape at the University of Virginia. A fraternity was alleged to have used gang rape as a pledge initiation ceremony.
Even as Rolling Stone’s Nov. 19 story “A Rape on Campus” unraveled last week, the magazine claimed that writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely did her due diligence in investigating an alleged gang rape on Sept. 28, 2012, at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia that had victimized a then-freshman by the name of Jackie. “Dozens” of Jackie’s friends, Rolling Stone told this blog, had spoken with Erdely for the story — some off the record, some on the record.
It has become obvious that the article was based on a hoax at worst and the delusions of a disturbed girl at best. For example, the accuser used a photo of a man she had seen in high school, who does not attend the UVA and who denies knowing her, as the “date” that she said took her to the fraternity party where she was raped. The fraternity has stated that no party of any type was held that weekend.
The original story is here. A lengthy dismissal of the details of that story is here. There are many details in the latter link that absolutely refute the Rolling Stone story. It also deals well with the campus hysteria that is causing severe harm to men accused and denied due process. What is going on ?
Some of this is politics. The White House and Congress have both used the alleged epidemic of sexual assault for political advantage. A few are pushing back.
More than two dozen Harvard Law School professors recently wrote a statement protesting the university’s new rules for handling sexual assault claims. “Harvard has adopted procedures for deciding cases of alleged sexual misconduct which lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process,” they wrote. The professors note that the new rules call for a Title IX compliance officer who will be in charge of “investigation, prosecution, fact-finding, and appellate review.” Under the new system, there will be no hearing for the accused, and thus no opportunity to question witnesses and mount a defense. Harvard University, the professors wrote, is “jettisoning balance and fairness in the rush to appease certain federal administrative officials.” But to push back against Department of Education edicts means potentially putting a school’s federal funding in jeopardy, and no college, not even Harvard, the country’s richest, is willing to do that.
The only way to stop this may be the way the Recovered Memories hoax was stopped. With lawsuits. New data may also weaken the narrative.
The full study, which was published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a division within DOJ, found that rather than one in five female college students becoming victims of sexual assault, the actual rate is 6.1 per 1,000 students, or 0.61 percent (instead of 1-in-5, the real number is 0.03-in-5). For non-students, the rate of sexual assault is 7.6 per 1,000 people.
There are other victims than college men. A young man falsely accused of rape years ago, was finally released from jail and allowed to attempt a career that was denied him.
Banks, a highly recruited star at Long Beach Poly High School more than a decade ago before a classmate accused of him rape, entered the game against Cincinnati at linebacker with about eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Georgia Dome crowd and other players cheered as Banks entered the game. He finished with two tackles in the Falcons’ 34-10 loss.
He spent five years in prison and five years on probation.
Banks had verbally committed to play for coach Pete Carroll at USC in 2002, but ended up spending five years in prison for a rape and kidnapping he did not commit. Banks also spent five years on probation and had to register as a sex offender because of the accusations, which the classmate later recanted.
Banks’ journey to Thursday’s NFL debut was made possible by a hidden-camera confession from his accuser, who sent Banks a Facebook friend request after his release from prison. The accuser told Banks she wanted to “let bygones be bygones.”
Banks called a private investigator, who elicited the confession from the accuser. Banks was cleared of the charge in May 2012.
There is another case that involved a career. A distinguished female general saw her appointment to the Air Force Space Command blocked by a Senator who is trying to push sexual assault in the military as an issue to promote her career.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said Friday that she would be sustaining her hold against Lt. Gen. Susan Helms to become vice commander of U.S. Space Command.
In a statement entered into the congressional record, McCaskill said that she was blocking the nomination because Helms had overturned a guilty verdict in a sexual assault case last year.
“With her action, Lt. Gen. Helms sent a damaging message to survivors of sexual assault who are seeking justice in the military justice system,” McCaskill said.
I spent some time reading the details of that case. First, General Helms was a female astronaut and highly qualified for the job. The issue of sexual assault in the military may also be an example of hysteria with political overtones.
Lawmakers have vowed to do more to address the problem of sexual assault in the military in response to a number of high-profile incidents and a Pentagon report estimating there were 26,000 assaults last year, an increase of more than one-third.
McCaskill said in her statement Friday that she would continue to give “great scrutiny” to any commander who overturned a jury verdict in a post-trial review against the advice of legal counsel.
The case in this instance involved four officers who had been out on a date. The two in the back seat of a car had been drinking and a certain amount of sexual activity took place. The female officer later accused the male officer of assault. The two witnesses in the front seat denied the accuser’s description of the incident.
The prominent Democratic lawmaker blocked Helms’ nomination in April 2013 because Helms overturned the sexual assault conviction of Capt. Matthew Herrera at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, in February 2012. Herrera was punished administratively and kicked out of the Air Force in December.
Helms decided not to approve the punishment of dishonorable discharge because she could not be satisfied “beyond-a-reasonable-doubt” that the prosecution met the burden of proof, then-Space Command spokeswoman Brig. Gen. Kathleen Cook told Air Force Times last March.
General Helms retired after President Obama withdrew her nomination.
The commanding general thought the punishment too harsh although the officer was forced to resign. McCaskill hopes to ride this incident and related legislation to re-election. I think this is more hysteria. It is of interest that one of the articles written highlighting the alleged problem of sexual abuse in the military was written by the same now discredited writer in the now discredited Rolling Stone magazine.
The scandal of rape in the U.S. Armed Forces, across all of its uniformed services, has become inescapable. Last year saw the military’s biggest sex-abuse scandal in a decade, when an investigation at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio revealed that 32 basic-training instructors preyed on at least 59 recruits. In Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair is currently facing court-martial for sex-crimes charges, including forcible sodomy, for alleged misconduct against five women.
Many of the details of this piece are now being challenged, along with other stories she has written about sexual abuse topics.
I think we are in the midst of the latest moral panic hysteria. This even goes to the whole issue of racial relations and police shootings. We now have marches and rioting plus crazy demands by minority college students.
Rust’s graduate-level class in dissertation preparation was the target of student protest just a few months later—ironic, but in the fevered context of the UCLA education school, not surprising. The school, which trumpets its “social-justice” mission at every opportunity, is a cauldron of simmering racial tensions. Students specializing in “critical race theory”—an intellectually vacuous import from law schools—play the race card incessantly against their fellow students and their professors, leading to an atmosphere of nervous self-censorship.
Moral panic seems to dominate colleges these days. Education schools are less critical then the US military. There actually does seem to be a rape culture in this country, but because it affects men, no one cares about it.