As part of my October Halloween/Samhain indulgences, I listened to an Audible version of American Witches - A Broomstick Tour Through Four Centuries by Susan Fair. Fair covered the penchant for claiming mostly older women were witches to be feared, jailed, tortured, and executed reaching as far back as the ships crossing the Atlantic to come to North, Central, and South America.
Set aside the common thread that many of the bewitched were young women who required physical examinations by a room full of soul-troubled men searching for witch markings in the swimsuit areas and that those same men found it necessary to examine the accused for teats and marks of the devil. Examinations required stripping the accused and rough handling to be sure. Boner material Colonial New England style.
Near the end of the book, Fair tells the story of how the phony documentary that created the framework and viral buzz for the mockumentary The Blair Witch Project turned things upside down for a small town in Maryland.
After viewing the faux documentary, people converged on Burkittsville, Maryland, in search of the witch, hoping to solve the mystery of the missing college students, convinced that there had been a conspiracy to cover up the violence and horror alleged to take part in the Black Hills Forest, a place that didn't even exist.
A theme emerged among some of those who traveled to Burkittsville - the children. They were going to save the children. Just like the dolt who took a gun to Cosmic Pizza in Washington, DC, to free the child sex slaves in the non-existent basement, these people went to Maryland to rail at the residents of Burkittsville who dared to have children is such a wicked and dangerous place. Even though none of the story about the witch, the missing students, or murdered children was true.
It strikes me that from the witch frenzies during cross-Atlantic voyages to the internet-inspired nuttiness following the release of the Blair Witch Project, these events highlight a human desire to latch on to the weird, the outlandish, the illogical. No facts can get in the way of a good mob mentality stoked by conspiracy. Especially if the victims are children.
The Colonials who clamored for witch drownings and hangings are no different than the people who invaded tiny Burkittsville, Maryland, to save the children from the Blair Witch, and there's little daylight between them and the people driving around with QAnon stickers on their SUVs and F150s.
We love a good spine tingler made all the better for a number of us when you throw in "but the children." If you want to rally the laziest among us, you can usually activate them with a pitch involving children in peril - physically, morally, and/or sexually.
And let's not kid ourselves, there's an underlying racial element, as well.
Trafficking women of color? Meh.
Trafficking children of color? I'm listening.
Trafficking white children? GET ME MY AK, BABY! IT'S PEDO SEASON!
Grabs his gun and heads to his truck with the Come and Take It window sticker and set of balls dangling from the hitch because he's going to save the children.