Collage of a photo of the White House, a picture from trump from the bottom of his mouth to half-way down his chest, and a sign that says, "Witch House."

Terry Kelly /

All the Rage

Terry Kelly /

Trump’s Got 99 Problems, But a Witch Ain’t One

They compare Russiagate and the impeachment inquiry to the Salem Witch Trials, and call Greta Thunberg and Hillary Clinton witches. Which would be hilarious if these guys weren’t so bloody serious.  

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For much of his entire term in office, Donald Trump and friends have been frantically comparing his various plights to that of those persecuted in the Salem Witch Trials. First, Russiagate was a “witch hunt”; now it’s the impeachment inquiry. Has he actually been on trial? No! Has he been dunked in a vat of water to see if he floats or drowns? No! Has anyone checked for a third nipple? No, and thank goodness.

Given this, the Salem Witch Trials may seem like they have absolutely nothing in common with investigations into Trump’s crimes. And they do not! But, to be fair, it’s not as if Trump has a lot of options when it comes to situations in which people have been unjustly accused, as he claims he is. He can’t compare it to McCarthyism, for Roy Cohn–related reasons. He sure as hell can’t compare it to what the Central Park Five went through. He can’t even really compare it to the Spanish Inquisition, given that conservatives decided some time ago that, actually, the Spanish Inquisition was good. So the Salem Witch Trials it is!

Last week, Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani even went so far as to say that Trump was being treated even more unfairly than the Salem witches. The Federalist, backing him up, even ran a little listicle titled “6 Ways The Salem Witch Trials Were Fairer Than Democrats’ Impeachment Inquiry.”

And yet, while they may consider a “witch hunt” or a “witch trial” a bad thing when it comes to Trump and his nefarious dealings with Russia and Ukraine, right-wing media has been in the midst of a renaissance of the Satanic Panic, boldly accusing everyone and anyone they dislike of being a witch.

There are, of course, those who practice Wicca, and those who consider themselves Satanists, and a vast, vast gulf between that and the imagined witchcraft, paganism, and Satanism that exists in the fevered brains of right-wing conspiracy theorists.

From Pizzagate, to taking Marina Abramovic’s Spirit Cooking performance art far too seriously, to the theory that Hillary Clinton participates in Satanic rituals in which she gets high off the adrenal glands of murdered children, to the belief that Beyoncé is the queen of the Illuminati, accusations of evil occult practices have become increasingly common over the last few years.

And it’s not just on the fringes either.

Barely two weeks before the article about how the witch trials were conducted more fairly than the impeachment article, The Federalist ran another op-ed in which a different writer very seriously accused teen environmental activist Greta Thunberg of being a witch and ushering in a new era of cult-y, hedonistic paganism with her pleas to maybe not murder the planet.

Via The Federalist:

Sexualized dances, psychedelic hallucinogens, worshiping nature, confessing sins in pagan animism, worshiping purified teen saints, and throwing them up on an altar, bereft of their childhood, to promote a greater cause. Add to that witches hexing Brett Kavanaugh, and having an [sic] Ouija board to invoke the spirit of Karl Marx, and everything old is new again.

A few days after that, Trump adviser Robert Jeffress shared his belief that Democrats support abortion because they all worship the “demon god Moloch,” who was reportedly real fond of child sacrifice. This is nothing new: For years, right-wing media has attempted to draw a line between abortion rights and the practice of child sacrifice, often inferring that the true reason people have abortions is as tribute to Moloch or some other pagan deity. An anti-abortion activist interviewed by VICE even claimed that every abortion clinic has a secret shrine to Moloch somewhere in the building.

The idea that supporters of abortion rights engage in the worship of an old-timey deity that most of us would probably have to Google, or that Greta Thunberg is trying to bring about some kind of Wicker Man–esque society, or that Hillary Clinton eats children would be comical if those who believed these things were not dead serious.

America’s history of accusing innocent people of bizarre occult activity does not begin and end with the Salem Witch Trials. In the 1980s and ’90s, there were cases of innocent people who were sent to prison, or who were otherwise having their lives ruined, based on false allegations of molesting or killing children for Satan. Several people who ran or taught at day-care centers, like the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, California, were falsely accused of committing “Satanic ritual abuse” to the children in their care. While the McMartins were found innocent at trial, 36 people who were accused of Satanic ritual abuse in Kern County, California, were actually convicted and sent to prison for years. Thirty-four of those convictions were eventually overturned and those accused received settlements for having been wrongly convicted. Two of those accused never got to have their convictions overturned because they died in prison.

In 1992, the FBI would release a report stating that there was absolutely no evidence that Satanic ritual abuse cults were real. Sadly, that didn’t really help those who had been accused or those who had been manipulated by social workers and psychiatrists into believing they had been victims of Satanic ritual abuse.

The Salem Witch Trials were no joke, and the idea that they were somehow “more fair” than what is happening to Donald Trump—when he stands accused of something he actually did, and they were accused and then murdered over things that were not even humanly possible to do—is sickening. It is also pretty ironic given that, clearly, it is not the Left that has followed in the footsteps of the Salem accusers.

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