In the wintry months of early 1692, two daughters of the local Salem pastor Reverend Parris began to have awful fits of bizarre behavior. The two, Abigail Williams (11) and Betty Parris (9), would scream and cry randomly, crawl around on all fours, destroy property and contort themselves in frightful ways. Parris was concerned and had the local doctor examine the young girls. The doctor found nothing medically wrong with them. A pastor of a nearby town suggested to Parris that the behavior was beyond natural and very well could be due to the machinations of Satan.
Salem was a small village situated in what is currently Massachusetts. After the Glorious Revolution in England, many strong Christian Calvinists, self-styled as Puritans, fled Europe and headed for the American colonies to escape religious persecution. Most settled in what is modern New England. They formed many self-governing villages and towns that were based exclusively on their interpretation of the Bible. Children were only taught the Bible and access to knowledge was controlled by pastors and powerful religious leaders.
Rules about social comportment were extensive and complicated. Deviations, however slight, were regarded with great suspicion. Salem, itself, was a particularly loathsome town, with incredible amounts of petty disputes and a very heated family feud between the Putnam and Porter families—most likely the impetus for the witch hunt.
At this juncture of American history, Satan was widely believed to have a great and constant presence in the world. Witches were thought to be agents of Satan and sought to target people to advance Satan’s agenda—often young girls. Cotton Mather, a prominent religious figure, disseminated a great number of pamphlets in the years leading up to the trials exhorting the real and palpable evil of witchcraft. He detailed the effects of witchcraft and who would engage in it.
After knowledge became public about the local pastor’s daughter’s fits, a town meeting was called as more young women became to emulate these two girls’ behavior. At the meeting, the young girls would interrupt the proceedings multiple times, convulsing on the floor and screaming at the top of their lungs.
At the outset, three women were arrested—a homeless beggar, a black slave, and a prominent but poor and unpopular woman who was a member of the rival family. All three violated the codes of Puritan life and nobody bothered to defend them. In court, the three were subjected to intense interrogation for about a week, with the black woman, Tituba, confessing she signed a deal with Satan and was an agent of his bidding. This confession sparked an absolute maelstrom over the course of spring and summer in the village.
The two girls, plus a girl named Ann Putnam Jr., began to level accusations of witchcraft against over 50 people, and they all were summarily arrested and subjected to interrogation over the spring. People who questioned the proceedings were arrested. Any dissent from the process was looked at with extreme prejudice.
In order to prove the accusation, a contentious issue was the admissibility of “spectral evidence.” Spectral evidence refers to testimony of the accuser that the accused came to them in the form of a specter or spirit. It was hypothesized that said power only could be granted by Satan himself. There was significant debate over the legitimacy and admissibility of said evidence. Cotton Mather remitted a treatise to the court in Salem that spectral evidence should be admissible, but cautioned that it is never sufficient for a conviction.
The court ignored Mather’s contention and began to issue convictions based purely on spectral evidence. Accusations continued to pile up and eventually hangings took place on a what would infamously be known as “Gallows Hill.” Bridget Bishop was the first person to be hanged as punishment. This caused the presiding judge to resign, as he grew disillusioned with the proceedings. It was rumored he became an alcoholic as a result of his participation in the trials.
Over the course of the summer in 1692, 19 people were hanged, with a slight majority of them being women. In September, a man who refused to enter a plea after being indicted was crushed to death after being subject to “peine forte et dure,” a punishment during which he had heavy stones placed on his body until he either died or entered a plea.
At this point, Increase Mather (Cotton Mather’s father and President of Harvard) become a strong critic of the proceedings and refused to acknowledge any legitimacy of spectral evidence. He had a famous quote, enshrined by Blackstone:
It were better that Ten Suspected Witches should escape, than that one Innocent Person should be Condemned
The Governor of Massachusetts colony, after his wife was questioned about witchcraft, issued a stay on any more prosecutions and executions and formed his own court to try the remaining accusations. All but three people were released and not tried by this court because their indictments were based purely on spectral evidence.
In the aftermath, there was much consternation over the trials, as many convictions were overturned by the end of decade. Many leaders began to criticize the proceedings and their supporters. As it stands this day, all the convictions have been overturned, all deceased members allowed back into the church and the innocence of all formally recognized. Abigail Williams, the most notorious accuser, did publicly apologize for her behavior about a decade later.
The underlying psychology that lead to the zealous witch hunt in Salem never went away in America, it merely went into hiding. It has erupted from time to time as moral panics—as such McCarthyism and the McMartin Preschool debacle—but, generally, it has been repressed and expressed as America’s famed Protestant work ethic. While this work ethic has been largely displaced by America’s culture of narcissism, moral puritanism still exists in one key demographic: feminists.
First off, moral puritanism is clinically referred to as “Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder.” Personality disorders are recurrent unhealthy thought patterns that result in predictable routines or behavior. Obsessive-Compulsives are characterized by their love of work, their perfectionism, and their profound emotional and moral constriction. They do not only consider themselves to be moral superiors to any non-compulsive, but they also seek to convert the world to their unhealthy thought patterns.
Inside every Obsessive-Compulsive—which shall be referred to as a puritan going forward—is an anti-social desperate to claw its way to the surface. Unable to reconcile their bad thoughts with their good ones, they engage in a form of emotional constriction that causes them to become obsessed with control. In their own minds, they engage in incredible amounts of obsessing over work or moral judgmentalism of others to avoid dealing with their own superficially repressed anti-social behavior. They want to rebel and give into their adolescent anti-social desires, but their supreme desire for control means they never indulge those impulses, nor do they recognize that others sense those impulses in them.
Furthermore, puritans have one massive flaw in their thought patterns: the inability to distinguish between process and product. In his book Emotional Vampires, Dr. Albert J. Bernstein observes that the difference between product and process is that product is what a person or group is trying to do and process is how a person or group goes about it. These are distinct points that need to be separated to understand puritans as he states:
Obsessive-Compulsives habitually confuse process with product. To them, how something is done can become more important than whether it gets done at all…Obsessive-Compulsives tend to think that there is only one way to achieve any goal.
Since puritans are primarily interested in control, they bog others down in drowning amounts of details, needless critiques of slight deviations of what they think the process should be, and the general impulse to criticize over rectify. They don’t want change, but rather desire a maintenance of the status quo so they can repress their own impulses. Giving them free reign over achieving a product allows them to purse what they really want: control over the process.
This week, over at Forbes, Bill Frezza got pitchforked by puritans over an article on the relation between fraternities and drunk women. Frezza—understandably worried about drunk women around men in our current cultural milieu—wrote a piece about how to limit a fraternity’s liabilities in the face of widespread female drunkenness. He got burned at the stake quickly, with Forbes deleting the article and firing him immediately. National treasure Erin Gloria Ryan at Jezebel did a great job of fusing female hysteria with moral puritanism:
But I understand the need for constant vigilance [emphasis mine]. If Forbes didn’t want a column like this in its house, it should have stopped Bill Frezza at the door rather than letting him in to shit up the joint. It only takes one drunk female or idiot blowhard to ruin things for everybody.
Ryan’s response to Frezza’s inartful, but correct, article is telling. Ryan lauds some of Frezza’s recommendations—but always qualifies them, as she sees herself as superior to a dude-bro like Frezza—but she beats Frezza over the head with her delusional sense of moral superiority. She takes Frezza’s article which is only partially about sexual assault and rape and makes it completely about sexual transgressions. Frezza cites the issue of women falling to their death off balconies when they are drunk, but puritans like Ryan don’t care about that unless they are doing the pushing—excuse me, others are doing the pushing. Puritans like Ryan are only outwardly concerned with controlling the anti-social impulses of others.
Just like with the Salem Witch Trials, modern feminism is little more than a gang of puritans looking for their next score. Instead of doing this in real life, their hunting grounds are online. Their tribunals are not court rooms or places of worship, but the new places of worship in America: Twitter, the left-wing blogosphere, etc. Their accusers might not be girls but grown women with a political agenda.
Reconsider the concept of spectral evidence. The necessarily back-and-forth nature of sexual assault or rape accusations mirrors admissibility of spectral evidence. Since spectral evidence is wholly about the perception of the declarant, consider this caption of a YouTube comment about Sam Pepper (who did a sexual assault prank and posted it on YouTube):
This isn’t about what Sam Pepper did, but about how women like Miriam see the world. Not only do they assume the worst in those around them, but they are looking for ways to control others’ behavior in a negative way based on punishment. As. Dr. Bernstein observed:
[Puritans] try to make the world safe for truth, justice and love, using censorship, punishment and cruelty. They never realize that they’re the primary instigators of the forces of evil that they labor so hard to combat.
A puritan’s life—feminist, Christian, whatever—revolves around punishing those around them for thoughts they spend their entire lives repressing. This could result in the Salem Witch Trials: prosecuting people for giving into Satan. It could also result in attacking young men on college campuses for associating with men or #GamerGate.
For feminists, it is about controlling their own anti-social impulses. Just like in the Salem Witch Trials, they come across as bullies because they are bullies. Their supreme desire to control the impulses of others are nothing more than the extension of their own desire to suppress and control their own impulses.
Modern feminism, then, is little more than a repackaged version of the Salem Witch Trials. The feminine hysteria, the inability to consider real evidence, and the swarming nature of the phenomenon are all indicative of its puritanical nature.