verb (used with object) witch-hunt
VIDEO FOR WITCH HUNT
WATCH NOW: Why Is "Witch Hunt" A Political Phrase?
The term witch hunt, recorded as such in the late 1800s, took a turn in the early 20th century. Here's why.
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Origin of witch hunt
historical usage of witch hunt
Historically, people were accused, tried, and punished for the practice of witchcraft in early modern Europe from the late 15th century through the mid-18th century. Many factors contributed to this dark chapter in history, from lack of scientific knowledge, high mortality rates, and natural disasters to social forces including sexism, racism, and ageism.
To understand the figurative use of witch hunt look to the most famous American example of a literal witch hunt, the Salem witch trials of 1692. Various tragedies, from untimely deaths to the loss of livestock, were blamed on "harmful magic." The first three accused in Salem were an enslaved woman, a homeless beggar, and a social outcast. As was common in witch trials, defendants confessed under duress and named confederates. The scope of the trial grew ever wider, with many innocents being convicted and sentenced to death.
The spread of accusations, the implicating of alleged accomplices, and the lack of due process and proper prosecutorial rigor made witch hunt an apt political and social metaphor in the modern era. From Senate subcommittee hearings on pro-German propaganda in the early 20th century to the House Un-American Activities Committee of McCarthyism, witch hunts are now evoked for political investigations characterized by paranoid hysteria, self-preservation, and cynical social machination.
The current use of the expression takes for granted the modern assumption that witchcraft was never a legitimate target of investigation or prosecution. The process of any historical witch hunt was therefore inherently flawed or corrupt, and the target was necessarily innocent. This anachronistic understanding is the crux of the logical fallacy often encountered in modern rhetorical use, where framing an inquiry as a witch hunt is a debate tactic used to assume the innocence of the accused and call into question the motivation and methods of accusers, without examining the substance of the accusation.
OTHER WORDS FROM witch huntwitch hunter, nounwitch-hunting, adjective, noun
Words nearby witch hunt
Example sentences from the Web for witch hunt
Agnew complained in public that it was a witch hunt, part of a liberal-media plot to destroy a leader who had dared to take on the political establishment.Vice President Agnew’s misdeeds, and the challenges of holding him accountable|Matthew Dallek|December 18, 2020|Washington Post
This is a big, big beginning to the end of what has been a witch hunt.
The kid from next door drops by and Marvin talks to him about the stunts in his latest film, Death Hunt.The Story Behind Lee Marvin’s Liberty Valance Smile|Robert Ward|January 3, 2015|DAILY BEAST
The Federal Duck Stamp Act raised the fee on stamps needed to hunt waterfowl on federal land from $15 to $25.Nazis, Sunscreen, and Sea Gull Eggs: Congress in 2014 Was Hella Productive|Ben Jacobs|December 29, 2014|DAILY BEAST
He once experimented with dressing as “Hilda the Wicked Witch” as a way to expand his business to Halloween.Kerry Bentivolio: The Congressman Who Believes in Santa Claus|Ben Jacobs|December 24, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Jordanian intelligence played an important role in the hunt that eventually killed Zarqawi in Iraq in 2006.
Breitbart forced her to correct a small part of her story, but witch hunts like these will leave every victim cowering.
Mrs. Jolly Robin had often wished—when she was trying to feed a rapidly-growing family—that she could hunt forp.The Tale of Grandfather Mole|Arthur Scott Bailey
When the whole hunt is hunting up, each single change is made between the whole hunt, and the next bell above it.
With these ten Hunts, the first change in each Peal is made by hunting the whole Hunt up.
This Peal (by the Rules aforesaid) may be Rang with any whole hunt, half hunt, and quarter hunt.
The half hunt is alwayes one of the two hindmost bells which makes every bob-change.