Oct. 9, 2013
“We are a society that, every 50 years or so, is afflicted by some paroxysm of virtue – an orgy of self-cleansing through which evil of one kind or another is cast out. From the witch-hunts of Salem to the communist hunts of the McCarthy era to the current shrill fixation on child abuse, there runs a common thread of moral hysteria.
“After the McCarthy era, people would ask: But how could it have happened? How could the presumption of innocence have been abandoned wholesale? How did large and powerful institutions acquiesce as congressional investigators ran roughshod over civil liberties – all in the name of a war on communists? How was it possible to believe that subversives lurked behind every library door, in every radio station, that every two-bit actor who had belonged to the wrong political organization posed a threat to the nation’s security?
“Years from now people doubtless will ask the same questions about our present era – a time when the most improbable charges of abuse find believers; when it is enough only to be accused by anonymous sources to be hauled off by investigators; a time when the hunt for child abusers has become a national pathology.”
– From “From the Mouths of Babes to a Jail Cell” by Dorothy Rabinowitz (Harper’s Magazine, May 1990)