Salem/320e:Tous les 50 ans le mal doit être chassé (From Salem to McMartin)

Salem witch trialsJe suis innocent et il n’y a point en moi d’iniquité. Job (33: 9)
Je suis innocente et Dieu révelera mon innocence. Rebecca Nurse
Lorsque tu seras entré dans le pays que l’Éternel, ton Dieu, te donne, tu n’apprendras point à imiter les abominations de ces nations-là. Qu’on ne trouve chez toi personne qui fasse passer son fils ou sa fille par le feu, personne qui exerce le métier de devin, d’astrologue, d’augure, de magicien, d’enchanteur, personne qui consulte ceux qui évoquent les esprits ou disent la bonne aventure, personne qui interroge les morts. Car quiconque fait ces choses est en abomination à l’Éternel; et c’est à cause de ces abominations que l’Éternel, ton Dieu, va chasser ces nations devant toi. Tu seras entièrement à l’Éternel, ton Dieu. Deuteronome 18: 9-12
Tu ne laisseras point vivre la magicienne. Exode 22: 18
Si un homme ou une femme ont en eux l’esprit d’un mort ou un esprit de divination, ils seront punis de mort; on les lapidera: leur sang retombera sur eux. Levitique 20: 27
On apprend aux enfants qu’on a cessé de chasser les sorcières parce que la science s’est imposée aux hommes. Alors que c’est le contraire: la science s’est imposée aux hommes parce que, pour des raisons morales, religieuses, on a cessé de chasser les sorcières. René Girard
Il y avait vraiment des gens qui s’agitaient devant des courts-bouillons de grenouilles et de scorpions, mais nous savons que leurs manigances n’empêcheraient pas les avions de voler (…) C’est bien pourquoi, même lorsqu’elles étaient condamnées, même lorsqu’elles étaient techniquement coupables, les sorcières étaient des boucs émissaires. René Girard
C’est un moment génial de l’histoire de France. Toute la communauté issue de l’immigration adhère complètement à la position de la France. Tout d’un coup, il y a une espèce de ferment. Profitons de cet espace de francitude nouvelle. Jean-Louis Borloo (ministre délégué à la Ville, avril 2003)
Aujourd’hui, ma principale indignation concerne la Palestine, la bande de Gaza, la Cisjordanie. (…)  Pas mal… Il faut être israélien pour qualifier de terroriste la non-violence. Stéphane Hessel
En réalité, le mot qui s’applique – qui devrait s’appliquer – est celui de crime de guerre et même de crime contre l’humanité. (..)  Pour ma part, ayant été à Gaza, ayant vu les camps de réfugiés avec des milliers d’enfants, la façon dont ils sont bombardés m’apparaît comme un véritable crime contre l’humanité. Stéphane Hessel (à propos de l’offensive israélienne dans la bande de Gaza, 5 janvier 2009)
Au cours des trois dernières années, à l’invitation de mes amis israéliens, qui font partie d’une minorité courageuse, nous y sommes allés, ma femme et moi, par trois fois. Nous avons constaté que la Cisjordanie est complètement ingérable parce qu’elle est occupée, colonisée. Les routes ne sont pas autorisées pour les Palestiniens. Ces derniers sont traités avec un mépris épouvantable par Israël. Quant à la bande de Gaza, elle a été enfermée dans ce que l’on peut appeler une « prison à ciel ouvert ». L’opération « Plomb durci », de décembre 2008 à janvier 2009, a été une succession de crimes de guerre et de crimes contre l’humanité. La manière dont l’armée israélienne s’est comportée est absolument scandaleuse. Nous étions à Gaza en même temps que l’équipe dirigée par le juge Goldstone, et je peux témoigner que tout ce que relève le rapport Goldstone est exact. (…) Le gouvernement d’Israël bénéficie en effet d’une impunité scandaleuse, alors que depuis des années il bafoue le droit international et rejette les résolutions de l’ONU, ne respecte pas la Convention de Genève.  (…) Dès la fin de la guerre, je me suis retrouvé à New York comme fonctionnaire à l’ONU. J’ai assisté simultanément à deux événements importants : la rédaction de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme et la création de l’État d’Israël. Pour quelqu’un comme moi, né de père juif et qui sortait des camps de concentration, cette création était de l’ordre du merveilleux. Je n’étais pas conscient du fait que cet État ne pouvait exister qu’en chassant un nombre considérable de Palestiniens de leurs terres. (…) Pendant vingt ans, j’ai continué à considérer favorablement le développement d’Israël : j’étais admiratif des kibboutz et des moshav. Tout a changé en 1967 avec la guerre des Six Jours. Cette guerre, gagnée par Israël pratiquement en une matinée, a donné aux gouvernants de l’époque ce que j’appelle une hubris, un sentiment de supériorité extraordinaire, qui les a amenés à ne plus tenir compte du droit international. C’est à partir de 1967 que je me suis engagé dans le camp de ceux qui voulaient un retrait des forces israéliennes la création d’un État palestinien. Stéphane Hessel (Jeune Afrique, 17.05.10)
Le décès de Stéphane Hessel a provoqué une vive émotion, à la hauteur du respect que l’homme suscitait. Au delà, nous souhaitons que le sens du combat de Stéphane Hessel perdure et soit reconnu. Le parcours de Stéphane Hessel fait en effet de lui un grand Républicain, bien au delà des clivages partisans. Son engagement dans la Résistance, son courage jamais démenti, sa droiture dans le service de la France, sa défense de la démocratie, son acharnement à promouvoir les valeurs des droits de l’Homme, son souci constant des plus démunis, donnent au mot de citoyenneté tout son sens. Notre identité nationale se forge aussi à partir des luttes concrètes telles que celles que Stéphane Hessel a mené tout au long de son existence. Ni l’âge, ni les difficultés de la vie ne l’ont détourné de sa bataille permanente pour élever la dignité de l’humain au dessus de toutes les contingences. Le message de Stéphane Hessel, cet appel à l’indignation, ce refus de toutes les formes d’injustices doit désormais faire partie de notre héritage commun. Nous demandons donc au Président de la République que Stéphane Hessel entre au Panthéon, pour que la République rende à ses combats l’hommage qui leur est dû. Nous souhaitons ardemment que la pédagogie civique et la mémoire collective témoignent de l’importance de l’esprit de résistance. Parce qu’avec Stéphane Hessel, c’est une vie consacrée à l’intérêt général et au service d’une certaine idée de la France qu’il s’agit d’honorer. Pétition L’Indignation doit rentrer au Panthéon
Il n’est pas question pour moi d’ajouter mon encre aux critiques de l’œuvre et des idées de Stéphane Hessel. (…) Si je m’exprime aujourd’hui, c’est pour dire ce qu’ils n’ont pas dit et qui est cause, chez moi, d’une profonde inquiétude. Cela s’articule sur un constat principal : ce n’est pas Hessel et son discours qui sont préoccupants mais ceux qui l’encensent et ceux qui le propagent. Le problème ne se situe pas tant dans l’essai de 32 pages Indignez-vous !, paru en 2011, mais dans la couverture dramatique de Libération, présentant le portrait du vieillard défunt, accentué de ces deux mots : « Un juste ». Je cite cette une, mais je pourrais mentionner la totalité de la presse tricolore, tombant en extase devant ce « grand homme » qu’elle avait d’ailleurs découvert sur le tard. Des pétitions poussent maintenant comme des champignons, exigeant que la dépouille d’Hessel soit inhumée au Panthéon. Les politiciens unanimes saluent le grand résistant et le défenseur des droits de l’homme qui les a quittés à l’âge avancé de 95 ans. Les seuls bémols que l’on entend se résument aux murmures de certains tribuns de l’opposition, sur le thème « je n’étais peut-être pas d’accord avec tout ce qu’il disait ». Mais la seule critique devant ce requiem national vient des Juifs. Et c’est précisément cela qui me préoccupe. Stéphane Juffa
Engagement. Semaine difficile, la France a perdu Stéphane Hessel. Alors, je suppose que tout le monde voit Stéphane Hessel, le père castor du lieu commun engagé?! Stéphane Hessel, un mec tellement engagé que lorsqu’il est né, il portait déjà un nom qui évoquait les poilus. Indignez-vous! Indignez-vous! qu’il disait! C’est vrai, la paix, c’est mieux que la guerre. Le bien est supérieur au mal. Le capitalisme, c’est caca… Oops, zut, crotte, flûte, il est l’heure de changer mes couches! Ah le grand âge, ce coma éthylique sans alcool… En tout cas, c’est un triste destin, franchement: révélé à 92 ans, mort à 95, 3 ans de célébrité! Dans son malheur, une chance: trop âgé pour faire splach. Je dis ça, son bouquin, son fascicule, j’ai adoré! A-t-on jamais rendu un si bel hommage à du Helvetica police 24? Pour une fois que la littérature s’engage aussi sincèrement contre la presbytie, pourquoi bouder notre plaisir! Alors, de toutes façons, c’était un résistant, hein? C’est un gage d’inattaquabilité en France.Pour pouvoir dire n’importe quoi en France, c’est simple, entre 40 et 45, soit tu as fait le mariole dans le maquis, soit tu as planqué des juifs dans ta cave, tu vois. Une fois que tu as fait ça, même si après tu te mets à raconter que la terre est plate, tout le monde va te trouver génial! Gaspard Proust
Nous sommes une société qui, tous les cinquante ans ou presque, est prise d’une sorte de paroxysme de vertu – une orgie d’auto-purification à travers laquelle le mal d’une forme ou d’une autre doit être chassé. De la chasse aux sorcières de Salem aux chasses aux communistes de l’ère McCarthy à la violente fixation actuelle sur la maltraitance des enfants, on retrouve le même fil conducteur d’hystérie morale. Après la période du maccarthisme, les gens demandaient : mais comment cela a-t-il pu arriver ? Comment la présomption d’innocence a-t-elle pu être abandonnée aussi systématiquement ? Comment de grandes et puissantes institutions ont-elles pu accepté que des enquêteurs du Congrès aient fait si peu de cas des libertés civiles – tout cela au nom d’une guerre contre les communistes ? Comment était-il possible de croire que des subversifs se cachaient derrière chaque porte de bibliothèque, dans chaque station de radio, que chaque acteur de troisième zone qui avait appartenu à la mauvaise organisation politique constituait une menace pour la sécurité de la nation ? Dans quelques décennies peut-être les gens ne manqueront pas de se poser les mêmes questions sur notre époque actuelle; une époque où les accusations de sévices les plus improbables trouvent des oreilles bienveillantes; une époque où il suffit d’être accusé par des sources anonymes pour être jeté en pâture à la justice; une époque où la chasse à ceux qui maltraitent les enfants est devenu une pathologie nationale. Dorothy Rabinowitz

Attention: un espace de francitude nouvelle peut en cacher d’autres !

A l’heure où, au lendemain de la mort d’un antisémite notoire (pardon: antisioniste!), le Pays autoproclamé des Droits de l’homme se refait une santé d’unanimisme

Qui, même si les « santo subito » ont remplacé les « morts aux juifs », n’est pas sans rappeler à sa façon un autre épisode de « francitude nouvelle » où la démagogie incarnée d’un certain Jacques Chirac avait elle aussi rempli les rues il y a exactement 10 ans  …

Comment ne pas repenser, avec ce billet écrit mais non encore mis en ligne suite à ma visite de Salem en décembre dernier, à ces crises qui secouent périodiquement, comme si elles avaient besoin de se purger de leur trop-plein de tensions, nos sociétés?

 Comme ce dernier grand épisode d’hystérie collective (19 mises à mort et quelque 200 emprisonnés mais surtout un impact démultiplié par sa reprise par la littérature et le théâtre ou le cinéma) qui, avec les mêmes ingrédients d’une société en crise, présence d’idéologues et d’élément étranger, marquera, dans un petit village de Nouvelle Angleterre il y a 320 ans et dix ans après l’Angleterre, la fin des chasses aux sorcières aux Etats-Unis …

Ou, beaucoup plus récemment après les grandes « peurs rouges » des années 20 et 50 provoquées par les campagnes de subversion soviétiques, les accusations de maltraitances supposées d’enfants qui, des Etats-Unis et du Canada (ou de l’Australie) et de la Grande-Bretagne à la Belgique, à la France ou à l’Italie, se sont répandues comme une trainée de poudre dans les années 80-90 ?

The Daycare Abuse Trials of the 1980s and the Salem Witchcraft Trials: Some Parallels

1. Both the Daycare Abuse Trials (McMartin, Michaels, and others) and the Salem Witchcraft Trials placed heavy reliance on the testimony of children. In both sets of trials, people urged others to « believe the children. » In practice, that generally meant, « believe the children when they are making remotely plausible accusations, but ignore the inconsistencies in their stories. »

2. In both sets of trials, accusations multiplied over time. At first just a few persons faced accusations, but as the hysteria spread, so did the accusations. Often, the new targets of accusations were those who expressed skepticism about charges or who came to the defense of an accused person.

3. Both sets of trials had their origins in behaviors or statements of children–behaviors or statements that could have been given an innocent interpretation, but instead were interpreted in the most omenous or threatening way possible.

4. In both sets of trials, « experts » found meaning in unlikely places. In Salem, for example, the presence of a mole on the body of an accused person was seem as evidence that the « familiar » had an entry (or sucking) point on the accused. In the daycare cases, for example, the drawing of hands on stick figures was seen as evidence that the child who drew the figure had been molested. In another example, a child’s dislike of tuna fish was seen as evidence that the child had been exposed to vaginal smells.

5. In both sets of trials, the investigation itself was the source of many of the problems. Investigators in both instances employed leading questions, and effectively put the burden of proving innocence on the accused. In Salem, accused persons were asked to explain how their presence could trigger such bizarre reactions in the allegedly afflicted. In the daycare cases, the accused were confronted by the suggestion that the children would not be talking about penises and the like if they hadn’t been molested–when in fact their frequent use of such anatomic terms resulted from the investigation of the alleged crime.

6. In both sets of trials, the extent of the injustices was increased by the unwillingness–or fear–of enough persons to step forward and say, « This is crazy! » People in both instances feared that by doing so they might either face accusations themselves or hurt their standing in their communities–be it the church community in Salem or the journalism community in the daycare cases.

We are a society that, every fifty 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.

–Dorothy Rabinowitz, From the Mouths of Babes to a Jail Cell,

HARPER’S MAGAZINE (May 1990).

Voir aussi:

The Witchcraft Trials in Salem: A Commentary

Douglas Linder

O Christian Martyr Who for Truth could die

When all about thee Owned the hideous lie!

The world, redeemed from superstition’s sway,

Is breathing freer for thy sake today.

–Words written by John Greenleaf Whittier and inscribed on a monument marking the grave of Rebecca Nurse, one of the condemned « witches » of Salem.

From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft. Dozens languished in jail for months without trials. Then, almost as soon as it had begun, the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts ended.

Why did this travesty of justice occur? Why did it occur in Salem? Nothing about this tragedy was inevitable. Only an unfortunate combination of an ongoing frontier war, economic conditions, congregational strife, teenage boredom, and personal jealousies can account for the spiraling accusations, trials, and executions that occurred in the spring and summer of 1692.

In 1688, John Putnam, one of the most influential elders of Salem Village, invited Samuel Parris, formerly a marginally successful planter and merchant in Barbados, to preach in the Village church. A year later, after negotiations over salary, inflation adjustments, and free firewood, Parris accepted the job as Village minister. He moved to Salem Village with his wife Elizabeth, his six-year-old daughter Betty, niece Abagail Williams, and his Indian slave Tituba, acquired by Parris in Barbados.

The Salem that became the new home of Parris was in the midst of change: a mercantile elite was beginning to develop, prominent people were becoming less willing to assume positions as town leaders, two clans (the Putnams and the Porters) were competing for control of the village and its pulpit, and a debate was raging over how independent Salem Village, tied more to the interior agricultural regions, should be from Salem, a center of sea trade.

Sometime during February of the exceptionally cold winter of 1692, young Betty Parris became strangely ill. She dashed about, dove under furniture, contorted in pain, and complained of fever. The cause of her symptoms may have been some combination of stress, asthma, guilt, boredom, child abuse, epilepsy, and delusional psychosis. The symptoms also could have been caused, as Linda Caporael argued in a 1976 article in Science magazine, by a disease called « convulsive ergotism » brought on by injesting rye–eaten as a cereal and as a common ingredient of bread–infected with ergot. (Ergot is caused by a fungus which invades developing kernels of rye grain, especially under warm and damp conditions such as existed at the time of the previous rye harvest in Salem. Convulsive ergotism causes violent fits, a crawling sensation on the skin, vomiting, choking, and–most interestingly–hallucinations. The hallucinogenic drug LSD is a dervivative of ergot.) Many of the symptoms or convulsive ergotism seem to match those attributed to Betty Parris, but there is no way of knowing with any certainty if she in fact suffered from the disease–and the theory would not explain the afflictions suffered by others in Salem later in the year.

At the time, however, there was another theory to explain the girls’ symptoms. Cotton Mather had recently published a popular book, « Memorable Providences, » describing the suspected witchcraft of an Irish washerwoman in Boston, and Betty’s behavior in some ways mirrored that of the afflicted person described in Mather’s widely read and discussed book. It was easy to believe in 1692 in Salem, with an Indian war raging less than seventy miles away (and many refugees from the war in the area) that the devil was close at hand. Sudden and violent death occupied minds.

Talk of witchcraft increased when other playmates of Betty, including eleven-year-old Ann Putnam, seventeen-year-old Mercy Lewis, and Mary Walcott, began to exhibit similar unusual behavior. When his own nostrums failed to effect a cure, William Griggs, a doctor called to examine the girls, suggested that the girls’ problems might have a supernatural origin. The widespread belief that witches targeted children made the doctor’s diagnosis seem increasing likely.

A neighbor, Mary Sibley, proposed a form of counter magic. She told Tituba to bake a rye cake with the urine of the afflicted victim and feed the cake to a dog. ( Dogs were believed to be used by witches as agents to carry out their devilish commands.) By this time, suspicion had already begun to focus on Tituba, who had been known to tell the girls tales of omens, voodoo, and witchcraft from her native folklore. Her participation in the urine cake episode made her an even more obvious scapegoat for the inexplicable.

Meanwhile, the number of girls afflicted continued to grow, rising to seven with the addition of Ann Putnam, Elizabeth Hubbard, Susannah Sheldon, and Mary Warren. According to historian Peter Hoffer, the girls « turned themselves from a circle of friends into a gang of juvenile delinquents. » ( Many people of the period complained that young people lacked the piety and sense of purpose of the founders’ generation.) The girls contorted into grotesque poses, fell down into frozen postures, and complained of biting and pinching sensations. In a village where everyone believed that the devil was real, close at hand, and acted in the real world, the suspected affliction of the girls became an obsession.

Sometime after February 25, when Tituba baked the witch cake, and February 29, when arrest warrants were issued against Tituba and two other women, Betty Parris and Abigail Williams named their afflictors and the witchhunt began. The consistency of the two girls’ accusations suggests strongly that the girls worked out their stories together. Soon Ann Putnam and Mercy Lewis were also reporting seeing « witches flying through the winter mist. » The prominent Putnam family supported the girls’ accusations, putting considerable impetus behind the prosecutions.

The first three to be accused of witchcraft were Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborn. Tituba was an obvious choice (LINK TO TITUBA’S EXAMINATION). Good was a beggar and social misfit who lived wherever someone would house her (LINK TO GOOD’S EXAMINATION) (LINK TO GOOD’S TRIAL), and Osborn was old, quarrelsome, and had not attended church for over a year. The Putnams brought their complaint against the three women to county magistrates Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne, who scheduled examinations for the suspected witches for March 1, 1692 in Ingersoll’s tavern. When hundreds showed up, the examinations were moved to the meeting house. At the examinations, the girls described attacks by the specters of the three women, and fell into their by then perfected pattern of contortions when in the presence of one of the suspects. Other villagers came forward to offer stories of cheese and butter mysteriously gone bad or animals born with deformities after visits by one of the suspects.The magistrates, in the common practice of the time, asked the same questions of each suspect over and over: Were they witches? Had they seen Satan? How, if they are were not witches, did they explain the contortions seemingly caused by their presence? The style and form of the questions indicates that the magistrates thought the women guilty.

The matter might have ended with admonishments were it not for Tituba. After first adamantly denying any guilt, afraid perhaps of being made a scapegoat, Tituba claimed that she was approached by a tall man from Boston–obviously Satan–who sometimes appeared as a dog or a hog and who asked her to sign in his book and to do his work. Yes, Tituba declared, she was a witch, and moreover she and four other witches, including Good and Osborn, had flown through the air on their poles. She had tried to run to Reverend Parris for counsel, she said, but the devil had blocked her path. Tituba’s confession succeeded in transforming her from a possible scapegoat to a central figure in the expanding prosecutions. Her confession also served to silence most skeptics, and Parris and other local ministers began witch hunting with zeal.

Soon, according to their own reports, the spectral forms of other women began attacking the afflicted girls. Martha Corey, Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Cloyce, and Mary Easty (LINK TO EASTY’S EXAMINATION) (LINK TO EASTY’S PETITION FOR MERCY) were accused of witchcraft. During a March 20 church service, Ann Putnam suddenly shouted, « Look where Goodwife Cloyce sits on the beam suckling her yellow bird between her fingers! » Soon Ann’s mother, Ann Putnam, Sr., would join the accusers. Dorcas Good, four-year-old daughter of Sarah Good, became the first child to be accused of witchcraft when three of the girls complained that they were bitten by the specter of Dorcas. (The four-year-old was arrested, kept in jail for eight months, watched her mother get carried off to the gallows, and would « cry her heart out, and go insane. ») The girls accusations and their ever more polished performances, including the new act of being struck dumb, played to large and believing audiences.

Stuck in jail with the damning testimony of the afflicted girls widely accepted, suspects began to see confession as a way to avoid the gallows. Deliverance Hobbs became the second witch to confess, admitting to pinching three of the girls at the Devil’s command and flying on a pole to attend a witches’ Sabbath in an open field. Jails approached capacity and the colony « teetered on the brink of chaos » when Governor Phips returned from England. Fast action, he decided, was required.

Phips created a new court, the « court of oyer and terminer, » to hear the witchcraft cases. Five judges, including three close friends of Cotton Mather, were appointed to the court. Chief Justice, and most influential member of the court, was a gung-ho witch hunter named William Stoughton. Mather urged Stoughton and the other judges to credit confessions and admit « spectral evidence » (testimony by afflicted persons that they had been visited by a suspect’s specter). Ministers were looked to for guidance by the judges, who were generally without legal training, on matters pertaining to witchcraft. Mather’s advice was heeded. the judges also decided to allow the so-called « touching test » (defendants were asked to touch afflicted persons to see if their touch, as was generally assumed of the touch of witches, would stop their contortions) and examination of the bodies of accused for evidence of « witches’ marks » (moles or the like upon which a witch’s familiar might suck) (SCENE DEPICTING EXAMINATION FOR MARKS). Evidence that would be excluded from modern courtrooms– hearsay, gossip, stories, unsupported assertions, surmises– was also generally admitted. Many protections that modern defendants take for granted were lacking in Salem: accused witches had no legal counsel, could not have witnesses testify under oath on their behalf, and had no formal avenues of appeal. Defendants could, however, speak for themselves, produce evidence, and cross-examine their accusers. The degree to which defendants in Salem were able to take advantage of their modest protections varied considerably, depending on their own acuteness and their influence in the community.

The first accused witch to be brought to trial was Bridget Bishop. Almost sixty years old, owner of a tavern where patrons could drink cider ale and play shuffleboard (even on the Sabbath), critical of her neighbors, and reluctant to pay her her bills, Bishop was a likely candidate for an accusation of witchcraft (LINK TO EXAMINATION OF BISHOP). The fact that Thomas Newton, special prosecutor, selected Bishop for his first prosecution suggests that he believed the stronger case could be made against her than any of the other suspect witches. At Bishop’s trial on June 2, 1692, a field hand testified that he saw Bishop’s image stealing eggs and then saw her transform herself into a cat. Deliverance Hobbs, by then probably insane, and Mary Warren, both confessed witches, testified that Bishop was one of them. A villager named Samuel Grey told the court that Bishop visited his bed at night and tormented him. A jury of matrons assigned to examine Bishop’s body reported that they found an « excrescence of flesh. » Several of the afflicted girls testified that Bishop’s specter afflicted them. Numerous other villagers described why they thought Bishop was responsible for various bits of bad luck that had befallen them. There was even testimony that while being transported under guard past the Salem meeting house, she looked at the building and caused a part of it to fall to the ground. Bishop’s jury returned a verdict of guilty . One of the judges, Nathaniel Saltonstall, aghast at the conduct of the trial, resigned from the court. Chief Justice Stoughton signed Bishop’s death warrant, and on June 10, 1692, Bishop was carted to Gallows Hill and hanged (LINK TO IMAGE OF BISHOP’S HANGING).

As the summer of 1692 warmed, the pace of trials picked up. Not all defendants were as disreputable as Bridget Bishop. Rebecca Nurse was a pious, respected woman whose specter, according to Ann Putnam, Jr. and Abagail Williams, attacked them in mid March of 1692 (LINK TO EXAMINATION OF NURSE). Ann Putnam, Sr. added her complaint that Nurse demanded that she sign the Devil’s book, then pinched her. Nurse was one of three Towne sisters , all identified as witches, who were members of a Topsfield family that had a long-standing quarrel with the Putnam family. Apart from the evidence of Putnam family members, the major piece of evidence against Nurse appeared to be testimony indicating that soon after Nurse lectured Benjamin Houlton for allowing his pig to root in her garden, Houlton died. The Nurse jury returned a verdict of not guilty, much to the displeasure of Chief Justice Stoughton, who told the jury to go back and consider again a statement of Nurse’s that might be considered an admission of guilt (but more likely an indication of confusion about the question, as Nurse was old and nearly deaf). The jury reconvened, this time coming back with a verdict of guilty(LINK TO NURSE TRIAL). On July 19, 1692, Nurse rode with four other convicted witches to Gallows Hill.

Persons who scoffed at accusations of witchcraft risked becoming targets of accusations themselves. One man who was openly critical of the trials paid for his skepticism with his life. John Proctor, a central figure in Arthur Miller’s fictionalized account of the Salem witchhunt, The Crucible, was an opinionated tavern owner who openly denounced the witchhunt. Testifying against Proctor were Ann Putnam, Abagail Williams, Indian John (a slave of Samuel Parris who worked in a competing tavern), and eighteen-year-old Elizabeth Booth, who testified that ghosts had come to her and accused Proctor of serial murder. Proctor fought back, accusing confessed witches of lying, complaining of torture, and demanding that his trial be moved to Boston. The efforts proved futile. Proctor was hanged. His wife Elizabeth, who was also convicted of witchcraft, was spared execution because of her pregnancy (reprieved « for the belly »).

No execution caused more unease in Salem than that of the village’s ex-minister, George Burroughs. Burroughs, who was living in Maine in 1692, was identified by several of his accusers as the ringleader of the witches. Ann Putnam claimed that Burroughs bewitched soldiers during a failed military campaign against Wabanakis in 1688-89, the first of a string of military disasters that could be blamed on an Indian-Devil alliance. In her interesting book, In the Devil’s Snare, historian Mary Beth Norton argues that the large number of accusations against Burroughs, and his linkage to the frontier war, is the key to understanding the Salem trials. Norton contends that the enthusiasm of the Salem court in prosecuting the witchcraft cases owed in no small measure to the judges’ desire to shift the « blame for their own inadequate defense of the frontier. » Many of the judges, Norton points out, played lead roles in a war effort that had been markedly unsuccessful.

Among the thirty accusers of Burroughs was nineteen-year-old Mercy Lewis, a refugee of the frontier wars. Lewis, the most imaginative and forceful of the young accusers, offered unusually vivid testimony against Burroughs. Lewis told the court that Burroughs flew her to the top of a mountain and, pointing toward the surrounding land, promised her all the kingdoms if only she would sign in his book (a story very similar to that found in Matthew 4:8). Lewis said, « I would not writ if he had throwed me down on one hundred pitchforks. » At an execution, a defendant in the Puritan colonies was expected to confess, and thus to save his soul. When Burroughs on Gallows Hill continued to insist on his innocence and then recited the Lord’s Prayer perfectly (something witches were thought incapable of doing), the crowd reportedly was « greatly moved. » The agitation of the crowd caused Cotton Mather to intervene and remind the crowd that Burroughs had had his day in court and lost.

One victim of the Salem witchhunt was not hanged, but rather pressed under heavy stones until his death. Such was the fate of octogenarian Giles Corey who, after spending five months in chains in a Salem jail with his also accused wife, had nothing but contempt for the proceedings. Seeing the futility of a trial and hoping that by avoiding a conviction his farm, that would otherwise go the state, might go to his two sons-in-law, Corey refused to stand for trial. The penalty for such a refusal was peine et fort, or pressing. Three days after Corey’s death, on September 22, 1692, eight more convicted witches, including Giles’ wife Martha, were hanged. They were the last victims of the witchhunt.

By early autumn of 1692, Salem’s lust for blood was ebbing. Doubts were developing as to how so many respectable people could be guilty. Reverend John Hale said,  » It cannot be imagined that in a place of so much knowledge, so many in so small compass of land should abominably leap into the Devil’s lap at once. » The educated elite of the colony began efforts to end the witch-hunting hysteria that had enveloped Salem. Increase Mather, the father of Cotton, published what has been called « America’s first tract on evidence, » a work entitled Cases of Conscience, which argued that it « were better that ten suspected witches should escape than one innocent person should be condemned. » Increase Mather urged the court to exclude spectral evidence. Samuel Willard, a highly regarded Boston minister, circulated Some Miscellany Observations, which suggested that the Devil might create the specter of an innocent person. Mather’s and Willard’s works were given to Governor Phips. The writings most likely influenced the decision of Phips to order the court to exclude spectral evidence and touching tests and to require proof of guilt by clear and convincing evidence. With spectral evidence not admitted, twenty-eight of the last thirty-three witchcraft trials ended in acquittals. The three convicted witches were later pardoned. In May of 1693, Phips released from prison all remaining accused or convicted witches.

By the time the witchhunt ended, nineteen convicted witches were executed (LINK TO LIST OF DEAD), at least four accused witches had died in prison, and one man, Giles Corey, had been pressed to death. About one to two hundred other persons were arrested and imprisoned on witchcraft charges. Two dogs were executed as suspected accomplices of witches.

Scholars have noted potentially telling differences between the accused and the accusers in Salem. Most of the accused lived to the south of, and were generally better off financially, than most of the accusers. In a number of cases, accusing families stood to gain property from the convictions of accused witches. Also, the accused and the accusers generally took opposite sides in a congregational schism that had split the Salem community before the outbreak of hysteria. While many of the accused witches supported former minister George Burroughs, the families that included the accusers had–for the most part–played leading roles in forcing Burroughs to leave Salem. The conclusion that many scholars draw from these patterns is that property disputes and congregational feuds played a major role in determining who lived, and who died, in 1692.

A period of atonement began in the colony following the release of the surviving accused witches. Samuel Sewall, one of the judges, issued a public confession of guilt and an apology. Several jurors came forward to say that they were « sadly deluded and mistaken » in their judgments. Reverend Samuel Parris conceded errors of judgment, but mostly shifted blame to others. Parris was replaced as minister of Salem village by Thomas Green, who devoted his career to putting his torn congregation back together. Governor Phips blamed the entire affair on William Stoughton. Stoughton, clearly more to blame than anyone for the tragic episode, refused to apologize or explain himself. He criticized Phips for interfering just when he was about to « clear the land » of witches. Stoughton became the next governor of Massachusetts.

The witches disappeared, but witchhunting in America did not. Each generation must learn the lessons of history or risk repeating its mistakes. Salem should warn us to think hard about how to best safeguard and improve our system of justice.

Voir également:

FROM THE MOUTHS OF BABES TO A JAIL CELL

Child abuse and the abuse of justice: A case study

Dorothy Rabinowitz

Dorothy Rabinowitz writes frequently on social and pohtical issues. She lives in New York City.

Harper’s Magazine

May 1990

On August 2, 1988, Margaret Kelly Michaels, then twenty-six years old, was sentenced by a New Jersey judge to forty-seven years in prison. It was as harsh a sentence as any judge in this country is likely to mete out for a crime involving neither drugs nor murder, but it was not nearly harsh enough for most of those assembled in the courtroom that day at the Essex County Court House in Newark. She faced, according to those moved to carefully calculate such things (and there were many on hand), an imprisonment of no fewer than 730 years. Three months earlier, Michaels had been convicted on 115 (of an alleged 131) counts of sexual abuse against twenty children, ranging in age from three to five. Each of the children had been in her charge at the Wee Care Day Nursery, an exclusive preschool in the suburban community of Maplewood, New Jersey, about twenty miles from New York City; each of the crimes was said to have been committed during regular school hours at the nursery, essentially a few rented rooms in the basement and on the second and third floors of the town’s large Episcopal church; each day during the seven months she worked as a teacher’s aide and then as a teacher at Wee Care, from September 1984 to April 1985, Kelly Michaels, according to the prosecutors, raped and assaulted them with knives, forks, a wooden spoon, and Lego blocks. The prosecution maintained that she had been able to do all this unnoticed by her fellow teachers, by school administrators, by parents and other visitors to the school, and unnoticed as well by anyone working for the church or attending services at the church that is to say, unnoticed for nearly 150 school days by any adult. Unnoticed, and on a daily basis, Michaels had also, according to the prosecutors, licked peanut butter off the children’s genitals, played the piano in the nude, and made them drink her urine and eat a « cake » of her feces. For 150 school days, not a single child ever said so much as a single word about any of these crimes because-again according to the prosecution-Kelly Michaels had forced them to keep at least 115 terrible secrets.

Although monstrous in its allegations, the case against Kelly Michaels was as much a work of the prosecution’s feverish imagination as a construction of the law. A substantial body of evidence suggests that Kelly Michaels was convicted of crimes she did not commit. Her story deserves telling in some detail because the circumstances that resulted in her arrest, trial, and imprisonment bespeak a condition of national hysteria not unlike the hysteria that seized the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the seventeenth century during the excitements of the Salem witch trials. If Kelly Michaels was unjustly convicted, it is because we live in an age of trial by accusation.

Our society, at the moment, is quick to condemn anybody and everybody charged, on the flimsiest of evidence, with the crimes of abusing or molesting children. In the interest of a higher virtue (i. e., protecting the search was not only the story of a young woman on only the children), a credulous public and a sensational whom I believe to have been falsely accused and testimony of ist press stand willing to cast aside whatever civil liberties or constitutional rights obstruct the judgment of heaven.

At the time of Kelly Michaels’s conviction, I was working for WWOR-TV, New Jersey’s largest television station. I reported and wrote commentaries about the media for the station’s evening news program, and because the Michaels case was one of the biggest local stories, I had followed it for months. From the beginning, I found something strange about the state’s case-something incomprehensible in the many counts of abuse, in the large number of children allegedly victimized, in the highly improbable circumstances in which Kelly Michaels was said to have accomplished the molestation of half the children in the school. I found no less strange the reactions of my colleagues to my casually voiced doubts to the effect that the case against Kelly Michaels was as rotten as last week’s fish. Youngish journalists who prided themselves on their skepticism – types who automatically sniffed with suspicion at any and every pronouncement by the government official – were outraged by the merest suggestion that the state’s charges against Kelly Michaels lacked credibility. In late July 1988, just before Michaels’s 5,000 sentence was to be handed down, I told one of the station’s news managers that I planned to do a commentary on the media coverage of the trial. The Village Voice  had published a lengthy story on the case by rely on only the testimony of small children; journalist Debbie Nathan that raised critical and this testimony invariably comes to involve questions about the press coverage. The story provided, I thought, the perfect opportunity to raise certain, by now deeply nagging, questions of my own about this case.

Forget it, » the news managers informed me. ents, prosecutors, and jurors must-in a phrase This meant, in translation: This news organizawhispered frequently at such trials and even aftion is not prepared to air doubts about the trial fixed to posters and buttons-believe the chilof one of the most despised defendants ever condren. As proof of the prevailing doctrine, Essex victed in a New Jersey court-a child molester. County Assistant Prosecutor Glenn Goldberg,

Shortly after Kelly Michaels’s sentencing, I who tried the state’s case against Kelly Michaels

People everywhere in the country have believed tales as fantastic as any story ever told by the Brothers Grimm

By and large, this commandment has been obeyed. People everywhere in the country have believed. Believed almost anything and everything told to them by witnesses under the age of six. Believed tales as fantastic as any fairy story ever told by the Brothers Grimm. In Sequim, Washington, investigators listened attentively as children in a local preschool charged that they had been taken by a teacher to graveyards and forced to witness animal sacrifices. In Chicago, children told sympathetic authorities of how they were made to eat a boiled baby. A Memphis preschool teacher, Frances Ballard, was acquitted of terrorizing children into watching her put a bomb in a hamster and exploding it, and of fifteen other charges no less fantastic; but, in a trial to rival those of the Salem witches, she was convicted of kissing the genitals of a four-year-old boy.

The most sensational case of child abuse reached its denouement on January 18 of this year, when a jury in Los Angeles acquitted Ray Buckey and his mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, on fifty-two counts-this after deliberating for nine weeks over evidence presented in the course of thirty-three months at a trial that cost the taxpayers of California an estimated $15 million. Buckey, a teacher at the Virginia McMartin Preschool (founded by his graI,ldmother) in Manhattan Beach, a well-to-do seaside city that is a part of greater Los Angeles, was said by the children to have stuck silverware in their anuses, taken them on visits to cemeteries, and killed a horse with a baseball bat. The parent who first came forth after believing her son, a woman named Judy Johnson, died in 1986 of an alcohol-related illness; not long after her initial charge against Buckey of child sodomy, she made a similar allegation against the prosecution of Kelly Michaels took place in the midst of a national hysteria about the crimes of child abuse that, by the spring of 1985, had become as virulent and as contagious as the Asian flu. Kelly Michaels left the Wee Care Day Nursery on April 26, 1985, in order to accept a better-paying job in the nearby town of East Orange, New Jersey. Four days later, on April 30, one of her fonner students, a four-year-old boy whom I will call Terry Weldon, • inadvertently set in motion her transfonnation into an object of revulsion. His mother had taken him to his pediatrician for a checkup, and a nurse began to take his temperature by putting a thennometer in his rectum. Terry played quietly for a halfminute or so and then said, « That’s what my teacher does to me at nap time at school. » When the nurse asked him what he meant, he answered, « Her takes my temperature. » His nap-time monitor was Kelly Michaels.

Kelly Michaels had not come to Maplewood from Pittsburgh, where she was raised, to teach preschoolers. Nor, for that matter, had she come east to settle in Maplewood. She loved the theater and wanted to be an actress. She was pretty in a traditional, American-girl sort of way, with a dimply smile and eyes, as even her childhood photos show, that knew how to meet a camera lens. She was voted « best actress » of her high school, St. Benedict’s Academy, and went on to major in theater at Seton Hill, a Catholic women’s college near Pittsburgh. In the summer of 1984, then just a few credits shy of her B.A., she took up the offer of a college friend who had invited her to share an efficiency apartment in a poor, mostly black neighborhood in East Orange. For the time being, East Orange was as close as she could get to Manhattan’s theaters and drama schools.

Up to this point, she had lived with her parents, John and Marilyn Michaels, and her four sisters and brothers in a pleasant, woodsy, middle-class section of Pittsburgh called White Oak Heights. Her early life had been, from all evidence, a happy one as the eldest child of a close-knit family. They were a talkative, bookish lot, given to heated debate on art and polities, whieh might explain Kelly Michaels’s rather extraordinary command of the language-a faintly formal, old-fashioned eloquence that made her seem, at times, the child of another era.

When I met Kelly Michaels for the first time, in the dark visitors’ cubicle at the women’s prison in Clinton, New Jersey, two months after her sentencing, she still retained some of the wholesome look I had seen in her school photographs. Her shock at the accusations brought against her were still as fresh in her mind as at the moment when she was first questioned in 1985. Her gift for language allowed her to express not only rage at her accusers but also an intellectual scorn for the absurdity of their charges. On several subsequent occasions when I spoke to her, she never failed to voice her amazement that a jury had believed the charges. « To watch these witnesses, these prosecutors with their details-and none of it had ever happened, » she once told me. « Yet, all these people were coming up to the stand to give descriptions of what never happened. »

After arriving in East Orange, Michaels began looking for work. She answered a number of want ads, including one for a teacher’s aide. She had never worked in the child-care field, but the director of the nursery was impressed with her. She was subsequently hired by Wee Care (the pay was about four dollars an hour) and began work there in September. Her mother, Marilyn, told me last year, when I visited her in White Oak Heights, that she had teased Kelly when she called to say she had begun working at a preschool. Be careful, she told her daughter, look at what is happening in Los Angeles to those teachers in the McMartin case.

Within a month at Wee Care, Kelly Michaels was promoted to teacher. She had impressed her supervisors and appeared to be popular with the three-year-olds whose class she took charge of and with the other children whom she supervised during nap time. Following days that she stayed home sick, children would run to greet her-a fact the prosecution would not deny but rather pointed to as evidence that Michaels « was an actress » and that « child abusers are very clever people. » Michaels liked the children and their parents too, but the salary proved impossible to live on. When she went home for Christmas, her parents told me, she said she planned to leave Wee Care and return to Pittsburgh. John Michaels, to his bitter regret, urged her to be responsible and finish out the year. Kelly Michaels returned to Wee Care but did not finish out the year; she left two months before the school was to close for the summer in order to take the job in East Orange.

Ten days after Terry Weldon’s checkup, Essex County Investigator Richard Mastrangelo and Maplewood Detective Sergeant John

Noonan knocked on the door of the apartment Kelly Michaels shared with her friend Cynthia. Terry Weldon’s mother, upon arriving home after his examination, had fixed her son lunch and then phoned the doctor to talk about the temperature-taking incident. The doctor advised her to call the state child-protective agency, the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). Her call was referred to the agency’s Institutional Abuse Unit, which contacted the Child Abuse Unit of the Essex County prosecutor’s office, which agreed to initiate an investigation. We have now in this country a vastly increased number of child-protection agencies and experts. This is largely a result of the passage in 1979 of the Federal Child Abuse Act, which dramatically increased funds available to states and localities for such agencies and experts. Funds begat staffs, which grew, as did their zeal.

On May 2, Terry’s mother-the wife of a Maplewood police officer and the daughter of a prominent Essex County judge-brought him to the Essex County prosecutor’s office in Newark, where he was questioned by the head of the office’s Child Abuse Unit, Assistant Prosecutor Sara Sencer, now Sara McArdle. She happened to live in Maplewood.

McArdle questioned Terry, handing to him during the interview what is called, by childabuse experts, an « anatomically correct » dollthat is, a rag doll that has an anus and genitalia. On the basis of what the child does with-and to-such a doll, investigators like McArdle say they can conclude whether and what type of abuse is likely to have occurred. Under questioning by McArdle, according to a prosecutor’s report, Terry Weldon stuck his finger in the doll’s rectum.

Terry also told McArdle that two other boys had had their temperature taken. Both were questioned. The boys seemed to know nothing about temperature-taking, but one of them, according to McArdle, said Michaels had touched his penis. Then a fourth allegation was made: The Weldons had notified Wee Care director Arlene Spector of their son Terry’s story, and

We have now in this country a vastly increased number of child,protection agencies and experts. Funds begat staffs, which grew, as did their zeal

The child, abuse experts convince parents that the number of abuses and abusers is virtually limitless, beyond their imagination

Spector, in tum, had notified the members of the school board. Under repeated questioning from his father, a board member-with the father telling him « he was his best friend and that he could tell him anything » {this from the prosecutor’s office report)-another boy said that Michaels had touched his penis’With a spoon. A decision was made to bring Kelly Michaels in for questioning.

The two investigators who arrived at Kelly Michaels’s apartment on the morning of May 6 found only one bed in the apartment, and this, Michaels later said, at once attracted their attention. She said they exchanged sly and significant glances. She was told she was not under arrest and did not need a lawyer but that she was under investigation and would she please come to the prosecutor’s office for questioning. Once there, she waived her Miranda rights and spent several hours insisting that the allegations were unfounded and that she was innocent. About temperature-taking, she explained that teachers took it by placing plastic strips on the children’s· foreheads. She was urged to take a lie-detector test and did; she passed. Two and a half years later, at Michaels’s trial, the county prosecutors prevented the results of this polygraph from being admitted into evidence, basing their objection on a state law stipulating that any person submitting to a police lie-detector test must first sign an agreement authorizing future use of the results. Michaels, who had never before been brought into a police station, knew nothing of this requirement; nor did the detectives questioning her see fit to mention it.

She was driven home, and, shaken though she was at the end of this day, she remembers reaching the conclusion that it must all have been some kind of bizarre misunderstanding. In one sense it was: The jury eventually rejected the charge that she had taken Terry Weldon’s temperature rectally-the very charge that provoked the entire investigation: anal penetration of the boy. But, as is invariably true in these cases, the first accusation was followed by more accusations-many more.

No one examining the scores of such child sexual-abuse cases can fail to be struck by the way in which, in almost every instance, an initial accusation leads to others and still othersand on and on, until the charges number in the hundreds. At one point during the McMartin case, the police announced they had thirty-six suspects and had uncovered as many as 1,200 alleged victims of sexual abuse. An investigation begun in Jordan, Minnesota, at about the same time that Judy Johnson first made her allegations about Ray Buckey, followed a similar-if even stranger-pattern.

There, a case was opened after a woman named Christine Brown alleged that her daugh. ter had been sexually abused by James Rud, a trash collector and a neighbor in the trailer park where she and her daughter lived. Other children in the trailer park were questioned, and some acknowledged that they, too, had been victimized-by Christine Brown. She was charged soon after with eighteen COunts of criminal sexual activity. A mother of five with little money, Brown approached her older sister and brother-in-law, Helen and Tom Brown (the shared surname is coincidental), for help, and they agreed to mortgage their house to post Christine’s bail. Two months later, the prosecutor in the case, Kathleen Morris, had Tom and Helen arrested for child abuse, and they spent five days in jail. Several dozen local residents met at City Hall to protest the arrests, among them an automobile painter named Bob Bentz, his wife, Lois, and a local policeman, Greg Myers. Not long after, all three were arrested on charges of child abuse, along with Myers’s wife and a married couple who had driven the Browns home from jail.

In nearly all such cases, the allegations and the numbers of suspects begin to mount only after the entry of investigators and of representatives of child-abuse agencies. It is these experts who convince parents and children alike that the number of abuses and abusers is virtually limitless-beyond their imagination.

On May IS, 1985, nine days after Kelly Mi· chaels had been brought in for questioning, Wee Care convened a meeting of parents. The school had sent out a letter on May 8, infonning the parents that a former employee of the school was being investigated « regarding serious allega. tions made by a child, » and while this prompted a flurry of phone calls by parentse to the school, no other allegations against Michaels emerged. The prosecutor’s office was set to wrap up its case-based on the allegations made by Terry Weldon and the two boys who alleged Michaels touched their penis-and present it to a grand jury. But the Wee Care board thought it best that the parents be infonned about abuse by an expert, in this instance, Peg Foster, a social worker who codirected a Sexual Assault Unit at a Newark hospital.

On the evening of May 15, Foster told the as· sembled parents a number of things they had never heard before. She told them that sexual abuse is not unusual. She told them that, although she could point to no hard evidencebecause no such evidence exists-she believed that one in three children in the United States has had an « inappropriate sexual experience » by the time he or she reaches the age of eighteen. She encouraged the parents to take their child to their pediatricians to check for physical injury. She told them to go home and begin checking their sons and daughters carefully for genital soreness-and also for nightmares, biting, spitting, bed-wetting, masturbation, or for what might be construed in any way as sexual behavior, or, for that matter, for any sort of noticeable changes in behavior. She did not tell them, of course, that the « symptoms » are for many children a normal part of development.

On May 22, the state’s Division of Youth and Family Services-the ager.c:y that Terry Weldon’s mother had first contacted-initiated its own investigation. The agency had allowed the county prosecutor’s office to have the first chance at the case, but by law its staff was required to undertake its own inquiry. That afternoon, a DYFS social worker named Lou Fonolleras made his first of many visits to Wee Care and conducted his first of many interviews with the school’s children. It was Fonolleras, a roundish man of thirty-four with a B.A. in psychology, who played the crucial role in building the case against Kelly Michaels.

Something of the state of mind that Fonolleras brought to his work is perhaps revealed in his official report of his first day at Wee Care. Describing the large, stone-faced church’s many nooks and crannies, he noted that these would make ideal hiding places for child molesters. In his report, he described the school as a « pedophile’s paradise. » But no child he interviewed that first day told him that he or she had been abused by Kelly Michaels, or by anyone else. Two days after Fonolleras’s visit to Wee Care, the county prosecutor’s office brought its case to the grand jury, and the grand jury, agreeing that the state had a case, handed up an indictment. On June 12, Kelly Michaels was arrested and charged with six counts of abuse; she pleaded innocent to all charges. She was taken to the county jail, where she was confined in protective custody.

Fonolleras continued to suspect that there was more to the Wee Care case than six counts of abuse. When I met with him more than two years later, he explained that despite the denials of abuse voiced by the children he had talked with that day in May, he had glimpsed clues in « the children’s body language, » and that « you can’t go by what they say »-though, of course, he himself eventually did just that. On June 6, he returned to Wee Care at the behest of a parent who, following instructions, had noticed her son behaVing strangely. During the course of this interview, Fonolleras has said, he learned of the « pile-up » game. The « pile-up » is said to have worked this way: During nap time in a basement classroom, Kelly Michaels would march her students upstairs to a third-floor choir room, place kitchen utensils on the floor, and make the children strip and, once naked, roll around together.

In the days that followed, Fonolleras conducted interviews with other Wee Care children, bringing to these meetings not only crayons and paper but knives and forks and spoons. Remarkably, he made no tape recordings of these interviews, nor did he keep his written records. At the Michaels trial, he told the court that he had destroyed all the notes he took at these initial meetings because, at the time, he saw no reason to save them. He was not at this time gathering evidence for a criminal prosecution-although, as it turned out, there would have been no prosecution, beyond the six initial charges, had not Fonolleras, moved by what he heard in these unrecorded interviews, raised the specter of widespread child abuse. During my conversation with him, he explained that the only way to understand his technique of eliciting testimony about child abuse was to know what the children had told him in the very first interviews-the records of which, of course, he had thrown away.

Sometime in mid-June, Fonolleras called the county prosecutor’s office with the suggestion that it might want to look further into the Wee Care case. The prosecutor’s office and the DYFS agreed to launch a joint investigation and also brought in Peg Foster, who had earlier instructed the Wee Care parents on what she believed to be the symptoms of child abuse. For two months-during july and August of 1985-this investigative team talked with the Wee Care staff and with parents, and also recorded interviews with the children. These interviews, it is important to understand, are not like those that might take place between two adults. Listening to tapes of the interviews, one might be struck by how little the children actually confided on their own and also by the wholly fantastical natureofsomuch ofwhattheydid say. Mostofthe children were confused, had nothing to say, or flatly denied that anything had happened to them. It was also clear that what a child actually said during the questioning often carried little weight with the investigators. If a child persisted in denying that anything had been done to him or her, Fonolleras or another investigator would typically write: « At this time Hugh denied victimization. It should be noted [that] during the interview, Hugh was victimizing an anatomically correct doll. »

As a rule, the children were given knives and forks and then asked to show-on an anatomically correct doll-where Kelly had hurt them. On the tapes that I heard, a child’s first response more often than not was to poke the doll in the eye or the neck or a knee. Invariably, the Iisten-

Listening to tapes of the interviews with the allegedly abused children, one might be struck by how little they actUlllly confided on their own

As the investigations progressed, it became amply clear that some of the parents took as true every word of the stories of abuse

er then hears the voice of Fonolleras, urging, « Where else? Uh-huh, where else? » After a succession of « where else? » responses, rhe child winds up poking at a penis, or a vagina, or an anus. Here, the « where elses » stop. Later, Fonolleras’s official report typically would note how a child « described » the penetration of her vagina or his anus.

Fonolleras was quick to praise those who confinned his suspicions: « Boy,’ you’re doing so good. » But he was stern with those who responded with firm orlfrequent noes. Here is Fonolleras

with one tiny recalcitrant: « If you don’t help me, I’m going to tell your friends that you not only don’t want to help me but you won’t help them. »

What follows is part of a transcript of an interview with Luke, age four, conducted by Fonolleras and Essex County Investigator Richard Mastrangelo.

FONOLLERAS: A lot of other kids have helped us

since we saw you last.

LUKE: I don’t have to. No!

FONOLLERAS: Did we tell you Kelly is in jail?

LUKE: Yes, my mother already told me.

FONOLLERAS [indicating Mastrangelo): Did I tell

you this is the guy who arrested her, put her in

there? Don’t you want to ask us any questions?

LUKE: No!

Fonolleras at this point handed Luke an anatomically correct doll, then proceeded with his questioning.

FONOLLERAS: What color did Kelly have down there? Brown like her head? Did she have hair under her arm?

LUKE: My daddy do.

At this point, Luke began to shriek, and there are indications that he was kicking Fonolleras. Fonolleras offered him a piece of cake anu asked him if he would like to see Investigator Mastrangelo’s badge. Mastrangelo then said to Luke, « So your penis was bleeding? » Luke laughed.

FONOLLERAS [taking a new tack): Did Kelly play

« Jingle Bells » with clothes on?

LUKE [screaming now): No, I saw her penis! I peed on her!

FONOLLERAS: You peed on her?

LUKE: No, she peed on me!

At this time Luke told Fonolleras that he wanted to stop. But Fonolleras urged him to continue. He asked more questions about Luke’s penis, about whether he put it in Kelly’s mouth.

FONOLLERAS: Whose mouth did you have to put

your penis in?

LUKE: Nobody.

FONOLLERAS: Did anybody kiss your penis?

LUKE: No. I want to go home.

FONOLLERAS: Did she put this fork in your bottom?

Yes or no.

LUKE: I forgot.

FONOLLERAS: Did she do anything else to Your bottom? LUKE: That’s all she did.

There followed a series of « I forgot » and « I don’t know » responses. Finally, tiredly, Luke said, « Okay, okay, I’ll try to remember. » He then said-in an obviously playful, makebelieve tone-« She put that in my heinie. »

FONOLLERAS: The fork!

LUKE [shrieking]: Yes!

There were more questions, and more noes, from Luke. Fonolleras then said, in a disap, pointed tone, « I thought you were going to help me. » The session ends with Luke shouting, « It’s all lies! »

If the parents of the Wee Care children har, bored any doubts about these interviews and the resulting abuse charges, they kept those’doubts to themselves. One Wee Care parent, grateful for the kindness Kelly Michaels had shown his child, did write to express his faith in her inno, cence. Still, the months of group meetings with investigators and other parents eroded his faith. At the trial, this father took the stand as a vocal witness for the prosecution.

As the investigations progressed, it became amply clear that some of the parents took as true every word of the stories of abuse they began hearing from their children. One mother ex, plained (to a grand jury) how her four-and,a, half-year-old son had told her that Kelly had stuck a spoon and a pencil in his ear, that her aide, Brenda Sopchak, had given him a « truth drink, » that Kelly had begged the aide not to call the police, that she had told the little boys she would cut them in pieces and throw them away so the mothers couldn’t find them again.

Asked if she thought her son might have been fantasizing, the mother, a school board member, answered, « No. » He was, she further explained, « merely recounting what had hap, pened during the day. »

If Kelly Michaels’s fellow teachers harbored doubts about her guilt, they, too-with one no, table exception-kept these doubts largely to themselves. There were children, it appears, who had told investigators that other teachers had been present when they were being molest’ ed by Kelly. Some of the children named every teacher in the school. This would explain the clear eagerness to please in the answers some teachers gave during their grand jury testimony. Before being questioned herself, Kelly Mi, chaels’s classroom aide, Brenda Sopchak, was played a tape of a child accusing her. She now began to remember things: Michaels’s suspiciously even temper, how she seemed to be in a daydreamlike state at times, and the like. An’ other teacher testified that Kelly wore no under’ pants under her jeans. Only Wee Care’s headteacher, Diane Costa, remained unwaveringly sought to stir outrage-and, of course, to consupportive of Kelly Michaels, whom she devince the jurors that they should simply believe scribed as a « model teacher. » But Costa herself the children. was indicted on the charge of failing to report They needed some sort of facsimile evidence, child abuse, which meant that she could not and in the summer of 1985, months before the testify at Michaels’s trial without placing herself 235-count indictment against Michaels was under the threat of prosecution. The indicthanded up, they began instructing Wee Care ment effectively silenced the one authoritative parents in the preparation of charts and diaries voice capable of undermining the state’s case. detailing the « symptoms » of abuse-the bedAfterclosing for the summer, Wee Care did wetting, nightmares, changes in behavior, and not reopen in September 1985. Only the memso on-that they had first learned of at the bers of the investigative team returned from meeting at Wee Care in mid-May of that year. time to time to the classrooms. Assessing their During my interviews at the prosecutor’s office months of research, these investigators claimed in the winter of 1988, I saw huge stacks of these that Kelly Michaels had, in her seven months charts. One of the more noteworthy symptoms at the school, sexually abused the entire Wee of abuse listed on the charts was « child won’t eat Care student body, fifty-one children. Two peanut butter. » The children’s lack of appetite more grand juries were convened, and in December, Kelly Michaels was indicted on 235 counts of abuse against thirty-one children.

1he trial of Kelly Michaels began on June 22, 1987. (One of the \1 retur

Wee Care families had moved out of

ng. She,f

Maplewood, and others had chosen 1’1 COI1\’1

not to expose their children to the gfOUn

rigors of a jury trial; as a result, the charges against Kelly Michaels now

numbered 163.) Because the Michaels family had run out of money,

Kelly Michaels was defended by a

team of « pool attorneys » appointed

by New Jersey’s Office of the Public her app Defender. Pool attorneys are not , will be salaried employees of the state but article free-lancers permitted to pick and noW, choose among available cases. Mchaels’s case went unassigned for many of these lawyers were relucornieel tant to take on a case that looked as though it would drag on for months, t.o~..r. t\l\tI re61″•

or to defend a woman accused of d the 1’1,000 ,In

sexually assaulting, among others,

the grandson of a prominent local judge. (The for peanut butter, the prosecutors contended,

judge, as it turned out, was the first witness was proof of the charge made by the children

called by the prosecution.) that Michaels had spread peanut butter on their

Harvey Meltzer and Robert Clark, the degenitals and then licked it off. Sometimes it was fense attorneys eventually assigned to the case, peanut butter alone, but sometimes-as the tesbelieved their client to be innocent. They timony evolved in ever more elaborate detailhoped to base their defense on logistics and it was peanut butter and jelly. common sense-on the contention that no one I met that winter as well with a number of could have abused children sexually in every Wee Care parents who were eager to tell me all comer of the school without anybody else findthe significant changes they had noticed in ing out about it. their children, in particular their suddenly sexThe

prosecutors, for their part, knew their ualized behavior. Each time I was told a new dehopes lay in the emotional nature of the case. tail-how a child grabbed his father’s genitals Lacking material evidence, the prosecutors or talked about kissing penises-I inquired

Lacking material evidence, the prosecutors sought to stir outrage-and, of course, to convince the jurors that they should simply believe the children

No matter what else might be going on at home, the parents held that their children’s problems stemmed from abuse

when this kind of behavior or talk had begun. Invariably I was told, « Just after disclosure. » That is, not after Kelly Michaels is said to have begun sexually molesting the children, in the fall of 1984, but after the parents were told, in the spring of 1985, to look for portents and signs.

One mother told me, « My daughter was all over my husband. She had turned into a little five-year-old whore! »

I asked her when this behavior had begun.

« After disclosure. »

Disclosure, like so many other quasilegalisms that support the accusations of child abuse, became a household word among the Wee Care parents. It never occurred to the mother in question or to any of the other mothers with whom I spoke that the hypersexuality of their children might have to do not with Kelly Michaels but with the exhaustive questioning, and lurid disclosures, to which they were subjected by investigators and by their parents. (There were parents, I learned, who kept separate charts listing suspicious behavior they began to remember having occurred prior to disclosure. But not one of these parents had found the behavior unusual enough at the time to consult a pediatrician or ask a Wee Care teacher about it.)

The charts were useful not only to the prosecution. They also provided some parents with a way of explaining all types of problems they had with their children. That their children had been molested at school now served to explain everything. As one parent said, « Everything my husband and I had passed off as just some phase our child was going through, we could look back on and say, ‘Now, now we could understand why. »’ Other parents cited the molestation as the cause of their marital breakup. No matter what else might be going on at home, parents held that their children’s problems stemmed from abuse at Wee Care.

In court, the charts aided the parents in their testimony and perhaps aided Judge William Harth in his decision to allow such testimony. In a similar case, a higher state court in New Jersey subsequently ruled as inadmisSible-as

hearsay-the testimony of parents on the subject of what their children told them. Michaels’s lawyer Harvey Meltzer requested a mistrial based on this ruling, which was handed down after the prosecution had presented its case. The judge refused to grant the mistrial. Instead, he instructed the jury to disregard some twenty charges based on hearsay; but he did not give the instruction until much later, just prior to the jury’s deliberation. Thus, the jurors had been allowed to listen for months to hearsay that at the last moment they were told to erase from their minds.

In Judge Harth’s courtroom, the parent-plaintiffs were treated with unstinting consideration for their every concern, particularly the concern for anonymity. The guarantee of anonymity, of course, encourages the multiplication of charges and accusations. To the privacy of the parents and children Judge Harth accorded something akin to sacred status, while the name of the accused-like that of the accused and

their families at similar tribunals across the nation-was emblazoned in headlines, irremediably tarnished.

To protect the Wee Care families’ anonymity, the judge strictly curtailed the amount of investigation into their backgrounds he would allow defense attorneys. To protect that anonymity, the judge sealed the trial transcript. Nor were the children required to testify in open court. They testified in the judge’s chambers, and their testimony was shown to the jury on closed-circuit TV-a not uncommon arrangement at such child-abuse trials. Judge Harth also refused to allow the defense psychologists to

examine the children, as the prosecution doctors had been able to do. These children (who had, in fact, been analyzed and counseled for some twO years prior to the trial) would, the judge said, be too traumatized to answer questions by a second set of psychologists. The defense argued in vain that its psychologists must have a chance to determine whether the children were, in fact, traumatized, but the judge held firm. It was a decision that violated the most fundamental principle of due process-the principle that both sides must be heard in a courtroom. Notevenacardinalprincipleofthejustice system was a match, apparently, for the revered status accorded alleged victims of child abuse.

At the trial the children’s testimony, given after two and a half years of preparation and training, was rich in detail, a startling difference from the earlier denials and bewilderment recorded during the investigative phase. One witness was Luke, who had shouted « It’s all lies! » at Fonolleras’s questions. Mindful of this taped outburst, prosecutor Sara McArdle asked Luke whether he hadn’t meant he was hoping it was all lies. This time he didn’t disappoint his interrogator: Yes, the child answered, he had been hoping it was all lies.

Still, even now there were child witnesses who continued to change stories, midtestimony, or to deny that anything had happened. One child told the court that Kelly forced him to push a sword into her rectum. A lengthy and earnest colloquy then took place, between the attorneys and the judge, as to whether the child was saying sword or saw. After he had pushed the sword, or saw, into his teacher’s rectum, the boy told the court, she told him to take it out.

« What did Kelly say when you took the sword out? » the child was then asked.

« She said, ‘Thank you. »’

Brad Greene told the court that Kelly threatened to tum him into a mouse-that, in fact, she had turned him into a mouse for a little while during a plane trip to visit his grandmother. Child witness Celine Mauer said that she had been « tractored » by Kelly; that is, been abused, with other children, inside a tractor. Indeed, the prosecutors went to some trouble to substantiate this claim-bringing a representative of the Maplewood street maintenance department to confirm that a tractor had been parked in the vicinity of the school.

Who would have believed any of this? Surely no reasonable adult, no jury. Yet it was offered as evidence. Thanks to the current zeal to prosecute child abusers, strange new rules have come to obtain at these trials according to which the witnesses need not be credible all the time. These rules did not obtain at the McMartin trial, at which jurors rejected the children’s stories, but it did obtain at the trial of Kelly Michaels. Prosecutor Glenn Goldberg advised the jury at the outset that it was not necessary to believe everything the children said. Where child abuse is concerned, the prosecutor told them, « there is no physical evidence. Is the jury going to be able to understand this? »

In effect, the prosecutor asked the jurors if they could bring themselves to forget certain values with which they had been imbued as citizens of a democracy, values such as the importance of evidence in a criminal trial, and if they could suspend their belief in the Constitution in the interest of protecting children. As the verdict proved, they could.

Perhaps the most important witness for the prosecution was not a child or a parent but Bronx psychologist Eileen Treacy. An article in New York magazine later revealed that the curriculum vitae of this particular child-abuse « expert » exaggerated her credentials. The article also cited a ruling by a New Jersey judge, Mark Epstein, in a similar child-abuse case. That ruling declared, « The most damning witness [against the prosecution] was Eileen Treacy…. Ms. Treacy’s questioning gently but surely led [the child) where Ms. Treacy wanted to take him. » The judge was convinced, he said, that Treacy would have been able to elicit the same accusations from children who had not been abused.

If a child said emphatically that nothing had happened, the denial, Treacy explained, was the very proof that the abuse had taken place. In this expert’s view, all friendship or affection shown by teacher to child signified an effort to seduce. At the Michaels trial, Treacy testified that the Wee Care students were « the most traumatized group of children » she had ever seen. She explained the trauma by referring to the theories of Suzanne Sgroi, a pediatrician and the discoverer of the Child Sex Abuse Syndrome. According to Dr. Sgroi, the syndrome develops in a number of phases. There is the « engagement phase, » during which time the abuser seduces the child into the activity. This is followed by the « secrecy phase, » the « suppression phase, » and so on; and Treacy explained each of them to the jury. « Proof of the suppression stage, » she said, « is the succession of no, no, no answers. » When one child, during testimony, expressed concern for Michaels, this demonstrated « that she [the child) had a relationship with Kelly, and that fits into the engagement phase. »

Treacy, it should be said, did not limit herself to interpretations based on the theories of Dr. Sgroi. In one of the abuse diaries, a parent had noted that her child no longer liked tuna fish.

Not even the principle of due process was a match, apparently, for the revered status accorded alleged victims of child abuse

song that Kelly Michaels had copied into her roll book. The lyrics included the lines « Your lover who just walked out the door / Has taken all his blankets from the floor. » The prosecutor who has an undergraduate major in psychology: told the jury that the song was very significant•that it was an extremely important clue to Kelly Michaels’s secret life as a sexual criminal. The Wee Care children, he told the jury, « slept on blankets and mats. »)

With no character witnesses called-no old classmates, friends, neighbors, or teachers to color in, with stories and comments, the outline of a normal life-the jurors saw only the KellJl Michaels of the Wee Care case, the abuser of children so luridly portrayed in the testimony.

For the jurors who doubted that one woman .’ could commit so many awful crimes, Assistant Prosecutor Sara McArdle reminded them in her summation that Adolf Hitler, « one man, » had persecuted not a « little school » but the « entire world »-« Jews, Gypsies, Czechs, and blacks. » Blacks, of course, were not among Hitler’s victims, but many of the jurors were black.

Bearing in mind, perhaps, that prosecutorial excess is one of the grounds relevant to an appeal, prosecutor McArdle later vehemently denied any intentional parallel between the defendant and Adolf Hitler. She went on to say that she could not imagine that anyone could read anything untoward into this simple historical analogy. Thus, the prosecution, which had vested so much faith in a lack of appetite for peanut butter, and which divined damning I proofs of guilt in Bob Dylan lyrics in a roll book, j now disdained as fanciful any notion that a comparison to Hitler might be something other than a neutral reference.

It took the jury thirteen days to reach its verdict that Michaels was guilty of 115 counts of abuse. Meltzer requested that the court consider granting his client bail pending appeal. The judge turned down the request: Michaels, he said, was a danger to the community. He said, « 1 just cannot forget the children. »

But a three-member appellate panel agreed that, because of the legal questions the trial raised, Kelly Michaels should be granted bail pending appeal. Among the questions the judges doubtless had in mind was the defendant’s constitutional right to face her accusers-denied in this trial, as in many of the other trials involVing children’s hearsay testimony.

News that Kelly Michaels might get bail raised storms of protest from the Wee Care parents. The prosecutors appealed. Local politicians, declaring themselves outraged, joined them. The parents marched and picketed. One mother, weeping, told reporters that when she had informed her child that Kelly had been con-

The psychologist had in effect told the jury that they must suspend all rational belief if they were to understand the abuse the children had suffered

This, Treacy pointed out to the jurors, was significant. « It’s well known, » she said, « that the smell of tuna fish is similar to the odor ofvaginal excretions. » In the winter of 1988, when I visited Treacy in her office in the Bronx, I remarked on the many children’s drawings on the walls. She told me that if I looked closely at the drawings, I would « see how obvious hands are in all their pictures. » The predominance of hands, she explained, was a strong sign that the children who drew these pictures had been molested.

To encounter Treacy’s Kafkaesque testimony is to understand how a jury managed to find the accused in this case guilty, however improbable the evidence. The abuse expert, a psychologist, had in effect told the jury that they must suspend all rational belief if they were to understand the abuse the children had suffered. It was a world in which no meant yes, black meant white. Yet, the jury was told, they must believe its premises, believe the children, or else be counted guilty of betraying these young victims.

The principal witness for the defense was Dr. Ralph Underwager, an avowed opponent of the child-abuse investigators’ techniques, their reliance on dolls and children’s draWings, and their insistence on finding child abuse whether or not any took place. At the Michaels trial, Dr. Underwager said, « The child is interrogated and desperately is trying to figure out what are the roles, what’s wanted of me by this powerful adult before me? The child says no, Kelly’s clothes were on, when the interrogators want the response ‘Her clothes were off.’ And what happens? The interviewer doesn’t stop, doesn’t believe the child, repeats the question. It just tells the child: What you told me before isn’t enough. It isn’t right. It’s not what I want …  » His testimony said, in effect, that nothing had happened to the Wee Care children except the visits of the investigators. The Wee Care parents I talked to vehemently agreed that, of everybody on the defense side, the person they hated the most was Dr. Underwager.

Defense attorneys Clark and Meltzer made the decision early not to present character witnesses to testify on Kelly Michaels’s behalf. Such a witness may be asked anything under cross-examination, and what the attorneys feared most was the discovery that Michaels had been involved in two brief homosexual love affairs. Kelly Michaels refers to the liaisons as nothing more than youthful experiments, but the defense lawyers reasoned that the prosecution would seek to make a damaging connection between her sexual history and the criminal acts with which she was charged.

(Prosecutor Goldberg sought to nourish this view by close textual analysis of a Bob Dylan

victed, the child had said, « Now I’m safe. » « What do I tell her now? Now, my daughter’s

not safe! » The state’s highest court, in

short order, vacated the bail decision.

In the days immediately following the end of the McMartin trial and the acquittal of Ray Buckey and his mother, the Los Angeles Times published an analysis of the press coverage of the case. The headline above the first installment in the series could as easily have been affixed to analyses of the Michaels trial: WHERE WAS SKEPTICISM IN MEDIA! PACK JOURNALISM AND HYSTERIA MARKED … COVERAGE…. FEW JOURNALISTS STOPPED TO QUESTION THE BELIEVABILITY OF THE PROSECUTION’S CHARGES.

During the trial, stories began leaking from the prosecutor’s office suggesting that Kelly Michaels had herself been sexually abused by her parents. The stories were widely circulated among reporters covering the case. One of them, a television reporter, told me of stories she had heard that Kelly Michaels’s mother had molested her and sent her nude photographs of herself; and of how Kelly Michaels’s fatherwho, the story went, also molested his daughter-had called Wee Care every day to make sure that she was initiating the children in the practices of pederasty.

Such stories were not broadcast or printed. Still, they had enormous impact on the press, for they meshed nicely with current dogmaand the press is nothing if not up on the latest dogma-which holds that children who are molested become molesters themselves. The rumors that Ke\ly Michaels had been sexually abused by her parents thus counted heavily in persuading many reporters that she was guilty. In tum, these reporters, subtly and sometimes not so subtly, conveyed their belief to their readers and viewers.

Of course, the newspapers and the TV stations no longer concern themselves with Kelly Michaels, who will not come up before a parole board for twelve more years. When she does come up for parole, the Wee Care parents have vowed they will be there to see that it is denied. Her attorney is moving ahead with an appeal. In the meantime, Kelly Michaels sits in her sma\l cell at the women’s prison in Clinton, New Jersey, where the Wee Care parents are determined to keep her.

The Wee Care Day Nursery closed down in the aftermath of the investigation; the former Wee Care students, it would appear, thereafter went to another sort of school: one in which they were instructed, by child-agency investigators and by prosecutors, in the details of the sex crimes supposedly committed against them. Perhaps the worst thing about the long investigation and trial is that-however unfounded the charges-the child witnesses grow up having internalized the belief that they have been the victims of hideous sexual abuse. No one who saw them wi\l soon forget the frenzied faces of thirteen-and fourteen-year-old former McMartin pupils in the hours following the verdict. These adolescents had spent their last six years -fully half their lives-instructed in the faith that they had been subjected, at ages four and five, to unspeakable sexual horrors; this belief they had come to hold as the defining truth of their lives and identities. It is not surprising that these children should have wept and raved when the verdict was handed down denying all that they believed in.

Believe the children is the battle cry of the child-abuse militants, who hold as an article of faith that a pederast lurks behind every door and blackboard. But child after child repeatedly said that Kelly Michaels had done nothingand they had not been believed. The prosecutors had brought experts to court to testify that children denying abuse should not be believed. Believe the children apparently means-to those raising the rallying cry-believe the children only if they say they have been molested. « To believe a child’s no is simplistic, » prosecutor McArdle had told the jury.

The scores of investigations and trials of alleged child molesters, undertaken in the name of a good-protecting children-have irreparably shattered lives and reputations. It is not an unfamiliar pattern in our history. We are a society that, every fifty years or so, is afflicted by some paroxysm of virtue-an orgy of selfcleansing 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 the 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 ever 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 to the investigators; a time when the hunt for child abusers has become a national pathology. _

However unfounded the charges, the child witnesses grow up believing they have been the victims of abuse

Voir encore:

The Ritual Sex Abuse Hoax

Debbie Nathan

The Village Voice

January 12, 1990

After the First McMartin Trial

The eight kids sitting in Geraldo Rivera’s New York studio after the first McMartin trial ended could have stepped out of a candy bar commercial on Saturday morning TV. They gleamed with the healthy tans, shopping-mall clothes, and moussed sun-bleached hair of the southern California suburbs; their parents looked equally affluent. But these families were far from cheerful. “We were molested,” a strapping blond teenager told the audience solemnly, “and that’s an honest-to-God fact.” When some of the children – most of them by now adolescents – described suffering flashbacks and night terrors, their mothers quietly dabbed at tears. Other parents seemed angry and driven. “The parents and children standing up here will not stop,” said Marymae Cioffi, who since the beginning of the case had been organizing to convince the public and the courts that bizarre sex abuse claims at places like the McMartin preschool should be believed.

As Cioffi spoke, her lips twitched in spasms of anger. The children sat politely. But when a relative of the defendants noted that the investigation had never produced any evidence against them, the eyes of a small, until then subdued 14-year-old boy suddenly turned to slits; his teeth bared and his lips trembled, just like Cioffi’s. For even though the jury had completely exonerated Peggy McMartin Buckey while acquitting her son Ray on most counts and deadlocking on the rest, Geraldo’s guests insisted their former teachers really were sadistic sex criminals.

Gerald reminded the audience that defendants are innocent until proven guilty. But he also asked whether the acquittals spelled doom for child abuse prosecutions, and titled the program “The McMartin Outrage: What Went Wrong?” Finally, when he patted the children’s shoulders and remarked on their “sincere pain,” it was clear this show was adding to the pressures that would lead to the current retrial of Ray Buckey on eight counts involving three girls.

What Geraldo neglected to mention was that none of these children had ever taken the stand: since McMartin first hit the media in 1984, his guests’ accusations had been so consistently bizarre and illogical that their testimony would only have damaged the case. There was 18-year-old Chris Collins, whose father belongs to a McMartin parents’ group that believes the teachers are part of an intergenerational Satanic conspiracy. Collins, who insists that he was molested attending McMartin in the mid-‘70s, remembers a room below the school office and “major, major sacrifices” connected with the “Satanic Church.” The problem with his claim is that when Collins was at McMartin, Ray Buckey was in high school and, according to his mother, maintained a perfect attendance record – meaning he was never at the preschool when Collins was. Then there was round-faced, 10-year-old Elizabeth Cioffi. According to her father, she has talked about being molested under the school in tunnels lined with flashing lights and pictures of the devil.

Irrationality pervaded the McMartin case from the beginning. The first allegation came from a woman alter diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. After Judy Johnson noticed one day in 1983 that her two-year-old son’s bottom was red, she told police he said something about a man named Ray at his nursery school. In the next few weeks, Johnson accused 25-year-old Buckey of donning a mask and sodomizing her child while sticking his head in a toilet; of wearing a cape while taping the boy’s mouth, hands, and eyes; and of sticking an air tube in his rectum. She also said Ray made the child ride naked on a horse and molested him while dressed as a cop, fireman, clown, and Santa Claus. Later, she claimed that the McMartin teachers, including Ray’s 57-year-old mother, Peggy, jabbed a scissors into the boy’s eyes and staples in his ears, nipples, and tongue; that Ray put her son’s finger into a goat’s anus; and that Peggy killed a baby and made the boy drink the blood. She also told the D.A.’s office than an AWOL marine and three models in a health club had raped her son, and that the family dog was sodomized as well.

Within a few months, Peggy, Ray, his 28-year-old sister, his 77-year-old wheelchair bound grandmother, and three other women teachers would be jailed and charged with hundreds of counts of sex abuse. During the investigation, some parents would claim that hundreds of Los Angeles-area children were brutally molested in several day-care centers, over a 20-year period, by a conspiracy of Satanic child pornographers. Children would talk about playing the “Naked Movie Star” game, about being photographed nude, about sexual assault in hot-air balloons, on faraway farms, on the shoulders of busy highways, in cemeteries, in tunnels under the school yard.

The McMartin School was painstakingly probed for tunnels. None were found. Neither was child pornography, nor witnesses from the traffic-filled freeways, nor any other evidence. Doctors’ findings of physical abuse were later debunked by medical researchers. Child protection experts have since criticized the prosecution’s social workers for using leading, suggestive interviewing methods that resembled brainwashing. Judy Johnson was hospitalized for psychosis in early 1985 (she later died of an alcoholism-related liver disease.) An assistant D.A., who quit the case and then helped the defense told the press over three years ago that the woman had been mentally ill when she made her first charges – information the McMartin jurors were never allowed to hear.

But none of these revelations seemed to dampen the prosecutors’, the media’s, or the public’s need to believe horrible things had happened at McMartin. For the first two years, the press slavishly trumpeted every illogical accusation, so that when charges against five women defendants were dropped in 1986 – after the Los Angeles D.A. called the evidence “incredibly weak” – polls showed that most people still thought that abuse had occurred at the pre-school. During the subsequent, almost three-year trial, neither the Los Angeles Times nor the rest of the metropolitan media bothered to critically dissect the case.

Finally the verdicts were announced, but the facts that they were overwhelmingly not guilty didn’t seem to matter much either. In each of the 13 hung decisions, from 7 to 11 jurors decided in Buckey’s favor, but this was glossed over by the press. So were the comments of jurors like Darryl Hutchins: he said that during deliberations he decided that Ray Buckey had molested the first child, but that he would have voted differently had the judge allowed testimony about the mother’s mental illness – or the defense’s contention that while the McMartin defendants were in jail, the little boy was molested by his father.

Refiling counts that most of the jury has rejected is almost unheard of. Immediately after the verdicts, however, McMartin parents began a media campaign to push the D.A. to prosecute Ray Buckey a second time/ Again, the press dealt uncritically with the pressure. On tabloids like Geraldo and Oprah, support for a retrial was overt; “responsible” media like The New York Times were more subtle, suggesting, for example, that the jurors in the first trial were “stymied” by “the malleable memories of children and the distorting effects of questioning, particularly when a child has been traumatized.” Hardly anyone acknowledged that most of the jurors had concluded the children had likely not been abused, except possibly by their own relatives and certainly by the investigation itself.

Clearly, the public had come to believe that something as monstrous –sounding, yet as patently absurd, as McMartin was eminently imaginable. So imaginable in fact that a rash of similar cases surfaced across the country. A month after the McMartin investigation started, a Jordan, Minnesota, garbage collector accused of molesting three girls told authorities several local families were in a child sex ring. The charges against the middle-aged couples met widespread disbelief. But as neighbors stepped forward to support the accused, they, too, were arrested – the children had named them as perpetrators. Stories of ritual and slaughter emerged after the children were removed to foster care and many were interviewed more than 30 times apiece. The murder tales were later deemed fabrications, and some children admitted they lied to get relentless interviewers to leave them in peace. A husband and wife were acquitted, charges against 21 others were dropped, and the garbage collector confessed to inventing the charges in hopes of getting a lighter sentence.

In Chicago, a child told her mother that a day-care janitor had tickled her vagina. During repeated interviews, some 300 other children accused 40 teachers of abusing them during Satanic rituals, complete with baby killing. No physical evidence was produced; the janitor was tried anyway and acquitted. Several other cases surfaced, and by 1985, McMartin parents with media connections were collaborating with ABC’s “20/20” on shows claiming that “Satanic” crime and day-care abuse were epidemic. Other journalists ran with the story, disregarding the lack of evidence. Meanwhile, prosecutors, police, and social workers were attending nationwide conferences to “network” with “experts” on Satanic kiddie-porn conspiracies and learn how to root them out of nursery schools. There was a wave of cases that year, among them one in El Paso, Texas, where two women teachers were accused. Investigators were in touch with McMartin child interviewers and with Satanic Conspiracy theorist ken Wooden, who helped produce the “20/20” series. The preschoolers never testified; instead, parents described their children’s “outcries” since the investigation had started, and behavioral changes like masturbating, urinating on walls, and assuming “sexual” postures. The teachers were convicted.

In these and some thirty others covered by the Memphis Tennessee Commercial Appeal in 1 1988 series, journalists noted striking similarities in what child protection officials dubbed “ritual abuse” cases. Investigations usually began because of vague medical symptoms or after an upper-middle-class child did something that adults thought inappropriately sexual. Then, even though most sexual abuse occurs within the family, investigators immediately directed their inquiries outside the home. Sometimes they even suspected community sex rings, but most often they focused on elite childcare centers. The first allegation sometimes seemed plausible. But in remarkable departures from forensics, police, social workers, doctors, and therapists badgered children to name more victims and perpetrators, ignoring answers that contradicted a ritual abuse scenario. As a result, many men were charged; but women were too, and this was especially shocking, since females have not been thought of as child molesters, much less sex torturers.

From 1984 to 1989, some 100 people nationwide were charged with ritual sex abuse; of those, 50 or so were tried and about half convicted, with no evidence except testimony from children, parents, “experts” expounding on how the children acted traumatized, and doctors talking about tiny white lines on anuses or bumps on hymens – “signs of abuse” that later research would show on nonabused children. By 1986, in many states, hastily reformed criminal statutes made it unnecessary for children to come into court; parents could act as hearsay witnesses, or kids could testify on closed-circuit TV, giving juries the automatic impression that defendants had done something to frighten the child. And once a person stood accused, the community often decided that something must have happened. Any remaining skeptics were blasted for “condoning child abuse” and some were accused themselves.

As the cases snowballed, many parents were skeptical, but therapists told doubters that unless they believed the allegations, their children would be further traumatized. Anxious, guilt-ridden parents formed organizations with names like Believe the Children, the group begun by the McMartin parents. Besides offering psychological support, these groups helped prosecutors put together cases, did media promotion, and lobbied for laws allowing children to testify outside the courtroom.

Despite the support they received from adults, instead of getting calmer as time passed, many of the children showed increasingly traumatized behavior, such as flashbacks. Their tales of abuse followed a pattern; at first they said they were merely fondled; later in the investigation, they mentioned rape, sodomy, and pornography; then they progressed to increasingly bizarre scenarios. Across the country, the molesters were described as black men, mulattos, deformed people, or clowns; the abuse took place in churches; adults wore masks and costumes; they urinated and defecated on children; they burned, stabbed, cooked, or drowned babies; they sacrificed animals; they molested children in funeral homes and buried Barbie dolls. Extensive investigations have failed to turn up material evidence to support any of those claims.

In a 1987 case in Holland, the authorities decided there were no culprits at all. A four-year-old boy in the town of Oude Pekkela returned home from a play area with a bloody anus. In the next few months, some 100 children told authorities that German pornographers dressed as clowns had kidnapped, molested, and tortured them in Satanic rituals, and as time passed they acted more and more traumatized. But after a massive investigation, officials concluded that the four-year-old had poked himself with twigs while playing with another preschooler; that no German pornographers – or any other molesters – had ever existed. And in suburban Philadelphia, where an investigation began last year into claims that a teacher and her 68-year old aide ritually assaulted three girls with excrement, the Bucks County D.A. dismissed the allegations as hysteria. Still, an unquestioning belief in ritual sex abuse in the U.S., Canada, and other post-industrial countries remains the rule. Here, not only religious fundamentalists and the unschooled, but large numbers of literate, secular people seem ready to accept the idea that scores of people in crowded daycare centers could engage hundreds of children in vicious – not to say extremely messy – assaults, and yet leave neither a scintilla of physical evidence nor an adult material witness. What’s going on?

In a sense, nothing new. Moral panics – the Salem witch trials and McCarthyism, for example – have often run rampant through cultures in flux, and “ritual abuse” is today’s mythic expression of deep-seated worries over sweeping changes in the family. Since the 1970s, the number of working women have risen, and so have the divorce rates and female-headed households. Children are being socialized less by family authority and more by the media and its consumerist focus on the erotic, yet AIDS has imbued eros with a new danger. All these changes spell anxiety. For conservatives, they are literally sinful, and since moral traditionalists hate public day-care, a right-wing impulse to demonize childcare workers is not surprising. But many feminists and progressives have bought into the hysteria, too: ritual abuse panic has become an outlet for women’s rage at sexual violence and harassment. While this anger could hardly be more justified, it has increasingly been articulated through an anti-sexual current in the feminist movement, a current that jibes with the views of conservatives who loathe pornography – and who also fear women, their need for day-care, their independence, and their sexuality.

Until recently, generations of silence and denial shrouded the problem of child sexual abuse, especially incest. Academic literature had long described it as a one-in-a-million event, and when women and girls told therapists and child protection authorities they had been molested, their stories were usually dismissed as nasty figments of the female psyche. But by the mid-70s, as feminists were fighting this society’s tendency to belittle and disbelieve women’s rape reports, theoreticians like Florence Rush began eloquently arguing that children – especially girls – had the same problem when they tried to talk about being sexually abused. Meanwhile, several studies reported that one out of every hundred women remembered having sex with fathers and stepfathers – and that did not even include experiences with other family members like uncles. By 1980, thanks largely to feminist efforts to create and publicize reporting systems, the government tallied almost 43,000 cases of sex abuse annually, up from a few thousand only a few years earlier. Most perpetrators were fathers and other male relatives and most of the victims were girls.

Feminists who analyzed incest defined it as inherently victimizing the daughter; they said her extreme dependence on her family and the men in it meant she could not give meaningful consent to sex. But then they made a dubious leap: they began applying their perspective on incest to non-relatives. Judith Herman, in her 1982 book, Father-Daughter Incest, wrote that any sexual relationship between an adult and a child, even if the child is a teenager, “must necessarily take on some of the coercive characteristics of rape.” Florence Rush compared children choosing adult sex partners to chickens meeting up with hungry foxes.

Actually, studies show that the realities of transgenerational sex outside the family, where individual adults wield a good deal less power over children, are more ambiguous. Most male pedophilia consists of caressing and fondling. For most children, these experiences appear to be at best confusing, at worst traumatic. But others seem to willingly participate, and some adults recall that while still legally minors they accepted, even welcomed sex with grownups. (Many gay men, for example, say they instigated these encounters, and some suggest that such relationships offer the boys the only real possibility for healthy acculturation into homosexuality.) Nonetheless, the prevailing feminist view of child sexual abuse broadened its meaning to include, without distinctions, any contact between someone below the age of consent with someone older – even if that meant ignoring how the younger partner remembered the incident.

In the early 1980w, feminist sociologist Diana Russell asked women to remember any unwanted sexual contact before age 18, including with boyfriends of the same age – “sexual contact meaning anything from anal intercourse to glimpsing a flasher to an unwelcome hug.” She also asked women to recall “incest,” defined as sexual contact between relatives (even distant ones) more than five years apart in age. By Russell’s standards, tongue kissing between a 13-year=old and her cousin’s 19-year-old husband would be considered incestuous and therefore exploitative, even if the woman remembered enjoying it. Using her extravagantly broad definitions, she found that one in five women were “incest victims” and more than half suffered child sexual abuse. Because the media quoted this and similar studies without explaining how diverse the reported experiences were, it suddenly seemed to the public that little kids were in imminent danger of being raped.

But even before feminist anti-sex abuse efforts had begun, a national fear was growing that terrible, previously unheard of perversities were endangering children. It began with rumors of Halloween sadists. In 1970, The New York Times reported that the “plump red apple that Junior gets from a kindly old woman down the block … may have a razor blade hidden inside. By 1972, many kids were not allowed to trick-or-treat; three years later Newsweek warned that several children were dead and hundreds more injured by viciously doctored Halloween candy. A few years later, kiddie porn was the new threat. In 1977, NBC reported that “as many as two million American youngsters are involved in the fast-growing, multi-million dollar child pornography business…” and “police say the number of boy prostitutes may be as high as half a million” (some 10 percent of all male adolescents in the entire country.)

Then, in the early 1980s, following the New York City disappearance of Etan Patz, the kidnapping and slaying of Adam Walsh, and the murders of 28 Atlanta schoolchildren, the missing children’s movement emerged. Crusaders began describing a stranger abduction problem of astonishing proportion: U.S. Representative Paul Simon offered House members a “conservative estimate … 50,000 children abducted by strangers annually,” and a leading child-search organization said 5000 of these children were murdered each year.

Research by journalists and sociologists has debunked all these claims. In the entire U.S., only one child has ever been killed by Halloween candy – and the poison was put there by his own father. Only 18 injuries were reported nationwide during the 25 years before 1984, the most serious one a wound requiring some stitches. Some of these were hoaxes or fabrications by attention-seeking kids. As for kiddie-porn, it’s estimated that even before 1978, when all production and commercial distribution of such material was banned under federal law, only about 5000 and 7000 were involved worldwide. Since then the commercial market in America, miniscule to begin with, has been virtually wiped out.

Research into claims about mass kidnappings likewise deflates the hype: a recently released Justice Department study finds that almost all missing children are teenage runaways and throwaways. The typical kidnapping is committed by a divorced parent who has lost custody. As for stranger-abductions, the Washington D.C.-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children currently lists about 240 children missing in the entire country. Still, much of the American public is convinced that molesters, sadists, kidnappers, and pornographers are major threats to our kids.

This fear has been reinforced by yet another strand of irrationality – the rise of paranoia about Satanism. Religious belief in child-torturing conspiracies of devil worshippers – whether Christian, Jewish, or Satanist – has flowered and withered since the early days of the Church. Lately, the belief has resurged in the U.S. and gained widespread acceptance via tabloid media like Geraldo. Things have gotten so far out of hand that last year a Texas school district told students they could no longer wear T-shirts with peace symbols, since self-styled experts on Satanism say the design represents the devil. Another popular belief, that Satanists kidnap blonde virgins for sacrifice, cropped up nationwide in 1997 and 1998, and spawned a wave of what sociologist Jeffrey Victor calls “rumor panics”: townspeople from Montana to Maine banned library books, armed themselves into vigilante squads, and raided purported “covens” that often turned out to be nothing more than teen punk-rocker hangouts.

The latest Satan scare has its roots in 1970s fundamentalism. In The Late Great Planet Earth and Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth, both of which sold millions of copies, Christian TV celebrity Hal Lindsey decries the corrupting influence of the “New Age” ‘60s, yearningly prophesies the end of the world and Armageddon, and warns of the sinister power of rock music, witches and devil worshippers. Meanwhile, many white teenagers shocked their elders by reading popular works about Satanism, scrawling “666”-style graffiti, and listening to the music Cardinal O’Connor, in his recent “exorcism” sermon, called pornography in sound.

During the late ‘70s, “urban legends,” or modern folk rumors, about devil worshippers spread across the U.S. One tale had it that Ray Kroc, former owner of McDonald’s, had tithed his hamburger profits to the church of Satan in exchange for prosperous Big Mac sales. Another was that Procter & Gamble’s century-old moon-and-stars logo was a secret Satanic symbol. (The rumor got so out-of-control that the company had to change the logo in 1985.)

Another evolution in the popular zeitgeist was signaled by the 1980 release of Michelle Remembers, coauthored by Lawrence Pazder, a Catholic psychiatrist from Vancouver, and his wife and former patient, Michelle Smith. The book recounts how Smith, in treatment for depression, underwent months of hypnosis and “remembered” being imprisoned at age five by her mother and a group of Satanists. She said she was locked up, buried with snakes, smeared with human waste, raped with candles and crucifixes, and finally forced to destroy an infant. Smith’s therapy consisted of more hypnosis, prayers to the Virgin Mary, and exorcism.

There is no confirmation that anything Smith “remembers” occurred. Psychiatric anthropologist Sherrill Mulhern, who has reviewed tapes of sessions similar to Pazder’s and Smith’s, says patients retain an unshakable belief in whatever a therapist suggests under hypnosis. Smith’s “memories,” Mulhern says, were probably constructed piecemeal, with Pazder introducing the Satanic motifs. Still, Michelle Remembers became a “non-fiction” bestseller, and the authors appeared on national Christian talk shows. Another self-styled cult survivor had her story published in a tabloid, and by 1983 the FBI was getting calls from women around the country, claiming they too had escaped devil-worshipping cults. Their stories hardly varied: the cults were part of a generations-old, international conspiracy including prominent people, and practiced rites like the ones in Michelle Remembers; they also kidnapped and sacrificed children, which explained the country’s thousands of missing kids.

According to Kenneth Lanning of the FBI, at first the agency took the stories seriously. Perhaps there were a few isolated cults, maybe they could have killed some children. Authorities nationwide began digging up reported burial sites, but found nothing, and Lanning’s doubts increased as “survivor” reports mushroomed (the FBI now gets a call a day). “If the cults were real,” he says, “they would constitute the greatest conspiracy in history.”

Who, then are these “survivors” and what’s their connection to ritual abuse accusations? Sherrill Mulhern, who has spent years studying traditional cults and modern groups like Jonestown, began researching the “survivors” and their therapists about five years ago. She soon realized that she was looking not at a real cult, but at people linked by a delusionary belief in one.

Many “survivors,” Mulhern says, are former teen runaways who lived on the streets and took up prostitution – behavior typical of incest victims. Many have abused drugs that produce paranoid delusions; many have been treated for schizophrenia and for borderline personality, which is characterized by compulsive lying. More recently, many have been diagnosed by therapists as suffering from multiple personality disorder. And virtually all had fundamentalist Christian parents or alter converted. While being “born again,” they were often hypnotized by fellow “survivors” of by self-styled Christian spiritual therapists.

The public knows about multiple personality from The Three Faces of Eve and Sybil. This diagnosis – which was called double consciousness in the 19th century and later fell out of favor – has been officially resurrected during the past 15 years by the American psychiatric profession. A century ago, Freud’s term for multiple personality was hysteria, and he first treated hysterical women during the 1880s. When hypnotizing deeply religious Catholic patients, Freud was struck by how many told trance tales of being raped by black-robed Satan worshippers, stories identical to those told by women during earlier witch trials. He speculated that these stories were actually sadomasochistic fantasies overlying memories of real childhood incest but articulated in the language of religion.

A century later, therapists started hearing the same tales again. This time around, they weren’t’ so willing to call them fictions. The new, unqualified belief that all women’’ and girls’ rape and incest stories were true reflected the reemergence of that strain in feminist thinking that condemned all sexual impulses as merely forms of male domination. In this view, men were inherently predatory, obsessed with penetration and violence – or, as Andrea Dworkin put it, “the stuff of murder, not love.” Women, on the other hand, wanted gentle, not-necessarily-even-genital-sex. By analogy, children were just as pure.

Feminists like Diana Russell, Florence Rush, and Dworkin denied that sadomasochistic acts or thoughts could be erotic for women. Russell viewed them as inventions of the patriarch and reflections of women’s powerlessness; Rush, in her groundbreaking work on sex abuse, The Best Kept Secret, disapprovingly connected the “uncensored erotic imagination” with “the total freedom of the sadist.” Besides being theoreticians, these women were also activists in Women Against Pornography, which was lending the right’s anti-porn crusade a modern “progressive” aura by arguing, despite the lack of evidence, that representations of women being wounded or sexually dominated by men cause sexual violence. At the same time, many therapists who considered themselves feminists adopted the belief that when patients bring up fantasies, dreams, or memories of coerced or brutal sex, they can never be products of the erotic imagination; they must really have happened – and anyone who says otherwise is an apologist for patriarchal violence.

This was the complaint lodged against Freud. During his early career, when female hysterics told him they had been seduced during childhood by their fathers and other adults, Freud believed them; he concluded that such violations were common and led to neurosis. Later, he decided many of the stories were untrue. Freud undoubtedly ended up underestimating the prevalence of abuse, though he never dismissed all his patients’ seduction stories. To explain the others as fantasies, he developed the theory of the Oedipus complex.

In recognizing children as intensely sexual beings, the theory was revolutionary. But its assumption that all women envy men their penises helped reinforce sexual stereotypes and encouraged therapists to mindlessly dismiss women’s memories of childhood molestation. Not surprisingly, then, Freud’s theories of sexuality were later just as simplistically attacked by feminists eager to conflate sexuality with male violence. Their criticisms were most forcefully articulated in 1984, with the publication of Jeffrey Masson’s The Assault on Truth: Freud’s Suppression of the Seduction Theory.

And even as Masson institutionalized Freud-bashing, women and children were telling therapists and police rococo tales about sadomasochistic, diabolical assaults. How could these bizarre stories be true? But then, hadn’t we learned that sex abuse was much more common than previously thought?

The stage was set for McMartin hysteria.

In 1983, as part of his upcoming, hotly contested reelection campaign, the Los Angeles district attorney commissioned a survey asking voters to name their biggest crime concerns. He was surprised to learn that their main worry wasn’t drugs or drunken driving – it was child abuse. At about the same time the pollsters were at work, a mentally ill mother was telling Los Angeles County authorities Story-of-O tales about the McMartin preschool. Following her first accusations, police sent 200 letters to parents, listing specific questions to ask their children about whether and how Ray Buckey molested them. Virtually all the children denied being abused. Nevertheless, at the suggestion of the prosecution, panicked families made appointments at the Children’s Institute International (CII), a Los Angeles abuse therapy clinic.

There, social workers plied the children with puppets, suggested ritual abuse scenarios, coaxed recalcitrant kids to “pretend,” and said that if they didn’t tell the “yucky secret” it meant they were stupid. This interviewing method followed from Los Angeles psychiatrist Roland Summit’s “child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome,” a theory about incest. Summit argues that if there is evidence of sex abuse and a child denies it, this is only further proof that it happened and a therapist should use any means necessary to help the child talk. When this technique was applied to criminal investigation, there wasn’t supposed to be any problem with false allegations. Research has since suggested that as many as one in twelve sex abuse reports are fabricated, that in divorce custody disputes, the rate may be as high as one in two, and that a disturbingly common source of false allegations is mentally ill mothers who injure their children, even genitally, to get attention. But in 1984, few were thinking about such issues – conventional wisdom was that since children are innocent beings, they never lie about sexual abuse. If they later recant, that means they are under family pressure to protect the father – and their turnabout is further proof of the crime.

So no matter how much coercion was used to get an accusation and no matter if a child later retracted it, once Summit’s incest theory was applied, a charge of abuse became irrefutable. Child protection workers ignored the fact that this logic had little to do with day-care. After all, why would children staunchly deny abuse to protect an adult who wasn’t part of the family? And if they’d been so brutally attacked at school, why wouldn’t they tell their parents?

Therapists and investigators came up with all sorts of rationales. One was that the teachers threatened them by slaughtering animals and warning that the same thing would happen to their parents if they told. Kids who revealed nothing were said to have split off unbearable memories and developed amnesia. Following this line of thinking, it’s not surprising that some investigators and psychologists used hypnotic suggestion to get children to “remember” abuse; more typical was endless interrogation, much of it done by parents.

In imposing such techniques, adults no doubt injected their own motifs into allegations. Indeed, there is evidence that the details in ritual abuse charges come more from grown-ups than children. Lawrence Pazder, coauthor of Michelle Remembers, told the San Francisco Examiner he acted as a consultant to Los Angeles police investigating McMartin and to parents nationwide; McMartin parent Jackie McGaulley has confided she met with him during the early days of the investigation. Around the same time, ken Wooden, the Satanic conspiracy theorist, mailed information to 3,500 prosecutors describing what to look for in ritual abuse cases. Women claiming to be survivors contacted McMartin investigators and parents; some even joined parents at nationwide child protection conferences to speak about ritual abuse. Meanwhile, prominent psychiatrists like Bennett Braun began appearing at symposia on multiple personality, telling colleagues that a fourth of the women with this diagnosis are escapees from cults organized like the “Communist cell structure.” Soon, other therapists would be carrying guns for protection against devil worshippers. And soon, more and more prosecutors would make front-page news by leveling charges of unspeakably sadistic rape, sodomy and terrorism against people whose only previous experience with the law was in traffic court.

Yet Satanism as a motive in ritual abuse cases didn’t always wash: Though prosecutors tried to keep it quiet, if the public or jury found out that the accusations included the belief that the defendants danced around in covens, cases tended to become laughingstocks and collapse. (Indeed, the phrase ritual abuse was coined by child-protection people worried that Satanic abuse would evoke public disbelief.) So prosecution-minded child-protection activists tried to develop sensible-sounding explanations for why ordinary people would suddenly get the urge to stick swords up toddlers.

To do this, common sense had to be reformed. Nobody, not even the most jaded of cops, had ever heard of people with no relationship to enragé politics or cults and with no mental health problems practicing intricate sexual tortures against little children in nursery schools. The situation was akin to the dilemma faced by inquisitors during the witch trials, when one of the biggest issues was how to physically identify a consort of Satan. The accused would be stripped and a search would ensue for “devil’s privy marks”: warts, scars, and skin tags, especially on the genitals. Such blemishes were said to prove the bearer had a compact with the devil. Three hundred years later, bodily flaws wouldn’t do. Now what was needed was a new psychology.

Serious research was no help. Most male molesters and pedophiles who commit non-violent offenses score normally on psychological tests, but one would expect a Rorschach to ferret out someone remarkable about a person who rubs feces on toddlers and barbecues babies. Nevertheless, batteries of exams given to ritual abuse defendants turned up virtually nothing unusual. This was especially remarkable when it came to women, since the few female child molesters mentioned in earlier medical literature had invariably been diagnosed as mentally retarded or psychotic.

But in the 1980s, rapidly increasing reports of incest included several cases with female perpetrators. Recent studies suggest that these women are unusually emotionally disturbed, abuse drugs, and were themselves incest victims. When molesting their children, they do it nonviolently, by fondling them during diaper changes, for example; and they often feel ashamed and turn themselves in. others report helping their husbands molest their daughters. These women seem to share many traits with battered wives, and after escaping abusive marriages, some have willingly confessed their former complicity.

As soon as female incest offender studies were published in the mid-1980s, prosecutors of ritual cases rushed to pound the accused into the profiles. In most cases, it takes a huge stretch of the imagination to link ritual abuse defendants with incest offenders. Accused groups have usually contained more women than men, and that doesn’t fit the battered or dominated wife profiles. And virtually all the defendants have insisted they are innocent even after generous plea bargaining.

Nevertheless, zealous child protection authorities keep trying to suggest “profiles,” even if it means fictionalizing defendants’ lives. In several cases, with no supporting evidence, officials have told journalists that the accused were “abused as children.” In others, prosecutors have intimated that benign activities, often having something to do with sex, reflect psychopathology. In one case, a middle-aged married woman had an affair (with a man) while she was working at a preschool; one week, when she was considering leaving her husband, she signed the daily attendance sheet with her maiden name. At trial, the prosecutor displayed the signatures and implied the woman was mentally ill.

Another profile gained popularity after the 1985 Meese Commission hearing where critics of adult pornography were joined by spokespeople for the kiddie porn, missing children, and ritual abuse panics. Appearing with a chart supposedly describing confessed and convicted male sex abusers, the FBI’s Lanning advised cops to check whether a suspect seemed Regressed (“low self-esteem”); Inadequate (“social misfit”); Morally Indiscriminate (“a user and abuser of people”); Sexually Indiscriminate (“try sexual – willing to try anything”). Though this typology is about as scientific as a horoscope, Lanning, a vocal Satanic-conspiracy-theory skeptic, has cautioned his chart wasn’t developed for women or ritual abuse defendants – which hasn’t kept prosecutors from using it.

Even so, the search for a more convincing profile goes on. In response to true believers’ urgings, the federal government followed Meese Commission recommendations and funded studies that accept, a priori, the validity of ritual abuse charges. In 1985, the University of California at Los Angeles got $405,000 to monitor into adulthood the “coping” skills of children allegedly molested in local preschools, though authorities later dismissed virtually all their stories as unbelievable.

One researcher for this study is sociologist David Finkelhor, a self-styled sexual progressive and longtime colleague of feminist Diana Russell. Finklehor got a grant to profile day-care sex crimes. Again, most of the cases he researched had so many investigative and evidentiary flaws that they never made it to trial. Except for idle speculations, Finklehor found nothing remarkable in ritual defendants’ histories or personalities. But instead of asking if this meant the charges were false, he implied that since the accused are normal, being normal is part of the typology of the ritual offender. With this sleight of hand, the study, titled Nursery Crimes, immediately became a bible for child protection fanatics eager to supply incredulous communities and journalists with a “scientific” rationale for their paranoia.

The updating of ritual abuse hysteria with pop psychology is vividly illustrated in New Jersey’s Margaret Kelly Michaels case – the northeast’s version of McMartin. Michaels, a teacher at a suburban Newark day-care center, was accused in 1985 of assaulting preschoolers sexually with peanut butter, swords, bloodied tampons, urine, feces, and terroristic threats. She was said to have committed these crimes against dozens of children daily, for seven months, in a crowded facility, without any adults seeing her and without leaving any physical evidence.

After investigators made all the mistakes that characterized McMartin, they still had no evidence that Michaels was in a cult. So they searched for psychopathology. Again, nothing strange in Michaels’ background. They pressed on anyway. To fit her into the incest offender profile, prosecutors played up unfounded rumors that her father fondled her during jailhouse visits. At a preliminary hearing, they brought in the FBI’s Lanning to “instruct” the judge that women don’t have to be psychotic to molest children. Both in court and off the record, the prosecutors plugged Michaels into anything that passed for a profile, even those developed for men. They suggested she was “dissociated” – i.e., a multiple personality – because she did dance exercises at the day-care center while looking “spacey.” They implied she was a pedophile – a term never before applied to women – because she took photographs at the playground. And the fact that Michaels adamantly insisted she was innocent was supposed to mean she was “morally indiscriminate.” As proof of her cunning, prosecutors told the jury that during one psychological evaluation, Michaels drew a person with one foot turned inward; but another time she drew it pointed out!

With such nonsense offered – and largely accepted – as “motive,” it was unavoidable that Michaels would be demonized for any sexual behavior not conforming to the strictest traditional standards. At her women’s college, for example, she had experimented with lesbianism. The prosecution insinuated that Michaels’ homosexual experiences and the fact that she had not slept with a man until age 25, were proof of “confusion” that would cause her to torture children. Michaels was ultimately convicted on 115 counts of abuse. The case against her, permeated as it was by the testimony of social workers and psychologists, exchanged open talk of Satanic conspiracies for a secular, feminist-sounding idiom that nevertheless couches a profound hostility towards women and a loathing for any erotic impulse.

Even children’s play with each other is becoming suspect. Abuse-finders now worry that preschoolers who play sexually with their peers may be “perpetrators” or pedophiles-in-the-making. CII, the Los Angeles clinic known for its abominable McMartin interviews, is now treating “offenders” as young as four years old if they have so much as “verbally cajoled” a younger child into sex play that CII deems not “normal.” While researchers say most of the “offenders” were themselves sexually abused, the clinic’s history of eliciting false allegations makes any such claims suspect. More telling is the CII therapists’ disapproval that some of their little girl patients said they acted sexually not out of “love and caring,” but simply “to feel good.”

While such rhetoric may still be patently laughable, repressing older kids is another story. Teenagers are increasingly victimized by laws denying them access to birth control, confidential abortions, or a sense that sex is anything more than a deadly disease. The trend is now justified via the rhetoric of “child protection”; in Arizona, after a law passed mandating teachers and counselors to report sex abuse victims, officials in the state’s largest school district gathered the names of sexually active students and handed them over to the cops.

Meanwhile, in divorce disputes and especially on the day-care front, hysteria continues unabated. Across the country, more and more losers in custody battles are accusing spouses of being Satanic cult sex abusers. And since 1989, the town of Edenton, North Carolina, has been disrupted by charges that five women and two men associated with an elite preschool molested, raped, and filmed sex acts with 70 young children and infants. Earlier in the investigation, officials said they had photographic evidence of the crimes, and the D.A. claims the children have made most of their allegations to therapists. But the only ‘evidence” to emerge is one Polaroid photo, found in a woman defendant’s home, of her having sex with her fiancé (an adult); at least one therapist is giving Satanism and ritual abuse seminars around the state, and some parents of the alleged victims are active in Believe the Children.

The North Carolina kids’ stories have unerringly followed the ritual abuse plot, progressing lately to tales of witnessing babies slaughtered. Perhaps not coincidentally, their most bizarre allegations began surfacing this past fall, around the time that 27 million viewers watched Do You Know the Muffin Man?, a BCS move that rehashed details from several ritual abuse cases, but included the wholly fictional climax of parents discovering day-care teachers worshipping the devil amidst piles of kiddie porn. Or maybe the North Carolina woman, accompanied by her Jewish therapist, claimed to be a survivor of childhood cult ritual abuse and added that Jewish families had been sacrificing babies since the 1700s.

A few months later, during the taping of the Geraldo post-trial show, the McMartin children and their parents sat under bright lights and gave their names. Back at a Los Angeles studio hookup, a girls sat in a darkened area, anonymous. She told how when she was five she used to spend after-school hours with Ray Buckey helping him clean up classrooms, yet he never molested her. She recalled going to CII during the investigation, and how the therapists kept suggesting the details of ritual sex games before they even started up the tape recorder. Then they turned it on, all the while telling her things she’d never heard of, and insisting she repeat them.

She wouldn’t, and now six years later, a boy sitting in the bright lights – one whose parents parade him on national TV and make speeches about Satanist sex abuse networks in Episcopal churches – glared at her silhouette and insisted she was really molested. The girl sat in the shadows, afraid to show her face or give her name. She and her family fear harassment – not for proclaiming she was raped, but for insisting she wasn’t.

As for the children who sat in the light, their parents have invested years believing in demonic conspiracies and underground nursery tunnels. (until recently, the parents were still digging. They came up with Indian artifacts.) They have spoken unremittingly of such things, to the world and to their sons and daughters. They have told their children, over and over again, that they were abused, then rewarded them for acting traumatized. They have put them in therapy with adult fanatics who have done the same, and enrolled them as guinea pigs in the “research” projects of zealots.

The McMartin kids, and hundreds of others in ritual abuse spin-offs across the country, have spent years trapped in clans now extended to include psychologists, social workers and prosecutors –– clans whose identity derives from a tent-revival belief in their children’s imagined victimization. Right wing devil-mongers may find the subculture to their liking, but the rest of us ought to recognize the harm it is wreaking, not only on civil liberties and the falsely accused, but also on day-care, on women’s rights, and especially on children. Because the kids involved in this hysteria have indeed suffered, but not at the hands of their teachers. And the abuse perpetrated against them by the child-protection movement gone mad are every bit as awful as the tyranny of incest.

Voir enfin:

C’est la béatification médiatique d’Hessel qui pose problème

Analyse

01 mars 2013

Stéphane Juffa

MetullahNews Agency

Il n’est pas question pour moi d’ajouter mon encre aux critiques de l’œuvre et des idées de Stéphane Hessel. A l’image du Dr. Richard Prasquier, devant les caméras d’I-télé, plusieurs intellectuels ont parfaitement décortiqué le message de feu le vieil indigné.

Revenir sur leurs arguments presque toujours pertinents réduirait inutilement la puissance de leurs analyses, et ils ne méritent pas cette injustice.

Si je m’exprime aujourd’hui, c’est pour dire ce qu’ils n’ont pas dit et qui est cause, chez moi, d’une profonde inquiétude. Cela s’articule sur un constat principal : ce n’est pas Hessel et son discours qui sont préoccupants mais ceux qui l’encensent et ceux qui le propagent.

Le problème ne se situe pas tant dans l’essai de 32 pages Indignez-vous !, paru en 2011, mais dans la couverture dramatique de Libération, présentant le portrait du vieillard défunt, accentué de ces deux mots : « Un juste ».

Je cite cette une, mais je pourrais mentionner la totalité de la presse tricolore, tombant en extase devant ce « grand homme » qu’elle avait d’ailleurs découvert sur le tard. Des pétitions poussent maintenant comme des champignons, exigeant que la dépouille d’Hessel soit inhumée au Panthéon.

Les politiciens unanimes saluent le grand résistant et le défenseur des droits de l’homme qui les a quittés à l’âge avancé de 95 ans. Les seuls bémols que l’on entend se résument aux murmures de certains tribuns de l’opposition, sur le thème « je n’étais peut-être pas d’accord avec tout ce qu’il disait ».

Mais la seule critique devant ce requiem national vient des Juifs. Et c’est précisément cela qui me préoccupe.

Car, lorsqu’il était sorti, j’avais lu Indignez-vous ! en une vingtaine de minutes. Cet opus imposait une conclusion qui me paraissait alors évidente : il est court.

Il avait été produit par un auteur alignant les réflexions embryonnaires, les thèses sans défenses et les argumentaires, qu’un analyste au courant de la réalité pouvait exploser sans excès de sudation.

Pour ne rien cacher, la focalisation d’Hessel sur la centralité universelle du différend israélo-palestinien m’avait instinctivement fait penser à l’écriture d’un homme déstabilisé ou blessé. Ce, tant la réduction des problèmes du monde à la Bande de Gaza est objectivement indéfendable pendant qu’on s’étripe en Syrie, et tant sa critique de l’Etat hébreu est outrageusement… disproportionnée.

Bis repetita de l’indigné sur la fable de Gaza, « prison à ciel ouvert » ; le vieil homme était de ceux qui ignorent que la porte de cette geôle ouvre sur quatorze kilomètres de frontière commune avec l’Egypte islamiste des Frères Musulmans, eux-mêmes les créateurs et les mentors idéologiques du Hamas qui gouverne Gaza.

Or c’est un lieu commun de considérer qu’une prison dont la porte n’est pas fermée n’est pas une prison. Ou que si le Hamas connaît des problèmes avec Moubarak et Morsi, cela ne regarde pas Israël.

Bien qu’il ait passé sa vie à faire oublier que son père était juif, j’avais l’impression, à le lire, que l’auteur était encore en train de se débattre avec son ascendance ; un peu à la manière d’un autre résistant israélite avec lequel nous avons eu maille à partir, Edgar Morin/Nahum, qui aboutit à la conclusion que les Juifs prennent – ce ne peut être qu’atavique – du plaisir à maltraiter leurs voisins.

Mais consacrer plus de la moitié de trente-deux pages d’indignation universelle à Israël, c’était trop. Trop, en tout cas pour une personne intellectuellement équilibrée.

Reste que si ce fascicule est faible et qu’il manque même d’originalité quant aux idées qu’il expose, il se place dans l’air du temps. Il est, en effet, de nos jours, difficile de demander aux djeunes de se concentrer sur plus de 32 pages. Encore faut-il, de plus, qu’elles soient dénuées de toute complexité, ce qui cadre sans aucun doute avec le livre en question.

Stéphane Hessel se positionnait dans la droite ligne des néo-existentialistes genre Marius Schattner, commandant une vision manichéenne du Moyen-Orient et du monde, scandée avec de fortes inflexions fanoniennes concernant les axiomes oppresseur-oppressé, occupant-occupé, ainsi que les gentils barbares exploités, qui, afin de retrouver leur dignité, doivent impérativement massacrer leurs ennemis de la façon la plus sauvage possible.

Las de ces considérations ! Les propos et les fantômes de l’indigné de service furent ce qu’ils furent et personne n’est obligé ni d’aimer Israël, ni de professer une approche équilibrée des conflits. D’ailleurs, et, pour ne pas l’imiter, il faut le lui concéder, il ne prônait pas la disparition d’Israël mais la solution dite des deux Etats, ce qui ne coïncide pas forcément, d’un point de vue logique, avec le reste de ses propositions.

Et c’est à partir de là qu’Hessel se retrouve en position de hors-jeu ; quand, pour aller jusqu’au bout de sa haine de l’Etat hébreu, Hessel prend la liberté de normaliser le nazisme en affirmant que « l’occupation allemande (de la France) était, si on la compare par exemple avec l’occupation actuelle de la Palestine par les Israéliens, une occupation relativement inoffensive ».

A quoi Hessel trouvait naturel d’ajouter : « (…) abstraction faite d’éléments d’exception comme les incarcérations, les internements et les exécutions, ainsi que le vol d’œuvres d’art. Tout cela était terrible. Mais il s’agissait d’une politique d’occupation qui voulait agir positivement (…) ».

Au Panthéon, dites-vous ?

Parce que cette « occupation positive » a tout de même coûté la vie, entre 39 et 45, à la bagatelle de 567 600 Français, soit à 1.35% de la population hexagonale de l’époque. Ce, tandis que toutes les guerres entre Israéliens et Arabes, depuis avant même la création de l’Etat hébreu, à partir de 1945, civils et combattants des deux bords confondus, n’ont pas tué plus de 60 000 êtres humains. Et que l’ « occupation » israélienne ne fait de victimes que fort occasionnellement.

Mais comment, pour rester dans les chiffres, Hessel peut-il parler de la sorte d’un conflit mondial ayant anéanti entre 60 et 70 millions d’individus ? Et comparer favorablement les dégâts du nazisme à la politique de l’Etat démocratique d’Israël ?

Des intellectuels décents ont également abondamment commenté ces affirmations déraisonnables et haineuses de l’indigné, nul besoin, dans ces conditions, d’analyser cette dérive. J’ai commencé ce papier en disant que ce n’est pas Hessel qui cause souci mais la réaction de ceux qui l’écoutent.

Car, en situation régulière, un homme se permettant d’émettre de semblables non-sens serait mis au banc de la société en général, et, particulièrement, de celle de l’intelligentsia et de la politique. Lors, ce n’est pas le cas, et nous de nous poser la question de savoir comment un être sans relief particulier, capable d’élucubrations historiques afin d’attiser la détestation d’un peuple, normalisant l’inénarrable monstruosité hitlérienne, dont l’extermination industrielle de six millions d’Israélites, devient-il, à sa mort, le juste d’une nation.

Nous en tirons un double enseignement. D’abord, il est à nouveau possible, dans la France du début de ce XXIème siècle, de stigmatiser Israël et les Juifs sans avoir besoin d’étayer ses propos. Fustiger l’Etat hébreu en le comparant, par exemple, défavorablement au IIIème Reich ne suffit plus à relativiser le jugement des journalistes, des intellos et des hommes politiques bleu-blanc-rouge sur l’auteur d’une telle comparaison.

Nous sommes revenus aux périodes brunes de la République, à l’Occupation précisément, et, antérieurement à la période de l’Affaire Dreyfus, quand on pouvait être un grand homme tout en abhorrant les Israélites ; ou pire, être considéré comme un juste – j’ai aussi lu qu’Hessel avait été un sage – précisément parce qu’on les exècre.

Il n’est plus nécessaire, aujourd’hui en France, de respecter l’honneur de la nation d’Israël pour déclencher la pamoison. On l’avait déjà remarqué en considérant le commentaire oiseux que l’émission du service public « Un Œil sur la planète » a récemment consacrée à Israël, de même que la démission des garde-fous de ladite République et de tous les syndicats de journalistes unanimes, qui hurlent, au nom de la liberté d’expression, haro sur le baudet israélien, à la place d’exclure les charlatans racistes de l’info de leur sein.

On a aussi patiemment observé le fonctionnement de la presse francilienne à l’occasion de la Controverse de Nétzarim, celui de la justice tricolore, et celui de l’exécutif, n’ayant pas hésité à mélanger leurs efforts afin de protéger de la disgrâce la grossière imposture anti-israélienne de Charles Enderlin et de France 2.

Et si je rappelle ces trois occurrences, dans l’ordre chronologique, l’Affaire Dura, un Œil sur la planète et l’hommage exagéré d’un pays à Hessel, négationniste par occultation du génocide nazi, c’est parce qu’en ces trois occasions, toutes les élites du pays France ont pris position, tandis que les Juifs français et leur bon droit se sont retrouvés terriblement seuls et isolés dans l’autre camp.

Et s’il n’est pas concevable d’attendre d’un Juif qu’il accepte la normalisation de l’Occupation nazie ni la comparaison de l’hitlérisme avec Israël, il reste à observer que les goys franchissent ces pas avec enthousiasme et bonne conscience.

A la nuance près que pendant l’Affaire Dreyfus, la condamnation d’un Juif innocent – c’est toujours la même chanson qui passe en boucle, semble se faire oublier, puis revient, plus féroce qu’auparavant – tous les Dreyfusards n’étaient pas israélites, alors que de nos jours, on compte les anti-Hessel non juifs sur les doigts de ses deux mains.

Ce qui arrive aujourd’hui, et qui va, derrière l’indigné disparu, rechercher ses valeurs dans la résistance, ne le fait pas par hasard. Car le temps de l’Occupation constitue l’une des nombreuses pages de leur histoire que les Français ne sont pas parvenus à analyser puis à tourner. Car pour pouvoir tourner une page, il faut d’abord être capable de l’expurger de ses toxines. Sinon elle se rouvre toute seule et quand elle le décide.

Or les Français ont laissé derrière eux tant de pages ouvertes s’accumulant dans leur inconscient collectif, qu’elles aboutissent à des comportements publics qui demeurent imperméables à la compréhension des étrangers.

En écrivant ce qu’il a écrit sur la douceur de la vie sous les Boches, en imputant artificiellement à la nation juive une cruauté supérieure à la leur, en faisant, de la sorte, d’Israël le repère symbolique du mal absolu, on réalise une sorte d’exorcisme nauséabond et terriblement dangereux, rétroactif, du droit qu’auraient pu avoir les grands-parents de détester les Juifs sans avoir de raison à présenter. Et pourquoi pas, celui de ne pas être braves et de les livrer aux Allemands ou de copuler avec eux.

Et cette France intellectuelle, démocrate chrétienne tout en se voyant à gauche, et surtout adaptable à l’envi, briguant le privilège de donner des leçons sans jamais en recevoir, qui supporte mal d’avoir sans cesse à se justifier du traitement de ses Juifs sous l’Occupation, applaudit des deux mains le témoignage indigne d’un Israélite affirmant que l’ère nazie n’était pas si terrible que cela, et que ce qu’Israël inflige aux Arabes est largement pire.

(…)

Un commentaire pour Salem/320e:Tous les 50 ans le mal doit être chassé (From Salem to McMartin)

Laisser un commentaire

Entrez vos coordonnées ci-dessous ou cliquez sur une icône pour vous connecter:

Logo WordPress.com

Vous commentez à l'aide de votre compte WordPress.com. Déconnexion / Changer )

Image Twitter

Vous commentez à l'aide de votre compte Twitter. Déconnexion / Changer )

Photo Facebook

Vous commentez à l'aide de votre compte Facebook. Déconnexion / Changer )

Photo Google+

Vous commentez à l'aide de votre compte Google+. Déconnexion / Changer )

Connexion à %s

%d blogueurs aiment cette page :