We all know about the Salem Witch Trials. But much more recently another, not-dissimilar-enough anti-witch craze plagued us. Remember “recovered memories”? Mass child sex abuse? Satanic rites?
Most of it was nonsense.
Frances and Daniel Kellar operated a day care business, and found themselves on the wrong end of this particular crowd madness. They were successfully prosecuted, as a fascinating Austin-American Statesman article relates, without any real evidence,
after three young children accused them of dismembering babies, torturing pets, desecrating corpses, videotaping orgies and serving blood-laced Kool-Aid in satanic rituals so ghastly, their names became synonymous with evil.
It was the early 1990s, when a cottage industry of therapists, authors and investigators argued convincingly — and, in hindsight, absurdly — that a national network of secretive cults was preying upon day care children for sex and other horrors.
Why fall for such tall tales?
Over at Reason, Elizabeth Nolan Brown characterizes the age in which the Kellars were railroaded as “at the height of American moral panic over just who was watching the children.”
So: guilt. Parents rightly feel a duty to care for their children. Outsourcing that job makes us uncomfortable. Those who feel guilty tend to lash out at others, imputing a far greater guilt.
It’s a theory, anyway.
The truth is that the Kellars were not guilty. Their accusers recanted; the evidence against them proved spurious or mistaken.
Released from prison last year, they now seek to be completely exonerated, declared innocent. It’s hard to get folks in government to admit they were wrong.
We, on the other hand, can honor their innocence by not allowing mass hysteria to corrupt justice under our watch, today and tomorrow.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.