The Witch Hunt as a Structure of Argumentation

A paper by Douglas Walton of the University of Winnipeg outlines ten characteristics of a witch hunt. See also isteve and hbdchick.

How far does the Zimmerman case fit this pattern?

The characteristics are

1.  Pressure of social forces

Walton refers to the ideological clash in 17th century Massachusetts between thriving merchants and puritan farmers. Isn’t that similar to the US today?

2.  Stigmatization

Read Frederick Leatherman Law Blog or the comments at any liberal media.

3.  Climate of fear

Zimmerman and his family are in hiding.

4. Resemblance to a fair trial.

Absolutely. The forthcoming trial seems superficially fair, with a prosecution and defense and a jury. But everyone, except for pajama clad losers and nobodies,  from the President to millions of hooded teens is on  one side. We shall soon see whether this applies to the upper reaches of the Florida judiciary

5. Use of Simulated evidence.

Video of Zimmerman purporting to show a lack of injuries, the whispers, Mary Cutcher, Dee Dee (s?). One could add here the suppression of authentic evidence.

6. Simulated expert testimony

Alan Reich and no doubt more to come.

7.  Nonfalsifiable evidence

Dee Dee and the bump and the falling headphones. The defense cannot see the evidence hidden by the prosecution and opposing counsel until it specifies what it wants to see.

8.  Reversal of polarity

This means that the burden of proof of proof is shifted from the prosecution to the defendant. Zimmerman must prove that he did not confront Martin or that he is not a racist.

9. Non-openness

The Zimmerman trial is not bad in this respect but we still have the secrecy regarding the emergence or creation of Dee Dee (s?) and the “forgetting” of crucial evidence for months.

10. Use of the loaded question technique.

See the prosecution questioning  of witness John or de la Rionda’s courtroom histrionics.

I would add another characteristic, the declared belief that anyone supporting the witch or even showing insufficient enthusiasm for the prosecution are themselves guilty of witchcraft.


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