The Witch Hunt as a Structure of Argumentation

The concept of a witch hunt is frequently invoked, in recent times, to describe a kind of procedure for deciding the guilt of a person against whom an accusation has been made. But what exactly is a witch hunt? In this paper, ten conditions are formulated as a cluster of properties characterizing the witch hunt as a framework in which arguments are used: (1) pressure of social forces, (2) stigmatization, (3) climate of fear, (4) resemblance to a fair trial, (5) use of simulated evidence, (6) simulated expert testimony, (7) nonfalsifi- ability characteristic of evidence, (8) reversal of polarity, (9) non-openness, and (10) use of the loaded question technique. The witch hunt, as characterized by these criteria, is shown to function as a negative normative structure for evaluating argumentation used in particular cases.

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