Legal cartoons and humorous comment (c) Paul Brennan. All rights reserved.

I decided on 101 reasons as I didn’t want to depress the entire legal profession by having 1,001.
Paul Brennan, Lawyer, Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Join Your Local Witch Hunt

Those of us, who have not followed life with sufficient gravity to become a judge, can always piously adopt a serious cause and seek elevation to a commission or investigating committee. For others with a shorter attention span, the advent of social media offers mobs opportunities that the French Revolutionaries could only dream of.

In 1953 The Crucible, a play by Arthur Miller likened the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC) to the Salem Witch trials of 1692. Hollywood operated a blacklist for celebrities falling foul of the HUAC such as Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles and Paul Robeson all of whom had to go overseas to work.

Miller was suspected of being a communist and in 1954 the HUAC denied him a passport for the London opening of his play.

In 1956, Miller married Marilyn Monroe and was subpoenaed to appear before the HUAC. Miller did not wish to name, names and the Chairman seemed to agree to defer that question. Miller then gave a detailed account of his own involvement with Communism as a writer under a pseudonym. He was later convicted of contempt for refusing to name, names and was sentenced to a fine of $500 or 30 days imprisonment. He was blacklisted and disallowed a US passport. He appealed and his conviction was overturned as the Chairman’s concession made it unclear that a prosecution would follow.

Witch hunts are just as popular today be it retired light entertainment celebrities, priests, climate change sceptics or anybody appearing to step over the bounds of political correctness. Everyone is entitled to an opinion on these topics provided it is the right one or they keep it to themselves, otherwise they are attacked too. Names (right or wrong) are named and vilified.

Amid this, there are people like Miller who dared to lampoon and Napoleon who perhaps more satisfyingly turned the cannon on the mob, while sensible people do nothing and keep their opinions to themselves.

What can you do about it? Well, if you are like me, nothing.