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Salem Witch Trials Hysteria

By mendozaoscar Apr 29, 2013 1444 Words
Mass Hysteria during the 1690s and 1950s.
As examples of mass hysteria, both the Salem Witch Trials and the Cold War caused turmoil during their respective time period. Although very different time periods, the 1690s Salem Witch Trials and the 1950s Cold War were both dramatic examples of mass hysteria (Campbell). The Salem Witch Trials were one of the nation's most dramatic examples of hysteria as close to 20 people were killed because of pure hype and chaos in the region (Campbell). The cold war was the rise and fall of the United States civil defence as peoples fear rose to an all time high due to the creation of the hydrogen bomb (Hubbard). Both the Salem Witch Trials and the nuclear fear during the cold war were examples of hysteria but the total fear that the cold war instilled on people is far more important because it affected a national population in comparison to a meer small town in Massachusetts (Campbell). The Salem Witch Trials are in a class below the Cold War for many reasons, one being the total events pertaining to their respective conflicts. As the Salem Witch Trials lasted for a gruesome six months and twenty-two days the Cold War however triumphs that by recording a whopping 46 years from 1945 to 1991 (WikiAnswers; Clair). The conflict between the United States and the USSR after World War 2 is known as the cold war and consisted of many events such as; The Yalta and Potsdam Conferences, the Iron Curtain, division of Germany and the Berlin, Korean War, Nuclear Arms and Space Races, U2 Crisis, Cuban Missile Crisis, Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan(Clair). The Witch Trials on the other hand were mostly defined when no one had answers why 2 girls were having “convulsive seizures, blasphemous screaming, and trance like states” so they assumed that it was the work of the devil which spread hysteria that the devil had infiltrated salem ("The Salem Witch Trials, 1692."). This leaded to the events on February 29,1961 when 3 warrants were posted for 3 woman; Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba leading to the later saying she saw the devil and his evil book and can name some of the other witches in the town ("The Salem Witch Trials, 1692."). When the arrest warrants were issued they were followed by a mass of accusations peaking the fear of the witch trials (Chronology of Events). The lack of tension and fear building up in the people's eyes up as time progressed shows lack of reason to compare the Salem Witch Trials to such a monstrous event in history as the Cold War. As a population of 171,984,130 in 1957, the United states was under much more pressure by protecting their people in contrast to a tiny 550 residents in Salem during the trials (Eyewitness; “US Historical Population, By Year.”). Although within the short six months an sudden influx of 185 accusations spurred in the small town creating chaos, it can not compare to the damage that would occur if an nuclear war were to take place between the world's superpower (Campbell). The United States started the nuclear arms race in 1952 when it dropped the first H-Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan to end the war against Japan and by the end of the 1950s the american government estimated that a Russian nuclear attack would approximately kill 20 million people and hurt another 22 million people (Nuclear Arms Race). 42 million total people in comparison to 19 people simply cannot be correlated to each other, the outcome would be catastrophic. During the middle of the 1960s the theory of M.A.D. or mutually assured destruction was introduced. This meant that if Russia attacked the United Stated then the US would retaliate before the missiles landed on American territory making neither superpower a winner (Nuclear Arms Race). The clear destruction of the world's powers would be more dreadful than losing a portion of a small settlement in Massachusetts. The fact that the United States tried to suppress fear and look for peace options as opposed to encouraging a mass of accusations makes the Cold War's nuclear fear was worse then the hysteria of salem. The following was posted on a Civil Defence Administrations poster during the mid 1950’s to show the people the government is protecting them “The best way to survive the hazards of radioactive fallout, or any other threat an enemy may use against us, is to be prepared -- know the facts -- learn what to do, now!” (Hubbard). When the United States blew off their first Hydrogen Bomb (two thousand five hundred times more powerful then the bomb that killed 100,000 people in Japan) they realized that they must boast their national defence to keep the people calm (Hubbard). They introduced the Civil Defence Administration to bring the people public fallout shelters, emergency broadcast systems, and food stockpiles (Hubbard). By 1981 the nation's defence spending was staggering, reaching a gargantuan 181 billion dollars (Hubbard). The United states distilled the fear in the people and yet millions were fearing for their lives adding nuclear bomb shelters as an additional room in their house or in their basement(Hubbard). The parents were getting a relief by hearing that schools made civil defence classes such as Bert the Turtle to teacher the children about radiation and survival (Hubbard). Bert the turtle was the face of the civil defence agencies Duck And Cover program to teach people how to supposedly survive a nuclear fall out which clearly doesn't match up to the sheer power of an H-Bomb. The previous shows that the government was keeping back the facts of the new weapon from the public to limit the fear running through people's minds. People in Salem used witchcraft as an excuse for themselves to profit such as the merchantiles vs the land based economists while citizens of the Cold War were actually fearing for their lives. The accused witches in salem tended to be wealthy making it a claim to gain power so often occurring in history. The convicted woman were mostly over 60 and happened to be wealthy widows or wives of selectmen. The Salem Witch trials were more a self conscious struggle for power in a small town. The case of an excuse for power vs a very real fear for millions of peoples lives definitely gives the advantage to the cold war. An obvious case contrasting that the nuclear war was worse then the Salem Witch Trials is that nuclear missiles were real and witches quite frankly still are not. By October 1957 the world was introduced to ICBM's or Inter-continental ballistic missiles. Within 10 years of dropping the first atomic bomb, there were 8 thousand and 7 thousand inter-continental ballistic missiles split between the United States and the USSR respectively(History learning site). In 1962 Cuba turned to the USSR to help them after President Kennedy denounced supper of Fidel Castro, supplying them with medium range nuclear weapons. This imposed an immediate threat on the United States knowing that nuclear weapons were now only 25 miles off the coast of Florida(Claire, John). The Salem Witch trials were more of an excuse then actual fear to most people. The people most accused were wealthy widows with no heirs because they threatened the economic system of transferring a man's wealth to their sons(Salem witch trials). 141 of the 44 people accused were women and 14 of the 19 people executed were also woman. The citizens of Salem were commonly scared of women over 60 or wealthy widows because they had no one to pass on their wealth. This shows that the Salem Witch Trials were more of a hype then an actual fear for their lives. Although both the nuclear fear and the witch trials were examples of hysteria, the fear of a nuclear fall out was superior in contrast to the fear of witches. In history, the Cold War is clearly brought up more frequently in contrast to a 300 year old event such as the Salem Witch Trials. The total population comparing; 171 million people to 550 is an incomparable argument showing that the Cold War was a superior example of Hysteria. The lack of climax to the events of the Salem Witch Trials cannot compare to the arms race either because the citizens were more scaring themselves then actually having a reason to fear. It all, the Cold War’s nuclear fear which burdened the world with widespread terror cannot be compared to a few people acting weird 300 years ago.

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