The 'satanic panic' of the 1980s was responsible for spreading the lie of a supposedly pervasive phenomenon known as 'satanic ritual abuse' (SRA) in which children were used in satanic rituals and molested, abused, raped, impregnated and even murdered in the name of the devil. Rumors and accusation of organized groups ran rampant for many years, and were featured on shows like Oprah and Geraldo, but federal investigators never found any evidence that such groups existed or that such crimes had ever occurred.
In looking at "the rest of the world" - where does jihad (holy war) come from if not a place of hysteria. The terrorists that are so deadly today, the suicide bombers, are extremists who have been so convinced of the dangers of other societies that they are willing to die to protect their own people. These people firmly believe that they must do this for the greater good - in other words, that danger is imminent. Hysteria, the lack of reasoned thinking, causes that.
Also look at the fact that in times of turmoil in a community, basic rights are often take away. Imagine how fearful the community had to be of being accused. Many started making accusations themselves to make sure they were on the other end of things. Look at the Patriot Act and the rights of privacy, etc (flown lately?) people have given up because of fear. Miller obviously was trying to draw a connection to the Red Scare. Another good example would be the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Witch hunts are very much alive today. I can remember the AIDS scare, and the rumors that persisted and ruined lives. If an actor or sports athlete was seen leaving any kind of medical facility, the press was on it-looking for some indication that they were infected. We robbed children of education because we did not want them in the same room with our kids.
Time and again-9/11 being another example, the phenomenon of wide spread hysteria takes over society.
Hmm one thing that comes to mind right away is the satanism fears which gripped America in the 1980s. The McMartin Pre-School case is probably the best example I can think of.
More recently, you could say the rush to invade Iraq had elements of social hysteria. After an event like 9/11, fear took hold and Saddam Hussein was inflated to a sort of witch-like mythical figure who was weeks away from launching attacks on America. The lack of questioning of the war could be seen as a sort of social hysteria.
In addition to the last post, I would like to mention the witchcraft accusations in Western Africa, accusing children of being witches. Children with high temperatures and ongoing sickness are said to be possessed, in an area with a high child mortality rate and sickness, many are outcast or killed. They are accused in fear, using the weak children to explain death, famine and other similar phenomenon. This screams Salem witch trials, except without the trials, just an angry mob with machetes.
In response to the claim of the post #3 and the site referenced there about witch hunting practices in Rural India still goes on, I would like to clarify that the information given in the referenced site is highly exaggerated.
Some form of witchcraft was practiced in India in in the past, and to some extent it still exists. But in India, witch hunting practices like the inquisition in the western world, which resulted in serious crimes like burning of Saint Juan at the stakes, killing of Galileo never existed in India in the past and do not exist in the present.
There may be some incidents of criminal minded people may use accusation of withcraft, or more commonly just being bearer of bad luck, as an excuse for torturing individuals mentally and physically. Most of such incidents remain the internal affair within an extended family. Whenever these incidents escalate into a larger community affairs, chances are that they draw the attention of other people including the media and the police, and lead to legal enquiry and action against the offenders.
I think the whole world is on a downward spiral. We are suffering form paranoia about financial collapse and 9/11 post traumatic stress.
Also the world governments are out of wack with the will of the people. The people of the world need to snap out of this funk fast. All the negative thoughts circulating are creating a self fulfilling prophecy of doom.
We need to get up, shake ourselves off and work toward a new world for the betterment of mankind.
In the not-so-distant past, anyone who was protested the Vietnam War and more recently, the war in Iraq, was called dirty names and patriotism severely questioned. Invasions of privacy (like the Patriot Act) were sanctioned and implemented by government officials in order to keep the populace allegedly "safe." The same sort of thing was happening in Salem, and in the McCarthy Era, and will probably happen again. Witch Hunts exist because of the desire for protection from unknown fears. The latest "witch hunt" will unfortunately not be the last, if history is any indicator.
In terms of the rest of the world, I think in remote parts of the world the hunt for witches still exists.
According to this article, witch hunts in rural India still go on.
Another example might be the persistent rumor in some parts of Africa that sex with a baby can cure AIDS. There are a lot of myths and hysteria around diseses in general and especially AIDS.