Olli Dürr

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Käßmann: Verbal attacks on the internet are a new witch craze



The cruel witch hunts carried out in the Middle Ages serve as a parallel to the hate slogans raging towards other people on the Internet. The theologian Käßmann equates verbal attacks against women with the paranoia of persecution in the dark times under the Catholic Church. However, she forgot to mention the latter.

“Modern witch craze on the internet”

Margot Käßmann, the former chairwoman of the council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), wants to recognize a “modern witch craze” in today’s society. In her column for the newspaper “BAMS” she called on society to stand up resolutely against this “witch craze”. According to the evangelical theologian, such a “hunt for witches” still exists today.

Käßmann names selected victims

witch craze
Verbal bullying on the net is a new witch craze

Käßmann counts the TV presenter Dunja Hayali and the co-boss of the Greens (political party), Ricarda Lang, among the victims. While Hayali was “spit on and insulted” because of her opinion, which was understood as a provocation, Lang had to endure death threats because of her outward appearance. According to Käßmann, women are more often massively attacked on social media than men anyway. With her account, she refers, among other things, to the “World Girl Report” (“Welt Mädchenbericht”) by the aid organization “Plan International”. According to this, 70 percent of girls and young women in Germany have already been victims of threats, insults and discrimination online.

According to the theologian and former state bishop of Hanover, women and men have to stand up, “this is a new kind of witch hunt.”

The same as persecution, torture and death?

At least Käßmann emphasizes what the “hunting of witches” was actually about in the past. Persecution, torture, and usually death by burning. “During the horrific witch hunts of the Middle Ages, anyone could slander a woman,” says the theologian. These were mostly wise women who had knowledge of medicine and herbalism. Among them were midwives. The torture had only the purpose of obtaining a confession, to burn the women or even girls “during the hooting of the people”.

Who supported the persecutions?

Only, when she equates the verbal excesses with the witch hunts of the Middle Ages, Käßmann forgot to mention the originator of this unspeakable manhunt. The Roman Catholic Church. This went so far that even the book “Malleus maleficarum” (Hexenhammer – witch hammer) was published. The author of the work, which was first printed in Speyer in 1486, was the Dominican, theologian and inquisitor Heinrich Kramer. He had previously appeared in Ravensburg as a witch huntsman. Kramer got the legitimacy for the “Hexenhammer” from Pope Innocent IV’s apostolic bull “Summis desiderantes affectibus”, which had been issued only 2 years earlier.

“It is a very big heresy not to believe in the work of witches”, according to one of the theses represented in “Hexenhammer”. Anyone who did not agree to the persecution of witches was treated as a heretic and thus also faced death like the persecuted, innocent people, women and girls.

Witch-hunts not unanimously endorsed

penalty chain
In the past, women who were declared witches rarely escaped with their lives

The persecution of witches was not without controversy within the Catholic Church. There were also opponents of this cruel practice. In fact, witch hunts occurred particularly in those regions where the Reformation was already taking hold. It was simply enough to slander the unloved neighbor to almost certainly make him disappear from the scene forever. The greatest wave of witch hunts took place in the years 1550-1650.

The executive organs, however, were always “directed by the Church”, especially in the “Holy Roman Empire”. The Roman Catholic Church did not carry out the executions itself, but rather judged and handed over the execution to the “public authorities”. With this reasoning, Rome believes today that it can show immaculate hands. “It was the others.” But the recorded history offers a completely different picture.

A phenomenon to be questioned

The psychologist Kurt Baschwitz leaned on the findings of Sigmund Freud and formulated in 1948 that it is not the victims who are subject to mass psychological deception, but the perpetrators. According to this knowledge, the current situation known as the “hunting of witches” would have to be questioned as to who or what deceived the many “rushing network users” and, above all, why. The question is: Does the general education also plays an important role?

Käßmann: Verbal attacks on the internet are a new witch craze
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