April 23, 2004

WHICH WITCH (via Bruce Cleaver):

THE OPPENHEIMER RIDDLE: New evidence of Communist membership debated by scholars of Berkeley scientist (Charles Burress, April 23, 2004, San Francisco Chronicle)

A UC professor says he's solved one of the darkest mysteries in U.S. history: Was J. Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant Berkeley scientist known as "the father of the atomic bomb," a secret member of the Communist Party?

Recently uncovered documents show that Oppenheimer belonged to a hidden Communist Party cell of professionals in Berkeley, according to UC Merced history Professor Gregg Herken.

Charges of Communist associations led to Oppenheimer's downfall during the McCarthyist hysteria of the early 1950s, and he became, in the words of the Encyclopedia Britannica, "the victim of a witch hunt."

The central fact of every witch hunt is that the accused really are witches.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 23, 2004 9:17 AM

But the witchunters are still, apparently, hysterical.

Posted by: Bob Hawkins at April 23, 2004 10:21 AM

Except sometimes when the accusers are.

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 23, 2004 10:27 AM

The accusers were generally witches themselves until repenting.

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2004 11:16 AM

Oppenheimer was an insufferable, arrogant SOB - that caused his Q clearance to be revoked more than any hard evidence of his Communist dealings. That would come to light later, although the AEC had excellent instincts for recognizing a troublemaker.

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at April 23, 2004 11:36 AM

The central fact of every witch hunt is that "some" of the of the accused are witches. The sad truth is that many are not.

Posted by: Brandon at April 23, 2004 11:46 AM


Name one?

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2004 11:53 AM

Gerald Amiraul, Daniel and Fran Keller, Patrick Figured.


Posted by: TCB at April 23, 2004 12:13 PM

Well done, TCB. You beat me to the punch - I was going to say McMartin.

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at April 23, 2004 12:16 PM


But psychiatry is the witchcraft.

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2004 12:45 PM

What evil spirit have you familiarity with?
Have you made no contract with the devil?
Why do you hurt these children?
I do not hurt them. I scorn it.
Who do you imploy then to do it?
I imploy no body.
What creature do you imploy then?
No creature. I am falsely accused.

Dialogue based on the examination of Sarah Good by Judges Hathorne and Corwin,
from The Salem Witchcraft Papers, Book II, p.355

No doubt Judges Hathorne and Corwin provided damning evidence of all those creatures, Sarah Good was employing.

Posted by: Brandon at April 23, 2004 1:21 PM

Mr. Judd said "name one".


Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at April 23, 2004 1:34 PM


She was a witch.

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2004 1:50 PM


That was hardly a witchhunt--one guy was falsely accused.

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2004 1:52 PM


OK, but if witches can conduct a witch hunt, you can't assume the accused are guilty of witchcraft.

Posted by: TCB at April 23, 2004 1:56 PM

Sounds like the Red Queen to me.

If Oppie was a Commie, it's hard to imagine he turned in Chevalier on orders from the Kremlin. Cui bono?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 23, 2004 2:02 PM

If he wasn't it's hard to imagine he failed to notice that most of the guys working for him were supplying the Soviets with info.

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2004 2:05 PM


By witchcraft we presumably mean a systematic set of beliefs in opposition to and intent on undermining those of the majority: witchcraft itself, communism, psychiatry, Darwinism would all fit the description. Even Judaism could, as AOG points out.

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2004 2:08 PM


I'm not challenging your definition of witchcraft, just the presumption that those accused of it always "really are witches".

Posted by: TCB at April 23, 2004 2:32 PM

And so could "open-borders" monomania.

(Cheap shot, I know)

Posted by: Paul Cella at April 23, 2004 2:32 PM


There were witches in Medieval times and in Salem, communists in the 40s and 50s, psychiatrists in the 80s, militiamen in the 90s, Islamicists now. The hunts for said generally capture the guilty. Though obviously not flawlessly.

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2004 2:37 PM


Exactly, the hysteria over immigration does not mean that there aren't illegal aliens.

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2004 2:38 PM

OJ, she was a witch? Really know, how would you know? Did she weigh the same as a duck?

Posted by: Brandon at April 23, 2004 4:24 PM


Four hundred years from now folk like you will quibble over Oppenheimer & Hiss. It suffices that we know them guilty as the Puritans knew their witches to be.

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2004 4:36 PM

The Puritans, or at least the only one worth remembering, Judge Sewall, decided that they were not guilty and did public penance for his part in murdering the innocent.

I have more than once recommended to you the exhortation of Cromwell: "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think you may be mistaken!"

Advice even an atheist can admire.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 23, 2004 4:46 PM

Guilty of what? Of what they were charged with? That seems highly unlikely, given the ridiculous nature of the charges, which even the Puritans recognized eventually. Were they guilty of religious non-conformity? That was probably true. But that's hardly the same as witchcraft.

Does the state have a right to protect and impose it's values - certainly. But it is only gangster states that resort to trumped up charges to do so.

And besides, my original point was that innocents get caught up in witch hunts. I think that's indisputable, unless you've succumbed to the Red Queen's dictum.

Posted by: Brandon at April 23, 2004 4:52 PM


We always repent after the danger is passed. But we always send the Japs to Manzanar...

Cromwell was of course saying: "I'm right and you're wrong".

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2004 4:53 PM


Yes, nonconformity in whatever shape, whether specifically witchcraft or whatever (doesn't matter much).

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2004 4:58 PM

Might makes right.

In Judaism and Christianity, it does always come out on top. No bishops go to jail for buggering little boys.

If you're accurately reflecting the religion, why would any decent man not hate it?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 23, 2004 10:29 PM

For heaven's sake, Harry, Orrin! There are times when I feel that if I had the power, I'd just toss the two of you into a pit, throw a bamboo barwork across it, throw you long knives, and let you have at it. (Sorry, Jeff, you're out of it. You basically echo Harry.)

Posted by: Joe at April 23, 2004 10:47 PM


History makes for some pretty awful reading. Religious history too. It pays to take it into account.

Phillip II once said (words to the effect of) "I don't care how many hundred thousands are killed. We are hunting heretics." Or witches, your choice.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 24, 2004 12:10 AM


When hasd might ever not made right. The mightiest write the history.

Posted by: oj at April 24, 2004 1:05 AM

So it was the Christians and not Nero who burned down Rome?

Posted by: A at April 24, 2004 6:37 AM

Must be a full moon coming soon.

Posted by: genecis at April 24, 2004 12:38 PM

Might's never made right. It just makes might.

On your reading, there's no justification for not turning over your little boys to the perverts, is there?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 25, 2004 12:46 AM

Which perverts? Britain ran the world's first great democratizing empire on a system that sodomized boys in school and at sea. The Greeks and Romans never minded breaking in boys. You seldom read a bad word about any of the three.

Posted by: oj at April 25, 2004 12:56 AM

If the Greeks and Romans jumped off a bridge, would you too?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at April 25, 2004 12:32 PM

They defended the bridges--I'd like to think I would have to were I one of them.

Posted by: oj at April 25, 2004 12:41 PM

Maybe they weren't justified then.

(By the way, I haven't ever called you on your repeated assertions about sodomy at sea, based, so far as I can see, on an offhand remark by Churchill, hardly a reliable source. You're wrong. There actually is a literature about sodomy at sea, but it contradicts your view. Start with "The Queer Dutchman Preserved." Go on to "She Was a Sister Sailor . . . " There's lots more.)

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 25, 2004 8:07 PM

Know anyone who works on long haul cargo ships now? Isolated all male environments breed sodomy.

Posted by: oj at April 25, 2004 8:16 PM


Perhaps you should read the Aubrey/Maturin series. Sodomy is there, but far from prevalent. Given the author's historical veracity elsewhere, his portrayal of the matter is credible.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 25, 2004 8:33 PM

The books aren't about sodomy. Want it on every page? It was an important part of the culture though, as it is in prison, in private schools, etc. It's just about scarcity of women and men exercising power over other men.

Posted by: oj at April 25, 2004 11:09 PM

Far less commonly than you suppose.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 26, 2004 8:17 PM

It doesn't have to be that common to be an integral part of the culture. We'd expect most men to be rather protective of their butts.

Posted by: oj at April 26, 2004 8:23 PM