For a witch hunt to begin extremists must so dominate a movement any sin, however slight, becomes a heresy the faithful must denounce for fear of being branded heretics themselves.
The current issue of the literary journal The Dark Horse contains a grim and resonant essay by the poet Jenny Lindsay, which shows how Scottish poetry allowed the extremes to define it. In Anatomy of a Hounding she describes the process of humiliation and denunciation she has recently experienced. Like Salem Massachusetts, Scottish poetry is a small world. But the disputes that have torn it apart would be recognised by citizens of a dictatorship, trapped members of a religious sect, or workers under the control of a megalomaniac CEO. The urge to worship power is universal; as is the willingness to go along with the persecution of dissent when a part of your mind knows the persecution is outrageous.
To begin at the beginning, Lindsay is a poet who makes what living she can by performing live, organising events and mentoring young writers. In June 2019 she objected to a writer for the Skinny, who said they believed in ‘violent action’ against Terfs (in this instance lesbian feminists at a Pride March). Lindsay contacted the magazine on Twitter and said:
‘Hello! One of your commentators here advocates violence against lesbian activists at Pride. I find it extraordinary that such views are given an airing in The Skinny.’
You should be able to offer support to transwomen, as Lindsay has done during her career, while deploring incitement to violence against lesbians. Although the magazine privately admitted to her it had made a mistake, Lindsay was publicly accused of transphobia. As in so many other witch crazes, Lindsay found the extremes had been sanctified. No criticism of an extremist could be permitted. The religion or ideology in this case must be accepted in its totality.