I was reading Murray Rothbard on the Salem Witch Trials in the must read history of colonial America, "Conceived in Liberty." The passage felt strangely familiar. I will leave it to the reader to make the connection.
"Too many writers have treated the Salem witch-hunt in psychological terms: childish neuroses and mob hysteria. The vital point is not the hysteria of children, but the use made of it by the adult society. Neither can the witch-hunt be treated as a case study in mob psychology; for the witch-hunt was not a lynching bee, but a program carried out by the elite of the colony and directed by the lieutenant governor himself, the man whose major aim had long been the exercise of power.
During the summer, the witch-hunt centering in Salem spread through the colony. Other young girls joined the business of being bewitched and of leveling accusations, until their number rose to fifty. Favorite targets of accusations were any who dared to raise their voice to criticize the witch-hunt, or even to assert that witches didn't exist at all. Concentration on these targets served to intimidate critics of the veritable reign of terror. This same cause was served by executing, as evident proof of diabolism, any conscience-stricken informer who dared to recant his implication of other persons."