OCTOBER 10, 2007
Mosley defines a witch hunt
FIA President Max Mosley is standing by his attack on Jackie Stewart, despite Damon Hill describing it as "a gross insult to one of the sport's leading figures over the last four decades and a thrice World Champion", "bad manners" and "conduct most unbecoming of an FIA president" which brought the sport into disrepute".
Hill's letter invited Mosley to apologise. Mosley's response was as follows:
"Some members of the British motor sport establishment consider Jackie Stewart to be a national treasure," Mosley wrote. "I have known Jackie for almost 40 years, and understand their view, but they must forgive me if I do not share it. The comments Jackie repeatedly made to a global television audience before and after the recent hearings into the McLaren Affair were ill informed and entirely misrepresented the World Council's position. Jackie claimed the World Council were 'witch hunting' against McLaren. A witch hunt is the irrational and unjustified persecution of the innocent. To make this and other unfounded and partisan accusations without viewing any of the evidence was not only inept but thoroughly irresponsible. Such comments could do nothing but damage to the sport.
"I have no apology to make for having said as much publicly and I am more than happy to repeat this view about him now and in the future. Of course criticising the pronouncements, however misconceived, of a much loved former World Champion is unpopular in some quarters. I can only reaffirm the obvious fact that it is not my job to be loved and never will be. Sanctioning a team as prestigious as McLaren for bringing the sport into disrepute is not one I, nor indeed any member of the World Council relished, but we will never shrink from our responsibility to do so if required."
Mosley's definition of witch hunt is interesting because the expression has two meanings: in medieval useage Mosley is entirely correct but in modern terminology the expression "witch hunt" has a metaphorical usage, referring to the act of seeking and persecuting any perceived enemy, particularly when the search is conducted using extreme measures and with little regard to actual guilt or innocence. The best example of this is 1950s McCarthyism during which Senator Joseph McCarthy accused many American citizens of being Communists. These hearings were later ruled to have been unconstitutional but at the time ruined many careers.
Arthur Miller's play "The Crucible" was about the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692 but was in fact an allegory for McCarthy and the general atmosphere of paranoia and persecution that accompanied his activities.