Puppets and Labradors moving in the marketplace of ideas.

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Oct. 15 2008 11:55 AM

The Land of the Elite and the Home of the Intellectual

Puppets and Labradors moving in the marketplace of ideas.

(Continued from Page 3)

That might be the Fray sentence of the week, although there's competition: Let's hear it for WorkingAuthor, who has harsh words for Doris Lessing, and adds sternly, "I hope she reads this." Let's hope her day isn't ruined. MR 3.30 p.m. GMT

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Sunday, Sept. 21,  2008

Economics and witchcraft: This is not a combination we'll be hoping for more of in the future. Tim Harford's "Undercover Economist" on the dangers of being a witch in a recession produced considerable unease and gloom, and that's just in someone reading all the posts. In terms of fuel, "you need fires to stay warm … widows are renewable and environmentally friendly." You like that? How about: " 'Suffer not the witch to live'—That's good enough for me, heathens." (Possibly posted with a sense of irony.) "Wow, Christ said that? Christians are more badass than I thought," came back from Autotomic. (No, He didn't, BTW. The quote is strictly OT.) Surprisingly, up popped the name of Helen Duncan, the last person we were expecting, and the last person imprisoned (but not, as one post dramatically claimed, executed) under the Witchcraft Act in the U.K., in 1944; posters debated her case.

You kind of know that someone is going to start her post: "As a practicing witch, and a student of history ..." and in this case it was Elviragultch (yes, well …) who went on: "I have known for some time that the killing of witches is mostly a political act" and set off a long, sometimes odd thread.

Boredwell is not happy about the history of human relations, and after describing various miseries says, understandably, that the list shows a "mind-boggling, soul wrenching sobriety I am not able to comprehend."

"The self-consuming politics of fear" was the excellent post title from Wrolph, who said:

Smart rulers (and usurpers) know the power of fear and use it during times of economic crisis to great effect:

Step 1, find a good victim.

Step 2, whip the masses into a lather in order to divert them from asking too many difficult questions about the current rulers, or to make the current rulers look feckless.

Step 3, let the blood wash away our sins.

This is one of the divide and conquer tactics that has been time tested. The Nazis had their Jews, the Aztecs (and Romans) sacrificed humans to appease the gods (and deflect criticism of their own poor economic management). If our current economic crisis doesn't abate soon, look to our glorious rulers to follow suit.

Doc Holliday had a nicely judged post covering several aspects of the discussion, concluding, "Humans are a superstitious lot and prone to doing irrational things when stressed. This does not make it right or even understandable." No indeed. Time to get away from this atmosphere of unhappiness and cruelty and go read some readers' posts about the election. MR2:30 p.m. GMT

Moira Redmond, a former "Fray" editor at Slate, is a freelance writer living in England. You can e-mail her at moirared@hotmail.com.