Emotional Competency

Explore the Logic of Passion


Scapegoat
Blaming a Victim for the Group's Misfortune

Bad things are happening. Whose fault is it? Let's blame the scapegoat.

Definitions

  1. One member of the in-group identified as the source of many problems.
  2. A victim chosen within the organization to be sacrificed for the benefit of all others.
  3. A pariah, an outcast, someone dangerous to the organization and to be avoided.
  4. The fall guy,
  5. Transferring blame
  6. Violent release of tensions upon an innocent victim.

Origins of the Term

The term Scapegoat is derived from the Old Testament where it refers to the second of two goats used in the ceremony on the Day of Atonement. The first goat is sacrificed, but the second is set free and allowed to escape with its life. This “escape goat” is burdened on its head with all the faults of the people before it is set free into the wilderness. It therefore bears the burden of relieving the people of blame for their faults.

Horrific examples

The Holocaust is perhaps the most horrific example of creating a scapegoat. During the Holocaust the Nazis unjustifiably blamed their own difficulties the Jews. The unfounded idea that eliminating the Jews would eliminate problems faced by the Nazis became popular. It was called “the final solution”, but it clearly was not. Millions of people died as a result, and problems were created rather than solved. Scapegoating has lead to many other examples of genocide.

And the Goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a Land not inhabited. (Leviticus XVI, 22)
  William Holman Hunt 'The Scapegoat'

Quotations

  • “I never blame myself when I am not hitting. I just blame the bat.” ~ Yogi Berra.

References

Incestuous Workplace: Stress and Distress in the Organizational Family, by William L. White

Our Inner Ape, by Frans De Waal

Scapegoats, by Tom Douglas

Brahm, Eric. "Scapegoating." Beyond Intractability. Eds. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder.

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