QOTD: The Political Scapegoat

 

“In order to see yourself and your group as all good, you have to project the evil you are unable to acknowledge in yourself onto an external entity: some other group, the ones not like us. The stronger the cognitive dissonance, the more intense will be the projection. The other becomes the embodiment of evil. This then gives rise to the pathology of victimhood and is the ultimate source of scapegoating: ‘It wasn’t us, it was them.’ From this flowed rivers of blood of human sacrifice throughout the ages. They still do today.” — Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Covenant and Conversation

In this book, Rabbi Sacks explains how the meaning of “scapegoat” has come to mean precisely its opposite. In ancient times, two identical male goats were selected: one was to be sacrificed to G-d, the other was taken by the High Priest who took the sins of the Jewish people and placed them on the second goat, which was then sent into the desert to Azazel, where the goat would plunge to its death.

Scapegoating came to have a particularly ominous quality. In olden times, a person could be held guilty and killed to preserve the group. Rabbi Sacks describes this thinking as “one of the most vicious ideas ever to disfigure the human mind.”

One of the factors I’ve found fascinating about scapegoating is a theory that people who are scapegoated must behave in a way that those around them believe that they have “earned” the loathing of others. I couldn’t help thinking of Donald Trump and how he has become the scapegoat of the Left for nearly everything—even when he’s not connected to the situation. Unfortunately, the Left doesn’t realize that scapegoating not only wounds the victim but can be devastating to those who commit it.

Time will tell whether or not the Left pays a price.

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There are 17 comments.

  1. fidelio102 Coolidge

    Thank you for the historical perspective on scapegoating. I’m not sure that portraying the President as the Left’s scapegoat is entirely accurate.

    For a scapegoat to fulfil its role, the community which appoints it must be in the throes of an adverse situation and be looking for someone to blame. Historically, Jews have been the natural scapegoats. When a European ruler, be he British, French, German or Spanish, has found himself in domestic difficulties, ithe first reaction has always been to blame the Jews, an easily identifiable group and one which, because intimately involved in the national finances, could be blamed for not allowing the ruler to do whatever it was he would have done had money been available.

    As western democracies begin to totter, as is the case today in the US, UK, France and Germany, anti-Semitism is on the rise, notably within the Democratic and (UK) Labour parties.

    I feel that the Left’s loathing of Trump is not so much scapegoating as a realization that the President is calling their bluff: what the left calls Progress is emphatically not the way forward. The Democratic Party, intellectually-challenged as it is to the point that they are unable to distinguish between Socialism (=Communism) and Social Democracy, aware that never-Trumpism is the surest way to ensure his re-election, now allows its Muslim members to attack the Jewish community directly and explicitly, believing that the electorate is stupid enough to equate the State of Israel with Judaism, the religion.

     

    • #1
    • May 22, 2019, at 6:52 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  2. Rodin Member

    Susan Quinn: I couldn’t help thinking of Donald Trump and how he has become the scapegoat of the Left for nearly everything—even when he’s not connected to the situation.

    There are a lot of people who have been generally persuaded that Trump is a “bad man” but who do not see themselves as victims in the way the progressive acolytes who failed to maintain power do. Over the next year as the investigation of the investigators gains strength and speed it will be interesting to see how many people will feel manipulated by the Left to believe things that are not true, and how they will react. Pray G-d they do.

    • #2
    • May 22, 2019, at 7:01 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    fidelio102 (View Comment):

    Thank you for the historical perspective on scapegoating. I’m not sure that portraying the President as the Left’s scapegoat is entirely accurate.

    For a scapegoat to fulfil its role, the community which appoints it must be in the throes of an adverse situation and be looking for someone to blame. Historically, Jews have been the natural scapegoats. When a European ruler, be he British, French, German or Spanish, has found himself in domestic difficulties, ithe first reaction has always been to blame the Jews, an easily identifiable group and one which, because intimately involved in the national finances, could be blamed for not allowing the ruler to do whatever it was he would have done had money been available.

    As western democracies begin to totter, as is the case today in the US, UK, France and Germany, anti-Semitism is on the rise, notably within the Democratic and (UK) Labour parties.

    I feel that the Left’s loathing of Trump is not so much scapegoating as a realization that the President is calling their bluff: what the left calls Progress is emphatically not the way forward. The Democratic Party, intellectually-challenged as it is to the point that they are unable to distinguish between Socialism (=Communism) and Social Democracy, aware that never-Trumpism is the surest way to ensure his re-election, now allows its Muslim members to attack the Jewish community directly and explicitly, believing that the electorate is stupid enough to equate the State of Israel with Judaism, the religion.

     

    Well said, @fidelio102. It’s important to emphasize, however, that scapegoating has gone far beyond its connection to Judaism. It is now commonly defined as picking people to blame for all your problems and condemning or ostracizing them. This happens a lot in the business world, for example. So from that viewpoint, I think that the Dems have picked Trump as their scapegoat. I’d so appreciate on others who have either been scapegoated or saw it happen to others. It’s quite frightening.

    • #3
    • May 22, 2019, at 7:06 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: I couldn’t help thinking of Donald Trump and how he has become the scapegoat of the Left for nearly everything—even when he’s not connected to the situation.

    There are a lot of people who have been generally persuaded that Trump is a “bad man” but who do not see themselves as victims in the way the progressive acolytes who failed to maintain power do. Over the next year as the investigation of the investigators gains strength and speed it will be interesting to see how many people will feel manipulated by the Left to believe things that are not true, and how they will react. Pray G-d they do.

    Indeed! I’m watching for the signs of those who realize it was all a charade, and how they will react. Will they turn on the crazies, or will they refuse to give up their hatred for the truth? Thanks, @rodin

    • #4
    • May 22, 2019, at 7:08 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  5. DonG Coolidge

    People will do horrible things in the name of being virtuous. The Left is crowded with people who rush to call *others* racist, so that they can appear more virtuous to their group. They otherise. They dehumanize, belittle, and even commit violence against those considered “deplorable”. The Left is OK with assault by fist, by milkshake, or even by gun–all while feeling smug and superior. As an extraterrestrial observer I find it fascinating.

    • #5
    • May 22, 2019, at 8:17 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  6. Zafar Member

    Would you say that some people scapegoat the Left and project all responsibility for the country’s troubles onto them?

    • #6
    • May 22, 2019, at 8:39 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Would you say that some people scapegoat the Left and project all responsibility for the country’s troubles onto them?

    Yes. The difference, @zafar, is that we don’t make most of them into monsters. As much as people disliked Obama, I never heard talk of trying to impeach him from the moment he was elected. It’s all on a scale, isn’t it?

    • #7
    • May 22, 2019, at 8:59 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  8. Vectorman Thatcher

    fidelio102 (View Comment):
    I feel that the Left’s loathing of Trump is not so much scapegoating as a realization that the President is calling their bluff: what the left calls Progress is emphatically not the way forward. The Democratic Party, intellectually-challenged as it is to the point that they are unable to distinguish between Socialism (=Communism) and Social Democracy, aware that never-Trumpism is the surest way to ensure his re-election…

    Never – Trumpism is a sign that the Congressional Member is part of the swamp, regardless of party. Essentially all Democrats are members, but more than 50% of the Republicans are too. I think those Republicans are not just RINOs, but motivated to cover up for their sins of corruption.


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    • #8
    • May 22, 2019, at 9:33 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    DonG (View Comment):
    They dehumanize, belittle, and even commit violence against those considered “deplorable”. The Left is OK with assault by fist, by milkshake, or even by gun–all while feeling smug and superior. As an extraterrestrial observer I find it fascinating.

    I think these extreme attitudes are characteristic of scapegoating. They simply want to destroy Trump and anyone who works with him. Thanks, @dong.

    • #9
    • May 22, 2019, at 9:39 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. SkipSul Moderator

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    I’d so appreciate on others who have either been scapegoated or saw it happen to others. It’s quite frightening.

    I do have direct and bitter experience here. I had an employee years ago who decided I was to blame for everything that went wrong. This being a family business, they manipulated family around me into believing that I was truly at fault – if I acted then I was at fault for acting, if I stayed out of the way, then I was at fault for not acting. I had to endure about 2 years of this, during which evidence accumulated, before I could be proven right, and I had to basically goad them into overplaying their hand, at which point their entire web collapsed (I was fortunate in that this person had managed to alienate almost everyone else in the business during those 2 years). It was very strange, and very trying.

    I’ve seen it happen elsewhere too – where someone is singled out in a group as being the source of all ills, or the repository of all blame. When you’re “in the soup” it’s not always clear that this is what is going on, but if you can escape and gain some perspective it often becomes readily apparent.

    As much as the Left is currently unhinged about Trump, though, and treats him as their scapegoat, we need to be careful. Our own side does this too. I have annoyed some lefty acquaintances by pointing out the parallels between their rage now, and what they claimed was unhinged rage from the Right during the Obama years. They don’t see it now. They cannot see it now. But in time maybe they will see it.

    • #10
    • May 22, 2019, at 9:43 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    I’d so appreciate on others who have either been scapegoated or saw it happen to others. It’s quite frightening.

    I do have direct and bitter experience here. I had an employee years ago who decided I was to blame for everything that went wrong. This being a family business, they manipulated family around me into believing that I was truly at fault – if I acted then I was at fault for acting, if I stayed out of the way, then I was at fault for not acting. I had to endure about 2 years of this, during which evidence accumulated, before I could be proven right, and I had to basically goad them into overplaying their hand, at which point their entire web collapsed (I was fortunate in that this person had managed to alienate almost everyone else in the business during those 2 years). It was very strange, and very trying.

    I’ve seen it happen elsewhere too – where someone is singled out in a group as being the source of all ills, or the repository of all blame. When you’re “in the soup” it’s not always clear that this is what is going on, but if you can escape and gain some perspective it often becomes readily apparent.

    As much as the Left is currently unhinged about Trump, though, and treats him as their scapegoat, we need to be careful. Our own side does this too. I have annoyed some lefty acquaintances by pointing out the parallels between their rage now, and what they claimed was unhinged rage from the Right during the Obama years. They don’t see it now. They cannot see it now. But in time maybe they will see it.

    Excellent observations, @skipsul! Scapegoating is so insidious and difficult to see at times. I regularly saw managers keep destructive employees in place and I was convinced it was to give others someone to heap their rage on. I actually worked with a supervisor whose employees were afraid of her, and in some ways, she acted in ways that justified their fears! I had the opportunity to coach her, help her identify her counterproductive behavior and she came up with alternatives for responding to employees with a little help from me. Many months later after our work was over, I bumped into one of her reports who told me that the woman still occasionally messed up but was much better in her interactions. People can change, but they must be committed to do it. And it takes time.

    Also, I want to fully support your contention that “our side does it too.” In fact, I think sometimes my own rhetoric is over the top. But I try to be aware of how far I go: just because people on the Left behave badly doesn’t justify my bad behavior. I’m continually working on it!

    • #11
    • May 22, 2019, at 9:53 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. Rodin Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Would you say that some people scapegoat the Left and project all responsibility for the country’s troubles onto them?

    Yes. The difference, @zafar, is that we don’t make most of them into monsters. As much as people disliked Obama, I never heard talk of trying to impeach him from the moment he was elected. It’s all on a scale, isn’t it?

    Let me second your comment, @susanquinn. I had mixed feelings at Obama’s election: I was aware of his marxist past and worried about the policies he would pursue, and yet I was pleased that the American electorate had demonstrated that a majority-white country was not bound by racial animus. He fulfilled my concerns and wished he had not had a second term, but it had nothing to do with the color of his skin, it was his policies and the people he surrounded himself to promote and implement them. It never occurred to me that he should be removed. Electorally defeated, yes; but illegitimate? no.

    • #12
    • May 22, 2019, at 12:13 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    Jordan Peterson has warned, over and over, that the victimhood, unchecked, will lead to bloodshed.

    • #13
    • May 22, 2019, at 12:42 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  14. Western Chauvinist Member

    I need examples of the Right scapegoating someone on the Left, please. Thanks.

    • #14
    • May 22, 2019, at 3:46 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    I need examples of the Right scapegoating someone on the Left, please. Thanks.

    I hope you’re not looking at me, WC! ;-) We criticize them like crazy, but I’ve seen nothing that rises to the level of scapegoating. I suspect we agree.

    • #15
    • May 22, 2019, at 3:49 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  16. Western Chauvinist Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    I need examples of the Right scapegoating someone on the Left, please. Thanks.

    I hope you’re not looking at me, WC! ;-) We criticize them like crazy, but I’ve seen nothing that rises to the level of scapegoating. I suspect we agree.

    No worries. I believe it’s possible we scapegoat people on the Left. I just can’t think of any examples. And if we’re going to claim “we do it too,” I would like to have examples.

    Still waiting for examples. I’ll take one example, even. Someone give me something. I am happy to concede the point in good faith, although I will point out that one example of Right-wing scapegoating is unimpressive compared to the Left’s efforts. But, at least it would make the statement, “we do it, too,” true.

    I think the problem for the claim is the Left sits atop the commanding heights of the culture and, therefore, has the power to scapegoat. The Left is the Dragon Queen, and its murderous impulses are acted out in the scapegoating and silencing of lesser beings who are too common (and of questionable intent) to be given a say — like in presidential politics, for example.

    Who decides? Not people like us. This whole Trump hysteria is an expression of the Left’s unwillingness to accept the will of the people.

    • #16
    • May 22, 2019, at 3:59 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  17. Zafar Member

    From the Conversation:

    “What drives this scapegoating? Why do people, whose political grievances might be legitimate in themselves, end up targeting their anger at relatively harmless victims?

    “It is part of the nature of scapegoating, as the late French theorist of mythology René Girard argued, that the target is not chosen because it is in any way responsible for society’s woes. If the target does happen to be at all responsible, that is an accident. The scapegoat is instead chosen because it is easy to victimise without fear of retaliation.”

    • #17
    • May 22, 2019, at 8:19 PM PDT
    • 2 likes