Scapegoats R Us
A scapegoat, in psychology, is a term used broadly to denote the phenomenon of blaming another person or group of persons for one's own shortcomings and frustrations.
Thus, the practice is a form of projection. The person or group who are recipients of the blame may be chosen for traditional reasons or because they are relatively defenseless.
The choice of the scapegoat is an irrational process, here are just a few scenarios:
- The batter who strikes out at a crucial point in a baseball game may accuse the umpire of unfairness rather than admit his own lack of skill.
- The person who fails to achieve an ambition may project his self-esteem by blaming a race or an ethnic group rather than confess his own incompetence.
- The troll who loses his temper online and is banned and blames the people he was harassing.
The scapegoat is, therefore, a convenient alibi for want of success. Young children soon learn from their elders that some racial or ethnic groups are traditionally regarded as acceptable victims of aggressions and hates arising from frustrations. Such traditions may be exploited in times of stress by political groups. An example of such a phenomenon was the anti-Semitic policy of the Nazis in Germany in the 1930's and 1940's.
A special type of scapegoating is to blame others for moral lapses, real or fancied, which the "scapegoater" would actually like to commit. His own sense of guilt or unconscious envy of the supposed offender, who may be quite innocent, causes the "scapegoater" to demand harsh retaliative action. Vituperation or even physical acts of hostility may be directed against the scapegoat in the vain hope of regaining or finding peace of mind.