Dehumanization and Demonization

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To understand scapegoating we must consider how we identify and perceive our enemies. A first step is marginalization, the processes whereby targeted individuals or groups are pictured (in the sense of being framed) as outside the circle of wholesome mainstream society. The next step is objectification or dehumanization, the process of negatively labeling a person or group of people so they become perceived more as objects rather than real people. Dehumanization often is associated with the belief that a particular group of people are inferior or threatening. The final step is demonization, the person or group is seen as totally malevolent, sinful, and evil. It is easier to rationalize stereotyping, prejudice, discrimination, and even violence against those who are dehumanized or demonized.

Demonization fuels dualism-a form of binary thinking that divides the world into good versus evil with no middle ground tolerated. Dualism allows no acknowledgment of complexity, nuance, or ambiguity in debates; and promotes hostility toward those who suggest coexistence, toleration, pragmatism, compromise, or mediation.

Aho observes that our notions of the enemy "in our everyday life world," is that the "enemy's presence in our midst is a pathology of the social organism serious enough to require the most far-reaching remedies: quarantine, political excision, or, to use a particularly revealing, expression, liquidation and expulsion."~3

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