Constructing the Enemy as Scapegoat

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Scapegoats are often selected on the basis of pre-existing prejudices in a society.~33 Allport observed how prejudiced people constantly search for "members of the disliked out-group....It is important to the prejudiced person to learn the cues" whereby the enemy can be identified.~34 Visibility is an issue--obvious visible factors such as skin color make identification of the out-group easier--but it is not the only factor. When the out-group lacks an obvious physical characteristic, there is still a need to identify the out-group member for the in-group member. If "illegal" immigrants are the scapegoat, then the scapegoaters must have a mechanism to locate and label them so they can be scapegoated. Thus scapegoating promotes tracking and investigation. It is the label, not the actual behavior or physical attribute that counts the most for the prejudiced person engaged in scapegoating.

How scapegoats are selected is a complicated process that deserves much more research attention. While scapegoats are often chosen from groups experiencing prejudice, and prejudiced persons who scapegoat tend to chose their scapegoats from those they are prejudiced against, scapegoating as a tendency occurs among both persons high in prejudice and persons low in prejudice.~35 Prejudice does seem to appear often among persons with less education, but there are significant numbers of persons with high educational achievement who display alarming prejudices. Some early discussions of prejudice and scapegoating erroneously suggested they were primarily a problem of unsophistication, a primitive cognitive style,~36 or a "low level of social and intellectual culture"~37 Later studies, however, demonstrated that scapegoating respects no boundaries of education, power, or wealth. The scapegoating of immigrants and welfare recipients by mainstream politicians in both the Republican and Democratic parties in the mid 1990s is a good example.~38

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