Some Examples

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Despite the reality of a conflict, the attributes of the scapegoated group are falsely described to enhance its evil status and accomplish the objectification and demonization of its members. Allport speaks of scapegoating as having "a large region where the conflict is fanciful and unrealistic, animated by borrowed emotion, distorted by rash judgment and intensified by stereotype."~51 There are many examples:

· The influx of Catholic immigrants into the United States did indeed objectively challenge Protestant hegemony and created economic and social turbulence. But Catholics were demonized as agents of the Papist antichrist. Some rumored that Catholics were digging a tunnel to Rome so the Pope could secretly come to the United States to seize power. This was, to say the least, subjective and false.

· Liberals are often targets of religious Right campaigns against modern curriculum reform and multicultural education. Many liberals want children taught to think critically, question authority, and respect diverse viewpoints--concepts that sometimes offend orthodox cultural conservatives or fundamentalist Christians. Yet liberals are demonized in some Christian right texts as secular humanist agents of Satan conspiring to brainwash children in a plot dating back to the 1800s.

· A genocidal neonazi is reflecting a specific ideology of White supremacy in which the primary targets--people of color, Jews, gays and lesbians, communists--are an actual enemy because these groups do indeed stymie the idealized monocultural hegemony desired by the neonazi. Yet the mere fact of their presence is insufficient, they must be demonized as involved in heinous attacks against the self-proclaimed true torch bearers of civilization.

Even though the scapegoated groups in these examples play a role in a real conflict, they are innocent of the fabricated charges used to mobilize mass support against them. A scapegoat, therefore, is created by the irrational nature of its construction as the embodiment of evil, not by its relative participation in actual activities that create conflict.~52

Demonization and scapegoating can be a response to demonization and scapegoating. Groups can exchange irrational allegations simultaneously in a series of escalating charges and countercharges; this is common during wars. During the Gulf War, the Bush administration demonized and scapegoated Saddam Hussein, who demonized and scapegoated the Bush administration.~53 Some US antiwar activists demonized and scapegoated secret elites--Arabs, Israelis, Jews, CIA agents, and oil magnates--for launching the war as part of a conflict over who would control the New World Order. All of these forces undoubtedly played some role in the war, but not in the mechanical and omnipotent way imagined by those making the irrational assertions.

Scapegoating, no matter what its political viewpoint, is a dangerous process to allow to flourish. "Larger social units may target an entire group for victimization, and particularly when gathered as in crowds, burst into collective violence against them," warns Landes.~54 Scapegoating hastens the move from passive prejudice to active discrimination.~55 There can be a cascading effect--from verbal attacks to violence.~56

If we are to be victorious against the loathsome enemy, we are told to learn "a bitter lesson...[t]he only way to fight the devil is with his own weapons."~57 So we fight the enemy by any means necessary. Demonization and scapegoating beg the question of why the evildoers are not simply killed. The issue is not whether scapegoating as mass phenomena generate a propensity for violence, but how soon will the violence appear, and how brutal and extensive will the violence be before the demonization is repudiated by the larger society? If scapegoating in a society are allowed to develop unchallenged, eventually some person or group will decide that the most efficient solution to the problems faced by the society is the elimination of the scapegoats.~58

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