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Scapegoating Summary

Description: Unfairly blaming an unpopular person or group of people for a problem or a person or group that is an easy target for such blame.

Logical Form:

Nobody likes or cares about X.

Therefore, X is to blame for Y.

Example #1:

I know I got drunk, slapped the waitress on the behind, then urinated in the parking lot… from inside the restaurant, but that was Satan who had a hold of me.

Explanation: The person is avoiding personal responsibility and blaming “Satan” for his actions.  Satan is an easy target — he does not show up to defend himself, and a surprising number of people believe he exists and actually does cause immoral behavior.

Example #2:

The reason New Orleans was hit so hard with the hurricane was because of all the immoral people who live there.

Explanation: This was an actual argument seen in the months that followed hurricane Katrina.  Ignoring the validity of the claims being made, the arguer is blaming a natural disaster on a group of people.

Exception: There is no exception when people are being unfairly blamed.

Fun Fact: Scapegoating meets a deep psychological need for justice, or more accurately, the belief that justice has been served.


Douglas, T. (2002). Scapegoats: Transferring Blame. Routledge.