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Persuading With The Help Of Scapegoats

Feb 16, 2008
"United We Stand". For a while there nearly every other car in the country had a bumper sticker appealing to us to stand united, implicitly suggesting that this was our only salvation, because what happens when we don't stand united? That's right. We fall divided.

So is this true? If we were to buy into the idea at the center of the political platform of defeating terrorists by standing united and spreading our democracy everywhere, will this bumper sticker's admonition keep us safe? If we blindly agree with all the presuppositions will we all be okay?

With scapegoating, having a common enemy works best. Think: the devil, the boogie man, terrorists, Osama bin Laden.

In religion, Christianity specifically, we have Satan. In politics, say in the 1950's, there was the communist threat. More recently in politics, we had Scooter Libby (more of a fall guy, as opposed to scapegoat, say the pundits, because scapegoat implies innocence and fall guys are usually involved in the blame.)

The Salem Witch Trials were all about scapegoating. At the time, the citizens were having difficulty as a result of church and state, so to divert attention women were hunted down as the cause of society's ills and burned at the stake.

Some good examples of religious scapegoating include Adam blaming Eve, Eve blaming the serpent. The Baptists blame the Mormons for leading people astray. Mormons blame the baptists for the same. Christians blame Satan. And if you think about it, without Satan, there's no need to save people. Satan has single-handedly maintained Christianity.

I want to stress here that I am not debating the existence of Satan. I have no intention or interest in converting or recruiting anybody to my spiritual, religious or political beliefs. I am simply showing how scapegoating can and has been used over the years.

There are multiple layers of scapegoating at play currently in politics. Focusing on gay marriage and stem cell research as scapegoats diverts attention from the body count in Iraq.

A national phenomenon of scapegoating occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The media fueled it with its new label: the blame game. Instead of agreeing that there was a failure on all levels of government in an untenable situation of an impoverished city, geographically and economically handicapped, the blaming began in full force.

People ultimately want to believe that their problems or failures are the result of something outside themselves.

Scapegoating can be used in business or sales to suggest your client's former agent or adviser lacked the knowledge required to get you in the right house, or get you earning as much as you should have earned.

To use this ethically, instead of making the scapegoat a person or group, make it an opposing force such as an idea, philosophy or an unfortunate circumstance.
About the Author
Kenrick Cleveland teaches techniques to earn the business of affluent prospects using persuasion. He runs public and private seminars and offers home study courses and coaching programs in persuasion techniques.
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