Monday, April 02, 2018

On human nature and the search for scapegoats

Earlier today in my household a fifteen minute minor domestic task became a morning-consuming minor emergency because a five-pound plastic component which had been working perfectly the previous week failed.

While I was dashing round the house fixing the problem I desperately wanted someone to be angry with about it, but the truth was that it was probably nobody's fault and if anyone was to blame it would have been me.

However, the experience was an insight into how easy it is to fall into the trap of wanting to find a scapegoat.

A few days ago I referred here to an article by Alex Massie,

"The seductive simplicity of blaming Trump's win on Cambridge Analytica"

which also demolished, much more effectively than Dominic Cummings 8000 word blog post, the story then doing the rounds that Cambridge Analytica and Vote Leave cheating could be given all the blame for the Brexit vote.

I was not in the least surprised to learn that The Observer has slipped out a correction today - see Guido's take here or the Observer's correction itself here - which will be taken by most people, probably correctly, as indicating that the stuffing has been knocked out of the story.

Finding a scapegoat may make us feel better - though often in ways which are pretty rough on the scapegoat. But it seldom solves our real problems.

2 comments:

Jim said...

My old granny used to say "you don't build yourself up by knocking other people down"

I do see it a lot at work, many people would rather have someone to blame for failure than have a successful job done.

Though I also think there is no group of people who need to sit and think about granny's statement more than politicians.

Chris Whiteside said...

Indeed. With the possible exception of journalists.