Assignment 2 MJ

Assignment 2 MJ

Project description
Choose a film, play or story that serves as demonstration of a scapegoat authoritarian personalitys in action, and describe how they exploit a “crisis” inspire a mob formation, and manipulate the persecution of the scapegoat victims.

Note: Start by reading the PDF attached to get a better understanding of the authoritarian personality and than use the reading from the link for more details.


Main reading – Scapegoat


The science of evil

The authoritarian personality
PDF attached

The Authoritarian Personality
The authoritarian personality’s lack of insight into one’s own shortcomings and the projection of one’s own weaknesses and faults onto others is often found in high scoring subjects (high on the authoritarian attitude scales). It probably represents the essential aspect of the mechanism of scapegoating.
(Adorno et al 1950:233)
As we have just noted, general hostility and suspicion may be the source of energy which can produce the scapegoating procedure. What Adorno and his colleagues sought to demonstrate was that there are individuals who are predisposed to be prejudiced. As Aronson writes: “not solely because of immediate external influences, but because of the kind of people they are.”
Such people tend to show certain characteristics, viz:
Their beliefs are held with great rigidity and inflexibility.
Their value system is ordinary and conventional.
They cannot tolerate what they describe as ‘weakness’ either in ?themselves or in others.
They believe that people should be punished for transgression of ?the conventional social code and that we should make no attempt ?to understand them.
They show a high level of suspicion, particularly with regard to ?the unfamiliar.
Constituted authority is regarded with an enormous degree of ?respect and entails a high degree of obedience to its order. ?It can be seen that individuals with such marked characteristics are susceptible to frustration to a great extent and are unable to tolerate it. Nor can they tolerate the idea of being responsible for the frustration, and are thus extremely likely to lay the blame for misfortune and impediment upon others. The self righteous and self-justifying nature of the authoritarian personality would lead to any tolerance of blame being highly unlikely. It would hardly be regarded as a possibility to be considered, and thus the source of frustration has to lie elsewhere. Given this state of affairs it would seem inevitable that not only would the onus tend to be directed towards those who did not possess the same rigid beliefs, and were regarded as weak, but that they would also be visited with punishment. ?If Adorno is right, then it must be accepted that a particular form of human personality can fulfill most of the basic and necessary criteria for initiating the process of scapegoating—almost, it would seem, without the need of a situational trigger.

In his book, The Psychology of Genocide, the psychologist Steven Baum, classified individuals, based on their reported behavior in genocides, into three categories – perpetrators, bystanders  and rescuers, based on where they fit on an axis of social identification, with the assumption that people would become more personally identified as they became more emotionally mature.  Those people in the population who were strongly socially identified, who believed most strongly in their group or nation, had the greatest potential to become perpetrators. The vast majority of the population, those who took no stand, were more likely to become bystanders and those most strongly personally identified – those individuals who identities were not wrapped up or defined by their relationship to the group or the nation had the greatest potential to become rescuers.

Another psychologist, Ervin Staub, considered perpetrators as a class of the population to have the predisposed potentiality for anti-social behavior and to have less self-awareness and empathy than other members of society.  In a culture predisposed to violence, he believed that such personality types become perpetrators either through self-selection or through selection by authorities.

From Tom Douglas, Scapegoats: Transferring Blame

By explaining the precise power that held
groups together Freud could also show
why groups did not fear danger.  The
members did not feel that they are alone
with their smallness and helplessness, as they have the power of the hero-leader with whom they are identified.  Natural narcissism – the feeling that the person next to you will die, but not you – is reinforced by trusting dependence on the leader’s power.  Why are groups so blind and stupid? – men have always asked.  Because they demand illusions, answered Freud, they “constantly give what is unreal precedence over what is real.” And we know why.  The small, trembling animal who will decay and die.  Illusion changes all that, makes man seem important, vital to the universe, immortal in some way.  The masses look to the leader to give them the untruth that they need.  Furthermore, he makes possible a new experience, the expression of forbidden impulses, secret wishes, and fantasies.  In group behavior, anything goes, because the leader okays it.   In the group, each man seems an omnipotent hero who can give full vent to his appetites under the approving eye of the father.  And so, we can understand the terrifying sadism of group activity.

On a more specific level, there are leaders
who seduce us because they do not have
the conflicts that we have;  we refer to this as an unconflicted personality;  they are unconflicted by self- doubt, and have no doubts about their destiny ; we, the
normal people,  admire their sense of
messianic vision where we feel shame
and humiliation.

Freud saw that the leader wipes out fear and permits everyone to feel omnipotent.  Redl refined this somewhat by showing how important the leader often was by the simply fact that it was he who performed the “initiatory act” when no one else had the daring to do it.  Redl call this the “magic of the initiatory act.”  The initiatory act can be anything from swearing to sex or murder.

From Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death

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