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Scapegoat Lessons: Holocaust Museum ‘Act Of Cowardice’

June 13, 2009

‘Act of cowardice’ says museum shooter James von Brunn’s sonComradesInHate-X

The son of the bigot who stormed the U.S. Holocaust Museum issued an apology yesterday to the family of slain guard Stephen Johns – and he called his father’s actions “unforgivable.”

Erik von Brunn said father James von Brunn‘s racist and anti-Semitic views had tormented his family.

“His views consumed him, and in doing so, not only destroyed his life, but destroyed our family and ruined our lives as well,” he wrote in a statement obtained by ABC News.

“For a long time, I believed this was our family’s cross to bear. Now, it is not only my families’ lives that are in shambles, but those who were directly affected by his actions, especially the family of Mr. Johns, who bravely sacrificed his life to stop my father.”

The son had a message for those who sympathize with his dad: “What he did was an act of cowardice.”

“To physically force your beliefs onto others with violence is not brave, but bullying. Doing so only serves to prove how weak those beliefs are. It is simply desperation, reminiscent of a temper tantrum when a child cannot get his way.”

Simmering beneath the surface of social conduct is a cancer that permeates personal and often, public decisions.  Targeting a segment of society to take the brunt of personal frustrations is classic Scapegoat behavior.  Scapegoating is a tool in the hands of political and public conflict.  It is easy to unite any group when you can target a specific group to be cause of distress, then label them as the enemy. offers an in depth, well researched definition of this social condition.

The ritualized transference and expulsion of evil is a familiar theme across centuries and cultures.4 In western culture the term “scapegoat” can be traced to an early Judaic ritual described in the book of Leviticus in the Bible. As Gordon W. Allport explains:

The term scapegoat, however, has evolved to mean “anyone who must bear the responsibility symbolically or concretely for the sins of others,” Richard Landes explains. “Psychologically, the tendency to find scapegoats is a result of the common defense mechanism of denial through projection.”6 This mechanism is a powerful and effective psychic defense despite its destructive effects on a society.7

Scapegoating has two main versions:

personal misconduct ==> guilt ==> displacement toward scapegoat

frustration ==> aggression ==> displacement toward scapegoat8

The actual process is complex.9 Frustration does not always lead to aggression, and the aggression can be directed in a rational way towards constructively overcoming the obstacle creating the frustration.10

One cannot, however, take the psychological model and directly apply it to a sociological model.11 As psychiatrist Susan Fisher explains, the mechanism of scapegoating within a family-a well-studied phenomena-does not necessarily work the same way as the scapegoating of groups on a societal level where “the scapegoated group serves more as a metaphor,”12 Scapegoating by large groups and social movements is not an indication of mass mental dysfunction, even though there may be psychological issues involved, and even though some of the individuals involved may suffer from a variety of psychological problems.13 Recent research on the subject suggests the phenomena is more complicated than commonly pictured, involving several personality types and multiple psychological processes.14

large_love-hate-babyHerman Sinaiko observes that “The most decent and modest communities have people in their midst who are prone to scapegoating and who see the world as run by conspiracies. A healthy community is organized in a way that controls them and suppresses their tendencies. When a community is in crisis, the standards and control mechanisms are weakened, and these people step forward and find their voice and an audience.”15

We witness scapegoating every day.  People find it easy to lay blame for their personal problems on:  immigrants, gays, blacks, whites, Hispanics, males, females, children, elderly, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Chinese, Russians, Democrats, Republicans, the scapegoatrich, the poor, liberals, conservatives … the list is endless.  Today’s economic condition breeds more extremist behavior.  There must be retaliation against perceived causes for frustration and anxiety.  Whether it is assassination of figureheads, like Dr. Tiller or general lashing out at iconic symbols like the Holocaust Museum, extremists justify their violence by scapegoating.  To take revenge on a symbol is a form of Attribution Theory.  Bigotry is a form of tribalism that has long outlived its usefulness. This planet has few places left designed to support tribal philosophy.  Fantasy drives idealism!  Idealism of shaping the world and its occupants to your own liking is a child’s fantasy.  Domination of nature has resulted in today’s environmental crisis that threatens to starve the world.  Domination of nature has been condoned and encouraged by most religions, especially the founding patriarch of middle eastern religions, Abraham.  The following links contain psychological definitions for symptoms describing the pandemic of mental illness, threatening the fabric of society today, called terrorism.  The pandemic of hate group, terrorist mentality is a global event that threatens the sanity and survival of humans everywhere.  Terrorists are the ultimate symptom of devolution, or backward evolution, into revenge solution mentality… Blame The secret of success is knowing who to blame for failures – Demotivator“.

A question of race


Ultimate Attribution Error

Dilution Effect

Out-Group Homogeneity

Contact Hypothesis


Three Dimensions of Power

Psychoanalytic theory holds that unwanted thoughts and feelings can be unconsciously projected onto another who becomes a scapegoat for one’s own problems. This concept can be extended to projection by groups. In this case the chosen individual, or group, becomes the scapegoat for the group’s problems. In psychopathology, projection is an especially commonly used defense mechanism in people with certain personality disorders.

If you educate yourself to the symptoms surrounding the condition that causes hate group behavior, you will contribute to a healthier society.  If you can influence those who surround you to see their situation in a more practical, productive way, you may diffuse one extremist at a time.  The mental illness pandemic is a daunting “group think” condition that threatens all of us.  Any one of us can become someone’s scapegoat for any reason.  Adhering to the “I am right and the world is wrong” attitude nurtures the mental illness of hate.  Hate is the blindness that can destroy civilization.  The source of hate must be the focus of treatment for the mental illness pandemic that is spreading among us.  Do not confuse hate with healthy, constructive opposition that actually promotes progress.

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