The Political Economy of Scapegoating




ussr-vs-isis1Scapegoating is as old a tactic as political power itself, and a vital tool in the perpetuation of political, economic and social privilege. James Madison, the Father of the US Constitution, expressed a great truism about state power when he described its fundamental role as being to defend ‘the minority of the opulent from the majority.’ What Madison neglected to mention was that the defense of the minority of the opulent against the majority tended to entrench and exacerbate social and economic inequality. This in turn precipitated social chaos as inequality and disorder exacerbated social and class conflict, threatening the stability of the system as a whole.


Faced with this situation, the minority of the opulent required some mechanism or other to neutralize social conflict and ensure stability without having to address its root causes in the defense of their economic and social privileges from economic democracy and social justice. They needed to be able to establish and maintain a state of peace without justice, a state long understood to be synonymous with tyranny. Whether the tyranny concerned was that of an individual autocrat, or a class of them, the same problem remained; what the minority of the opulent needed in effect was an ideological safety valve to take the pressure away of actually existing social conflicts and tensions and divert them onto a scapegoat, onto one or another ideological punching bag for the shortcomings of a society devoted to maintaining the minority of the opulent in the lifestyle to which they had become accustomed. Continue reading


The Other 9/11

Henry Kissinger

“The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.”

– Henry Kissinger, chief foreign policy advisor to Richard Nixon, 1973. On September 11, 1973, a Chilean military general, Augusto Pinochet, led a coup d’etat against the elected government of Chile. The coup, which was heavily backed by the CIA, was successful and the President of Chile, Salvador Allende, was assassinated. Pinochet and his American allies justified their actions by red-baiting Allende, claiming that he was turning the country communist. In reality, however, Allende was more of a social democrat who was pursuing nationalisation policies that would prevent American corporations from exploiting Chile’s natural resources for their own gain. Pinochet, adopting the political authoritarianism and police-state tactics he was said to be saving the country from, became dictator of Chile and ruled for 19 years. His regime became notorious for inventing the practice of ‘disappearing’ (or kidnapping, torturing and murdering) its political opponents, which it did by the tens of thousands.

More information:

Chile and the United States: Declassified Documents Relating to the Military Coup, September 11, 1973

Reichstag fire

Reichstag Fire

On the basis of Article 48 paragraph 2 of the Constitution of the German Reich, the following is ordered in defense against Communist state-endangering acts of violence:

1. Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153 of the Constitution of the German Reich are suspended until further notice. It is therefore permissible to restrict the rights of personal freedom [habeas corpus], freedom of opinion, including the freedom of the press, the freedom to organize and assemble, the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications, and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

– Order of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State.

“The government will make use of these powers only insofar as they are essential for carrying out vitally necessary measures…The number of cases in which an internal necessity exists for having recourse to such a law is in itself a limited one.”

– Adolf Hitler, promise to the Reichstag (Parliament) on the occasion of the imposition of “temporary” dictatorship following the Reichstag Fire.

The 1933 Reichstag Fire was a key event in Adolf Hitler’s ascendency to power. During the night of February 27th, the Reichstag Building, which housed the German Parliament, was gutted by a massive fire. Adolf Hitler, who had become President Paul von Hindenburg’s chancellor less than a month earlier, pressured von Hindenburg to give him essentially dictatorial powers. Hitler used the attack to roll back the legal guarantees of personal liberty enshrined in the constitution.

More information:

Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war

The Drums of War

Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar.

– Anonymous