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Scapegoating as Ideological Weapon

A key ideological weapon of the US political right is scapegoating, especially in the form of conspiracist theories.~1 Yet scapegoating is not a marginal activity limited to the political right.~2

Scapegoating of immigrants and welfare recipients is used regularly by mainstream politicians to attract votes. This dynamic has a long history in the US, with the scapegoated targets being selected opportunistically-Reds, Anarchists, Jews, Catholics, Freemasons, all the way back to witches in Salem. Periodic waves of state repression are justified through conspiracist scapegoating that claims networks of subversives are poised to undermine the government. Right wing populist movements mobilize the middle class by claiming a conspiracy from above by secret elites and from below by a parasitic underclass. On the far right are the scapegoating themes of collectivist New World Order plots and Jewish banking conspiracies.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the US has been exporting its media-intensive election model, which favors style over substance, argument over debate, slogans over issues. This election model facilitates the success of not only those politicians that can raise the most funds, but also demagogues willing to use scapegoating as an ideological weapon. While scapegoating in the US is primarily the territory of the political right including Republicans, some Democratic Party politicians pander to the tendency, and even a few on the left adopt scapegoating out of ignorance, desperation, or an appalling absence of morality.

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