Scapegoating: Why Humanity Desperately Needs Hope to Cling to


When people suffer, they need hope. They need something, anything to give them direction and confirmation that the world is, somehow, fair. In times of chaos and despair, this need is pronounced. All too often, however, human nature drives us to a place of blindness and scapegoating; a place where we can safely deposit all of our angst and fear into a ready receptacle.

Throughout history, such receptacles have taken many forms: gods, devils, Jews, witches, cripples, heretics, and more. Today, they appear in the form of Muslims and the ‘mentally ill’. How convenient to be able to deposit all our hatred, anger, fear, and worry into a pail that looks, I don’t know, different, somehow, and believes in stuff we don’t understand. Or better yet, to be able to throw all of our sorrow, hatred, and pain into an abstract bin organized by the greatest piece of trash: the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).

Afraid of random acts of violence? Well! Just ban all Muslims and mentally ill people from entering your sphere and all will be well! Afraid of the mounting pressure within of emptiness, sadness, and loneliness? Do not consider giving up your riches or evaluating the society in which you live! Take a pill and all will be well! Afraid of losing your home, your family, and your consumerist way of life? Blame the Blacks, the Mexicans, and your family members’ mental illness for your struggle and all will be well! Of course! Except none of this is true; they are, at best, illusions that save some at the expense of others.

Humans’ need to believe in the justice of the world, the idea that people deserve what they get and that randomness does not exist, is, perhaps, the greatest factor in our own demise. In fact, it has been demonstrated in numerous studies of sociology and social psychology that the need to defend ‘just world’ beliefs is often a primary factor underlying racism, victim blaming, defense of illegitimate authority, advocating for war, dogmatic ideologies and more. Even more terrifying than an unfair world? One that is random and without predictability. Better, then, to find a scapegoat.

A girl gets raped because her dress is too short. The little girl clearly wanted it. The Muslim mosque gets bombed because Muslim refugees of war are being saved. The Muslims clearly wanted it. The students cannot excel because they are dumb, unable to learn, and disabled. It has nothing to do with our education system or the variety of human nature. They clearly don’t want it. Our president is creating chaos and dissention throughout the world because he is mentally ill. He hasn’t planned it, but he clearly wants it. Because he’s mentally ill.

What a relief! The world makes sense again.

Life is suffering. We all suffer. Some suffer more than others, and, ya know what? It’s not fair. If we actually acknowledged this we might consider how to make things more fair. We might consider that those who wish to die, or kill, or drink, or inject, or experience alternate realities or entities others can’t understand are those who are suffering. We might also consider that everyone, no matter their circumstance or self-hatred, might also take some responsibility for their actions. And we, as a society, as a human race, might also take responsibility.

I have heard the accusations of me being a “troll” or a person who cannot possibly understand what it’s like to be “mentally ill”. I have been told that I don’t know what it’s like to suffer or experience discrimination or suffocate under the black cloud of oppression. Well, what do strangers really know? I have experienced some of the worst life has to offer. I have been violated in more ways than I care to count. I have seen the darkness and found comfort in a world that was only my own. I have cried night after night and lived in terror of unseen voices and phantoms that haunted ceaselessly. And I have been cruel. I have hurt others. I have also taken the blame for the cruelty of others. My early life was a primer in learning how to both be a scapegoat and to scapegoat others. Ultimately, I choose to repent. I am not a religious person, but I will not throw my responsibilities into a swamp that will only be drained by the devil himself. Learning how to love is itself where healing begins.

In the end, is there hope? Can we, as a human race, come to a place of acceptance and stop needing to lash out and scapegoat? If it’s not the “devil” or “evilness” or “witch craft” or “Jews” or “Muslims” or “heretics” or “mental illness” or “Trump”, what is it?


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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  1. The president stands in front of the cameras and claims that it’s a horrible world and the reason he’s going to do all the things he has planned is to keep all of us safe. And according to him, only he can do this and we need to turn the reins totally over to him and let him have his way because he’s going to keep us all safe.

    The only problem with this is that no one can guarantee us safety, no matter what they do or say. He’s creating and pushing a delusion for us to accept and buy into. The fact is, this is and always has been an unsafe world and we’re all up for grabs. Pushing the naïve attitude of the 1950’s where everything was supposedly so wonderful and good (fact is it was only good and wonderful for some people and not everyone) is not going to make us safe. We are delusional if we think we’re safe and that nothing can happen to us just because we’ve “secured” our borders and forced those we don’t like into “concentration camps” or ghettos or onto registers and lists, like we did our own Japanese American citizens during WWII. We demonized our own Japanese citizens, of third generation or more, and thought we were safe. All we did was damage our own integrity. It’s always interesting to me that we didn’t do this to the German portion of our citizens, perhaps because Japanese Americans were easier to spot since they looked differently from people of non-Asian descent. Although many German American citizens did stop speaking German and some even changed their last names.

    As you state, what we can do is hope and love and do the best we can, not only for ourselves, but for everyone. This does not mean that bad things won’t happen to us.

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  2. Thanks for the heartfelt writing. You put words to my own ‘dark side’ and the conclusions I’ve come to about my own life. Yup. Shit happens. Our monkey brains seem to have a deep need to make sense of things–and that often leads to false narratives and spectacular cruelty.

    I still have problems with the word ‘love’–that’s my own struggle. I *love* life and everything is alive but humans are still a dangerous and unpredictable challenge to me. I can give the people around me a break when I’m able to give myself one. Your essay helps me do that.

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  3. Excellent article Noel.

    The mental health system, psychiatry and psychotherapy, are mostly just ways of making a child into the family scapegoat.

    And even if there is no contact with it before adulthood, the survivor is still carrying the marks of the childhood abuses when they take themselves to the doctor. They still believe that there is something wrong with them. And this is not going to change until we survivors start to organize, and instead of seeking pity, start fighting back.

    Move from talk and a protected space for psychiatrists and psychotherapists, to Anti-Psychiatry and Anti-Recovery. Posts will not be censored:

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  4. Donald Trump-Mentally ILL.This is how psychologists *attack* anyone,who don’t fit into their sharp perception of what is normal and what is *abnormal* or clinical insane.I wonder how I should be *classified* by Dr.Hunter.
    I am not famous,so she won’t vaste her time with reading of my* infamous* comments,dangerous they are even to existence of entire Psychology,which is against biology and evolution,just as psychiatry is.

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    • I hear your frustration Borut. For the record, I do not classify people and find it unscientific and inhumane to do so. I’m sorry you feel that I wouldn’t waste my time responding to you… I try to keep up with all comments made and would be sorely disappointed in myself if I ever got to a place where I felt people weren’t important enough to listen to. Wishing you all the best – Noel

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  5. Hi Noel,
    Although it might sound strange to say given the subject matter, I enjoyed reading this article. I admire when people can write bluntly and honestly about their shortcomings and about difficult, visceral topics. I try to do this myself in terms of speaking openly about “bad” things I have done, recounting when I did not act in accord with societal expectations, when I did not feel guilty for what I did, etc.

    I like your description of the DSM as “the greatest piece of trash”. I’ll have to use that line at some point. It reminds me of my last cartoon with the midnight reading of the DSM by four of my favorite people 🙂 If I continued that cartoon I would have them using the DSM as kindling to warm their cold souls.

    The most interesting point you made was our fear of a world that is random, unpredictable, senseless, and potentially meaningless. I have often felt viscerally in touch with this aspect of existence. It is part of why I have my doubts about religion – I see religion as partly a clinging to the notion of an organized, logical, just world in which one can be “saved” for being “good”, and is in control of one’s destiny. Beneath this belief is often a fear of the randomness, emptiness, and uncaring nature of the universe. We only have each other… just off the Earth’s surface, and for millions of light years in any direction, there is no evidence of continued involvement of God, of an afterlife, or of any caring father figure that will protect us from an asteroid strike, gamma ray burst, or any smaller unpredictable and potentially deadly event in our personal lives. Sometimes, I spend my mornings debating with myself whether I am more severe danger from a potential car accident caused by an out-of-control Mack truck, or from an assassin hired by Big Pharma to bring a permanent stop to my online postings. However, I am probably grossly overestimating my influence in the latter scenario (no doubt the result of a DSM disorder!) so the greater danger is probably the truck.

    I believe it is adaptive to believe in religion because it reduces these fears and promotes peer bonding (I must sound like the Terminator here, if you remember the scenes where Arnold Schwarzenegger analyzed the function of human beliefs and relationships). But it is something I find it difficult to believe in with my knowledge of science and my experience of the dark sides of human nature.

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    • Hi Matt – I have written elsewhere about psychology as our modern day religion and hope to do so more in the future, perhaps in the form of a book. Szasz has written a book about the matter as well. I think that psychology provides many what religion does not: the answers to the dark side of human nature under the guise of science. Just as God and the priest once replaced our fathers so too now does the psychiatrist and therapist.

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  6. “Learning how to love is itself where healing begins.”

    I agree–starting with learning to love one’s self, then learning how to extend it to others, or at least how to feel the feeling of love in our hearts. When we do, we feel the healing happening. A heart opening is evident, the feeling is powerful and unmistakable. Apparently, we have a long, long way to go, as a collective. Imagine the transformation. One heart at a time…

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  7. Hi Noel,

    Thanks for the article.

    A lot of people focus on external injustice as the cause of personal suffering and its definitely there. My own Psychological perspective is to focus inside and when I can do this then I can deal with the outside world effectively. This is what has worked for me.

    I like the way you acknowledge your own historical negative tendencies, it’s very reassuring. I really identify with my own.

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  8. At least each Psychologist so far,who classified Donald Trump as mentally ILL,confirm far more,then average MIA commentator will observe.The may don’t belief into DSM,but they all belief in Mental Illness.They confirm
    with such posts,that their profession,just like psychiatry did,architected Mental Health System.Let’s go
    forward.Enjoying in classifications of other people *mind* conditions and even laugh and joy over their mind
    issues or problems,is how can anyone spot psychologist.Even,if they can’t on biological level explained
    any mind *condition* or issues,they will still continue,with their meta-physic mystery mongering
    and with unbiological and anti-evolutionary classifications,which are No.1 reason for so called STIGMA.
    Day will come,when Psychologists and Psychiatrists,will be called as rebels against biology and evolution!

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  9. Our president is creating chaos and dissention throughout the world because he is mentally ill. He hasn’t planned it, but he clearly wants it. Because he’s mentally ill.

    What a relief! The world makes sense again.

    Thanks for bringing this up. This is the next step for liberals once they give up on “the Russians did it” (and no I’m not a Trump supporter, this is not an either/or). It’s pretty predictable that they’ll continue in the vein previously established by labeling corporations as “sociopathic” by demanding that Trump be examined for “mental illness,” and exposing to all the way “diagnoses” are used to invalidate people’s beliefs, as well as the intellectual bankruptcy which forces them to result to insults.

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  10. Very true. I am reminded of Rabbi Kushner’s work When Bad Things Happen To Good People which reminds us that the Just World Hypothesis is a false construct. We don’t deserve rose gardens.

    I wonder what would happen if we were all alike? How on earth would we, as a society, choose which one of us to pick on? Of course such uniformity only happens in science fiction. Even killing people senselessly won’t get us complete uniformity unless only one person remains.

    Is it not true that human society needs the scapegoat figure? But what if the scapegoat is not an actual person, but an idea or concept? Or perhaps something deep within each of us? I recall when I was scapegoated a long time ago, realizing that the reason was because the others hated the part of me they recognized in themselves. They didn’t hate me because I was different, but because we were painfully alike. They hated that I reflected that unsightly part of themselves right back, like a mirror.

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  11. The fear and hate mongering began, or at least I was first bothered by it, after 9/11/2001, when the media started fear and war mongering the American public incessantly. I had to stop watching television by early 2002 because of the media’s fear, hate, and war mongering.

    I’ve survived 14 distinctly different anticholinergic toxidrome poisoning attempts at my life since then, by insane and DSM deluded doctors who were trying to convince me I was insane for being disgusted by 9/11/2001, the never ending wars that ensued, and the rape of my child.

    Life is not fair, we have pedophiles that have filled our government and religions, the police do not arrest the child molesters any longer because of this, we have an un-Constitutional Ponzi scheme of a fiat monetary system, a whole bunch of house stealing fiscally irresponsible banksters, and a medical community that is so bad that their mistakes alone are at least the number three killer of Americans. It’s my war mongering, pedophilia advocating, hate spewing, divide and conquer ruling, fiscally unjust and thieving, scientific fraud blaspheming, propaganda filled society, that is insane.

    For me, it was my knowledge of God’s love, that got me through. Although as one who believes in a just and loving God, I will say I do believe repentance is important for all those who do not wish to land in “a swamp that will only be drained by the devil himself.” I do not believe it is those with delusions of grandeur it is their right to scapegoat, defame, and call other people names, so they may deny responsibility for their or others’ sins, who will ultimately win. Quite to the contrary, those will be the unrepentant who land in the swamp “drained by the devil himself.” I agree, love is the answer, the hate mongers and name callers need to grow up, and this includes all those who utilize the DSM disorders to stigmatize and belittle, rather than help, their clients.

    These are the lyrics of one of the songs that reminded me of how inane it was for doctors to try to gaslight me with words and toxic drugs back in 2001, it helped me maintain my hope.

    “Everyday is so wonderful
    Then suddenly
    It’s hard to breathe
    Now and then I get insecure
    From all the pain
    I’m so ashamed
    I am beautiful
    No matter what they say
    Words can’t bring me down
    I am beautiful
    In every single way
    Yes words can’t bring me down
    Oh no
    So don’t you bring me down today
    To all your friends you’re delirious
    So consumed
    In all your doom, ooh
    Trying hard to fill the emptiness
    The pieces gone
    Left the puzzle undone
    Ain’t that the way it is
    You’re beautiful
    No matter what they say
    Words can’t bring you down
    Oh no
    You’re beautiful
    In every single way
    Yes words can’t bring you down
    Oh no
    So don’t you bring me down today”

    Hope and love definitely beat name calling and scapegoating, let’s hope the psychiatrists and psychologists soon get out of the business of defaming and poisoning their clients, since defaming and poisoning people is not “medical care.” And I do believe repentance is required by a psychiatric industry that is based completely upon scientific fraud, especially since they have malpractice insurance intended exactly for this purpose, and no one would have ever bothered to place trust in them without this malpractice insurance.

    Oh, by the way, I got the puzzle pieces back, and it seems the puzzle is getting closer to completion.

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  12. Interesting post.

    But I have to say that most people who have had a near death experience would disagree with some of what you wrote.

    Also, consider this: How could something like the Big Bang possibly have happened? The idea is basically that the Universe was a singularity that started expanding. Ok. Expanding where? Empty space? Empty space is still something. It can’t just expand into nothing. When a balloon expands, does it expand into nothing? And the Universe can’t be finite. If it’s finite, then what happens when you reach the end? Do you fall off? How? Where to?

    So the only conclusion we can reach is that the Universe is infinite. Which is not really a concept we can grasp in any “natural” sense. It’s logically absurd. But less so than the other options. And trying to grasp it makes one realize what those who say that “All is one” really mean.

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    • I don’t know what NDE has to do with it. I had one. After that, the “hospital” that held me deliberately kept the vital information from me that I had “coded” while in the ER. I only found out because they accidentally gave me some of my records upon my leaving. I was livid.

      Because of what had happened, I was scapegoated. I was scapegoated in the hospital where I was medically compromised and abused there, then hated in my community upon my return, where I cried and cried alone because no one cared.I don’t think anyone gave a fuck that I had an NDE, nor cared, nor wanted me back, nor loved me at that moment. I had never in 55 years seen a worse case of societal hatred and neglect until it happened to me and nearly killed me, and they still did not give a f*ck.

      Why? Because people do not care about a mental patient. We’re worthless in the eyes of society. Great scapegoats, and if we die, big f*cking deal.

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  13. We need a forum where people can share information about fighting the mental health and recovery systems. I don’t mean asking for pity or recovery, or trying to convince people that the ‘mentally ill’ are non-violent. I mean a place we can share info and fight back!


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  14. We need a forum where people can share information about fighting the mental health and recovery systems. I don’t mean asking for pity or recovery, or trying to convince people that the ‘mentally ill’ are non-violent. I mean a place we can share info and fight back!


    Report comment