Scapegoat: A History of Blaming Other People

Charlie Campbell, Author
Charlie Campbell. Overlook, $19.95 (208p) ISBN 978-1-59020-716-1
Hardcover - 207 pages - 978-0-7156-3874-3
Open Ebook - 208 pages - 978-1-4683-0016-1
Open Ebook - 208 pages - 978-1-4683-0015-4
Paperback - 207 pages - 978-1-4683-0638-5
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-7156-4378-5
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In this short compendium of scapegoating, Campbell wryly describes how we, as a species, are always looking to blame someone else for our misfortunes. “We still crave simple explanations for complex happenings,” Campbell writes, but these explanations have often led to tragic situations in which innocents suffer for crimes they didn’t commit. The term “scapegoat” first appeared in William Tyndale’s 1530 English translation of the Latin Bible, describing the animals sacrificed as a “sin offering” on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Tyndale, who was executed for his efforts to circumvent the clergy; Christ; witch hunts; the Holocaust; and the astonishing medieval practice of putting farm animals on trial for sorcery, all exemplify how scapegoats have been made to bear the sins of humanity. The book offers examples organized into thematic chapters (Jewish, Christian, sexual, Communist, medical), which cover ancient to modern times and show how powerful leaders and enemies of the people have always been “inextricably linked, reverse sides of a coin, one the shadow of the other.” Although Campbell is a witty and engaging writer, the book never develops an argument beyond anecdote, and stops short of delving into why primal hate continues to have so much influence in shaping culture. (Feb.)
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