What Are Examples of Scapegoats in History?

Scapegoats are individuals or groups blamed by society for something that might not entirely be their fault, explains EducationBug.org. Usually, scapegoats are either persons in positions of power, such as leaders of nations or corporate CEOs, who are seen as responsible for everything that happens while they are in power, or they are commonly disdained sub-groups of society who do not have any influence to protest their blame.

The term “scapegoat” comes from Judeo-Christian tradition, and is based on the sacrifice of an animal for the forgiveness of human sins. This means that people sacrifice a “scapegoat” by shifting the blame away from themselves and onto that person.

Throughout the ages, a lot of blame has been put on figures of divinity or mythology, such as the devil, Pandora or Eve from the book of Genesis. Historically, bad fortune and disease were blamed on people thought to be witches; in many instances in Western history people were blamed for being Jewish or homosexual. In the United States, it is common to blame the president whenever the nation has a bad economic year.

Some specific examples include Leon Trotsky, who was blamed by Stalin for all of the problems in Russia; Gaëtan Dugas, for the spread of AIDS; and Andrés Escobar, for his team’s defeat in the 1994 World Cup, after which he was shot.