Home Main Forums General Discussion The Psychology of Blame

  • NJCher (2062 posts)
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    The Psychology of Blame

    Have you ever wondered what is behind the phenomena of blaming?  What’s in it for the blamer?  What does it do for them?

    I must admit that I was curious about this, and now that we are about to begin Le Grande Blamerama, (What Happened?), I thought others might find it interesting.

    Being a teacher of interpersonal communication, I have a good working knowledge of attribution theory. I knew this was probably a good place to start my research.

    I’m going to simplify this considerably, but attribution theory says we tend to ascribe negative motives to others, while perceiving ourselves as having purer, more noble motives.

    I was telling the class about attribution theory. I used the example of what happens when a class member walks in late. I said, “The thoughts going through all the seated, on-time students might be ‘he’s so undisciplined; he never can make it to class on time;’ ‘he needs to leave for class earlier;’ or ‘this guy doesn’t take his education seriously.'”

    However, I told the class, if YOU are the one arriving late, the train of thought in YOUR mind goes like this: “Traffic! Rush hour is a horrible time to travel to class.”  Or “This campus needs to provide better parking for students.”

    Note how YOU don’t need to leave earlier. Note how YOU are the poor soul who has to travel during rush hour.

    What does this have to do with blame?

    First, the blamer feels bad. He/she feels bad because of DACA. This person feels bad because Trump is obviously inadequate for the presidency. He or she feels bad that other countries are laughing at us for having such a buffoon in the White House.

    To alleviate these negative feelings, this person blames.  He blames the Bernie supporters. He blames Jill Stein. He blames Bernie  himself.

    But really what is going on is this:  The person is feeling guilty:  guilty about not donating more money to the campaign. Guilty about not contacting more people to get out the vote. Guilty for, perhaps, supporting the wrong candidate. Guilt, guilt, guilt.  Unable to acknowledge that “I  could have done more”  or “I could have made better choices,” this person blames others. By focusing on the other, he/she can avoid facing up to one’s own responsibility in this debacle, the election of 2017.

    Tonight I was at a small gathering and there were some Hillary supporters there. Most of them are in therapy, I kid you not, over this situation. They are–again, I kid you not–taking medication prescribed by their various shrinks.  I decided to question what the content of the therapy sessions was, and the person I asked gave me some information that sounded like the therapist was trying to get them to focus on what they could control. Well, the only thing we can control is how we feel or act:  certainly not how others feel or act. Accepting that we cannot control the actions of others precludes blame.

    And that, my friends, is my little adventure into figuring out why people blame others.

    Oh, there’s one more thing I’d like to add:  I have been watching this over a period of time, and just like clockwork, every time Trump does something particularly egregious, I see and hear more blaming. Of course, this is not a scientific study; it is just first-hand observation.




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  • 2 weeks ago #12
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    • djean111 (4696 posts)
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      1. Really interesting take on blame.

      Thinking about it, I am still so happy that Hillary is not president that I cannot imagine having a smidgeon of guilt or blame, except perhaps blaming Hillary for conniving to be the other choice at the polls.  But even that is pointless – done is done.   Hillary’s new book just reinforces how I feel – she is not presidential material, and that has fuck-all to do with Trump.

      My hillbot sister still blames me personally, and Bernie’s supporters in general, for Trump.  She called the morning after the election and said well, you got what you wanted, I hope you are happy.  We are in our 70’s, and I doubt our relationship will ever be repaired.   What she would require for reconciliation is me saying I am sorry Hillary lost.  Not gonna happen  even if the skies are filled with aerial swine.

      You think the only reason that people won't vote for a warmongering Third Way fracking-enabling cluster bomb throwing H-1B increasing lying pandering corporate and Wall Street shill who says she has no problem putting abortion rights on the table is because we are mad about Bernie?  Um, nope.
      • PADemD (1092 posts)
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        5. Election results

        Show this link to your sister.


        There’s nothing that one person could have done to change the outcome in our county.

        • djean111 (4696 posts)
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          6. She does not think in those terms, sadly.

          I will save that link for future reference.  But to her, I represent ALL of Bernie’s supporters.  And, like Hillary, my sister’s vengeance is mean and petty.  Anyway, life goes on.  When we were younger, we would fight and not speak for two or three years.    Oh well.  Life will go on.  

          You think the only reason that people won't vote for a warmongering Third Way fracking-enabling cluster bomb throwing H-1B increasing lying pandering corporate and Wall Street shill who says she has no problem putting abortion rights on the table is because we are mad about Bernie?  Um, nope.
    • bemildred (4372 posts)
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      2. I think your idea that blame and a need for control are connected is right on.

      Controlling how you yourself feel is a lot trickier than most people admit to themselves.Nobody blames a dog for being a dog, but boy can we humans get blamed for acting like natural humans, we all have to be very domesticated to get along in our crowded world.

      And we live in a culture that fetishizes personal responsibility (so as to avoid the government having to do anything, like: collective responsibility for anything except protecting banks).

      It ain't the things you don't know that hurts you, it's the things you know that ain't so.
    • peacecorps (3601 posts)
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      3. Boils down to: "It's never my fault. I am the victim here. It is somebody else's


      Whether it is Hillary blaming Bernie, his supporters, rw conspiracies for her failings; Trump blaming the ‘deep state’, ‘fake news’, congress for his problems.

      Blaming others does absolve one of responsibility and makes life easier to ‘understand’.

      • cascadiance (2562 posts)
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        9. I was going to say I think Hillary is trying to absolve herself from blame…

        … which if you ask me, she bears a lot of it, and is a big reason why we have president Trump instead of someone like president Sanders who might help lead us out of the climate change and economic messes that much earlier, which we need so badly now.

        But stepping back, I think it is best that we all try to avoid playing and responding to the blame game, and instead focus on the DAMN ISSUES that we need to deal with now, and if people push back on that, THEN we tear them down a bit and give them a bit more hell!  We need to make sure that they understand that our primary objection to both Hillary, Trump and so many of the neoliberal pols in charge now isn’t so much personal, as how much they are corrupted to not deal with the issues appropriately that are so sorely needing work on them NOW!

        That’s why this “blame book” by Hillary is the last thing we need to focus on now, and we should push back on her saying come back when she wants to help work solidly on issues to help the people instead of just trying to push off blame from herself for what happened.  She’s best ignored with this mess, and put the media on notice that if they want us to pay attention to them any more, that they won’t get drawn in to this distraction either.

        You know, one thing I’ve noticed today when trying to do research on newer progressive candidates is that if you look at the Justice Democrats and other Brand New Congress candidates, there really is a NEWS BLACKOUT on them as candidates, which I think contributes to many of them being left out of information sites like wikipedia, where I think some of these candidates get removed if some people add them, without “news citations” to support that they are running, even if they have campaign pages, and are listed on other candidate sites as candidates.  Google these candidates on my list and you’ll see what I mean.  Folks like Hector Morales, Letitia Plummer have this problem and have been missing from Wikipedia.  This really contributes that much more to my feelings on how the media is consciously trying to push down our candidates and our issues to keep the neoliberal agenda at the top of all of our discussion.  The article I contended with that said there were no Democrats running for governor in Texas is just a small piece of this.

        Vote AGAINST the race to the bottom by both corporate parties who seek to screw workers over globally!                                                                                  
        • peacecorps (3601 posts)
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          10. Largely agree. As Bernie just said, "Look forward, not backward."

          … this “blame book” by Hillary is the last thing we need to focus on now … 

          Wells said. It is the antithesis of Bernie’s quote above.

          … come back when she wants to help work solidly on issues to help the people…

          Yep. And I believe Bernie would welcome her and anyone else who is willing to ‘work solidly on issues to help the people’. He has said he will support Trump’s policies when the latter proposes things he agrees with. (That has not happened much at all but could.)

          … our primary objection to both Hillary, Trump and so many of the neoliberal pols in charge now …

          My only quibble is that “neoliberal pols” are not in charge now. Trump, his cabinet appointees, Ryan, McConnell … to be ‘neoliberal’ one has to have some liberal views (even if those are overwhelmed by a misguided to commitment to conservative ‘austerity’ economic policies) … I don’t see that among the ‘pols in charge now’. They are conservative with a capital C.

          • Stockholmer (1827 posts)
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            14. The liberal in neoliberal refers to what we in the rest of the world

            call liberal. Free markets, less government. I never could wrap my head around why the US so wrongly labelled LW, social democratic, and progressive causes, values, and beliefs as liberal.

            • peacecorps (3601 posts)
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              17. Indeed, 'liberal' in the US means something different than it does in the rest

              of the world. And that causes the American progressives’ interpretation of ‘neoliberal’ to be admittedly different than the rest of the world.

              To American progressives, what FDR did with the economy – raise taxes and make them more progressive, increase state regulation of corporations, etc. – was ‘liberal’ even though, you are right, that is not the classic definition ‘liberal’ economic policy which was more the idea of freeing the economy from the control of kings, emperors and the like, iow less state control.

              And to us here, what Reagan, Coolidge, Hoover, Trump and a host of other conservatives did or are trying to do was/is ‘conservative’ – lowering taxes and making them more regressive, decreasing state regulation of corporation, etc.

              … the term gained popularity largely among left-leaning academics in the 1970s “to describe and decry a late twentieth-century effort by policy makers, think-tank experts, and industrialists to condemn social-democratic reforms and unapologetically implement free-market policies.


              I think most American liberals/progressives think of ‘neoliberalism’ as the left shifting away from FDR’s version of ‘liberalism’ (increased state involvement in the economy) to the classic definition of the term which most modern Americans would define as ‘conservative’ (promoting free market policies and less government involvement in the economy).

              The terminology does get confusing since most Americans understand ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ (and therefore ‘neoliberal’) policy in ways that the rest of the does not.

              • Stockholmer (1827 posts)
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                18. shills at SV be shilling like crazy when they try and claim that they are NOT

                neoliberal and then proceed to say that THATCHER (omg hate that cunt with burning passion of a billion white suns) is the typical neoliberal!

                They CONSTANTLY shift from rest-of-world definitions to USA-centric definitions to try and mindfuck their lemmings.

                I use neoliberal on this board in the USA sense. Free market, deregulation, against any social democratic impetus,  and playing endless racial guilt and identitarian  REDUCTIONIST games with a veneer of pseudo-elitism and entitlement: All that plus a healthy does of paternalism and try to act like a kool kid by interjecting hipster (what they think is hipster) slang when in reality are a fucking 55 year old wanker wonk cunt.

              • Stockholmer (1827 posts)
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                19. Hillary with her hot sauce in her bag, soooo plazzy my head explodes.

                Fuck that bitch. I have long ago passed the point of no return in terms of anything but the rawest of hate for that slag.

    • GZeusH (2000 posts)
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      4. Science begins with first-hand observation.

      Policy:  The mistaken notion that bossy people have that they can influence other people's behavior through majority rule.
    • MistaP (6010 posts)
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      7. so you're telling me that the Clintonistas are finally getting their meds?

      http://www.salon.com/2016/11/09/the-hillary-clinton-campaign-intentionally-created-donald-trump-with-its-pied-piper-strategy/ (Third Way = Bell Curve)
    • Piperay (601 posts)
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      8. Good observation, insightful.. nt


    • Deadpool (9949 posts)
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      11. On the Daily Radical!

      Thank you. 

    • oldandhappy (3467 posts)
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      12. Thank you

      Good observations, good comment.  I am guilty of having walked around for the last few years saying, ‘not my fault’ was a republican trait/attitude.  Your comments helped me see that we all do it — the blame thing — in small ways.

      Fascinated with the people in therapy!

    • Ejbr (169 posts)
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      13. Great post

      seeing the Hilbots on another site hyperventilating about how her majesty is not the lesser of 2 evils when Trump does something egregious makes my skin crawl. They seem to presume that since Hillary does not demonstrate any outward bigotry, her institutional priorities are good for the disenfranchised when they are just the opposite.


      I actually laughed when when I heard Trump won and thought “that’s what you get for fucking cheating”. No guilt here and I blame the DNC and Hillary for Trump; right where the blame belongs

      Done with Corporate Dems. Done. "The time is always right do the right thing." MLK
      • Stockholmer (1827 posts)
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        15. Most of the alpha Hillbots on other sites are flat out authoritarians

        They are bitter, petty people who will shill for any cause if paid enough. They also are ultra condescending snide cunts. They love the power to be school hall monitors. Many are older too, and I would wager (judging from their ‘poor is me’ whinging) made terrible life choices all throughout theirs.

        They can all fuck right off and go back to their drugs, therapy, and endless nights of sobbing tears of remorse into the pillow of regret. They are hollow little trolls. For them I say


        • Ejbr (169 posts)
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          20. Ha!!

          Not to beat a dead horse, but somehow this horse deserves it, I pointed out that Bernie is the most popular politician in the country on another nameless Hilbot site. Talk about twisting and turning to explain how that’s only true under certain circumstances. I neglected to ask under what circumstances might another politician be most popular. They think he should be removed from Dem leadership. Their delusion is not only in their reverence for the most hated candidate (under the circumstances of her losing to Trump), but also in thinking the Dems have the balls of doing that to the most popular* candidate in the country.

          *certain rules and conditions apply

          Done with Corporate Dems. Done. "The time is always right do the right thing." MLK
    • Betty Karlson (3613 posts)
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      16. Blame to deflect the nagging thought: "maybe I shouldn't have alienated

      PoC, LGBT, millennials, and progressives/ maybe I did need them after all”?

      "Someone hacks the DNC allowing all of America to see how the DNC operates as one of the most corrupt political machines in national history. Ergo, Hillary Clinton should be installed as President by judicial fiat. And if you do not agree to this scheme you deserve to be brought up on charges of treason because fascism." - NUGrrl, december 2016 “Once a person has been determined to be an UNTRUSTWORTHY LIAR, their pretend stances on important issues are simply not relevant to rational discussion.” – Ida Briggs, September 2016