Victims and Blame

September 9, 2010
Posted by Jay Livingston

“Blaming the victim.” William Ryan wrote the book and coined the phrase forty years ago to characterize explanations of poverty that ignored large social and economic forces and instead looked only at the behavior of poor people. If only they would anticipate the consequences of their choices in education, work, and family, theorized the victim-blamers, they would make other choices and rise from poverty. (My post on a very recent example is here.)

Now Courrier International, a Paris weekly with the tagline “L'anticipation au quotidien” takes blaming the victim to a new level. Here’s the English language version.

In the latest instance, Saatchi & Saatchi France used an image of the New York skyline with a shorter twin towers, two airplanes flying innocuously over the buildings. The tagline? “Learn to anticipate”.

HT: Polly, who, hélas, is no longer in Paris and not blogging so much.


Anonymous said...

i've always hated the phrase "blaming the victim" because it smuggles in the assumption that structure trumps agency. Not to say that it doesn't, but it's something that needs to be established rather than assumes.

Anyway, as to the Saatchi and Saatchi thing, it's not only in bad taste but it's also not even an original exercise in bad taste.

Jay Livingston said...

Gabriel, I’m given to understand that in the field of entertainment, popular music for example, a very few performers account for a very large proportion of sales. How do we explain why the vast majority of performers toil in relative obscurity and don’t make much money? No doubt individual factors can explain who gets to be a star. Presumably, Lady Gaga is more talented than the legions of unknowns. But if those unknowns worked harder and improved their acts, would the structure change and let a thousand Lady Gagas bloom?

As for the ads, they are both non-US. I’m assuming that ad agencies like Saatchi and Saatchi and DDB must have some sense of their audience. So it’s possible (and I'm just guessing) that people outside the US have a range of views of 9/11 broader than the US orthodoxy, a range that includes ideas that in this country are blatant heresy.