What You Say When Someone Plays the Victim Card
by Gene Griessman, Ph.D.
There are real scapegoats—blameless individuals and groups that are punished unfairly because of who there are. And then there blameworthy individuals and groups that play like they are scapegoats, victims. Sometimes this behavior is called “playing the victim card.”
Here’s an illustration. Right not in the United States, a lot of ill will is directed toward Wall Street. The Occupy Wall Street Movement is just one highly visible reaction to the deep negative feelings that are simmering over the growing disparity of wealth and the staggeringly high compensation that some on Wall Street are getting.
Eliot Spitzer, former Governor and State Attorney General of New York, was interviewed about this subject on PBS, on October 23, 2011. On this program it was reported that Goldman Sachs had just declared a quarterly loss of $393 million, only the second since the firm went public in 1999. Poor Goldman Sachs! Well, not really. Maybe poor stockholders. But not poor privileged few. It was reported on that same show that the firm has set aside a staggering $10 billion for bonuses.
So when a reporter asked Spitzer if Wall Street is an easy target to attack, Spitzer replied, “It’s true that Wall Street is an easy target, but that’s not the reason it’s a target.” He then explained that Wall Street has become an easy target because some of its bad behavior is flagrant, overly greedy, and highly visible.
Spitzer’s reply can be used to describe more than just bad behavior on Wall Street.
You can use a version of his reply when someone who’s misbehaving tries to play the victim card on you. If that individual says, “You’re finding fault with me because I’m a woman, or because I’m a man, or because I’m Jewish or African-American or Muslim,” you can use Spitzer’s reply as a template.
Say, “It is true that I’m finding fault with what you did, but it’s not because you’re a woman or a man, etc. It’s because what you did is a problem.”
Playing victim is a favorite technique of wrongdoers. Knowing what to say to them gives you and advantage.
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