Studies Show the Negative Consequences of ‘Competitive Victimhood’

Thomas Lifson, American Thinker, August 2, 2017

Research by three Belgian professors at the Université Libre de Bruxelles makes some interesting observations about victimhood and how aggrieved groups “engage in ‘competitive victimhood’ in a quest for recognition of past sufferings such as slavery and colonialism.”

Toni Airaksenin of PJ Media:

Laura De Guissmé and Laurent Licata, professors at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, made the claim in a recent article in the European Journal of Social Psychology, further finding that the struggle for victimhood can “foster intergroup conflict” such as a desire for revenge, increased hostility, and racism against other minorities.

Consequences of competitive victimhood are especially dangerous, the professors note, because they can contribute to the escalation of conflict (for example, with regards to the Israel/Palestine conflict), reduce trust and empathy, and impede the resolution of conflicts by peaceful means (heightening the threat of violence).

While the need for recognition is part of human nature, the desire for recognition of “past sufferings” can be especially problematic. This is because past sufferings often involve feuds between different tribal, ethnic, or racial groups – feuds which oftentimes have persisted to the present (past slavery of African Americans is one example), and thus have present-day consequences.

Much of the information gleaned for the studies is self-evident.  From the study:

The victim status is highly coveted because it tends to empower victimized groups, which are perceived as morally superior, entitled to sympathy, consideration, and protection against criticism.

The race card, the woman card – the perception that these “victims” hold the moral high ground and any criticism is further evidence of oppression has become common in the U.S. in recent years.

Airaksinen continues:

Conversely, the lack of victimhood status poses a problem to minorities, since it reduces their ability to garner attention, protection, and even financial rewards (reparations, for example). This explains why the denial of victimhood status can be so troubling: denial of victimhood recognition can lend credence to a denial of help and assistance.

While much of the literature on minorities’ desire to claim victimhood status is largely theoretical, Guissmé and Licata conducted three studies at their university to learn more about the negative consequences of victimhood.

For one study, they surveyed 133 Belgian Muslims on their sense of victimhood and their levels of anti-Semitism. The sense of victimhood among Muslims was gauged by how much respondents agreed with statements such as “Muslims have a huge past of sufferings” and “The suffering Muslims have been through was undeserved and unfair.”

Then, the Muslims were asked questions designed to gauge if they held anti-Semitic viewpoints, such as “Jews should stop constantly complaining about what happened to them in Nazi Germany” and “The Jews exploit the remembrance of the Holocaust for their own benefit.”

In line with the professors’ predictions, the survey found that feelings of anti-Semitism were strongly correlated with feelings of victimhood among Belgian Muslims. Further, the study also found that anti-Semitism was especially strong towards Israelis in particular, who were viewed with significantly more hostility than Belgian Jews.

The studies imply that we’re not finished with creating more “victims.”  The next great frontier of victimhood may be morbidly obese people fighting for their “rights.”  This is actually an outgrowth of the women’s movement, which is looking to identify obesity as another way for males to oppress women – objectifying them based on their looks.  It’s only a matter of time before the “fat lobby” is legitimized as representing “victims,” and a whole new subset of “rights” will be promoted.

What I found most interesting about the study is the conflict among victim groups as they struggle for recognition and moral authority.  In the U.S., some of the most passionate supporters of civil rights were Jews.  There was a close alliance between the two minority groups during the 1960s.

But today, civil rights groups have abandoned Jews in favor of supporting their tribal enemies, the Arabs.  Some blacks even claim racial solidarity with Arabs.  The BDS movement is strong in the black community, especially on campus, and because of that, support for the Palestinians has become a civil rights litmus test.

Are these victimhood groups overplaying their hands and losing sympathy and support because of their outrageous statements and behavior?  Even if it isn’t happening now, I think it inevitable.  No one likes to constantly be told he is evil, nor does he really need constant reminders of past injustices.  There is such a thing as “outrage fatigue,” and only the most dedicated leftist will be able to avoid it in the near future.

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