The Blame Game

The complete guide to blaming: How to play and how to quit.

Going Down in Blames

Blames here, Blames there, Blames, Blames Everywhere!

I needed a new camera and couldn't decide between Canon and Nikon. After going through all of the advantages and disadvantages of each one, I decided on the Canon. Immediately afterward, I kept hearing about Canons. Perhaps it was a story on the news about antique canons, or about the Canon Company's new innovations. It was as if the universe was now directed toward the word canon. We have all had similar experiences; you think about some person, place, or thing and then that word starts to appear everywhere that we look.

Well, I wrote a book about Blame. Obviously I was interested in the subject, so it isn't unusual that I think a lot about blaming. But I've got to tell you that since I wrote the book, I am inundated with the word blame. Everywhere I look, every TV show and news article centers around, or in some way refers to blaming. Of course, it isn't my fault (not solely anyway) that blame is so pervasive in our society. The fact that I wrote a book about blaming probably did not significantly influence how often the word is used. Still, I can't believe how frequently blatant blaming occurs. Here are a few recent examples from the news referring to blames and blaming.

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• "Study Blames Humans for Half of Recent Arctic Ice Melt." (Sci-tech today.com, 8-16-11)
• "New Catholic Study of Sex Abuse Blames Everyone But The Priests." (Politicususa.com. 5-23-11)
• "A European Union Monetary Official Blames Poor Communication for Market Jitters..." (New York Times, 8-5-11).
• "Levin blasts Ron Paul for recent comments blaming America for 9/11." (TheRightScoop.com 8-31-11).
• "Selena Gomez Blames Junk Food for Recent Hospitalization." (Popeater.com 6-16-11)
• "Foxconn Blames Dust for Chengdu Explosion, Says New Policies in Place." (AllthingsD.com 6-2-11)
• "Assigning Blame: Floyd Mayweather vs. Victor Ortiz" (Opposingviews.com 9-18-11)
• "Solyndra: Blame It On Bush, Say Obama Officials." (abcnews.go.com 9-14-11)
• "US Report Spreads Blame for BP Oil Spill." (News.discovery.com 9-15-11)
• "We all bear some blame for The News of the World." (Thebusinessethicsblog.com 7-8-11)
• "Work-Family Conflict: Who's to Blame?" (PsychCentral.com 6-3-11)
• "Blame Iran by "News" without any facts." (MoonofAlabama.org 7-6-11)
• "Yahoos in Charge: Blame the Board." (cbsnews.com 9-6-11)
• "Blame Game Vitriol Demonstrates S&P Disgust." (Foxnews.com 8-7-11)
• "Blame Brain Cells for Lack of Focus." (ScienceNews.org 5-3-11)
• "In Pressure Cooker, Marketers Lay Blame on Advertising." (Adage.com 9-5-11)
• "Hackers to Blame for PlayStation Network Outage - Sony." (Computersandvideogames.com 4-23-11)
• "JFK Runway Collision: Who's to Blame." (cbsnews.com 4-13-11)
• "Minn Shutdown Prompts Political Blame Game" (cbn.com 7-11)
• "Is Discrimination to Blame for Black Unemployment Rate?" (newsone.com 5-24-11)
• "Analysis: Commands partly to blame in PT deaths" (Navytimes.com 3-7-11)
• "Who's to Blame for Anorexic Children?" (New.discovery.com 8-9-11)
• "If Tech News is Boring, Blame the Free Market." (Techi.com 7-27-11)
• "Blame It on Fox News: The New Liberal Campaign to Close Down the Network" (Pajamasmedia.com 8-4-11)
• "Obama Blames the Internet for High Unemployment." (nation.foxnews.com 8-17-11)
• "Obama Blames Politics for S&P Cut." (TheStreet.com 8-8-11)

It seems that in every newspaper that I open, every journal that I read, every TV show or TV news broadcast that I watch, blaming is front and center.

I'm not quite sure who or what is at fault for so many blaming references. Should we blame nature or nurture for our societal reliance on accusations? It's not that we should never perform a root cause analysis and attempt to determine appropriate causation. However, when we do this it should be with the purpose of improving safety, satisfaction, and/or efficiency.

We can and should look at whom or what is responsible if it will make things better in the future. Otherwise, blaming in the media is solely for the purpose of shifting responsibility, entertainment, or political gain. Doing this perpetuates a negative environment and supports a never-ending series of finger pointing.

The focus on blaming is not the pathway to positivity. Rather, it is through ubiquitous finger-pointing that we will go down in blames.

Neil Farber, M.D., Ph.D., an Associate Professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, is a member of the IPPA and the author of The Blame Game.

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