To complement Christie’s work, I provide a framework for ideal perpetrators. They are 1) perceived as strong, 2) abstractable (inhuman), 3) representative of the nature of the crime, and 4) have a champion-opponent, someone who keeps them in the news.
To demonstrate, I use the example of the French National Railways (SNCF), which for the past decade has found itself embroiled in lawsuits and legislative battles in the U.S. over its role in the World War II deportation of Jewish deportees towards death camps.
This article, published in Security Dialogue, side-steps the question of the SNCF’s guilt (addressed more fully in my forthcoming book), focuses on why the SNCF remains in the news while other culpable actors hide in the shadows (i.e. the French police who conducted the round-ups and corporations like IBM and Ford).
When we focus on one perpetrator, many other guilty parties hide in the shadows, like the guard in the photo above. Furthermore, by isolating the perpetrators always as someone or something outside ourselves, we skip the important work of considering how we, our policies, our societal values, etc. contribute to mass violence. Without this work, we will likely find ourselves in conflict again.
Scholar Vivienne Jabri argues the creation of these victim and perpetrator groups is violence. Once we begin to exclude members of society, we begin the process of legitimizing violence against them. We then become the agents of suffering and the cycle continues. If the processes of separating victims and perpetrators is violence, is it not vital to understand how we select our perpetrators?
FOR THE FULL ACADEMIC ARTICLE PLEASE VISIT:
Security Dialogue Federman, Sarah. The 'ideal perpetrator': The French National Railways and the social construction of accountability
Albright, Madeline, Conversation after presentation From Words to Action, the Responsibility to Protect, The United States Holocaust Museum, July 23, 2013.
Braithwaite J (2004) Restorative justice: Theories and worries. Visiting Experts’ Papers: 123rd International Senior Seminar, Resource Material Series 63: 47-56.
Christie N (1986) The ideal victim. In: Fattah EA (ed.) From Crime Policy to Victim Policy. London, UK: Macmillan, 17-30.
Federman, Sarah. The Last Trains to Auschwitz: The French National Railways’ Role in the Holocaust and the Struggle to Make Amends. (Under review)
Jabri V (1996) Discourses on Violence: Conflict Analysis Reconsidered. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.
Minow M (1999) Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History after Genocide and Mass Violence. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.