Dur good name and reputation depend more on what we conceal than on
what we reveal. Everyone makes mistakes, but those who are truly clever
manage to hide them, and to make sure someone else is blamed. A convenient scapegoat should always be kept around jor such moments.
Near the end of the second century A.D.,

 as China's mighty Han Empire
slowly collapsed, the great general and imperial minister Ts'ao Ts'ao
emerged as the most powernd man in the country. Seeking to extend his
power base and to rid hirnself of the last of his rivals, Ts'ao Ts'ao began a
campaign to take control of the strategically vital Central Plain. During the
siege of a key city, he slightly miscalculated the timing for supplies of grain
to arrive from the capital. As he waited for the shipment to come in, the
army ran low on food, and Ts'ao Ts'ao was forced to order the chief of
commissariat to reduce its rations.
Ts'ao Ts'ao kept a tight rein on the army, and ran a network of informers. His spies soon reported that the men were complaining, grumbling
timt he was living weIl while they themselves had barely enough to eat.
Perhaps Ts'ao Ts'ao was keeping the food for hirnself, they murmured. If
the grumbling spread, Ts'ao Ts'ao could have a mutiny on his hands. He
summoned the chief of commissariat to his tent.

 "I want to ask you to lend me something, and you must not refuse,"
Ts'ao Ts'ao told the chief. "What is it?" the chief replied. "I want the loan of
your head to show to the troops," said Ts'ao Ts'ao. "But I've done nothing
wrong!" cried the chief. "I know," said Ts'ao Ts'ao with a sigh, ;
'but if I do
not put you to death, there will be a mutiny. Do not grieve-after you're
gone, I'Il look after your farnily." Put this way, the request left the chief no
choice, so he resigned hirnself to his fate and was beheaded that very day.
Seeing his head on public display, the soldiers stopped grumbling. 

saw through Ts'ao Ts'ao's ge sture, but kept quiet, stunned and intimidated
by his violence. And most accepted his version of who was to bIarne, preferring to believe in his wisdom and fairness than in his incompetence and
Ts'ao Ts'ao carne to power in an extremely tumultuous time. In the struggle
for supremacy in the crumbling Han Empire, enemies had emerged from
all sides. The battle for the Central Plain had proven more difficult than he
imagined, and money and provisions were a constant concern. No wonder
that under such stress, he had forgotten to order supplies in time.
Once it became clear that the delay was a critical mistake, and that the
army was seething with mutiny, Ts'ao Ts'ao had two options: apology and
excuses, or a scapegoat. Understanding the workings of power and the imCI/E L\l n'STlCE
A great calamity befell
the town of ehelm one
day. The town cobbler
murdered one of his
customers. So he was
brought before the
judge, who sentenced
him to die by hanging.
When the verdict was
read a townsman arose
and cried out, "Ifyour
Honor pleases-you
have sentenced to death
the town cobbler! He :5
the only one we've got.
If you hang him who
will mend our shoes?"
"Who? Who?" cried all
the people of ehelm
with one voice.
The judge nodded in
agreement and reconsidered his verdict.
"Good people of
ehe/m, " he said, "what
you say is true. Since
we have only one cobbler it wou/d be a great
wrong against the community to let him die.
As there are two
roofers in the town let
one ofthem be hanged
instead. "
LAW 26 201
202 LAW 26
portance of appearances as he did, Ts'ao Ts'ao did not hesitate for a moment: He shopped around for the most convenient head and had it served
up immediately.
Occasional mistakes are inevitable-the world is just too unpredictable. People of power, however, are undone not by the mistakes they
make, but by the way they deal with them. Like sUfgeons, they must cut
away the tumor with speed and finality. Excuses and apologies are much
too blunt tools for trus delicate operation; the powerful avoid them. By
apologizing you open up all sorts of doubts about yoUf competence, your
intentions, any other mistakes you may not have confessed. Excuses satisfy
no one and apologies make everyone uncomfortable. The mistake does
not vanish with an apology; it deepens and festers. Better to cut it off instantly, distract attention from yourself, and focus attention on a convenient scapegoat before people have time to ponder YOUf responsibility or
YOUf possible incompetence.
I would rather betray the whole world than let the world betray me.
General Ts 'ao Ts 'ao, c. A.D. 155-220
For several years Cesare Borgia campaigned to gain control of large parts
of Italy in the name of his father, Pope Alexander. In the year 1500 he
managed to take Romagna, in northem Italy. The region had for years
been ruled by a series of greedy masters who had plundered its wealth for
themselves. Without police or any disciplining force, it had descended into
lawlessness, whole areas being ruled by robbers and feuding families.
To establish order, Cesare appointed a lieutenant general of the regionRemirro qe Orco, "a cruel and vigorous man," according to Niccolö
Machiavelli. Cesare gave de Orco absolute powers.
With energy and violence, de Orco established a severe, brutal justice
in Romagna, and so on rid it of almost all of its lawless elements. But in his
zeal he sometimes went too far, and after a couple of years the local population resented and even hated hirn. In December of 1502, Cesare took decisive action. He first let it be known that he had not approved of de Orco's
cruel and violent deeds, which stemmed from the lieutenant's brutal nature. Then, on December 22, he imprisoned de Orco in the town of Cesena, and the day after Christmas the townspeople awoke to find a strange
spectade in the middle of the piazza: de Orco's headless body, dressed in a
lavish suit with a purple cape, the head impaled beside it on a pike, the
bloody knife and executioner's block laid out beside the head. As Machiavelli concluded his comments on the affair, "The ferocity of this scene left
the people at once stunned and satisfied."
Cesare Borgia was a master player in the game of power. Always planning
several moves ahead, he set his opponents the cleverest traps. For this
Machiavelli honored rum above all others in The Prince.
Cesare foresaw the future with amazing clarity in Romagna: Only brutal justice would bring order to the region. The process would take several
years, and at first the people would welcome it. But it would soon make
many enemies, and the citizens would come to resent the imposition of
such unforgiving justice, especially by outsiders.

 Cesare hirnself, then,
could not be seen as the agent of this justice-the people's hatred would
cause too many problems in the future. And so he chose the one man who
could do the dirty work, knowing in advance that once the task was done
he would have to display de Orco's head on a pike. The scapegoat in this
case had been planned from the beginning.
With Ts'ao Ts'ao, the scapegoat was an entirely innocent man; in the
Romagna, he was the offensive weapon in Cesare's arsenal that let hirn get
the dirty work done without bloodying his own hands. With this second
kind of scapegoat it is wise to separate yourself from the hatchet man at
some point, either leaving hirn dangling in the wind or, like Cesare, even
making yourself the one to bring hirn to justice. 

Not only are you free of involvement in the problem, you can appear as the one who cleaned it up.
The Athenians regularly maintained a number of degraded and useless
beings at the public expense; and when any calamity, such as plague,
drought, or famine, befeil the city ... [these scapegoatsl were led about ...
and then sacrificed, apparently by being stoned outside the city.
The Colden Bough , Sir !ames George Frazer, 1 854-1 941
The use of scapegoats is as old as civilization itself, and examples of it can
be found in cultures around the world. The main idea behind these sacrifices is the shifting of guilt and sin to an outside figure-object, animal, or
man-which is then banished or destroyed. The Hebrews used to take a
live goat (hence the term "scapegoat") upon whose head the priest would
lay both hands while confessing the sins of the Children of Israel. Having
thus had those sins transferred to it, the be ast would be led away and abandoned in the wildemess. With the Athenians and the Aztecs, the scapegoat
was human, often a person fed and raised for the purpose. Since famine
and plague were thought to be visited on humans by the gods, in punishment for wrongdoing, the people suffered not only from the famine and
plague themselves but from blame and guilt. They freed themselves of guilt
by transferring it to an innocent person, whose death was intended to satisfy the divine powers and banish the evil from their midst. 

It is an extremely human response to not look inward after a mistake
or crime, but rather to look outward and to affix blame and guilt on a convenient object. When the plague was ravaging Thebes, Oedipus looked
everywhere for its cause, everywhere except inside hirnself and his own sin
of incest, which had so offended the gods and occasioned the plague. This
profound need to exteriorize one's guilt, to project it on another person or
object, has an immense power, which the clever know how to hamess. SacLAW 26 203
204 LAW 26
rifice is a ritual, perhaps the most ancient ritual of all; ritual too is a wellspring of power. In the killing of de Orco, note Cesare's symbolic and ritualistic display of his body. By framing it in this dramatic way he focused
guilt outward. 

The citizens of Romagna responded instantly. Because it
comes so naturally to us to look outward rather than inward, we readily accept the scapegoat's guilt.
The bloody sacrifice of the scapegoat seems a barbaric relic of the
past, but the practice lives on to this day, if indirectly and symbolically;
since power depends on appearances, and those in power must seem never
to make mistakes, the use of scapegoats is as popular as ever. What modem
leader will take responsibility for his blunders? He searches out others
to blame, a scapegoat to sacrifice. When Mao Tse-tung's Cultural Revolution failed miserably, he made no apologies or excuses to the Chinese
people; instead, like Ts'ao Ts'ao before hirn, he offered up scapegoats, indu ding his own personal secretary and high-ranking memher of the Party,
eh' en Po-ta.
Franklin D. Roosevelt had a reputation for honesty and fairness.
Throughout his career, however, he faced many situations in which being
the nice guy would have spelled political disaster-yet he could not be
seen as the agent of any foul play. For twenty years, then, his secretary,
Louis Howe, played the role de Orco had. He handled the backroom deals,
the manipulation of the press, the underhanded campaign maneuvers. And
whenever a mistake was committed, or a dirty trick contradicting Roosevelt's carefully crafted image became public, Howe served as the scapegoat, and never complained.
Besides conveniently shifting biarne, a scapegoat can serve as a waming to others. In 1631 a plot was hatched to oust France's Cardinal Richelieu from power, a plot that became known as "The Day of the Dupes." It
almost succeeded, since it involved the upper echelons of govemment, induding the queen mother. But through luck and his own connivances,
Richelieu survived.
One of the key conspirators was a man named Marillac, the keeper of
the seals. Richelieu could not imprison him without implicating the queen
mother, an extremely dangerous tactic, so he targeted Marillac's brother, a
marshai in the army. This man had no involvement in the plot. Richelieu,
however, afraid that other conspiracies might be in the air, especially in the
army, decided to set an example. He tried the brother on trumped-up
charges and had hirn executed. In this way he indirectly punished the real
perpetrator, who had thought hirnself protected, and warned any future
conspirators that he would not shrink from sacrificing the innocent to protect his own power. ,
In fact it is often wise to choose the most irbocent victim possible as a
sacrificial goat. Such people will not be powerful enough to fight you, and
their naive protests may be seen as protesting too much-may be seen, in
other words, as a sign of their guilt. Be careful, however, not to create a
martyr. It is important that you remain the victim, the poor leader betrayed
by the incompetence of those around you. If the scapegoat appears too
weak and his punishment too cruel, you may end up the victim of your
own device.

 Sometimes you should find a more powerful scapegoat-one
who will elicit less sympathy in the long run.
In this vein, history has time and again shown the value of using a
elose associate as a scapegoat. This is known as the "fall of the favorite."
Most kings had a personal favorite at court, a man whom they singled out,
sometimes for no apparent reason, and lavished with favors and attention.
But this court favorite could serve as a convenient scapegoat in case of a
threat to the king's reputation. The public would readily believe in the
scapegoat's guilt-why would the king sacrifice his favorite unless he were
guilty? And the other courtiers, resentful of the favorite anyway, would rejoice at his downfall. The king, meanwhile, would rid hirnself of a man who
by that time had probably learned too much about hirn, perhaps becoming
arrogant and even disdainful of hirn. Choosing a elose associate as a scapegoat has the same value as the "fall of the favorite." You may lose a friend
or aide, but in the long-term scheme of things, it is more important to hide
your mistakes than to hold on to someone who one day will probably turn
against you. Besides, you can always find a new favorite to take hi� place.

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