Blame Assignment in a Diffuse Disaster Situation: A Case Example of the Role of an Emergency Citizen Group

August 1984 (VOL. 2, NO. 2)

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Blame occurs frequently after disasters, yet, the process of blame is a neglected topic of disaster research. Our study looks at how a grassroots citizen\\'s group blamed a local company for air pollution and health problems. The blaming process directed toward the company aided in the mobilization of the citizen\\'s group but also prevented any immediate issue-oriented actions. As blame directed toward the company decreased within the group, solidarity within the group decreased. Yet, as blame decreased within the group, issue-oriented actions by the group increased. The placement of blame by the group had both positive and negative consequences for their goals. Comparing this case with other studies of blame in disaster, we found: 1) placing blame does not lead to structural changes in the social system, 2) organizations can be the focus of blame, and 3) only one target of blame can exist. In addition, we suggest that the type of disaster (diffuse or focalized, and technological or natural) may have an impact upon who or what becomes the target of blame.