Why does no one step forward to defend the scapegoat victim? An obvious answer is that aligning with the victim risks the wrath of the mob falling on the defender too.
The other is social conformity. On the face of it, this smacks of something wormlike and intensely ignoble.
In a famous experiment, a large crowd of people agree to lie. They will say that line A is shorter than line B even though the reverse is true. Just one person is the experimental subject and this person does not know about the pact shared by the others. This person will deny the evidence of his senses and agree with the crowd. Pathetic!
But, try to think of a single thing you think is true with important ethical implications that no one else at all believes. Give up? If no support is forthcoming from anyone at all – not a friend or family member – how would this belief be maintained?
Everyone has had the experience of being wrong. It is hardly rare. So it would make sense to think that this is just one of those times.
Confronting the views of the unanimous lynch mob; of the unified crowd in the line experiment, the individual will question his senses and if the situation persists, his own sanity. Seeing or hearing things no one else can see is practically the definition of crazy. Likewise, “idiot” is related to idios, “own, private” – which indicates something significant about solitary opinions.
Most likely even the victim himself will come to share the despicable vision of himself presented by the crowd if he is ostracized rather than immolated. Ostracism instigates suicidal thoughts partly because of the pain of loneliness; partly because we come to share the opinion of the mob that we are scum.
There is a reason Jesus sought out his disciples. Arguably, divine intervention was necessary to instill courage in them due to the risk that they too would be crucified; but also to resist sharing the opinion of the mob.