Gillian Gibbons languishes in a Sudanese prison on account of a teddy bear named Mohamed. But the animal at the heart of the bizarre events in Khartoum is not a bear, but a goat; specifically, a scapegoat.
In Old Testament times, a goat was ritually driven into the wilderness during Yom Kippur, taking it with it the sins of the people: Leviticus 16: “And the Goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited.” A scapegoat is the innocent person held responsible for the misdeeds of others, to divert attention from problems or shield the guilty. Sociologists describe scapegoating as “an effective temporary means of achieving group solidarity”. It is one of the oldest and cruellest forms of political propaganda.