This could apply to a single person, but also to a group of people or even a nation. Is there a word for the widespread tendency to express disapproval towards someone who is unable to accomplish something or succeed at something? Examples include criticism of a politician who loses his/her election, or disapproval of a sports team that doesn't qualify for an official competition, but also ridicule of an ordinary person who fails an examination or cannot obtain a job. These are instances where people often tend to become hypercritical and unsympathetic. What expressions can best define this attitude?

P.S.: I am not saying that people are bad by definition; nonetheless, I think that the attitude that I am trying to describe exists!


4 Answers 4


Either "fickleness" or a less succinct term, "fair weather friend" could apply here.

Being a Chicagoan who's sport teams are legend for performing stellarly or abysmally, depending on the year, I have witnessed "fickleness" of the sports fans at it's worst.

In a one-on-one situation, between two people, someone who is a friend during good times but distances themselves when the other person is down or going through hard times can be called a "fair weather friend".

  • 1
    Well, but when have the Cubs performed stellarly? I do know that they haven't won a single World Series since they moved into their new stadium. Jun 20, 2014 at 16:58
  • @Cyberherbalist - I should have asterisked that answer because Cubs fans are the exception to the rule - they are true blue eternal optimists that the pendant is theirs...next season! lol! Jun 20, 2014 at 17:04

In a psych class I took, we discussed herd/mob mentality: how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behavior. Herd mentality is used when it's something neutral or positive, while mob mentality carries the negative connotation.

Another possible option is that the person is simply bigoted: having or revealing an obstinate belief in the superiority of one's own opinions and a prejudiced intolerance of the opinions of others.


A name for the tendency itself, to express disapproval of failure in the context of competition or the social ladder? I am unsure I can answer that...but let's see if I can help make a step in the process :-)

This excerpt was taken from LINK and specifically references Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals I:X. 171

Whether it is through intellectual superiority or in terms of brute strength, the nobles always emerge on the top of the social hierarchy. The triumphs come to them naturally. Any obstacle, any challenge, or any opposition is overcome effortlessly. In a sense, the nobles see their enemies and opposition as a welcome challenge that measures their own strength and nobility, and helps them to “affirm themselves even more gratefully and delightedly.”

I think, that the example you provided demonstrates a self-serving approach. There may be a correlation to the behavior and the social hierarchy. There's always a contrast to which we hold ourselves. What you describe, affirms the social superiority by making a sharp contrast against the failures of others; yet, to condone such actions, could easily be considered a weakness.

Could it be as simple as arrogance with a big scoop of ignorance? Kicking down to kick yourself up? A form of selfishness to enrich the ego and brag about not being the example in front of you, that so obviously failed, why? Because I would have done that much better? Is that the implied message being given here? Are they just opposition to be trampled, challenges they can dare speak against as they now failed in front of their eyes? Or is it much less personal? The judgement against failing, as failing is not acceptable, harsh but very true for survival and not evil per se. To appear better, as a noble, by the failure of others, for both a mob and a single person, is that not just false justification of your own superiority, so, arrogance?

Perhaps another may find the word with this description, it eludes me as well as it frustrates!


The term Social Darwinism has the denotation of

a sociological theory that sociocultural advance is the product of intergroup conflict and competition and the socially elite classes (as those possessing wealth and power) possess biological superiority in the struggle for existence (M-W online)

The attitude of so-called Social Darwinists would be to look down on the weak or poor and view their weakness or poverty as a result of natural selection. (I add "so-called" because they would probably not apply this term to themselves, as it has a pejorative connotation.)

Take a look at the first two verses of God Bless the Child (written by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog, Jr. ref)

Them that's got shall have

Them that's not shall lose

So the Bible says and it still is news

Mama may have, Papa may have

But God bless the child that's got his own, that's got his own

Yes the strong get smart

While the weak ones fade

Empty pockets don't ever make the grade

Mama may have, Papa may have

But God bless the child that's got his own, that's got his own

The song expresses both Social Darwinism ("Them that's not shall lose") and the accompanying disparagement ("Empty pockets don't ever make the grade").

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