Wednesday, March 30, 2011

‘AD HOMINEM’


In politics, perhaps the most common form of character assassination is the spread of allegations that a candidate is a liar. Other common themes may include allegations that the candidate is a bad or unpopular member of his family, has a bad relationship with his spouse or children, is disrespected by his former co-workers, or routinely engages in disturbing, socially unacceptable behavior, such as sexual deviancy.
(psychology.wikia.com)
Political aims can be accomplished by way of character assassination. When someone emerges into public perception who thinks and acts independently or who works at cross purposes to those in power, they often face character assassination. This is done by scandalous gossip columns in corporate tabloids or partisan news outlets. Whatever the method, the final destination for the target is the same – the death of their active characters as agents for positive change; being cast into the abyss of collective forgetting. How is this different from physical assassination? Character assassination is the murder of someone in the public consciousness. While physical assassination is carried out instantly with a bullet, character assassination is a gradual process of destroying the public image, thus incapacitating the person’s ability to freely act. This occurs without public awareness of the machinations and intentions behind the events and often without revealing who actually pulls the trigger. Blindness of one’s unconscious emotions and the mechanism of projection make one vulnerable to manipulation. People are impelled to react to outer compulsion. The control of perception works to activate repressed emotions and desires. The public then becomes like a group of rats in a lab. With simple stimulus of threat or reward the desired responses from the people are attained.
(Character Assassination of Julian Assange by Nozomi Hayase aworldbeyondborders.com) Competition in many spheres of social, professional, and political life often looks like a contest of words and images. To win in a political race or secure a desirable place in the eyes of public opinion, people use a wide range of such symbols, labels, and descriptions. Very often such descriptions of other people are clear exaggerations and even distortions. They repeatedly aim not at other people’s actions but rather at their personality. By attacking an individual's personal life, facts of biography, and specific individual features (which we will call them "character" for convenience) the attacker tries to achieve a specific goal: to hurt the victim politically, morally, socially, or psychologically and thus, depending on circumstances, remove him or her from a contest, sway public opinion, or achieve some other goal.
More than fifty years ago, Jerome Davis in his classic book, “Character Assassination” tried to show that the attempts to smear someone's reputation are rooted in crystal clear political motivations and count on the public's "fear, ignorance, envy, suspicion, malice, jealousy, frustration, greed, aggression, economic rivalry, emotional insecurity and an inferiority complex.” Collective character assassination is a form of summary punishment.
In the Soviet Union in the 1930s, in China in the 1940s and Vietnam in the 1950s, the ruling Communist Parties began unprecedented campaigns of accusations, lies, and distortions targeting a summary character of so-called rich peasants who were designated in this category by Marxist ideology and politics. These peasants were routinely portrayed as greedy, mean, arrogant, uncaring, and disinterested in government’s policies. Songs and literature pieces were created to inflict further damage. In doing so, the governments attempted to justify political violence against the well-to-do peasantry and to clean up the way toward total collectivization of agriculture in these countries.
Since the 1960s until today, the famous Russian author and Soviet dissident, Alexander Solzhenitsyn in different times but consistently was accused of being a Jew, a traitor, a Nazi collaborator, a prison snitch, and a western paid agent. His letters to his former wife were published and several quotes deliberately taken away and exposed. According to the attackers, he was a selfish, histrionic individual caring only about his fame and drawing attention to self. He was accused of sadistic attempts to destroy the otherwise great reputation of the Soviet Union.
(Character Assassination: a Cross-Cultural and Interdisciplinary Approach, Presented at the ISPP Annual Meeting, Paris 2008 by Eric Shiraev, Fred Bemak, and Rita Chungof George Mason University, USA at allacademic.com)
Individuals have been falsely labeled liars, embezzlers, frauds, hypocrites, or worse. The charges have sometimes been republished by third parties paid to do so who have made character assassination their stock and trade. Lost in all of this are truth, decency, and the underlying reasons why the person was attacked. Oftentimes character assassination has been used as a means to obfuscate important issues or to advance a private agenda at public expense. It is generally wise counsel to view with particular skepticism any person who attempts to win support through an attack on the character of an opponent. Whenever we see such an attack, we should recoil from it, become contemplative, and examine in detail the reputation of the person making the charge. If we rely on that approach, we are less likely to be deceived and more likely to appreciate that the character attack is usually a foil designed either to obfuscate the real issue or to place doubt in our minds concerning the message conveyed on the erroneous premise that the validity of the message necessarily turns on the character of the messenger. Among the vilest people are those who resort to character assassination in lieu of frank statements of disagreement or serious argument. We see resort to attack on character frequently in politics, but it is becoming increasingly more commonplace in charged arguments over science and medicine. Wherever it appears, it suggests an underlying illicit motivation on the part of the one casting aspersion, but it can succeed in damaging deservedly good reputations, particularly when the one casting aspersion has an apparent position of prominence and access to major media and the one being maligned does not.
(THE CHARACTER ASSASSINS By Attorney Jonathan Emord at newswithviews.com) Character assassination techniques do not need to be true. 'Mud sticks' as they say and an accusation of wrong-doing is enough to sow the seeds of doubt in the minds of others. Witch-hunts, both ancient and modern use such methods. Politicians are famed for their attacks on their political opponents, from sly innuendo to dragging skeletons from hidden closets. Their allies and enemies in the media do this too, and a libelous headline can cause damage that no retraction can erase. Storytelling may be used in the assassination process, framing the person as a villain and weaving a story around them about their evil deeds. Stories seem truer than simple assertions and so have greater power. Most of the population of a country depend on the media for the 'truth', which gives the media immense power and hence also a target for politicians who may try to influence or even infiltrate newspapers and other broadcasters. With the advent of the web and blogging, the situation is more confused as both propagandists and anti-propagandists make bold assertions that are impossible to verify.
(changingminds.org)


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