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Encyclopedia > Demagogy

Demagogy (from Greek demos, "people", and agogos, "leading") refers to a political strategy for obtaining and gaining political power by appealing to the popular prejudices, fears, and expectations of the public — typically via impassioned rhetoric and propaganda, and often using nationalistic or populist themes. Political power is a type of power held by a person or group in a society. ... For with(out) prejudice in law, see Prejudice (law). ... For other uses, see Fear (disambiguation). ... expectation in the context of probability theory and statistics, see expected value. ... Rhetoric (from Greek ρήτωρ, rhêtôr, orator, teacher) is the art or technique of persuasion, usually through the use of language. ... Propaganda is a specific type of message presentation directly aimed at influencing the opinions or behavior of people, rather than impartially providing information. ... Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix Nationalism is an ideology [1] that holds that a nation is the fundamental unit for human social life, and takes precedence over any other social and political principles. ... Populism is a political philosophy or rhetorical style that holds that the common persons interests are oppressed or hindered by the elite in society, and that the instruments of the state need to be grasped from this self-serving elite and used for the benefit and advancement of the...


The term is commonly used as a political pejorative: political opponents are described as "demagogues", while politicians approved of are "men of the people", or "statesmen". Look up pejorative in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... The term statesman is a respectful term used to refer to diplomats, politicians, and other notable figures of state. ...

Contents


Uses and definitions

The early 20th century American social critic and humorist H. L. Mencken, known for his "definitions" of terms, defined a demagogue as "one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots." H. L. Mencken Henry Louis Mencken (September 12, 1880 – January 29, 1956), better known as H. L. Mencken, was a twentieth-century journalist, satirist, and social critic, a cynic and a freethinker, known as the Sage of Baltimore and the American Nietzsche. He is often regarded as one of the...


Though this definition emphasizes the use of lying and falsehoods, some point out that demagogy does not require such, but that skilled demagogues often need use only special emphasis by which an uncritical listener will be led to draw the desired conclusion himself, seeding a belief that is self-reinforced rather than one based on fact or truth. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ...


Demagogues may make use of logical fallacies, though persuasion may require no use of logic. While it may not rely heavily upon outright lies, the use of half-truths, omissions, and distortions are what define demagogy — it is, in essence, giving bad-faith arguments for the purpose of political gain. In philosophy, the term logical fallacy properly refers to a formal fallacy: a flaw in the structure of a deductive argument which renders the argument invalid. ... A distortion is the alteration of the original shape (or other characteristic) of an object, image, sound, waveform or other form of information or representation. ... Argument may refer to: (in logic) a logical argument, that is, an attempt to prove a demonstration of the truth of a conclusion based on the truth of a set of premises (in mathematics) at least three different things: a parameter or independent variable that is the input to a...


Another famous usage was by the aging Erich Ludendorff, who after being a strong supporter of the early rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, after learning of Hitler's appointment as Chancellor, expressed his disappointment to German President Paul von Hindenburg: Ludendorff in 1918 Erich Ludendorff (sometimes given incorrectly as Erich von Ludendorff) (April 9, 1865 – December 20, 1937, Tutzing, Bavaria, Germany) was a German Army officer, noted as a general during World War I. Ludendorff was born in Kruszewnia near Posen, Prussia (now PoznaÅ„, Poland). ... Nazi Germany, or the Third Reich, commonly refers to Germany in the years 1933–1945, when it was under the firm control of the totalitarian and fascist ideology of the Nazi Party, with the Führer Adolf Hitler as dictator. ... The head of government of Germany has been known as the Chancellor (German: Kanzler) ever since the creation of the post. ... Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg, known universally as Paul von Hindenburg (2 October 1847 – 2 August 1934) was a German Field Marshal and statesman. ...

"By appointing Hitler Chancellor of the Reich, you have handed over our sacred German Fatherland to one of the greatest demagogues of all time. I prophesy to you this evil man will plunge our Reich into the abyss and will inflict immeasurable woe on our nation. Future generations will curse you in your grave for this action."

Hitler indeed would become regarded as perhaps the definition of a demagogue, having successfully risen to power through appeals to the ethnic and nationalistic prejudices and vanities of the German people —exploiting a political base of embittered and misled war veterans and nationalists and directing blame at minority and other convenient scapegoats ("Dolchstosslegende"). Hitler further consolidated his power through means of fear and intimidation, and targeted killing of German political dissidents and intellectuals ("Gleichschaltung"). The scapegoat was a goat that was driven off into the wilderness as part of the ceremonies of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, in Judaism during the times of the Temple in Jerusalem. ... Magazine title from 1924, example of a propaganda illustration in support of the legend The Dolchstoßlegende or Dolchstosslegende, (German dagger-thrust legend, often translated in English as stab-in-the-back legend) refers to a social mythos and persecution-propaganda and belief among bitter post-World War I German... The German word Gleichschaltung â’½ â’¾ (literally synchronising, synchronization) is used in a political sense to describe the process by which the Nazi regime successively established a system of totalitarian control over the individual, and tight coordination over all aspects of society and commerce. ...


Methods of demagogy

Methods not involving violations of logic

Apples and oranges — mixing of incomparable quantities. For example, "our government has increased social spending by 5 billion dollars, while the previous government has increased it only by 0.4 percent." Obviously, the latter sounds like less, but one cannot be sure without an absolute value. Some different types of apples Apples and oranges refers to the idiom comparing apples and oranges, which is used to indicate that two items or groups of items have not been validly compared. ...


Half-truth — making statements that are true only in a strict and relatively meaningless sense. For example, "the opposition have accused us of cutting foreign aid, but actually our government has increased foreign aid by 500 million dollars," not mentioning that (adjusted for inflation) the allocated funds have in fact gone down. Half-truths are deceptive statements, that include some element of truth. ...


False authority — relying on the general authority of a person who is not proficient in the discussed topic. For example, "the professor read my book, and liked it very much," omitting the fact that it was a professor of chemistry who read a book on anthropology. An appeal to authority is a type of argument in logic, consisting on basing the truth value of an otherwise unsupported assertion on the authority, knowledge or position of the person asserting it. ...


Methods involving violation of logic

False dilemma — assuming that there are only two possible opinions on a given topic. For example, "Smith is not with us, therefore he is against us," ignoring the possibility of a neutral position or divergence. The logical fallacy of false dilemma (in some sources falsified dilemma), which is also known as fallacy of the excluded middle, false dichotomy, either/or dilemma or bifurcation, involves a situation in which two alternative points of view are held to be the only options, when in reality there exist...


Demonization — identifying others as a mortal threat. Often this involves scapegoating — blaming others for one's own problems. This is often advanced by using vague terms to identify the opposition group and then stereotyping that group. This allows the demagogue to exaggerate this group's influence and ascribe any trait to them by identifying that trait in any individual in the group. This method can be aided by constructing a false dilemma that portrays opposition groups as having a value system that is the polar opposite of one's own, as opposed to simply having different priorities. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... The scapegoat was a goat that was driven off into the wilderness as part of the ceremonies of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, in Judaism during the times of the Temple in Jerusalem. ...


Straw man — mischaracterizing the opposing position and then arguing against the mischaracterization. The straw man fallacy is a rhetorical technique (also classified as a logical fallacy) based on misrepresentation of an opponents position. ...


Loaded question — posing a question with an implied position that the opponent does not have. Many questions, also known as complex question, loaded question, or plurium interrogationum (Latin, of many questions), is a logical fallacy. ...


Arguments unrelated to a discussion

Unrelated facts — bringing unrelated facts that sound in favor of the speaker's agenda. For example, "Our beverages do not contain sodium deoxycholate". This is probably true, but the mentioned chemical is a detergent, and should not be contained in any beverage whatsoever. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ...


Emotional appeal or personal attack — attempting to bring a discussion to an emotional level. For example, "Everyone is against me!", "Can't I be right just once?", "You're stupid!", "You are demagoguing!" or just the classic retort "Shut up!" An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin, literally argument against the person) involves replying to an argument or assertion by attacking the person presenting the argument or assertion rather than the argument itself. ...


See also

The phrase Big Lie refers to a propaganda technique which entered mass consciousness with Adolf Hitlers 1925 autobiography Mein Kampf. ... In philosophy, the term logical fallacy properly refers to a formal fallacy: a flaw in the structure of a deductive argument which renders the argument invalid. ... Many questions, also known as complex question, loaded question, or plurium interrogationum (Latin, of many questions), is a logical fallacy. ... Look up Polemic in Wiktionary, the free dictionary Polemic is the art or practice of inciting disputation or causing controversy, for example in religious, philosophical, or political matters. ... Sophism was originally a term for the techniques taught by a highly respected group of philosophy and rhetoric teachers in ancient Greece. ...

References

  • B. Katzenelenbaum, "Demagogiya — opyt klassifikacii", Nauka i zhizn 9 (1989); in Russian; available online (accessed July 10, 2006).

 
 

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