Here is a list of a few examples of character assassination. If you want to learn about defending against it, check out our post, here.
- Napoleon removed a man named Rutger Jan Schimmelpennick from power because of a character attack. He ruled the newly formed Dutch republic, and crafted an image as a family man. But his enemies managed to destroy his reputation by accusing him of a scandalous private life.
- Presidents on both sides of the isle in recent times have been the subjects of character assassination. Clinton was accused or sexual assault, Bush was framed as an idiot, Obama was purported to have no legitimate birth certificate, Trump was accused of womanizing, and Biden was accused of sexual assault and dementia. The truth or falsity of all these claims is irrelevant to purpose of this article.
- Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was accused of sexual misconduct in 2010. He argues that it was a false claim and a way to get him extradited. WikiLeaks has a history of publishing confidential information on corruption, like the Democratic Party’s national committee favoring Clinton over Sanders, torture in Guantanamo bay, and lies associated with the Iraq war.
- Monks and nobles often attacked young kings for immaturity in order to expand their influence. They called them tyrants and associated feminine and negative masculine characteristics with their image. These young leaders were called irrational, sensual, and gullible.
- Printing saw a sharp increase and change in how character assassination was used. Cartoons, pamphlets and defamation scripts spread easily. Martin Luther attacked the Catholic church by printing pamphlets that pointed out the corruption in the clergy. He even attacked the papacy, associating it with an Antichrist figure.
- Posthumous character assassination was used in the Roman Empire by historians and biographers. They could cast emperors in negative or positive light, thereby influencing present behavior. This was done tactfully, often by talking positively about things that made the leader seem egotistical, immoral, or lustful. They described the elegance of their houses, parties, and behaviors. They referenced their sexual conquests.
- During the French Revolution saw slander rise as a powerful tool. The public distrusted politicians, so rivals started slandering each other. Many were executed because of this despite frequent lack of evidence.
- Just after the revolution that saw Mao Zedong and the Communists come to power, two party officials were character attacked. They were accused of flaws like selfishness, arrogance, and infidelity.
- Celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger were character assassinated as well. Even before his run as Governor, he was criticized by some as unintelligent and only successful because of his physique. Music stars often character assassinate each other to drum up album and concert sales. Celebrates sometimes use character assassination during divorce proceedings.
This is an excellent book on character assassination throughout history.