Would you believe that there is a whole section of science devoted to studying how to ruin a person’s reputation? Well today we are going to discuss the science of character assassination, what it is, and how it works. Stick around until the end to learn how a Character Assassination story was powerful enough to lead to murder.
What Qualifies As Character Assassination?
Character assassination is a process (and outcome) that aims to attack a person’s public identity, usually by attacking their image and reputation in a sustained manner. It is sometimes referred to as a smear campaign. It also can harm the person psychologically.
Why Do People Character Assassinate? What Is Their Psychology?
Character Assassination is simply a tool that can be used by anyone. However, people who Character Assassinate range from simply competitive individuals who want to win, all the way to narcissists and sociopaths. The latter either are looking for entertainment, are unaware of what they are doing, or don’t care. The attacker sees Character Assassination as a method for:
- Swaying the undecided to agree with them.
- Preventing people from defecting to the other team.
- Creating uncertainty around the target.
Frequently seen in hyper competitive areas like politics, offices, and social groups, character assassination is commonly used as a tool to lower someone else’s status in order to win a competition. Examples of character assassination involve simple things like a social group gossiping about a person’s eminent divorce, all the way to complex and coordinated political smear campaigns aimed at would be presidents.
What Are Some Character Assassination Technique Examples?
Character Assassination works best in individuals and groups who already have some level negative emotion towards the victim. One study introduced such emotions “fear, ignorance, envy, suspicion, malice, jealousy, frustration, greed, aggression, economic rivalry, emotional insecurity, and inferiority complexes.” (Page 222 of Davic. 1950).
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Here are some of the assassination techniques.
- Anonymous Lies – In revolutionary times letters circulated that alleged that Washington wanted to abandon the revolution. They were forged with his signature.
- Silencing – In the 1960’s, Russian Prime Minister Khrushchev’s name was erased from all magazines after he resigned.
- Name Calling – Abraham Lincoln was called an ape, baboon, monster, idiot, and traitor.
- Mental Illness Accusations – People in the USSR were labeled mentally ill when they fought against the government.
How These Techniques Were So Effective That They Led To MURDER! (A Real Character Assassination EXAMPLE)
As this man lay on his deathbed, he specifically pointed to one play as the source of the public’s hatred.
The play was written by someone named Aristophanes. It tells a story of a man and his son. The man wants to get out of paying some debts he has accrued. He seeks instruction at an academy, which teaches people how to “make a wrong argument sound right.” In a twist of fate, the man’s son ends up using the skills he learned at the academy to justify beating his father with a stick. At the end there is so much frustration that the academy is burned to the ground.
The play contains numerous shots at the main character, who is the Character Assassination target. It describes how he spends his time with his head in the clouds studying pointless and irrelevant things. It characterizes his work as immoral and associates him with a radical group. The play calls the man miserable, contrived, and worthy of being crapped on. Most impressively of all, it justified the main character’s action in burning down the academy. If the people in the play punished this man, why shouldn’t the Athenians?
The man was Socrates. Socrates admitted to frustrating people. He used questions to show them how little they knew. He knew many people hated him. But Socrates also said that this hatred wasn’t something people could use to justify his punishment. How could they say “I want Socrates dead because he made me look dumb?” Instead, Socrates argues that this play gave people the justification necessary to kill. After all, Anthenian society shouldn’t permit immoral, annoying, and radical people to avoid punishment. Aristophenes had framed public opinion against Socrates.
So if someone starts attacking you just like Socrates, what should you do? Do you know the scientific steps for defending against Character Attacks? If not, check out the next article.