Character Assassination in Theory and Practice
March 3-5, 2017 | George Mason University, Arlington, Virginia
|The 2017 Conference on Character Assassination in Theory and Practice took place at George Mason University’s Arlington Campus from March 3-5, 2017. This conference welcomed numerous U.S. and international researchers and academics studying different aspects of character assassination. The conference was organized and hosted by George Mason University’s Department of Communication and the department’s Character Assassination and Reputation Politics (CARP) Research Lab. The three-day CARP 2017 conference also featured critical input from practitioners in crisis management, journalism, and public relations. |
– The contemporary media environment is conducive to incivility in political communication;
– Character-centered competition continues to prevail in political discourse and legitimize the use of character assassination;
– Impression management skills of political actors remain crucial under conditions of public distrust in institutions;
– Protracted antagonism between President Donald Trump and the press is likely to exacerbate deepening distrust in both political institutions and the media;
– Pre-emptive inoculation and image prepare strategies are recommended as viable counter-strategies against character assassination.
– The contemporary media environment is conducive to the spread of negativity and uncivil communication in political discourse. New media realities encourage news speed over news accuracy to improve television ratings and web traffic. Tabloid journalism and television entertainment normalize personal ridicule in political discourse. It will be hard for the media community to manage an ongoing legitimacy crisis amid many systemic challenges, restructuration issues, and declining investigative journalism.
– Impression management skills of political actors remain crucial under conditions of public distrust in main institutions. While public confidence in major national institutions continues to stay low across the Western world, charismatic leaders become attractive. Charisma is manifested through various techniques of persuasion and unconventional channels of political communication, such as Twitter. Political leaders who can establish authenticity against their rivals are perceived as better political candidates.
– Pre-emptive inoculation and image prepare strategies should be considered as counter-strategies against character assassination. Crisis management has become more complicated because of new Internet realities and practices. An effective way to counter misinformation, whether it be scientific arguments or attacks on scientists, is through pre-emptive inoculation. “Image prepare” seems particularly promising as a conceptual model for studying (and protecting against) character assassination.
– Protracted antagonism between President Trump and the press is likely to exacerbate deepening distrust in both political institutions and the media. Normalized uncivil political behavior will lead to subsequent desensitization of the public. This will facilitate future media campaigns with various elements of character assassination. Continuous exposure to negative elections may lead to increased levels of political cynicism and decreased levels of political participation.
– Character assassination continues to be employed by institutional actors for ideological purposes. In authoritarian societies, state-run campaigns instigate public reactions against dissenting voices or promote a government agenda. Indiscriminate use of labeling toward new figures of European and U.S. “populism” and personification of other countries through their leaders have an impact on public attitudes towards other nations and foreign policy.
– A multidisciplinary scholarly approach is required to better understand the complexity of character assassination phenomena. Character assassination (CA) research remains fragmented across multiple conceptual and analytical schools of thought. A unified theoretical framework helps better understand the numerous variables contributing to the CA process, and defenses against it.
– There is an increasing demand for constructive approaches helping to resolve the issues of incivility and character-centered politics in the public discourse. Generally, this conference predicts further popularity of manipulative rhetorical strategies targeting character, as well as normalizing uncivil behavior. There should be more discussion on how to bring back ethical standards into the political discourse and media practices.