Shame on You: Public Humiliation as Punishment

By Martijn Icks Social media have made public shaming all too easy. With great frequency, cries of moral indignation resound on the Internet, aimed at persons who have allegedly misbehaved or uttered disgraceful statements. These people suddenly find themselves beleaguered by digital torch-and-pitchfork mobs, ready to slaughter their good name. They are lambasted in furious …

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CARP 2019 Conference “Character Assassination and Populism”

Fairfax, VA – George Mason University’s Character Assassination and Reputation Politics (CARP) Research Lab hosts its second international conference “Character Assassination and Populism: Challenges and Responses” on March 15-17, 2019. One primary characteristic of today’s global society is the growing public distrust in traditional authorities. In the context of institutional legitimacy crisis, there is a great demand for …

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On Western Paternalism, Suffering Others, and White Knight Syndrome

By Sergei A. Samoilenko In March 2012, Teju Cole, an American writer, photographer, and art historian, wrote on his Twitter account, “The fastest growth industry in the US is the White Savior Industrial Complex. The white saviour supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening.” It …

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Highlights from Perspectives on Character Assassination

By Sergei Samoilenko This past Friday, Jennifer Keohane, Eric Shiraev and I participated in a panel on the topic of “Perspectives on Character Assassination at the Institute of World Politics in the historic red brick Marlatt Mansion just a few blocks from the White House. Our event was apparently “sold out” online, and we had …

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On #MeToo and Brandjacking of Social Movement Campaigns

Clearly, a brandjacked and counterfeited social cause is a serious issue. When pinpointing and punishing a few guilty scapegoats is generally prescribed as a solution to a complex issue, there is less urgency to promote real structural changes. By trivializing the campaign, multiple influencers with vested interests stonewall the necessary development of numerous matters such as women’s autonomy, broken legal systems, and institutionalized structural violence in Hollywood.

The Declining Importance of Character and Other 2018 Trends

By Sergei Samoilenko Many media and political analysts struggle to adequately explain today’s reputation scandals. Oftentimes, they attempt to grasp the recent downfall of powerful public figures only in terms of causes and effects of human activity. Clearly, personal motifs and emotions partially explain the nature of many scandals and accusations. In 2018, it will …

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Why Character Assassination Is A Misleading Term (But we continue to use it anyway)

By Martijn Icks Character assassination is an eye-catching word. It triggers associations with murder and violence, with slashed throats and dripping poison. It’s a word that lends itself well to being spoken with righteous indignation: “My character has been assassinated!” Immediately, we’re prompted to sympathize with the victim and despise the dastardly perpetrator who committed …

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