Impeachment Hearings, Credibility, and Character Assassination

By: Jennifer Keohane Character assassination infuses the impeachment inquiry unfolding in Washington, DC, the past few weeks. While there are any number of examples to investigate, I’ll call attention to one figure: Lieutenant Colonel Alexander S. Vindman, a Ukraine expert for the U.S. Army. Lt. Col. Vindman has now testified twice before hearings convened to... Continue Reading →

Clodius the Cross-Dresser

By Martijn Icks In December 62 BCE, Rome was gripped by a bizarre scandal. Publius Clodius Pulcher, a young man from a noble family, had been caught trespassing in the house of one of the most prominent and powerful men in the city: none other than Julius Caesar. He had been trying to sneak in... Continue Reading →

Salieri vs. Mozart: Wrongfully Attacked?

By Eric Shiraev The composer Antonio Salieri (1750-1825) could not have even thought about becoming one of the most noticeable victims of character assassination after his death. He had a dynamic and fruitful musical life while serving as Kapellmeister to the emperor of Austria. Yet Salieri is known today to most people as a man... Continue Reading →

The Amsterdam Colloquium: Some Thoughts

By Martijn Icks On June 21st, Edwina Hagen and I organized the colloquium “Character Assassination! Media and Mudslinging from Caligula to King Gorilla” in Amsterdam. We invited experts on various periods in Western history to discuss practices of character assassination from an historical perspective. Comparing various case studies, we hoped to shed light on some... Continue Reading →

They Spoke In Defense of Their Contracts: Apologia in Sports

We often talk about character assassination in politics, but of course character attacks abound in other social realms as well. Sports, entertainment, academia, science, and every domain of human social life features character attacks as people compete for advantages. In the competitive arena of sports, it’s unsurprising that opponents would harbor aggressive feelings against their... Continue Reading →

On Our Terminology

By Eric Shiraev Image:Wikimedia Commons/John Tenniel "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less…." One memorable line from Alice in Wonderlandand two others that would follow have prompted these remarks on the meaning of few terms that we,... Continue Reading →

Traitors to Turkey

By Martijn Icks Ethnic minorities are particularly vulnerable to character attacks. Last March, Dutch parliament passed a motion urging the political party DENK to stop publishing intimidating video clips about MPs with Turkish roots. Signatories expressed their concern that MPs were attacked “primarily on the basis of their descent” rather than because of their political... Continue Reading →

Character Assassination in the Court of Law

Or: Why Don’t More Character Assassins get Sued? One of the things that our extensive research into character assassination has uncovered is the staying power of this communication strategy through the ages. As Martijn Icks’s work demonstrates, character attacks can be traced back to our democratic forefathers in ancient Athens. We’ve also seen character assassination... Continue Reading →

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