The Demagogue

What is The Demagogue?

Sounds like some kind of evil demon or something. In reality, it can be much, much worse.  Something that I have seen more and more of lately is the proliference of demagogy and misinterpretations used in politics. By definition demagogy is:

A strategy for gaining political power by appealing to the prejudices, emotions, fears, vanities and expectations of the public—typically via impassioned rhetoric and propaganda, and often using nationalist, populist or religious themes. (via Wikipedia)

I understand that it has happened since the days of ancient greece, but with todays media outlets, it seems to be even more in your face, yet invisible at the same time.  What do I mean by that?  Well, it all boils down to ignorance.  I do not use that in a derogatory manner, but as a statement of what our great country seems to have slid its way into.  Unlike those on the left, I do not single out a single party or side to be ignorant, but instead encompass them all.

Our country is made up of several different kinds of people:

  • Those who “Don’t Know what they Don’t Know” (Ignorance is Bliss)
  • Those who “Don’t Know what they Know”
  • Those who “Know what they Know”
  • Those who “Know what they Don’t Know” (Ignorance is a Challenge)

Why do I split these groups as such, well this is why.  If you do not know what you do not know, then you are left with little knowledge besides what somebody tells you.  If you do not realize what you know, then, again, you are left to the whimsy of what somebody says, yet has some skepticism towards it.  If you know what you know, yet ignore what you don’t kn0w, you end up locked into a mindset, becoming a “so-called expert” in a subject, yet ignorant on points that may prove your belief incorrect.  Lastly, if you know what you don’t know, then you realize that there are other options, opinions, and other points of view, that may contradict with yours, but provide you with a springboard to discover them.  In turn you are able to integrate them with your beliefs, or at least understand where another person is coming from.

Most people are a combination of one or two of these.  But in today’s age of 24-hour news, a growing number are becoming those who either “Don’t Know what they Don’t Know” or “Don’t Know what they Know.” Because of this, more are being lead purely by headlines.  This is only excentuated by how sites and news is read by regular everyday folks. [1][2][3] Studies have shown that most people would rather scan an article, sometimes even going through the first paragraph, and moving on, instead of reading an entire article.

The Media Circus

News sources have taken full advantage of this, and usually attempt to “get their point across” in the beginning, leaving the rest of the article to sort out the details.  A little bit of a “shock factor.” Because of this, concepts contradicting the point trying to be put across is usually left for the very end, or burried somewhere in the middle of an article.  Since most folks are either going to be too busy to go through all the details, or simply don’t want to read the whole thing, misinformation becomes prevalent.

This is highlighted in the “Battle of the Broadcasters” between MSNBC and Fox News (just two examples). These stations are almost purely on opposite sides of the political spectrum.  Each one tossing mud at the other.  I am not going to say that I am unbias, because I do see far more “slams” from the left towards Fox News, then I do Fox News tossing mud back (not that it doesn’t happen). However, that is all that is really seen by the average viewer/user/reader. Nothing but a big circus of information.  Whichever side hits home best, is going to be the “right” side.

Stepping Up

However, there is light at the end of this media tunnel.  With the proliferation of “newsfeeds” and streams of content from nearly everywhere available, those of us who would rather have all our information together before debating something are able to properly cite sources, as unbias as possible. As I did earlier I’m not going to say that I am purely unbias, because that would not be true; however, I will say that I try to come at things from all sides.  Because of this, I am able to participate in discussions with evidence to back my beliefs or points.  But, like most things, it is not easy.  You have to actually do the research, but that is what proper journalism is, even if it is opinion based.

It is here that “The Demagogue” has no power.  It can roar and scream and pound its chest, but it will only end up looking like a fool. But there are consequenses. Facts can be skewed. If a proper method is followed, this can be avoided, but it is a tedious step to take.

The Many Shapes of “The Demagogue”

Let’s take one of the queen Demagogues for example, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. This dear woman, bless her heart, is adamant about what she believes in, whether it be true or not.  The problem, is since she is in a position of power, is that credibility and clout are easier to gain. Every time that I see her talk about those on the right, it is always the same thing, “they don’t like the poor, they want to kill social security and medicare, and want more money for the rich at the cost of the poor.”  By saying this, she “tugs at the heartstrings,” attempting to get the empathy vote on her side, yet cannot back up anything that she says, or at least has yet to do so with anything outside of her own opinions, or interpretations of snippets of information. This is the purest form of demagoguing in that it has no basis, yet is taken as fact because of her position.

Let’s take another example in Ms. Elizabeth Warren. Much like Ms. Pelosi, she will tug at the heartstrings, sometimes genuinely speaking of the working class, yet quickly turning to studies that she had done, ignoring any from other sources contradicting her. Her famous statement, touted by those on the left, “Nobody has gotten where they are on their own.” She then continues to lead into a rant about how companies, whether they are doing good or not, are only doing so because they are “shipping goods on roads that we paid for, and hiring workers that we paid to educate.” Yet there are a few facts left out.  In rebuttal to her statement, I would point out that each time that the company paid for gas for their trucks, they also “paid for those roads.” Yet that is ignored.  Just as the fact that she does not know that every one of those workers was in public schools, or if they went to college purely on government grants. Yet again, these nuances are ignored, and because she has become so popular, and pushed all the right buttons, is taken as fact.  This is not necessarily the purest form of demagoguing, but the most “malicious” for lack of a better word.  To know otherwise, yet ignore or leave out a fact because it is “inconvenient,” is not the way to properly make a point in your favor.

Slaying “The Demagogue”

Here comes the hard part. It is impossible to remove all propaganda, impassioned rhetoric, or forced appeals from public consumption. No matter which side of the aisle that you are on. However, it is possible to stand up against it.

I believe that we can stand up for what we believe in, and be passionate about it; however, unless you can back up your points, you best keep them to yourself.  Nobody wants to be preached to.