Liberal democracies face multiple external challenges from autocracies across the world, as well as internal challenges from populist politicians, nativism, and the normalization of incivility in media and political discourses. Character assassination (CA) often accompanies these political and social conflicts, especially when unresolved ideological and moral issues are involved. Social conflicts become aggravated when moral issues intermix with political and economic factors. Factions then resort to persuasive attacks on character to delegitimize and disempower their opponents. This increased polarization and aggressiveness of elite rhetoric likely foster voters’ cynicism and discontent with politics as usual. The increasing gap between liberal elites and the disgruntled electorate, in turn, likely provides even more fertile ground for intra-elite conflict, and paves the way for illiberal conceptions of the democratic order.
Dr. Marlene Laruelle, Director of the Illiberalism Studies Program and the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES), The George Washington University: https://www.marlene-laruelle.com/
Prof. em. Marisa Linton, author of Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship and Authenticity in the French Revolution (2013) and Terror: The French Revolution and its Demons (2021), Kingston University London: https://www.kingston.ac.uk/staff/profile/professor-marisa-linton-1106/
Prof. Simon Burrows, author of Blackmail, Scandal, and Revolution: London’s French Libellistes, 1758-92 (2006), Western University Sydney (currently visiting Radboud Excellence Professor): https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/staff_profiles/WSU/professor_simon_burrows
Mr. Pavel Palazhchenko, former chief English interpreter for Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and head of the Gorbachev Foundation
Martijn Icks, Faculty of Humanities at University of Amsterdam; Alessandro Nai, Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR) at University of Amsterdam; Edwina Hagen, Faculty of Humanities at VU University
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