RHE 330E • Demagoguery-W
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
When Dogbert decided to become a national figure, he laid out the first step: become a demagogue. He told Dibert, "Ill find some issue that appeals to the emotions and blind prejudices of the masses, then I'll whip it into a media frenzy." Given the events of the twentieth century, that's a pretty good plan. It has certainly worked for lots of other political figures. Adolf Hitler blamed all of Germany's problems on a Jewish conspiracy; anyone who disagreed with him he called a Jew. Joseph McCarthy did the same thing with communists; Josef Stalin did it with capitalists; Osama bin Ladn does it with the "Zionist-Crusader Alliance." This class will focus on three main questions about demagoguery: what is it? who is a demagogue? why does it work?
We'll begin by reading some politicians who were unquestionably racist, offensive, and damaging, but troublingly effective. We will also read some demagogues who didn't (or don't) engage in racist rhetoric, but whose rhetoric relies heavily on scapegoating and hate-mongering. The second unit will focus on controversial politicians, writers, and rhetors that some people have called demagogues and others have claimed are not. The point is not to identify who really is and is not, but to learn how to make an argument without engaging in subtle forms of demagoguery--how to argue with passion and commitment, but without insulting, dismissing, or denigrating an opposition. The final unit of the course will consider the possible causes of demagoguery. How have social psychologists, historians, psychoanalysts, ethnographers, students of religion, and political theorists explained the attractions of hate-mongering? Why does it seem to work so well? Does it work better under some conditions than others? Why?
Paper 1, 1st submission (1.1) 10% / Paper 1, 2nd submission (1.2) 20%
Paper 2, 1st submission (2.1) 10% / Paper 2, 2nd submission (2.2) 20%
Paper 3, 1st submission (3.1) 10% / Paper 3, 2nd submission (3.2) 20%
Drafts, thesis statements, lists of sources, microthemes, and other in-class and short work 10%
[If there is a midterm or final, it will take the place of the drafts and thesis statements.]
Hilter, Adolf. _Mein Kampf_.
Marx, Karl. _Communist Manifesto_.
Sharton, Maurice and Janice Neuleib. _Things Your Grammar Never Taught You_.
Various essays, articles, and selections available on ERES