Routledge Handbook of Character Assassination and Reputation Management: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Routledge Handbook of Character Assassination and Reputation Management

1st Edition

Edited by Sergei A. Samoilenko, Martijn Icks, Jennifer Keohane, Eric B. Shiraev


450 pages

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Hardback: 9781138556584
pub: 2019-07-31
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In modern politics as well as in historical times, character attacks abound. Words and images, like symbolic and psychological weapons, have sullied or destroyed numerous reputations. People mobilize significant material and psychological resources to defend themselves against such attacks. How does character assassination "work" and when does it not? Why do many targets fall so easily when they are under character attack? How can one prevent attacks and defend against them?

The Routledge Handbook of Character Assassination and Reputation Management offers the first comprehensive examination of character assassination. Moving beyond studying corporate reputation management and how public figures enact and maintain their reputation, this lively volume offers a framework and cases to help understand, critically analyze, and effectively defend against such attacks. Written by an international and interdisciplinary team of experts, the book begins with a theoretical introduction and extensive description of the "five pillars" of character assassination: (1) the attacker, (2) the target, (3) the media, (4) the public, and (5) the context. The remaining chapters present engaging case studies suitable for class discussion. These include:

  • Roman Emperors
  • Reformation Propaganda
  • The Founding Fathers
  • Defamation in US Politics
  • Women Politicians
  • World Leaders
  • Autocratic Regimes
  • European Leaders
  • Celebrities
  • Nations
  • Internet campaigns

This handbook will prove invaluable to undergraduate and postgraduate students in communication, political science, global affairs, history, sociology, and psychology departments. It will also help researchers become independent, critical, and informed thinkers capable of avoiding the pressure and manipulations of the media.

Table of Contents


1. Character Assassination. Theoretical Framework (Martijn Icks, U of Amsterdam, Eric Shiraev, George Mason U, Jennifer Keohane, U of Baltimore, & Sergei A. Samoilenko, George Mason U)

2. Inoculation Theory against/as Character Assassination (Josh Compton, Dartmouth College, US)

3. The Traumatic Psychological Impact of Character Attacks on Targets (Eric Shiraev, George Mason University & Olga Makhovskaya, The Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia)

4. Character Assassination as a Structurational Phenomenon (Sergei A. Samoilenko, George Mason U)

5. Cross-Cultural Comparisons of Character Assassination (Eric Shiraev, George Mason U)


6. Character Attacks on Dutch Revolutionary Adam Gerard Mappa (1754-1828) (Edwina Hagen, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands)

7. Character Assassination in the Soviet Union and Russia (Ekaterina Egorova & Elizaveta Egorova, Political Profiler, US)

8. Character Assassination of Activists in Egypt: ElBaradei as a Target (Alamira Samah Saleh, Cairo U, Egypt)

9: Character Assassination and the Contemporary Anti-corruption Campaign in the Chinese Military (Zi Yang, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)

10. Character Attacks by Dutch Populist Radical Right Leader Geert Wilders (Stijn van Kessel, Queen Mary U of London, UK)

11. Ad Hominem Attacks in Greek Politics: The Case of the 2015 Referendum (Athanassios N. Samaras, U of Piraeus, Greece, Kyriakos Kolovos, Open U, Cyprus, & Niki Papagianni, U of Piraeus, Greece)

12. The Role of Propaganda in the Character Assassination of World Leaders in International Affairs (Greg Simons, Uppsala U, Sweden)


13. Agrippina, Theodora and Fredegund as Evil Empresses in the Historiographic Tradition (Martijn Icks, U of Amsterdam)

14. The Character Assassination of Marie-Antoinette: Defamation in the Age of the French Revolution (Simon Burrows, Western Sydney U, Australia)

15. Argumentum ad Carricare as a Mode of Character Attack: Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live (Christopher J. Gilbert, Assumption College, US)

16. Corporate Character Assassination and Crisis Communication (Timothy Coombs & Sherry Holladay, Texas A&M U, US)

17. Country Reputation Assassination during the Greek Memorandum Re-Negotiations (Neofytos Aspriadis, U of Piraeus, Emmanοuil Takas, Panteion U, Greece, & Athanassios N. Samaras, U of Piraeus)


18. The Fight for Public Opinion and Memoria in the Early Roman Principate (Florian Krüpe, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany)

19. The Rhetorical and Ethical Implications of Character Assassination in the Age of McCarthy (Jennifer Keohane, U of Baltimore)

20. Character Assassination and the Nixon White House (Maureen Minielli, City U of New York, US)

21. Character Assassination and Persuasive Attack on CBS’s Face the Nation (William L. Benoit, University of Alabama at Birmingham, US)

22. Reductio ad Hitlerum as a New Frame for Political and Geopolitical Conflicts (Marlene Laruelle, The George Washington U, US)

23. Show Trials in Communist Countries: Psychology of the Ultimate Cases of Character Assassination (Martina Klicperová-Baker, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic)


24. Character Assassination in Reformation Propaganda (Scott Dixon, Queen's U, Belfast, Northern Ireland & Anita Traninger, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany)

25. Late Night TV Humor and the Culture of Ridicule (S. Robert Lichter, George Mason U & Stephen Farnsworth, U of Mary Washington, US)

26. Character Assassins and Moral Entrepreneurs: Social Media and the Regulation of Morality (Chris Ingraham, North Carolina State U, US & Joshua Reeves, Oregon State U, US)

27. Psychological Traits of Character Assassins: Studies in Cyber-Aggression (Olga Bogolyubova, University of Malta)

28. Character Assassination as Scapegoating: The Dentist Who Killed Cecil the Lion (Casey Schmitt, Gonzaga U, US)

29. Character Assassination by Memes: Mosquitos versus Elephants (Jens Seiffert-Brockmann, U of Vienna, Austria)

Conclusions and Future Research (Sergei A. Samoilenko, George Mason U, Jennifer Keohane, U of Baltimore, Martijn Icks, U of Amsterdam, Eric Shiraev, George Mason U)


About the Editors

Eric B. Shiraev is a professor and researcher at George Mason University. He is an author, co-author, and co-editor of twenty books and numerous publications in the fields of political psychology, international relations, and cross-cultural studies. Besides his teaching and scholarly work, Shiraev writes policy briefs and opinion essays for government agencies, NGOs, and the media.

Jennifer Keohane is Assistant Professor in the Klein Family School of Communications Design at the University of Baltimore. Her current research explores the rhetoric of the labor movement in the United States. She is the author of Communist Rhetoric and Feminist Voices in Cold War America, and her other research has appeared in Women's Studies in Communication, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, and Rhetoric Review.

Martijn Icks is a Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of Amsterdam. He specializes in Roman imperial history and the history of character assassination. His study on the Roman emperor Elagabalus has appeared in three languages.

Sergei A. Samoilenko is an instructor in the Department of Communication at George Mason University. His research focuses on issues in crisis communication, reputation management, and post-Soviet studies. He is a co-editor of Traditional and New Media Studies in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, and Deception, Fake News and Misinformation Online.

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