Beware the demagogue!

Demagogues, also known as ‘rabble-rousers’, are political leaders who speak directly to people’s fear and insecurities, feeding the view of the world as a dangerous and threatening place; just the sort of views that Altemeyer (1981) has linked with the development of Right Wing Authoritarianism (RWA), an ideological attitude dimension which is heavily correlated with generalised prejudice (Cohrs et al 2012).

Demagogue tend to talk in terms of national crises and advocate swift and decisive action and encourage condemnation of anyone who supports a more measured or moderate approach. Exposure to such people, directly or through print, television or social media could lead to increased prejudice and/or discriminatory behaviour.

While people with high RWA scores may be especially vulnerable to this kind of rhetoric due to their desire to seek security and stability (Allport 1954), in times characterised by political and economic insecurity and unrest, demagogues may have more widespread appeal and thus be instrumental in channeling feelings of dissatisfaction and frustration into blame and hate directed at minorities.



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