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It’s ugly. No one will deny the intensity and revolting events that have taken place since the election of Donald Trump. In one sense, destroying another’s reputation is not new; but the collaboration in order to take down the President and his administration is a process I’ve not seen in my lifetime. It’s character assassination. I’d like to define that term, provide a few examples of the ways it’s been practiced historically, and how is different in these times.
Character assassination is slandering a person with the intention of destroying public confidence in that person. Further, I believe it is an evil act. Dennis Prager explains that these actions actually violate the Ten Commandments, specifically the Eighth Commandment, “Do not steal.” After explaining how stealing a person (enslaving) is prohibited, as is taking away a person’s property, he talks about the most egregious type of stealing:
Stealing a person’s good name—whether through libel or slander or gossip—is a particularly destructive form of theft. Because unlike money or property, once a person’s good name has been stolen, it can almost never be fully restored.
There are many methods for assassinating peoples’ character:
Discredit them, showing their arguments and decisions are weak and they are incapable in their work.
Use defamation, damaging the good reputation and name of others.
Demonize them, turning them into bad people that everyone hates, such that anything they do will be considered bad.
Dehumanize them, treating them as a ‘thing’ and framing them as non-human with negligible values.
I believe we have seen all of these tactics widely used against Donald Trump. If we are to approach this subject honestly, we also have to look at the attacks that have been made by the right against Trump’s opponents. If we are relying on facts, without the strategies listed above, and refraining from hyperbole as much as we possibly can, we may or may not be assassinating a person’s character.
There are countless examples of character assassination in our history. Abraham Lincoln may have sustained the worst verbal and written onslaughts. The media frequently called him an ape, a baboon, a monster, a Negro, an idiot, and a buffoon. His actual performance allows us today to see his greatness and how disgusting these attacks were. So the passing of time can eventually mend the damage of one’s reputation.
Several differences set our times apart from past actions of character assassination. One is the role of the media. The media have demonstrated an overwhelming left slant for many years; they have always denied this label, trying to show their unbiased credentials. Today, the media blatantly, almost proudly, flaunt their liberal bias and declare their willingness to distort the truth. Attacking President Trump by demonizing and discrediting him in any way becomes a badge of honor. I think it is fair to say that they want to destroy him. There are those who believe that the media, not the Left or the Democrat party, are driving the rhetoric about Trump.
The far left and the Democratic Party also have no qualms about destroying Trump. The lies, distortions and demonizing that they have attached to Trump are too numerous to mention here. In spite of actions and proof to the contrary, his mental and physical health have been questioned; in spite of his support of the middle class and tax breaks, they deny these benefits have gone to the American people; in spite of his promise to de-regulate government and trying to eliminate Obamacare, he has been accused of essentially calling for death sentences for the American people. The media, of course, publicize these attacks.
Organizations that have been celebrated for their ethics and non-partisan work until now, appear to be working with the media and the Democrats. The FBI, and potentially the DOJ, have joined the fray.
The difference in these times for those engaging in character assassination is the level of coordination and complicity by the media, the Left and the Democrat Party, and the intelligence community.
Maybe we should have seen these extreme efforts coming for a long time. Or maybe it just needed a controversial, obnoxious, non-politically correct presidential nominee, now President, to strip off the masks of greed, hatred, and evil.
I think a key reason that the groundwork was laid for these attacks is the decay of the moral fiber of this country. Secularism and its rejection of Judeo-Christian values show how easily we carry out our desire for revenge, for winning, for destruction and how incapable we have become of demonstrating respect and compassion.
I don’t mean to suggest that people shouldn’t be subject to criticism; that’s not the point. We do, however, need to look at our motives, at the tone of our language, the amount of facts vs. hyperbole, and whether we are maintaining our own integrity when we write or speak.
My final message is this: I have found myself disparaging people in ways that are truly hateful and hyperbolic. It has become easier over time, as I act out my rage against forces that I can’t control. I want a scapegoat, someone to blame, to hold accountable. But if I’m not careful, I will turn into the very people and institutions I despise.
I need to be stronger. I need to be more conscious. I need to be true to my beliefs and values. I am the one who wants and expects to be held to a higher standard.
What about you?