Demagogue  

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"A demagogue obtains political power by appealing to the popular prejudices, fears and expectations of the public — typically via impassioned rhetoric and propaganda, and often using nationalist or populist themes." --Sholem Stein


"The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots. The demaslave is one who listens to what these idiots have to say and then pretends that he believes it himself. Every man who seeks elective office under democracy has to be either the one thing or the other, and most men have to be both." --Notes on Democracy by H. L. Mencken

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A demagogue (from Greek δημαγωγός, a popular leader, a leader of a mob, from δῆμος, people, populace, the commons + ἀγωγός leading, leader) or rabble-rouser is a leader in a democracy who gains popularity by exploiting prejudice and ignorance among the common people, whipping up the passions of the crowd and shutting down reasoned deliberation. Demagogues overturn established customs of political conduct, or promise or threaten to do so.

Demagogues have appeared in democracies since ancient Athens. They exploit a fundamental weakness in democracy: because ultimate power is held by the people, it is possible for the people to give that power to someone who appeals to the lowest common denominator of a large segment of the population. Demagogues have usually advocated immediate, forceful action to address a national crisis while accusing moderate and thoughtful opponents of weakness or disloyalty.

Etymology

From Middle French démagogue, from Ancient Greek δημαγωγός (dēmagōgós, “popular leader, mob leader”), from δῆμος (dêmos, “people”) + ἀγωγός (agōgós, “guide”).

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Demagogue" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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