From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Politics (Rated C-class, Mid-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Politics, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of politics on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Mid  This article has been rated as Mid-importance on the project's importance scale.
edit·history·watch·refresh Stock post message.svg To-do list for Demagogue:

Here are some tasks awaiting attention:
  • Article requests : *In Hitler section, explain how he subverted the democracy of the Weimar Republic. Explain how he gained and held popular support.
    • In McCarthy section, include "I hold in my hand…" and "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" excerpt
    • New famous demagogue of history: Huey Long.
    • New section, surveying the main tactics used by demagogues: anti-elitism, permanent crisis, big lie, distract from the old lie by telling a new lie, accusation of weakness, accusation of otherness. Preferably with historical examples.
    • New section, surveying attempts to prevent demagogues, such as the U.S. Founding Fathers' efforts when writing the U.S. Constitution.
    • Citing sources : Add sources to Cleon section.
This article has been mentioned by a media organization:

Andy Rooney[edit]

"...persons that have been out of the political spotlight for at least 20 years, preferably 50 or more, to avoid the entanglements that come with everyday political discourse."

OK, that makes good sense. It is the only reason to not include the brazen Andy Rooney, especially considering his impact (the number of people he reached on national television) and his masterful maintenance of his reputation as a humorist and a "good egg." He will probably be forgotten in fifty years. Anyone in that occupation is going to make his or her share of regrettable comments, but I feel that he pandered to popular prejudices.

I am impressed with much of this discussion in terms of its thoughfulness and the obvious intention to make this page meaningful. CousinJohn (talk) 20:52, 30 October 2011 (UTC)

Bill O'Reilly[edit]

While I agree that Bill O'Reilly fits the definition of a demagogue, his name is the only name mentioned in the versions that reference his "trademark" phrase. I feel that naming only one example of a demagogue is potentially POV. A reader should be left to decide for himself whether any particular figure is, in fact, a demagogue; the article provides more than enough information and examples to judge that. Therefore, I'm removing the reference to his name. If someone wants to create a list of demagogues from all political affiliations, go for it, but there's really too many of them to make it practical. Better to take the approach of giving examples of things a demagogue might say -- which the article already does -- than to name names and invite criticism based on NPOV violations. Joshua Nicholson 21:39, 15 October 2005 (UTC)

why not Rush Limbaugh and Joseph Goebbels while we're at it?
  • Due to the fine line between being a demagogue and being a political prophet, I would strongly recommend that any list on this page contain either fictional characters or persons that have been out of the political spotlight for at least 20 years, preferably 50 or more, to avoid the entanglements that come with everyday political discourse. Shying away from current day figures will greatly cut down on potential edit wars regarding who is or is not a true demagogue. --Allen3 talk 16:38, 5 November 2005 (UTC)
  • I agree that it would be better to stay away from current politicians for the sake of staying objective. However, no matter how objective and neutral one attempts to be, you cannot help noticing that every method used by demagogues is being used by the current US administration. Even though everybody knows how evil Hitler was, very few know how he got to power or what he did before WW2, and the only thing most people know about Peron is that he was married at some point to Eva. Bush and Cheney would make great real life examples for this article, much better than Hitler or Peron.
  • But putting Bush or Cheney in this is hardly following NPOV. It is much easier to look back at a historical person then it is on something that is current.
  • Furthemore--Rush Limbaugh? I mean, I hate the man, but I think it's not proper or neutral to link to him in an article like this one. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:07, 12 March 2009 (UTC)

Demagogy is much more than Hitlerian rabble-rousing...[edit]

Demagogy is inextricably intertwined with activism. Refute that in clear and unambiguous terms. IP Address 20:26, 7 May 2006 (UTC)

  • "Demagogy is inextricably intertwined with activism." In what way? Brimba 02:48, 8 May 2006 (UTC)

Demagogy stresses the "motivation of people to causes", which is exactly what activism is. IP Address 03:07, 8 May 2006 (UTC)

Writing letters and holding sit-ins is hardly the “set of methods used by demagogues.” I have worked with governments in Central Asia prior to 9/11 (Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan), and governments in Central and South America off and on for most of 20 years now. Mostly they have been run by not very nice people who use demagoguery help maintain their power – none of which has worked nicely “within” the system. Brimba 04:59, 8 May 2006 (UTC)

Your assumption is that activism is some innocent thing that never lines up with basic characteristics assigned to demagogy. I think you are biased against the common reference of demagogy to having activist qualities, because of self-consideration as an activist. By the way, these are related terms...not identical. Please stop removing the term, because they do have a very close association. IP Address 13:14, 9 May 2006 (UTC)

Rabble-rousing is the essence of demagogy. Activism isn't. The roots of the word "demagogue" mean "leader of the rabble". The term was coined in ancient Greece to refer to leaders who, thanks to the opportunities provided by democracy, rose up from the lower classes and brought vulgarity into the governing parts of society formerly dominated by the aristocracy. Demagogues appeal primarily to ignorance and the lower sorts of human urgings, such as fear of people whose looks or customs are different, the urge to do cruelty as a show of strength, and spite toward people who are better educated, have more-refined tastes, or are simply wealthier. Cleon is the prototypical demagogue, the Trope Maker. Hitler was certainly a demagogue, but atypical in a lot of ways; he was much more intellectual and theory-minded than most people, and hard for people to identify with as "one of us". Mao and Lenin were not a demagogues at all, though certainly they were activists who started class wars. (Not all mass-murdering revolutionaries are demagogues.) —Ben Kovitz (talk) 14:09, 13 June 2012 (UTC)

Cleon was a demagogue AND a warmonger (as stated by Thucydides and Aristophanes). If the assertion of him being a prototypical demagogue, you are not wrong and not right. It is how a demagogue would say it. It is as simple as: A boeddhist can be a murderer but not all murderers are boeddhists. Can you see the flaw? Jpaxel (talk) 12:33, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

Hitler was a fascist demagogue. Not all demagogues are fascists. Jpaxel (talk) 12:41, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

Problems with this article.[edit]

Demagogy is not exclusive to democracy. It has been present in all political systems. Daniel Cordoba-Bahle 17:37, 1 April 2013 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Daniel Cordoba-Bahle (talkcontribs)

Obviously, "wiki gods" do not know their logic. In keeping, it would be more helpful if the anonymous gentleman (or lady) whom "contributed" to the article their profound parenthetical parryings of the article had rather decided to update the article in accordance with Wikipedia policy. Since their statements are still valid, and I've no profound interest in demagogy, I'm leaving the state of this article to someone with a passion for it. Iffer 00:43, 11 March 2007 (UTC)

the definition quoted at the beginning of this article introduces a biased perspective without having stated a dictionary/etymological definition. i feel this article would greatly benefit from establishing the commonly accepted meaning of the term before attempting to offer any analysis thereof. such a statement is not fact, and therefore has no place as an opening statement. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Sleepy Gonzalez (talkcontribs) 03:17, 25 September 2007 (UTC)

I've eliminated some of the more patent idiocy, like the random list of irrelevant or semi-relevant logical fallacies, and the text that seemed to suggest that ancient Athens relied on demagogues as some kind of formal class trained by the sophists. But this really needs a total rewrite. --Paultopia (talk) 06:28, 28 December 2009 (UTC)

instead of deleting content, why not improve the article? the list of techniques dosn't strike me as idiotic, Ad hominem is on the list? the informal rule by demagogues, using sophist techniques is well established Pohick2 (talk) 21:11, 28 December 2009 (UTC)
I'd lean toward deletion and/or a near total rewrite. By far, this is one of the worst articles I've ever seen on Wikipedia. The article is barely tangential to the word, offers little historical genealogy of the term, and carries an irrelevant, unnecessary political bias. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Scott R (talkcontribs) 14:53, 25 June 2011 (UTC)
I gave the article a near-total rewrite. I put in the historical genealogy of the term, summarizing information from a couple leading secondary sources on the subject (the books by Michael Signer and James Ceasar). I removed the political bias and gratuitous quotations. A while ago, I put in a section on the main facts about Cleon. The article has a long way to go, but I think now it provides quick access to the leading published information and insight available on the topic. Please see the to-do list at the top of this talk page for some more work needed to improve the article, if you're interested in contributing. Demagogues are a fascinating topic; with some work, this could become one of Wikipedia's most interesting and informative articles. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 16:00, 14 June 2012 (UTC)

Title change?[edit]

Wiktionary defines 'demagogy' as 'demagogism', which is then defined in a more useful way. Also, Demagogue redirects here. I think either one of those would be a much better name for this article than 'demagogy' is. What does anyone else think? Mdotley 00:37, 10 August 2007 (UTC)

I agree. Virtually all of the serious writings that I've found on this topic talk about "demagogues" and rarely use the word "demagogy". I collected what appear to be the leading sources (see "Sources", below), and nearly all the serious ones say "demagogues". The word "demagogy" appeared about 1/4 as often in Google searches, and most of the books that came up earliest in response to "demagogy" (on Google Books) seemed to me of much lower quality—name-calling and ranting, that sort of thing. Per WP:NAMINGCRITERIA, I am renaming the page now. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 14:36, 13 June 2012 (UTC)

This article is not about demagoguery/demogogy fact, it's barely an article at all.[edit]

The article starts off promisingly enough with some actual information pertaining to the title; then we have this incongruously embedded section called "methods", which seems to dominate the article.

This so-called "methods" section simply lists a selection of logical fallacies, with no rhyme or reason as to why they are there.

If it is the case that the academic consensus is that demogogy/demogoguery comprises the deployment of logical fallacies, then state it; provide evidence in the footnotes, and link to (the) logical fallacy article(s).

Rather than NPOV, I think this article falls into the category of "original material"; i.e.: someone lecturing the world on their personal perspective on the topic, rather than actually attempting to be an objective, referenced, and informative article (not to mention being a sloppily-written, politically-biased stub).

As a response to the content; yes Hitler can be described as a demagogue; but so can many others of many political persuasions. This article implicitly argues that demagoguery = the pejorative "fascism" (whilst not even displaying any acquaintance with what "Fascism" - as opposed to "fascism" - lower case for the pejorative - is all about: Fascism does not equate to nationalism or right-wingness... most socialist states like DPRK, USSR and China are in fact Fascist!)... more to the point, this article shouldn't be arguing for anything; it should merely be informing.

Hence, please could someone append the apt tags... I won't do it, because in all my years on Wikipedia, I've learnt that some troll will always remove it, making it a waste of time!

Indeed, a list of logical fallacies is not a description of the techniques of demagogues. Agreed, let's keep the article factual and resist any temptation to turn it into a sermon. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 07:53, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

there is actually no need to list all of these examples of "demagogues" — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:33, 20 September 2013 (UTC)

Historical Context[edit]

I would like to see more discussion of demagogy as a result of the rise of Athenian democracy. The rise of oratorical leaders of the direct democracy, and ostracism mechanism serve as earlier examples i.e. Themistocles; Demosthenes. Pohick2 (talk) 23:19, 23 September 2008 (UTC)

Don't you have a keyboard and references? Nina137.111.47.29 (talk) 03:29, 10 February 2009 (UTC)

Quotes and Speculation[edit]

i restored the GBS, Weber, and Menken quotes. they are definitional quotes that appear to shed light on the subject. you could argue synthesis, but the attention of major writers shows notability of the concept. i don't see much speculation there Pohick2 (talk) 00:42, 2 August 2009 (UTC)

The quotations are fine for Wikiquote, but they don't seem encyclopedic to me. The Mencken "definition" is a wisecrack. The George Bernard Shaw quote is speculation about melodrama (should we stick {{fact}} inside the quotation?) and moralizing about different kinds of demagogues (WP:NPOV, GBS?). Weber's claim about demagogues being peculiar to Western culture is speculation, and I assume it's just wrong. The paragraph about the amazing rhetorical power of special emphasis and Hitler's real views about communists is two unrelated speculations. The quotations seems to ramble and need some context ("in this respect", "greater concern to us"). The concept of demagogy is certainly noteworthy; I don't think anyone would dispute that. But this is an encyclopedia. We want facts, not opinions, even if the opinions come from famous, respected people. Pohick2, I hope you will reconsider the revert, or perhaps rewrite in a totally new way (supported facts about the actual uses of demagogy would be really good). Thanks. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 08:23, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
mencken's work is one long wisecrack; gbs's dichotomy is a verifiable source (NPOV is by the editor, not the caveat-ed source); weber is making a sociological theory about demagogy (do you have sources that weber is wrong?)
wikipedia is not facts nor truth, but verifiable material. when you have famous people defining the terms, isn't that encyclopedic? should only non famous people write here? should it be all dry shopping lists? i agree this article needs more editing to read less as a string of pearls, but more of a piece. the german version has some of that [1] i think it can be done, with these quotes, which give a context to the history of uses of the term.
oh, and yes there was a deletion discussion about this article might as well have been given the edit wars Pohick2 (talk) 18:33, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
I also want to see the article grow into a real, substantive piece. This is an important topic. But first, here's what I think is wrong with this section. I'm unhappy to see moral judgements, declarations of opinions, and wisecracks considered a "source" just because the author is famous, and to see quotations substituting for encyclopedic writing (compilation and summary of secondary sources). The quotations are not definitions. (However, the definition in the intro is quite good.) George Bernard Shaw is not an especially reliable source of information about demagogy. Max Weber is, but we shouldn't quote him, we should just say, "Demagogues exist only in Western civilization," since that's the substance of what the source says. (Except it's probably wrong:,
OK, enough complaining. What kinds of facts would make this an informative article? Some possibilities:
* A list of famous and influential demagogues throughout history and across cultures, with brief summaries of their careers.
* Summary of main techniques of demagogues. (You could use Hitler as a source here.)
* Experiments in social psychology about people's openness to influence by demagogic techniques, and reasons why demagogues are influential.
* Sourced information (not speculations) about the motives and other psychological traits of demagogues.
Ben Kovitz (talk) 07:50, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
excellent, i kinda agree with you, this article is a stub, like the others that could be expanded, the quotes being plugs for a paragraph on the author's views (rather than saying Weber is wrong, i would say that some of his views are painfully dated) i would also say that demagogy is a political term that is bound up in "moral judgements, and declarations of opinions". i agree that fact based is better, but it's going to be hard to disentangle history and philosophy from historian's and philosopher's opinions. (i take it you want the platonic article of the form of demagogy). Pohick2 (talk) 17:34, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
The fact that "demagogue" is a term of moral condemnation definitely makes this article a challenge to write. :) BTW, googling for sources last night, I found an interesting tidbit at
Roberts-Miller issues a [call to bridge] the gap between rhetorical criticism and critical rhetoric to “revivify scholarship on demagoguery” in the hopes of facilitating more robust democratic deliberation (474).
Arguing that rhetoricians, unable to agree upon a definition of demagoguery that did not endorse positivism or brand charismatic social movement leaders as demagogues, abandoned scholarly interest in the term by the late 1980s, Roberts-Miller contends that political scientists, historians, and scholars of religious studies have all turned their theoretical and critical attention to the term. To rekindle rhetorical interest in demagoguery, she proposes the following definition ...
Ben Kovitz (talk) 19:09, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
Ben, I would have thought that Obama using the term "demagoguery" in his speech of 09/09/09 would have tipped RL into qualifying. I think, regardless of the scholarly erudition & obfuscation of this here explanations page, that going with the definition "one who preaches things they know to be untrue to people they consider idiots" provides a crystal clear distinction who qualifies.
And notice it's the _statement_ that's demagoguery, not the person.
—Phlip, 11 September 2009
Phlip, good point about statements, not people, being demagogy. About Rush Limbaugh, he's still alive, so he's not going into the article any time soon, regardless of the strength of the case that he's the Father Coughlin of our time. Obama is hardly a third party, so he's not a good source. Though I'm not thrilled with the Mencken quote, I'd be OK with including it along with more-factual information about what demagogues do and what effects they have. The real problem with the current version of this article is that it has almost no factual information on demagogy, and instead mostly quotes a few people's opinions about it. Alas, finding, reading, and summarizing the factual information is hard work. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 16:52, 11 October 2011 (UTC)

OMG the fun never ends... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:24, 11 September 2009 (UTC)

Seriously, guys, the Methods section cites living (and widely acknowledged) demagogues, but we aren't allow to list their names because we might hurt their delicate feelings...

I'm not an avid Wiki user but I do occasionally refer to it for something I'm a little unclear on. There were many entries on politics that I referred to many months ago...not long after the current (2009) Administration took office. These definitions (this entry being one) had many helpful insights in the definitions/methods categories. There were several here that gave examples of tactics (Apples and oranges; loaded questions, etc...) of demagogues. They have now been removed or disassociated with this entry. What's next guys? Are we going to start burning books? I'll bet there's a big office somewhere in Washington that goes through this site and removes stuff. They removed information on the Green Jobs Czar! Looks like this entry had a little to much information. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:58, 25 March 2010 (UTC)

Sorry, but Wikipedia is a summary of information available in other published sources, not a place to tar controversial figures as demagogues, even if they deserve it. It's not to avoid hurting people's feelings, it's just not what Wikipedia is. (Wikipedia hurts people's feelings all the time, if that makes you feel any better.) Since this article is about some of the worst kind of behavior of public figures, it should not use any living person as an example; please see WP:BLP. However, information about the methods of demagogues certainly does belong in this article. That's mainly what the article should describe. I deleted the stuff about Apples and oranges, etc., because I didn't think it was a fundamental technique of demagoguery, and it was unsourced. It seemed to me more like a general list of logical fallacies. I understand demagoguery to depend on specific kinds of emotional appeal: name-calling, scapegoating of out-groups, appeals to patriotism combined with accusations that opponents are anti-(this country), etc. A factual summary of these sorts of techniques would be a very welcome addition to this article. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 16:27, 11 October 2011 (UTC)

@Ben Kovitz Loving this remark: "Wikipedia hurts people's feelings all the time, if that makes you feel any better." But demagogery is not what you say it is. A fundemental priciple that since the dawn of democracy is connected to the word demagogue, is 'a leader of the people that uses rhetoric to preserve or gain power'. All demagogues (and dare I say most of the current political leaders) are exercising this principle, period. That it has a negative connotation is what we make of it in hindsight. Jpaxel (talk) 13:21, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

"After the July Revolution" sentence has a problem[edit]

This sentence seems to be missing something. The ending doesn't parse. Especially against? Especially by? Please check it out if you know the subject matter. Thanks. "After the July Revolution of 1830, the measures against the 'demagogic machinations' were renewed, and especially, Fritz Reuter." —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:58, 10 September 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia policy prohibits any description of a living demagogue?[edit]

I was reverted after a surprisingly long interval, fully nine hours, after adding four sources describing a modern commentator as a demagogue.[2] I could have added more, but it would do no good - as the edit summary says, a living person can't be called a demagogue based solely on the comments of his detractors, and of course, anyone calling him a demagogue is by definition a detractor. I no longer have the patience with Wikipedia to waste long times arguing for every sentence - besides, the rules on BLP are so Kafkaesque he might be right by the policy. I think I could easily add some commentator from Cuba, China, Pakistan, some far away non-American kind of place, but I can't be bothered. Wnt (talk) 03:19, 16 February 2011 (UTC)

There's nothing Kafkaesque about it: Wikipedia summarizes what reliable sources say about notable topics. Our examples should reflect the examples used in the leading literature on demagogues, both in content and relative weight. Yes, that does make it hard for a living demagogue to get into this article, even a genuine, clear-cut demagogue. However, it's theoretically possible for Glenn Beck to get in, though the bar is very high. We would need to summarize an analysis of Beck by at least one reliable source: not a source that merely calls him a demagogue, one that thoughtfully and thoroughly relates Beck's appeal to that of the great demagogues of the past. The source should clearly understand the meaning of the word "demagogue" (not just use it to mean "a bad leader"), and explain in detail why Beck is an example of the phenomenon. Another obstacle is that this article is a description of demagogues and demagoguery in general, not a comprehensive list of all the world's demagogues. Any example that we give should, beyond showing that the person is a demagogue, use the facts of that person's life to throw important light on the nature of demagoguery in general. See Demagogue#Cleon for an illustration of how this is done. A genuine demagogue who didn't throw new and valuable light on demagogues in general would be a poor choice for this article. (Admittedly, our current coverage of other demagogues is quite poor.) If the best material about Beck is only going to cause confusion for readers, especially owing to the fact that he is controversial in the present day, than it may be best to steer clear of him and use other examples. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 14:31, 13 June 2012 (UTC)

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto[edit]

The current version lists Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as a famous historical demagogue. A cursory search turned up plenty of people calling him a demagogue, so I didn't delete him from the list. However, I don't know enough about what has been written about him to tell if that's just name-calling by his opponents or a considered, scholarly assessment of his style. Can anyone else provide some info about him and why he's called a demagogue? —Ben Kovitz (talk) 16:13, 11 October 2011 (UTC)

I agree, this seemed very odd to me. He's certainly not famous to a typical English speaker, however he might possibly be famous for this to Pakistanis. I think the standard of notability has not been met since no credible source has been presented which shows that he's amongst the country's most notable demagogues. Furthermore, I expect that Pakistani opinion would be divided on that matter. My vote would be to remove this paragraph. --Salimfadhley (talk) 12:38, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
I removed it. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 14:32, 13 June 2012 (UTC)

Comments on article[edit]

The supposed telegram by General Ludendorff to President Hindenburg, which is quoted extensively in the article maybe a hoax. Read the German language article about Ludendorff. Such a prophetic telegram around 1933 would have been too nice to be true. Further, the two citation for this quote are terribly inadequate. Here is a German language article in the ViertelJahreshefte fuer Zeitgeschichte des Institutes fuer Zeitgeschichte discussing the lack of authenticity of said telegram: Lothar Gruchmann in "Ludendorffs "prophetischer" Brief and Hindenburg vom Januar/Februar 1993. Eine Legende" Page 559, 47. Jahrgang 1999/4. Heft/ Oktober (ISSN: 0042-5702) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:25, 21 January 2012 (UTC) Tbingel (talk) 22:03, 21 January 2012 (UTC)

I've taken it out. (talk) 06:42, 11 February 2012 (UTC)


Here are some serious, reliable sources about demagogy/demagogues. I haven't checked them all closely, but I'm listing them because they appear to be scholarly research, not name-calling by opponents. Please add more such sources to this as you find them. They'll help other editors looking for good material to summarize. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 15:47, 13 June 2012 (UTC)

Demagogues in general[edit]

Michael Signer. Demagogue: The Fight to Save Democracy from its Worst Enemies. Palgrave Macmillan (2009).

Modern and thorough. Takes care with definition. Details famous demagogues from history. Explains demagoguery as an inherent weakness of democracy (the traditional view), and proposes an explanation of why the United States has never faced a serious threat from a national-level demagogue. Explains why Bush was not a demagogue, regardless of one's opinion of him as a leader.

Ceaser, James W. (2011). "Demagoguery, Statesmanship, and Presidential Politics". Designing a Polity: America's Constitution in Theory and Practice. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 75–118. ISBN 1442207906. 

Scholarly, covers history back to Athens, with emphasis on the U.S. Defines and classifies demagogues.

James Fenimore Cooper. "On Demagogues." (1838).

Careful, four-part definition of "demagogue". Documents the term's ancient origin and its extension in modern times. Still pretty authoritative.

Thoms Streissguth. Hatemongers and Demagogues. The Oliver Press, Inc. (1995).

Eight examples from history: Samuel Parris (witch-hunter), Lyman Beecher (Puritan), Thomas Watson (Populist), William Simmons (KKK), Father Coughlin, Joseph McCarthy, George Lincoln Rockwell (American Nazi), Louis Farrakhan.

Aristotle. Politics.

Ancient survey of democracy and demagogues.

Reinhard Henry Luthin. American Demagogues: Twentieth Century. P. Smith (1959).

Not freely available, but widely cited. Includes Joe McCarthy.

Polybius's Histories and people's commentaries on them: Google Books search

Something in here ought to be thorough.

Basil Montagu. "The Patriot and the Demagogue" (1837).

Not sure if we need to cite it, but certainly we should offer a link to it. It's probably got something quotable, and it mentions some demagogues who might be of interest to describe in the article.

J. Justin Gustainis. "Demagoguery and Political Rhetoric: A Review of the Literature," Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Spring, 1990), pp. 155–161.

A survey of other sources on demagogues, especially their rhetorical techniques.

Cal M. Logue and Howard Dorgan, editors. The Oratory of Southern Demagogues (1981).

A survey of eight demagogues of the southern U.S., by a variety of authors. Includes an overview of demagogues in general.

G.M. Gilbert. "Dictators and Demagogues," Journal of Social Issues, Vol 11(3), 1955, 51-56.

General analysis of demagogues. (Unfortunately behind a paywall.)

Allan Louis Larson. Southern Demagogues: A Study in Charismatic Leadership (1964).

Might have a thorough analysis of defining characteristics of demagogues and how they target and exploit their followers.

Wilma Dykeman. "The Southern Demagogue," The Virginia Quarterly Review, 33.4 (Fall 1957): 558.

Appears to analyze why demagogues were so common in the southern U.S. in the early 20th century. (Behind a paywall.)

Allport, Gordon Willard. The Nature of Prejudice (25th-anniversary edition, 1979). Basic Books.

Includes a chapter on demagogues. Discusses the followers of demagogues as well as their motives and tactics.

Specifically about McCarthy[edit]

Robert Shogan. No Sense of Decency: The Army-McCarthy Hearings: A Demagogue Falls and Television Takes Charge of American Politics. Ivan R. Dee (2009).

Charles Joseph Pruitt. Demagogue McCarthy. University of Oregon. (1967)

William T. Walker. McCarthyism and the Red Scare: A Reference Guide. ABC-CLIO (2011)


I don't think the section "History and definition of the word" was written from a neutral point of view, it also has some other issues, such as not being very encyclopedic, it has far too much analysis. I Feel Tired (talk) 17:12, 2 July 2012 (UTC)

Could you please be more specific? For example, which non-neutral point of view does the section favor? —Ben Kovitz (talk) 19:05, 2 July 2012 (UTC)
Ah, sorry. I suppose I should have actually mentioned specifics. Phrases like "Cunning, uncouth, and unprincipled, demagogues appealed directly to the emotions of the poor and ignorant, pursuing power with ruthless ambition" sound both somewhat biased, and a bit unencyclopedic. Also I suppose none of the things stated in the opening paragraph are cited at all, which is probably a problem. At least that's what I think, and I suppose I could be wrong. Sorry for taking so long to reply. I hope my input is helpful. I Feel Tired (talk) 01:56, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for stopping back and presenting more detail. Clearly we face a dilemma: On the one hand, the sources really do say that demagogues are cunning, uncouth, unprincipled, and all those other bad things; those traits are part of the recurring phenomenon that the article is about, and they've been pointed out since ancient times. Yes, even Aristotle pointed out bad manners as a trait of demagogues: "[Cleon] was the first who shouted on the public platform, who used abusive language and who spoke with his cloak girt about him, while all the others used to speak in proper dress and manner." (Quoted in Ceasar 2011.) On the other hand, saying this stuff makes the article sound biased, even though we cite excellent scholarly sources. We risk coming across as doing our own analysis rather than reporting the scholarship.
My only current thought about how to handle this is simply to add more detail. For example, include the Aristotle quote. Tell more concrete stories about real demagogues and the awful things they did, but keep it all factual. Something that could help us regarding "uncouth" is Ceasar's distinction between "hard" and "soft" demagogues: since ancient times, writers have warned of soft (Ceasar sometimes says "Type II") demagogues, who are more dangerous because they dress their ruthlessness in refined style. This is all stuff the article should include anyway, so the apparent original analysis or bias might eventually just evaporate as a side-effect of continuing work on the article.
That'll probably take a long time, though. Any thoughts on how to proceed right now? —Ben Kovitz (talk) 16:28, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
I suppose we could change the most extreme descriptions such as: "Cunning, uncouth, and unprincipled, demagogues appealed directly to the emotions of the poor and ignorant, pursuing power with ruthless ambition telling lies to stir up hysteria, exploiting crises to intensify popular support for their calls to immediate action and increased authority, and accusing moderate opponents of weakness or disloyalty to the nation." or words such as "plagued" so that they get across the same information but sound less sensationalist. I think that might help. I Feel Tired (talk) 01:42, 21 October 2012 (UTC)
Thanks. Definitely an improvement. --Ben Kovitz (talk) 17:48, 23 October 2012 (UTC)

While few would disagree with the historical examples given; as with many things in politics, surely whether a person can be considered a demagogue is largely subjective? As evidenced by the suggestions of people suggested on this talk page? A populist may appeal to the lowest common denominator, but whether how they do that is wrong is often down to one's personal politics? One man's demagogue may to another be a politician who stands for the people. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:16, 18 April 2013 (UTC)

Indeed there is plenty of room for reasonable disagreement about whether specific leaders are demagogues, and indeed non-scholarly people have been using the word "demagogue" for name-calling for centuries. However, there is also an important distinction between types of leaders in a democracy, which is not simply a matter of opinion. This summarizes the scholarly research about that topic (er, tries to—it's got a long way to go). Please see my comments under Talk:Demagogue#Wikipedia_policy_prohibits_any_description_of_a_living_demagogue? for some thoughts on how to keep the article informative while avoiding squabbles and name-calling about particular people. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 19:52, 10 May 2013 (UTC)

Alex Jones[edit]

Can you stop editing this out, please? Alex Jones IS a demagogue, just like anyone else in the article. And stop modifying the discussion paragraph - as far as I can see your list already contains Hitler/Alcibiades although there's no such source? Why need a source when you can just go to and read any article you want? It's all anti-global warming, anti-evolution, anti-Obama? Are most of the Wikipedia-users, or humans really so stupid that they need a third-party source first? Also, I'm not sure why my entry in the talks section has been deleted - if you don't tolerate these conversations why have a talk section at all? Why speak up against cultural fascism when the cultural fascists have their minions here? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:18, 14 July 2012 (UTC)

You stuck your first entry in the middle of the list of source materials, and it seemed like an insult rather than a constructive suggestion for editing. Wikipedia is a summary of information in other source materials, not a place to declare your personal opinions. Please read WP:V and WP:CIVIL. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 19:19, 14 July 2012 (UTC)

But my opinion is based on facts, like the sum of all infowars articles. It's not anything personal. It's the conclusion any rational being would come to. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:54, 14 July 2012 (UTC)

For Jones to be a demagogue he first need to be running for an elected position. Unless you got proof of Jones running for an elected position the argument is a moot one.Rxantos (talk) 00:58, 1 June 2015 (UTC)

Obama ~ you may delete this (but it is fact)[edit]

Barrack Obama is a demagogue in the true sense of the definition, or the corrupted-definition;

Barrack Obama appealed to a race to gain his power. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Wickid123 (talkcontribs) 11:35, 13 December 2012 (UTC)

So why don't you write up a blurb and add it? You could write something like"President Obama, a one term Senator from Illinois, ran on the promise of raising taxes on the wealthy and providing tax-subsidized healthcare for every citizen." — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:59, 1 May 2013 (UTC)

You're not the only one with this assertion: — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:02, 1 May 2013 (UTC)

Editorials are not reliable sources. There are excellent scholarly writings to summarize, which we've barely started on (see Talk:Demagogue#Sources). There are excellent, clear-cut examples from history to use as examples, and thus no need to use contemporary public figures. Let the article give readers enough insight from history and scholarship to judge for themselves who is and who is not a demagogue today. Please see WP:SOAPBOX. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 20:06, 10 May 2013 (UTC)

Obama is certainly a demagogue. And there is no shortage of examples on why. Starting with the reason he got the Nobel prize for saying he was going to do something he later did not. But fools tend to defend the ones that fool them. And Wikipedia was not made to stir up political consciousness. Thus, until the fools are dead, is better to use other examples. Rxantos (talk) 01:06, 1 June 2015 (UTC)

Alright, I'll bite. It would be original research to cite X Y and Z as things Obama has done that qualify him as a demagogue; we would require reliable secondary sources (say, from books written by prominent historians or sociologists) attesting to this in order to state it as fact in the article, see WP:BLP. Anybody could argue that almost any president or politician throughout history has used appeal to emotion to gain votes or power. Furthermore, promising to raise taxes on the wealthy and providing subsidized health-care are not necessarily emotional appeals, even if they elicit an emotional response. There have been many attempts to add Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, etc to various WP lists like demagogues, war criminals, figureheads, etc. There are good reasons why we don't recklessly add them to lists (which this article is not and should not be), and it is because these kinds of claims against living persons in an encyclopedia justifiably require a preponderance of evidence. I could build a solid academic argument for why Obama and Bush are war criminals, even write a 15-page essay with reliable sources throughout, but until that essay is published in a reliable source it cannot be used as the basis for those men's addition to that article. Even if it was, it would require multiple such accounts published in several reliable sources to cover our obligations under WP:BLP.
All that said, the 'encyclopedic tone' marker on the suggests we might want to considerably restrain our addition of people as examples to this page. Even the surviving accounts of classical demagogues are in doubt due to bias. Alt lys er svunnet hen (talk) 01:34, 24 April 2016 (UTC)

Real definition of Demagogue, please![edit]

The definition of a demagogue is not a leader who appeals to emotions.

It is... A leader, period!

A demagogue is a non-democratic system where (a democracy cannot have leaders) people elect a representitive and hand their power over in an undemocratic way (undemocratic --> un-'powering people')[1]

Please someone find the sources for me, I know I'm right - I am just slightly lazy...


--Wickid123 (talk) 11:39, 13 December 2012 (UTC)

I am sure that a demagogue is the person/leader that holds the power in a demagogy.

The demagogy is a system where a leader is elected.

The demagogue is the person who is elected.

(just wondering if the page should be changed to demagogy (the system)

Just like democracy is a system.... we should have a page of demagogies. (system) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Wickid123 (talkcontribs) 02:58, 15 December 2012 (UTC)

Is this original research? In ordinary usage, a demagogue is not simply any leader in a democracy, but one who undermines democracy by appealing to the ignorance and baser motives of the lower classes (however one wants to phrase that). Also in ordinary usage, democracies can have leaders. If you have a different opinion, Wikipedia is not the place to argue for it. Here, we just summarize the scholarly consensus as found in other publications (see WP:V). If you're feeling energetic and want to read some good source materials about demagogues, a bunch are listed under Talk:Demagogue#Sources. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 20:18, 10 May 2013 (UTC)


because ultimate power is held by the people

    • CITATION NEEDED. according to WHOM? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:16, 6 June 2013 (UTC)

Ultimate power is held by the rules of the universe whatever they might be. They people might what whatever they want, but they still are force it to obey them. Thereof, the rules of the universe are the true sovereign. Rxantos (talk) 01:10, 1 June 2015 (UTC)

The entire article is an elitist bit of nonsense that tries to cover itself in a veneer of pseudo-historicism. Government uses fear to govern FAR more often than the people push fear upward. Fear-based politicking, like wealth, doesn't really trickle upward. Government instead starts the fear (as the Republicans did with "death panels" and the like as they played their part in the desire from both parties, on behalf of the health industry, to convince the public that things like single-payer and the public option are a bad idea) and then claims, later, that the people are the ones whose fear mandates their actions. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:51, 2 July 2015 (UTC)

Proposal to emphasize dangers instead of history[edit]

This was posted to the To Do list:

In this discussion I would like to suggest that we pay less attention to the classical historical view of the demagogue as a rabble rouser from the lower classes and place greater emphasis on the demagogue as a danger to good government. Surely the threat comes when a demagogue seizes on a popular, topical issue and uses it to advance ill-thought out responses. In this scenario, reason and precedent is ignored as is thoughtful discussion and action. In the heat of the moment fairness and balance disappear. For instance a demagogue might use a particularly horrible crime to inflame popular opinion in support of capital punishment; or to sway mass opinion away from a particular group or religion. Once the emotions subside, the balance is restored, but damage inflicted during the inflamed time when the demagogue held power cannot so easily be repaired. As the Greeks found out, you can't restore life to slain prisoners. In Queensland at this moment there is a concerted push to demonise and punish motor cycle gangs who, it is widely believed, are the source of major drug offences and violence against the community. These are long standing crimes and in a stable society you would want to have proof and a trial before punishing anyone. In present day Queensland this standard is not being applied. Motor cycle riders are being vilified and discriminated against at the behest of the Government. Eventually, I imagine, popular opinion will restore the balance and people will wonder how they managed to justify such actions. This will be of little comfort for those who were jailed, fined or forced to move home. This is to me, the problem of the demagogue. The actions they espouse do not stand the test of time. They are not fair. They are popular for a short period in a specific time, but looked at rationally, they are unwarranted and discriminatory and that is a major flaw in a democratic government. —User:Mike of The Gap 20:51, October 28, 2013‎ (UTC)

Shedding some light on the dangers of contemporary political directions is surely a great good that this article can do and indeed has already done, but it's against Wikipedia's overriding goals and explicit policies to distort the writing to serve such a goal. Wikipedia is a summary of reliable published sources: our articles summarize and organize the information in those sources as faithfully as possible, including reflecting the relative degrees of coverage and emphasis given to different points within the topic. Please see WP:V, WP:NPOV, and WP:SOAPBOX. That said, your observations about demagogues are present and strongly emphasized within the scholarly sources, though illustrated with historical examples. It takes some work to read those sources and summarize them well, but if you can put in a few hours, I'm sure you can add some excellent material to the article. For a list of sources, see #Sources above. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 06:29, 21 November 2013 (UTC)

The article is fatally flawed with its elitism![edit]

The definition of a demagogue is not someone who merely appeals to the "unwashed masses" but instead is a leader who uses fear as an instrument for power.

McCarthy is a perfect example. He didn't get his power merely because common people paid attention to his message. Instead, he convinced the rest of the government (all those elites and their backers) that the witch hunting was a good political move. He would have had no power if the rest of the government hadn't gone along with things.

This article is ridiculously elitist with the suggestion that the masses alone are responsible for bad politics. In reality, it is the political elite that uses fear-based governance frequently. Only more rarely is there a specific figurehead as there was with McCarthy.

FIX THIS ARTICLE NOW. It's an embarrassment to Wikipedia. Even if the historical definition referred in an elitist manner to someone who controls the masses through fear the definition has evolved. McCarthyism is a perfect example. So is the Lavender Scare, the Red Scare, the Yellow Peril, Islamic Terrorism, and the many other examples of the government instituting fear-based politics from the top down. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:46, 2 July 2015 (UTC)

"... but instead is a leader who uses fear as an instrument for power." This is wrong. It is a human that uses rhetoric to gain or preserve power. See rhetoric to fully understand what I say here. It doesn't mean it's an evil human, even a pope could at some time be considered as a demagogue (think of the threat of going to hell). Fear is indeed a very powerful instrument but rhetoric is not limited to fear alone ofcourse. Jpaxel (talk) 14:21, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

The definitions in most of the sources, especially the more thorough and scholarly sources, agree that a demagogue is not simply a leader who appeals to fear to gain power, but one who stirs up to the passions of the lower classes or "common people", subverting the normal operation of a democracy. You might consider that elitist, and you might be right, but that's what the word means, and that's what the sources about demagogues talk about. For example, the books explaining that Joe McCarthy was a demagogue make their case mainly by pointing out his ability to whip up the passions of the lower classes and the less educated, presenting himself as a man of the people, etc. Stirring up fear to gain power is a common demagogic tactic, but it's not the defining characteristic of a demagogue. I don't think that the article suggests that the masses alone are responsible for bad politics, nor that demagogues and mobs alone are the only ruin of democracies. If you can point out a specific passage that makes such a claim, that would help; such a claim is not found in the sources, and this article shouldn't assert it. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 08:25, 21 July 2016 (UTC)

Add Source: NYT[edit]

Including a 1:48-minute video clip about "Demagogues of the Past"

Some example quotes from the article which name historical demagogues and define their traits:

“This pattern of elevating emotional appeals over rational ones is a rhetorical style that historians, psychologists and political scientists placed in the tradition of political figures like Goldwater, George Wallace, Joseph McCarthy, Huey Long and Pat Buchanan, who used fiery language to try to win favor with struggling or scared Americans. Several historians watched Mr. Trump’s speeches last week, at the request of The Times, and observed techniques — like vilifying groups of people and stoking the insecurities of his audiences — that they associate with Wallace and McCarthy.”

“Historically, demagogues have flourished when they tapped into the grievances of citizens and then identified and maligned outside foes, as McCarthy did with attacking Communists, Wallace with pro-integration northerners and Mr. Buchanan with cultural liberals. These politicians used emotional language — be it ‘segregation forever’ or accusatory questions over the Communist Party — to persuade Americans to pin their anxieties about national security, jobs, racial diversity and social trends on enemy forces.”

“‘[Trump’s] entire campaign is run like a demagogue’s — his language of division, his cult of personality, his manner of categorizing and maligning people with a broad brush,’ said Jennifer Mercieca, an expert in American political discourse at Texas A&M University.” — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:44, 5 December 2015 (UTC)

An video documentary from the New York Times can hardly be called a trustworthy and qualitative reference. The company itself plays a crucial role in facilitating demagogery at the moment.
Trump is making use of the strangulating effect that political correctness has on the freedom of expressing yourself in the US. He calls it the way he sees it and leaves everything on the table to benefit his negotiations.
I do not condone this or reject this, is only my observation. Jpaxel (talk) 14:34, 1 June 2016 (UTC)
Regardless of how solid the case is that Donald Trump is a demagogue, it is not Wikipedia's place to make that claim. Please see WP:BLP, especially the various policies regarding defamatory remarks. Wikipedia does not take sides in contemporary controversies; see WP:NPOV. What we can do is summarize settled, factual material from authoritative sources about demagogues, such as scholarly writings about well-studied demagogues of the past and the common traits of demagogues. That should enable each reader to make their own informed judgement about whether Donald Trump is a demagogue. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 08:39, 21 July 2016 (UTC)
It's indeed not Wikipedia's place to make that claim (that Donald Trump is a demagogue), but it doesn't need to. There are plenty of reliable and authoritative sources which do so, and Wikipedia should report that. Not reporting it may be seen as biased & not WP:NEUTRAL. -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 11:35, 21 July 2016 (UTC)
Michael Bednarek, you might be addressing something slightly different from what I was saying. What I mean by "Wikipedia claiming that Donald Trump is a demagogue" is saying that Donald Trump is a demagogue, supported by cited sources—since, of course, everything in a Wikipedia article should have cited sources. As far as I know, all current sources about whether Donald Trump is a demagogue are contentious and don't represent scholarly consensus. We could, however, report on debate among people who are genuinely knowledgeable about demagogues. That is, we could report on the reasons for and against, claiming only that specific experts have offered those reasons, without ourselves asserting either conclusion. The NYT article provided above by looks like an excellent source for this. I'd like to make sure that we adhere strictly to WP:BLP if we do this, of course. For example, we should be sure that we cover the debate in a way that represents the whole field, not just one side; summarizing only one NYT article could be biased. Do you know of a specific BLP policy or guideline with some specific insight on how to handle this rather unusual case? —Ben Kovitz (talk) 19:54, 21 July 2016 (UTC)
One more reason to hold off on covering Donald Trump: if you go to a library and look up all the existing literature on demagogues, you won't find much information on Donald Trump. Coverage of different subtopics within Wikipedia should reflect their proportion of coverage in the main reliable sources; see WP:UNDUE. So, let's write some thorough coverage of Hitler's demagoguery first. Hitler is the poster-boy of demagogues. Let's get some decent coverage of other well-known demagogues into the article. Then it will make more sense to cover present debate about whether Trump is the US's first national-level demagogue, why the US went so long without a demagogue able to gain a following on such a large scale, etc. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 04:11, 22 July 2016 (UTC)

Add a new link to the 'see also' category[edit]

I think we should link [United_States_presidential_election,_2016] in the 'see also' category. It's a relatively relevant article, as most candidates in the election can be considered 'demagogues'. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2601:190:1:2610:484A:3863:3FBA:AE41 (talk) 22:46, 17 December 2015 (UTC)

While I personally agree with the sentiment, until we find solid sources that suggest a connection, this amounts to WP:OR (even if it is just the See Also section). As I said above, almost any politician's oratory can be construed as an appeal to emotion and therefore constitute demagoguery. If anything, a more appropriate article to link to United States presidential election, 2016 might be Authoritarianism. I've read many articles describing the candidates in such a way, and there are also academic sources popping up which suggests it might be a valid connection. Alt lys er svunnet hen (talk) 01:43, 24 April 2016 (UTC)
It's simple, really. When reliable, reputable, competent, independent sources describe a notable person as demagogue, Wikipedia should report that. I don't know whether this applies to the 2016 US presidential election campaign as a whole (I doubt it), but it certainly applies to Donald Trump. About 2 weeks ago, he was called a demagogue in well-reasoned newspaper and journal articles every day, often more than once. The mechanical reverts here of such additions to this article are disingenuous at best, smelly at worst. -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 02:54, 24 April 2016 (UTC)
Wrong. I suspect that there are a lot of different opinions about what is reliable, reputable, competent and independant. If definitions on wikipedia were subject to the contents in newspapers there would not be any consensus ever again on wikipedia. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jpaxel (talkcontribs) 14:41, 1 June 2016 (UTC)
Jpaxel, indeed opinions often differ about which sources are reliable, but Wikipedia has accumulated a great deal of experience this in the form of policies and guidelines. A good place to start reading is WP:RS.
Right now, linking from this article to United States presidential election, 2016 would suggest that Donald Trump is a demagogue. It would take a side in a present-day controversy rather than reporting from a neutral point of view, so it's not appropriate on Wikipedia, regardless of how strong the case is that Donald Trump is a demagogue—even if he clearly meets the strict criteria explained in this article. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 08:50, 21 July 2016 (UTC)
This is actually the case now, that there are articles from various sources that accuse Donald Trump of being a demagogue, in addition to commentary on August 14 on Reliable Sources, and various other commentary. However, there is also allegations of media bias in the elections. Theoallen1 (talk) 19:42, 14 August 2016 (UTC)
Accusations by interested parties are not independent, reliable sources, and even if we had a reliable source, a "See also" would be a sort of "wink", taking a side in a present-day controversy. Please see WP:IS and my longer comment here. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 20:41, 14 August 2016 (UTC)

Problem with Polybius Citation[edit]

in re "The Greek historian Polybius thought that democracies are inevitably undone by demagogues. He said that every democracy eventually decays into 'a government of violence and the strong hand,' leading to 'tumultuous assemblies, massacres, banishments.'[6]"

This citation to Polybius cites a book which quotes a summarized adaptation of the sixth book of Polybius' Histories, which in turn is an attempt by Polybius at a simplified summary of one of the arguments made earlier in The Republic. I don't have time to refactor this and find suitable quotes in The Republic, but this seems like a silly reference to make, since (1) it does not directly cite the quote, even though the book cited cites a source in the public domain, (2) the quote is of an adaptation of an original work in the public domain, (3) that original work is a summary of an earlier work, and (4) the earlier work is more nuanced, better respected, more recognized, and more foundational. There is nothing wrong with Polybius, but he should be cited on history, not on political theory, and for his own thoughts, not his summaries of others' thoughts. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:12, 5 May 2016 (UTC)

I know all too well that it's hard to find the time to go through sources and write a good Wikipedia article. If you can suggest another good source, please do! The reason for citing Signer is because Signer's book is a modern survey of demagogues, and Signer's central use of Polybius in his survey indicates that modern scholarship holds Polybius's analysis to be still relevant. BTW, as I understand the relevant section of Polybius, it's a break from narrative history to draw a lesson about how different kinds of constitutions degenerate into one another, forming a cycle. Am I mistaken? —Ben Kovitz (talk) 14:40, 23 July 2016 (UTC)

Inconsistancies throughout wikipedia on the subject of Cleon[edit]

Here Cleon is called a demagogue, in the article of 'The Knights', Cleon is mentioned as a pro-war populist and in Cleon he is called a warmonger and a demagogue. In my opinion this gets rather confusing. Please keep in mind that according to the comedy of Aristophanes, The Knights:

  • Cleon was a man born in the highter middle class, although the common people were mislead to believe he was not.
  • He was a radical-democratic leader who insisted on his decrees to be carried out with ruthless precision.
  • His demagogic skills were very good.
  • He was called a monster by Aristophanes in The Knights (keep in mind that this is his (Aristophanes) opinion and he could very well be somewhat biased).
  • He decried the killing of all adult males in Scion, selling the women an children as slaves and giving the land to the Platæans. This decree was carried out in all strictness after his death.
  • He had taken a bribe to soften the infamous decree which he had persuaded the Athenians he had adopted against the people of Mitylene. This softening lead to the killing of approximately one thousand chief leaders and prominent men of Mytilene instead of every adult male.

Jpaxel (talk) 23:43, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

... and The Knights is a satirical, allegorical comedy that doesn't even mention Cleon by name.

Please read The Knights because this is simply not true. Cleon is mentioned quite often. Jpaxel (talk) 00:02, 2 June 2016 (UTC)

Cleon was a tradesman—a leather-tanner ...

Cleon was born in a upper-middle class family that owned a leather tannery. There was the misconception by the people that he was one of them, thus part of the lower class. Jpaxel (talk) 00:02, 2 June 2016 (UTC)

Nevertheless, their portrayals define the archetypal example of the "demagogue" or "rabble-rouser.

Please keep in mind that their (Aristophanes and especially Thucydides) writings are biased to a certain degree. Cleon helped the lower class in getting more wealthy at the cost of the upper class. As said in the article Thucydides and Aristophanes were part of the upper class. Jpaxel (talk) 00:02, 2 June 2016 (UTC)
Jpaxel, it's OK for Wikipedia articles to contradict each other. Each Wikipedia article summarizes the sources available for that article's topic. It's not unusual for sources to contradict each other. Within one topic, a Wikipedia article should address important contradictions between sources, but when sources for two different topics happen to contradict each other regarding one proposition that happens to come up in both pages, there's no need to make both pages agree with each other. Each page should faithfully represent the sources for its own topic, nothing more (or less). See, for example, this for some more insight on contradictions between articles. That said, if you find a contradiction between two pages, that's probably a good clue that there's some good information waiting to be dug up and added to one or both articles.
Regarding Cleon in The Knights, the article's current claim about this might indeed be a mistake. However, I just did a little quick googling and found this page, which says:
"Aristophanes had the prudence not to actually use the name Cleon anywhere in the play, however, substituting the allegorical character Paphlagonian, but describing him so that he could not possibly be mistaken. From fear of Cleon's faction, no mask-maker dared to make a copy of his face for the play, and Aristophanes bravely resolved to play the part himself, merely painting his own face. The Knights of the Chorus were the wealthy class of Athens, politicized and educated enough to be able to see through the demagoguery of the populist Cleon and seen by Aristophanes as his natural allies in his personal crusade against him."
Can you point me to a copy of The Knights where Cleon is explicitly mentioned quite often? Regardless of this detail, certainly this article's coverage of Cleon badly needs to be expanded. That expanded coverage should summarize sources explicitly dedicated to demagoguery, though. I'll add a new section to the talk page about this shortly. If you have access to appropriate sources, though, please improve that section! —Ben Kovitz (talk)

Sources on demagogues should specifically address their demagoguery[edit]

I've noticed some new material recently added, like this and this, which includes unsourced facts about Hitler that may or may not be germane to the topic of demagoguery. I'm not removing them, since sources for them do exist, and they're probably relevant. However, we should write the sections on individual demagogues by summarizing sources that are specifically about demagoguery (even if only that one person's demagoguery).

Bringing up miscellaneous true, verifiable facts about the consequences of Hitler's leadership is not appropriate here, because this article is not about Hitler in general, it's about demagogues. In this article, we cover Hitler only as an instance of a demagogue. Which facts about Hitler are relevant to illustrating demagoguery is best left to the authors of secondary sources. As Wikipedia editors, we must let the experts make their judgement about which aspects of Hitler relate to demagoguery. Making that kind of judgement ourselves, beyond the needs of summarizing and organizing information from the sources, spills over into original research; see especially WP:SYN. In other words, WP:STICKTOSOURCE.

The best kind of source for the section on Hitler in this article would be a section on Hitler from a book about demagogues in general, or a book specifically about Hitler qua demagogue. We can't always have sources so perfectly aligned with the topic of an article, but that's the place to start when possible. Certainly we should get the relevant facts about Hitler for this article from sources that explicitly cover Hitler's demagogic style, tactics, etc. See the Talk:Demagogue#Sources section for some leading sources to start with (or find more!).

BTW, note that even if sources for some information exist in linked Wikipedia articles, that information still needs to be sourced in this article. See WP:CIRC.

Ben Kovitz (talk) 06:00, 22 July 2016 (UTC)

To the people attempting to add Donald Trump to the list of famous demagogues[edit]

Recently we've had a number of rejected edits from new editors trying to add Donald Trump to the article; this was one of the most detailed and carefully written. However, Wikipedia is not the place to argue for a conclusion. Wikipedia is not a WP:SOAPBOX for advocacy of any kind, no matter how worthy the cause. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia—a summary of published, scholarly research, a "tertiary source". If you go to the library and look up "demagogue", you'll find that none of the books on this topic mention Donald Trump.

If you would like to publicly advocate that Donald Trump is an evil demagogue, you should do that elsewhere: in print, elsewhere on the Internet, in person, on street corners—the world is filled with places where you can set up a literal or metaphorical soapbox. If you would like to use Wikipedia to advocate for your cause, you should know that there is a way, but it does not involve editing Wikipedia. One of Wikipedia's most fundamental policies is that we maintain a neutral point of view. We do not participate in controversies. This makes Wikipedia a credible source of information for people who are making up their mind about a controversy. If you would like to educate yourself or others about demagogues, hopefully the Demagogue article gives you some good information. If the article's editors have done their job well, then after reading the article, you will have some new factual knowledge about demagogues and some new insight into how they work and the dangers they present to democracies. That kind of factual knowledge is much more persuasive and enlightening than reading that Wikipedia officially pronounces Donald Trump a demagogue or not. Notice that because of Wikipedia's neutrality and limitation to factual information, all of the above applies equally well to someone who wants to publicly advocate that Trump is not an evil demagogue.

While I'd love to see more people work on this article, editing Wikipedia is for encyclopedists, not propagandists. It's scholarly work; most people don't like to do it. That said, if you do want to work seriously on the article, there is plenty more material in the literature waiting to be summarized, especially on demagogues in countries other than the United States. See the Sources section above for a big list of excellent books, any one of which you could start reading and summarizing. Note that you should start with reliable sources and summarize what's in them, not start with a conclusion and search for sources to support it; see WP:STICKTOSOURCE and WP:CHERRY.

Ben Kovitz (talk) 17:32, 14 August 2016 (UTC)

The Wikipedia policy on Neutrality requires that all information be written as neturally as possible. This policy requires in this case that both policies favoring and opposing Donald Trump be included. However, while it is true that Wikipedia must be neutral, this policy would call for elimination of all examples. For these reasons, the word "Most famous of all time" should be deleted for Adolf Hitler. Donald Trump is arguably more famous now than Adolf Hitler. If the goal is to stay out of politics, this phrase should be removed. In addition, if Wikipedia must cover the proportion that the stories are headline news, the guidelines require covering. Wikipedia's Neutrality policy is as follows "Neutrality assigns weight to viewpoints in proportion to their prominence. However, when reputable sources contradict one another and are relatively equal in prominence, describe both points of view and work for balance. This involves describing the opposing views clearly, drawing on secondary or tertiary sources that describe the disagreement from a disinterested viewpoint." However, it should be noted that the exclusion is not mandated, and this is from reliable sources. Theoallen1 (talk) 19:45, 14 August 2016 (UTC)
Theoallen1, we don't try to mirror the prominence of coverage in current headline news. We summarize the whole of the literature about each topic, not whatever has been getting the most press coverage in the last few days. The literature on the 2400-year history of demagogues just doesn't have much to say about Trump. On this topic, we are the grandfather clock in the thunderstorm. There might be a place for what you're talking about on pages about the thunderstorm, like Donald Trump presidential campaign, 2016. I'm actually a little surprised that there's no link from Donald Trump presidential campaign, 2016 back here, under "Opposition from Republicans", in connection with this. But people involved in politics who are accusing Trump of being a demagogue are not reliable sources that we can use in this article; see WP:IS. BTW, I was glad to see that CNN quoted the article. Note that they probably wouldn't have used the article as an unbiased information resource if we had written an anti-Trump hit piece. Our strict neutrality paid off: we educated rather than advocated; the advocates and the advocatees are now a little better informed. Please have a look at a couple more policies that are particularly relevant here: WP:BLP and WP:SYN. And please have another look at what I wrote above, about using Wikipedia for advocacy. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 20:34, 14 August 2016 (UTC)

Except that if you look at the methods of a demagogue in the list, Trump is a good example for each one of them. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:11, 26 October 2016 (UTC)