According to Merriam-Webster’s, a demagogue is “a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power”. Of course, today’s demagogues can just as easily be pundits or preachers, rather than political leaders, and possibly more interested in making money than in acquiring power or running for office. But whatever the case, demagogues are both immoral and dangerous.
Immoral, because demagogues are basically social predators who prey on people made vulnerable by their ignorance, lack of intelligence, or lack of wisdom. Dangerous, because they mobilize those people to demand foolish and harmful things while encouraging them to demonize those who disagree with them. Thus, demagogues are sometimes capable of screwing up entire nations.
Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly, for instance, are demagogues who have done quite well for themselves while almost certainly harming our nation. So, this evening I’m wondering what is the best way to handle such people? What can a society do to defend itself against demagogues without compromising its better values? Any ideas?