Character Assassination: The Sociocultural Perspective

Sergei A. Samoilenko


This article offers a fresh view on character assassination as a strategic effort embedded in power and ideological struggles in society. The author uses structuration theory to explain character assassination as a means of both domination and subversion. In the latter, character assassination practices are integrated into modes of signification and legitimation and executed via subversion campaigns. Knowledgeable subversive actors consider character assassination a power resource to challenge cultural hegemony and traditional moral order via strategic and audience-centered protest campaigns. Social networking sites provide strategic actors with resources to realize subversive campaigns in both liberal democracies and authoritarian societies. Although social media allow more active audiences to challenge dominant conventions, the modes and aesthetics of social protest can be easily harnessed and appropriated by power structures for spin and information control. The author calls for more research inspired by the sociocultural view of character assassination to make sense of new social phenomena such as “cancel culture.”


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ISSN: ISSN 2398-5836

Copyright (c) 2021 Sergei A, Samoilenko