Advancing Research on Character Assassination and Stigma Communication: A Dynamics of Character

Rachel A Smith, Rosa A. Eberly

Abstract

Documented occurrences of character assassination and stigmatization like those seen during the COVID-19 outbreak are not unique to the era of COVID-19. In fact, these forms of communication are ancient and ubiquitous in human society. Yet they have gained the sustained attention of communication scholars only in the past few decades. Although stigma communication and character assassination have much in common, they largely have been studied separately. Research on how character is attacked and why some attacks become social facts has not progressed as quickly as needed because these two bodies of scholarship have not shared insights and because character as a concept has gone largely uninterrogated. In this essay, we begin the process of sharing insights across the two bodies of scholarship. Further, by visiting with three ancient conceptions of character, we describe a theory of character dynamics: a process of exclusion in which an evolving, agentic character (tropos) becomes established (ethos) and fixed (χarakter) by others, ephemerally and sometimes longitudinally.

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ISSN: ISSN 2398-5836

Copyright (c) 2021 Rachel A Smith