Demagogues Are the Problem Children of Democracies

The Allure of Fearmongering and Empty Promises Has Seduced Citizens Since Ancient Greece

Demagogue UFD LEAD

You wouldn’t know it by watching cable TV news, but the debate about demagogues—and their dangers—did not begin with Donald Trump.

Demagogues have been a problem for democracy for 25 centuries, at least since the populist Cleon persuaded his fellow Athenians to slaughter every man in the city of Mytilene as punishment for a failed revolt. Of that particular demagogue, Aristotle wrote: “He was the first who shouted on the public platform, who used abusive language, and who spoke with his cloak girt around him, while all the others used to …

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