The lies and rumors are flying in the presidential campaign not to mention the pro-proposition 8 campaign. The campaigns are feeding off of petty, irrational fears. Some of them include people calling Obama a terrorist, an Arab and other clearly ridiculous things as well as the prop. 8 promoters putting ads on the air claiming that elementary school kids are going to be taught about gay marriage in school.
I asked myself how is it that the American population can be so gullible and so easily mislead? Don't we have one of the largest literacy rates in the world? Don't we pride ourselves on education and involvement? At least on casual observation, the Bush campaign won two terms on fears of Arabs and fears of gays so clearly the fear tactic works. The rhetoric always seems to show up just before a presidential election (go figure). All this while, the administration has involved us in wars and policies that have left us in the most pathetic financial state in decades. What gives? Why does the common worker vote for people that prey upon their petty fears while gutting their livelihoods and creating policies for the rich? A good friend told me he voted for Bush because Bush was a good, God-fearing man like himself. Perhaps, although, if actions speak louder than words, I suspect my good friend fell victim to the same deplorable batch of lies.
Ah, but I digress. The question was, "are we any smarter today than people were over 100 years ago?" I looked up the source of the phrase, "there's a sucker born every minute," for comparison's sake. Apparently, the phrase arose when Hannum angrily accused BT Barnum of showing off a fake stone giant [yes, a giant miraculously turned to stone], ironically believing his own stone giant was real. Both were huge hoaxes, apparently fooling clergy and scientists alike (go figure). You can read it yourself at: http://www.historybuff.com/library/refbarnum.html.
I will end this not with a definition. Our friends at Mirriam Webster list the following preferred definition for demagoguery: a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power. The origins are Greek. My friends, this has been going on for a long, long time.