What is Demagogy?


What is Demagogy?

Demagogy, word derived from Greek, is a manipulative method of persuasion used to convey messages by appealing to the emotion of fear, or alternatively, using empty statements of content relevant to the message sometimes discussed, demagoguery borders on distortion of reality. The use of demagoguery is considered common among politicians as well as in the fields of marketing and advertising.  Demagogy may also exist in some of the commercial media, as well as in some newspapers with an agenda.

In our Parasha this week, we find Korach, Moses’s cousin, who gathered a group of people who felt resentful at the fact that they wanted to but failed to enter into the leadership. Korach’s claimed loudly, “Enough for you! The whole congregation is holy, and among them is Hashem, so why will you exalt yourself upon the congregation of God”, a statement whose whole intention was to cause unrest and the reaction of the masses against Moses.

What is interesting is that most of the sentence is true.  All the people are indeed holy, as God called us “a holy nation.”

The second part of the verse, “and in them is dwellings the Lord” is also true and it was even said by God himself in the construction of the tabernacle, as the Torah says “and they made me a sanctuary and I dwelt in them.” God dwells in the heart of every Jew.

If so, we see that most of Korach’s argument is true.

But the conclusion is not derived from the facts he cited. Korach is deceiving the people by using a famous technique in which the sentence announced makes the people agree and agree again. Then, when the hearers are already used to agreeing, throw in some false argument that will be accepted as real as well.

Does Korach want all the people to be leaders?  Or was he interested in living in a society without leaders?  Of course not.  He wants himself to be the leader in place of Moses, but he mobilizes the people for this position by arguments that seem like he is fighting against injustice and for the rights of the common man.

But he really doesn’t care about the people.  He exploits them for his own benefit.

In contrast, true leaders have a completely different conception of leadership.

A leadership based on service, that does not seek any benefit from the position.

In the story of Korach, the Torah gives us the tools to identify demagogues and not fall into the trap of beautiful but hollow words of hypocritical leaders.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Rafael Cohen

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