Deception in Democracies



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This summer, I researched whether political deception could be exercised by the common people in democracies, and what that deception would entail. By answering this question, I hoped to gain a better understand political deception, democracies, and the role of the citizenry. To start my research, I first read through Interpersonal Deception Theory by psychologists David B. Buller and Judee K. Burgoon and Hypocrisy and Integrity by political theorist Ruth Grant. Then, I analyzed the novels Huckleberry Finn and Invisible Man, two seminal works of American literature that explore the political elements of everyday American life. I concluded that deception could in fact be exercised by non-elites. In democracies, political elites require and rely more on non-elites to build and maintain their coalition – this makes them more vulnerable to deception by non-elites. However, for non-elites to practice deception, they must be considered as part of society and a potential coalition member. Non-elites have a different motivation for exercising political deception; unlike political elites, who use deception in democracies to build and maintain coalitions, non-elites use deception to break out or surreptitiously move within coalitions. This use of deception tends to only benefit individuals; non-elites cannot use deception to break or move an entire class out of a coalition. This is because successful deception requires the appearance of conformity, which strengthens the regime overall in the present. On the flip side, visible non-conformance or visible manipulation of the system can shake the regime.