Mason CA Courses

COMM 386/GOVT 319: Character Assassination and Reputation Management in Public Relations (Special Topics in Public Relations)

This course is cross-listed and offered for both communication and government Mason students who are interested in learning more about the informal practices of election campaigning, corporate competition, information warfare, as well as reputation management strategies. Specifically, this course studies deliberate attempts to seriously damage the reputation, public image, and social status of public figures. By attacking an individual's personal life, biographical facts, and specific individual features, attackers try to remove their victims from a polical contest, sway public opinion, or achieve other goals.

This course helps students:

  • address challenges that character attack pose to PR practitioners, campaign managers, and private individuals;
  • critically review a variety of historical case-studies of character attacks;
  • conduct a risk assessment of  character attacks and the methods to defend from them;
  • learn about the nature of character assassination in social media.

COMM 386/388/GOVT 319 and COMM 590: Cancel Culture in Political and Public Communication

Cancel culture has become a popular phenomenon in the public consciousness with the #MeToo movement. It refers to situations when a person is expelled from their social or professional circles as a result of real or alleged offensive behavior or an unpopular opinion. As a form of social ostracism, those who are “canceled” may be scapegoated or stigmatized and exposed to the judgment and shaming of the public. Canceled individuals may, in perception or reality, find themselves silenced and unable to speak on their own behalf.

This course is designed to help meet several objectives outlined in courses studying the principles and practices of activism, political communication, crisis communication, and reputation management. 

This course helps students:

  • Better understand the impact of cancel culture on public character and society;
  • Critically assess the state of today’s media ecosystem promoting the rise of moral crusaders on social media;
  • Examine unconventional persuasion and coercion practices; 
  • Explore the effectiveness of cancellation strategies and the methods to defend against them.