Political Scandals as a Democratic Challenge| Hidden Traps: An Essay on Scandals — Commentary

Hans Mathias Kepplinger


During scandals, observers relying on media coverage tend to attribute their perception of triggering events not to their depiction by the media but to the events depicted. A cause of this misattribution is insufficient distinctions between grievances and scandals. A consequence is erroneous conclusions from the number of scandals to the number of grievances—and vice versa. A second consequence is false notions about the likelihood that the framing of grievances as scandals really trigger scandals. A third consequence is—because the media seldom report negative side effects of scandals—biased balances of the costs and benefits of scandals. Necessary are distinctions of four levels of actions: the levels of depicted events, of media depictions of events, of perceptions of events by the public, and of the impact of these factors on related behavior of decision makers in politics, business, science, and so forth.


attribution errors, media effects, costs and benefits

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