Notorious support: The America first committee and the personalization of policy

Gary Alan Fine*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


In a political world characterized by social movement rivalry, advocates routinely use reputation work to discredit the motivations and character of their adversaries. Reputational entrepreneurs undercut organizational legitimacy by depicting members with disreputable or radical affiliations as representative of their opponents. These attacks on character must be countered, costing resources and limiting organizational reach. Through reputation work, advocates assert that groups they oppose have a large proportion of stigmatized supporters, are affiliated with prominent disreputable figures, and espouse policies favored by such figures. Such claims direct attention from the substance of the debate, directing attention to the moral stature of claimants. Those attacked must rely an counterstrategies to defend themselves. They deny that disreputables are representative, demonstrating their bona fides by exclusive practices, claim that opposing groups have the same problem, and suggest that stigmatized supporters are agents of their opponents. To study these reputational strategies, I examine struggles over the character of members of the America First Committee in the period immediately prior to World War II.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)405-426
Number of pages22
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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