Julia Cagé, Anna Dagorret, Pauline Grosjean, Saumitra Jha, 17 January 2021

The events at the US Capitol earlier this month echo important moments in history where rioters protesting the state include former veterans and political heroes. This column uses novel evidence on extreme right-wing supporters and Nazi collaborators in France to show how democratic values can be undermined by exogenous networks of influential individuals, including military heroes. Heroes are specially positioned to widen the ‘Overton window’ and legitimise views previously considered deeply repugnant. Social networks of individuals sharing such an identity can transmit and reinforce this influence, leading to escalating commitments that entrench political positions and make debiasing more difficult.

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CEPR Policy Research