The power of popular opinion is not in the process – the exchange of free ideas for the betterment of society – but rather in the result of determining what is popular. To the masses, what is popular defines what is acceptable. That which is unacceptable should be obliterated.
To intelligent people – think, the Founding Fathers – it was assumed that the popular would be the correct course of action. They remained wary if popularity was determined by a mob, but they trusted that the best course of action would indeed rise to the top, over time. Science, morality, religion, political direction would all be determined through the free exchange of ideas. To reach this lofty goal, a free press and free exercise of natural rights were necessary.
Through time, this is exactly what happened. Asmall, financially broke nation of disparate peoples rose up to become the most consequential nation in the modern world. If the United States disappeared tomorrow, freedom could be lost in Taiwan, in Israel, in Europe, and on the Asian mainland. No nation has been as influential for good since the Roman Empire.
While the U.S. rose up for a variety of reasons – including private property ownership, religious freedom and morality, and the freedom for individuals to live with limited government intervention, to name important examples – the free exchange of ideas is high on that list.
America is in danger of becoming like the final gulp of your favorite soda. You still experience some of the original taste, but that unintended backwash makes you walk away with a sour taste in your mouth. Our backwash can be traced back to our successful pursuit of prosperity. Prosperity begets comfort; comfort begets leisure; leisure loosens inhibitions, which shuns morality. As George Washington so famously explained, religion and morality are indispensable supports for political prosperity. Financial prosperity, which we crave, has gradually brought political prosperity to the precipice.
In short, we have reached what, collectively, we have wanted to achieve: of sizable and significant nations, we are the richest country in human history; yet, that prosperity threatens our ability to pass to future generations our knowledge, our freedoms, our very existence.
One result of this prosperity is celebrity worship. People pursue every aspect of celebrities: how they look; what they wear; what they say; how they act; and how they think. The more celebrity is worshipped, the more others want to become celebrities, thus we have “YouTube sensations.”
While a multitude of problemsarise from this way of thinking, one unintended consequence has been largely missed by conservatives. While we focused on what the government has and could do to our liberties, businesses – particularly politically favored businesses – have found value in controlling information we receive, determining what we deem to be popular.
Remember how rapidly “gay marriage” became acceptable? Or how we went from normal to “transgendered bathrooms” in a matter of months. Companies such as Twitter and Google – either at the behest of or to win the favor of the previous administration – are two excellent examples of what happens when political correctness is weaponized in the private sector.
If you doubt the power of the modern-day mob, try not wearing black to the Golden Globes; Blanca Blanco, whoever that is, said that she likes to wear red. For that, she was shredded on social media. Of course, wearing black did not help Hollywood clean up its act, but millions of people across the country thought the display of caring was a wonderful sight. That’ll show sexual deviants, won’t it? The mob ruled that night in Hollywood, on social media, and the next day in workplaces around the country.
For millions of Americans – and perhaps many millions more throughout the West – the power of popular opinion is stronger than science, religion, morality, or logic. When talk show host Sean Hannity interviewed Senate candidate Roy Moore, who had been accused of various sexual misdeeds, popular opinion rose up against Hannity, even though he asked difficult questions. Popular opinion ignored the tough questions and remained horrified that Hannity even spoke to the man. His side of the story did not deserve to come out, thus mental robots rushed to social media, unable to think for themselves but repeating what others said, and demanded that advertisers abandon Hannity. Some did.
Why is the “Great Recession” regarded as such? Forget economic fact. Why is Muhammad Ali regarded as “the greatest” boxer of all time, even though he’s not even regarded by boxing experts as the greatest heavyweight? Why do people believe, despite voluminous evidence to the contrary, that an increase of a compound that comprises one-half of one-tenth of one percent of our atmosphere is going to destroy the planet? Such is the power of popular opinion.
Popular opinion guides the opinions and directs the actions of millions of people in our country. Whether it’s the opinion of famous people or of a few on social media who create buzz,thought is replaced by blind obedience. Such obedience is dangerous to the Republic. When that opinion turns on “unacceptable” opinions, mob rule does not bring us just democracy, which the Founding Fathers feared, but it also brings fascism, where no other opinions are tolerated. (I do not refer to a fascistic form of economics administered by a despotic leader, rather control of the populace through “official” opinion.)
Antifa does not simply want to win the argument, they want to end your right to disagree. People on social media did not wish for the actress to stand out, even though she made it clear in remarks she was on the side of the 'Cause of the Month.'Agreement was not enough; she must obey. Because she did not obey, she must be punished, shamed, shunned.
Strong people believe they are right or they would not hold to their opinions. Weak people, on the other hand, follow. They envy the strong. Joining together is one way to defeat the strong and those who give the appearance of strength. To leave the group is to have weakness exposed, to be alone, to risk humiliation. This is why celebrities and powerful people grasp popular opinion: they understand that the weak will follow. What strong person doesn’t want followers? Popular opinion can only be used for good – and the harmful defeated – through education, and that is in short supply these days.
We need more people with the strength to wear red, to lead rather than follow, and to reject what has become the New Fascism: popular opinion.
Brian W. Peterson has been a columnist for a mid-size California newspaper, is a veteran of political campaigns, and was a member of the publicly elected Republican Central Committee of Los Angeles County. His psychological thriller Dead Dreams and sci-fi adventure Children of the Sun are currently available through Amazon.com. You can follow Brian on Twitter @cybrpete.
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