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CONTRIBUTION · 20th February 2010
Helmut Giesbrecht
People who study human behaviour long ago identified something they called the “bandwagon effect”. Also known as the “herd instinct” it is behaviour most common in the younger generation. They have not had the experience to make them...well, just a little skeptical when an individual or organization wants to sway public opinion or to get a crowd to behave in a certain way. Advertising and promotional agencies are well versed in its use. It has also been exploited by dictators, con artists, and some government agencies for all kinds of (sometimes nefarious) purposes.

Rarely is the result positive. Its use is simple. Get enough people to get on a bandwagon and anyone who stands out or expresses a difference of opinion will be cowered into following along. If not, they might be belittled, ridiculed, maybe even oppressed, but at the very least the crowd or "herd" will get them to question their position. Those on the bandwagon will be so firm in their conviction anyone not on-side will know they are identified as "wrong", "misguided" or just simply "negative". No one wants to be "negative", it's like being called a "leftie" or a "pinko".

There are many cases in history when a few good people yelling “hold on a minute!” might have been a good thing. There were the "herds" in ancient time who paraded a person they believed was a King into the city while waving palm leaves only to shout that he should be crucified a few days later. In more recent European history the crowds cheered when the Nazis rose to power and many of the few thoughtful Germans suffered greatly for their lack of enthusiasm for the herd. Those who dared question the regime were ostracized, imprisoned or shot. For a more recent case think of the George W. claiming just after 911 that Iraq had WMD's (weapons of mass destruction). Even Britain's PM, Tony Blair, fell for that line, "If you are not with us, then you are against us."

There is real value in having people who think for themselves and are not afraid to express their opinions in the face of crowd opposition. Their cries for a measure of good sense are lost in the applause and cheers from the throng. They may even be trampled in the stampede. Their value is only evident after the dust settles and the casualties mount.

The world would be a much better place if more people refused to believe the “bandwagon fallacy”. That is: Just because a lot of people believe something, then it must be true, or good, or the right thing to do.

Even in a democracy the majority can be wrong and history usually proves it in time. The problem is that people don't always remember history and then insist on repeating it. Then again, sometimes that lapse in memory is just too convenient to be convincing.
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 25th February 2010
Whatever are you talking about?
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 25th February 2010
Not unless there is a "herd mentality" trying to get you off. That is never going to be the case so no need to worry but I think you know that.
So helmut
Comment by Danny Nunes on 24th February 2010
Are you on Team Edward or Team Jacob?

one question
Comment by Arne Grant on 22nd February 2010
If I decide not to jump on the bandwagon, would that put me on the "no bandwagon" bandwagon?