What Is The Bandwagon Effect?

  By VennerRoad, 26th Sep 2017

A bandwagon is something many people jump on. Best think twice before you do.

Charles Mackay (1814-89).

The bandwagon effect is a thoroughly documented psychological phenomenon. Although the word bandwagon does not appear in the text, Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds covers many bandwagons throughout history. This book is the magnum opus of the Scottish man of letters Charles Mackay (1814-89). Mackay and many other authors concentrate on the financial aspect of bandwagons, and indeed many bandwagons throughout history have started as schemes to make money. This includes the arts, but often making money becomes a secondary or tertiary goal, and sometimes becomes completely irrelevant.

Many of the most successful rock musicians of the Twentieth Century and on into the Twenty-First began their careers hoping to make money, bed female fans, travel the world in comfort, win fame...Most of them did, but being creative people, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs kicked in, and quite a few of them have gone on to establish philanthropic foundations, or simply to write, perform and promote music for its own sake.

The Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution can be viewed as bandwagons. In a very general sense, so can universal education: men learn to read, a school is established, then a university, the desire for knowledge spreads, the poor are educated, women, and in the Internet age, people educate themselves.

Fashion, foods, architecture...in short, bandwagons are rooted in the spread of ideas. Hopefully, good ideas will flourish while bad ideas will be consigned to the dustbin of history. Alas, it doesn’t always work like that. With the rise of literacy came the popular press, then television, then the Internet and social media. This has resulted not only in the triumph of good ideas but popular ideas, including ideas that are popular only with sick minds.

After the death of the TV presenter Jimmy Savile, a flawed documentary portrayed him as a sexual predator of staggering proportions. This led to the police and the media in the UK appealing for “victims” of Savile and other celebrities to come forward. And come forward they did, in droves. Soon, many of the men who had entertained us for the past fifty years were being branded paedophiles or serial rapists. While Operation Yewtree did lead to convictions, some of them were scandalous, including those of Rolf Harris and Max Clifford. The homosexual Chris Denning had a history of sexual offences going back to the 1970s, while Ray Teret had been on the radar for a long time. These two convictions may have been warranted, but Gary Glitter was convicted against the weight of the evidence simply because he was Gary Glitter.

The nadir of this scandal was the collusion of the police and the BBC who attempted to incite deranged, attention-seeking or simply malicious individuals to make false allegations against Cliff Richard. A number of people did, all of them men, Richard being widely (and erroneously) believed to be homosexual; fortunately, none of these allegations was deemed credible by even the imbeciles who run the Clown Prosecution Service.

If the attempt to entrap Cliff Richard was sick, there was an element of farce in the hunt for the ectoplasmic VIP paedophile ring that saw Harvey Proctor humiliating the police with a widely attended press conference, and their subsequent reluctant acceptance of the fact that they had been had, though at the time of writing one very senior police officer is still pursuing the ghost of Edward Heath for imaginary crimes.

As Santayana wrote way back in 1923: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Our press, police and politicians seem to have neither remembered nor to have learned anything, because back in the 1980s there was a similar moral panic on both sides of the Atlantic, including in the UK the Cleveland child sexual abuse scandal.

If the bandwagon effect leads to the investigation of imaginary crimes including the conviction of the innocent, in recent years it has led to the commission of real and quite shocking crimes. It may not have been the first suicide attack in history, but 9/11 was easily the most spectacular crime ever committed in peacetime. The author Jason Burke estimated its cost at around half a million dollars, which for the fanatics behind it was an incredibly small price to pay for both the immediate destruction and the way it changed the world. Suicide attacks since have been on a much smaller scale, and are often the work of a handful of individuals. The 7/7 attacks on London involved 4 men; the cost of the operation would have been a few hundred pounds, and the devastation caused out of all proportion. Two weeks after these attacks, another series of strikingly similar attacks was launched, attacks which fortunately failed.

In view of this similarity it was tempting to believe there was a direct connection, someone or something that gave orders to both cells. In reality there was not. More recently, attacks carried out by single perpetrators have come into vogue, including mowing down pedestrians in a vehicle. Again, there are some who attempt to tie these to the great Islamic conspiracy, but they are looking for something that isn’t there.

Finally, more recently we have seen the rise of a different kind of attack, one carried out for purely criminal purposes with no terror or pseudo-ideological angle. In recent months a striking number of people in the UK have been sprayed with acid and other noxious substances, sometimes during the course of a robbery, other times for revenge or from some personal motive.

We can only guess what the next criminal bandwagon will be; the only thing of which we can be certain is that just as gifted and talented people will follow trends developing their own innovations in the process, so too will people with sick and twisted minds follow the depraved, something which now cannot be stopped thanks to the universalisation of news coverage.

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