Sheeple (//; a portmanteau of "sheep" and "people") is a derogatory term that highlights the passive herd behavior of people easily controlled by a governing power which likens them to sheep, a herd animal that is easily led about. The term is used to describe those who voluntarily acquiesce to a suggestion without critical analysis or research in large part because the majority of others possess a similar mindset. Word Spy defines it as "people who are meek, easily persuaded, and tend to follow the crowd (sheep + people)". Merriam-Webster defines the term as "people who are docile, compliant, or easily influenced: people likened to sheep". The word is pluralia tantum, which means it does not have a singular form.
While its origins are unclear, the word was used by W. R. Anderson in his column Round About Radio, published in London 1945, where he wrote:
"The simple truth is that you can get away with anything, in government. That covers almost all the evils of the time. Once in, nobody, apparently, can turn you out. The People, as ever (I spell it 'Sheeple'), will stand anything.
Another early use was from Ernest Rogers, whose 1949 book The Old Hokum Bucket contained a chapter entitled "We the Sheeple". The Wall Street Journal first reported the label in print in 1984; the reporter heard the word used by the proprietor of the American Opinion bookstore. The term was first popularized in the late 1980s and early 1990s by conspiracy theorist and broadcaster Bill Cooper on his radio program The Hour of the Time which was broadcast internationally via shortwave radio stations. The program gained a cult following inspiring many individuals who would later broadcast their own radio programs critical of the American government. This then led to its regular use on the radio program Coast to Coast AM by Art Bell throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. These combined factors significantly increased the popularity of the word and led to its widespread use. Another more contemporary use of the term was by Marc Maron on the Air America radio program The Marc Maron Show where his closing catchphrase was "Goodnight sheeple!" in clear reference to the George W. Bush administration.
The term can also be used for those who seem inordinately tolerant, or welcoming, of what can be perceived as governmental overreach. In a column entitled "A Nation of Sheeple", columnist Walter E. Williams writes, "Americans sheepishly accepted all sorts of Transportation Security Administration nonsense. In the name of security, we've allowed fingernail clippers, eyeglass screwdrivers, and toy soldiers to be taken from us prior to boarding a plane."
- "Sheeple". Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
- "Sheeple". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 6 May 2017.
- "Sheeple". Word Spy. Retrieved 6 May 2017.
- Anderson, W. R. (1945-01-01). "Round about Radio". The Musical Times. 86 (1225): 80–84. doi:10.2307/933326. JSTOR 933326.
- Rogers, Ernest (1949-01-01). The old hokum bucket. A. Love Enterprises.
- Bob Davis, "In New Hampshire, 'Live Free or Die' Is More Than a Motto," The Wall Street Journal, 1984, quoted online at Word Spy
- "A Nation of Sheeple", Capitalism Magazine, October 19, 2005.
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