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The Tyranny of Everyone
(Reprinted from SOBRANS, June 1999, page 11)

Beehive Early reviews agree that the new “Star Wars” movie is disappointing. How could it be otherwise? The first Star Wars was an unrepeatable thrill. It launched the revolution in special effects that has completely changed movies since 1976. In the meantime, we have progressed from The Terminator to Titanic, from Jurassic Park to The Matrix. If the new “Star Wars” were to match the appeal of the first one, it would have to surpass its own successors in the way the first one surpassed Star Trek.

And yet many of us feel that seeing the new “Star Wars” is virtually mandatory. It’s already the movie Everyone is talking about. Everyone is going to see it anyway. And you can’t ignore Everyone.

I like to define “public opinion” as what Everyone thinks Everyone Else thinks. It’s an intimidating force. In the media age, it defines, from moment to moment, orthodoxy and heresy. Unless you agree with Everyone, there is something wrong with you. What Everyone thinks is virtual truth, moral truth. Those who differ with it barely exist, and they should feel sheepish.

This Everyone is not to be confused with the ordinary, lower-case everyone; as we saw during last year’s impeachment hearings, a large majority in opinion polls may suffice to constitute an Everyone. In this sense, Everyone agreed that Bill Clinton had done nothing to deserve impeachment.

What does Everyone know? Well, for instance, Everyone knows that democracy is the best form of government — because it’s the only form of government that represents Everyone. In fact Everyone knows that no other form of government can really be legitimate. So when a democracy makes war on a nondemocracy, the democracy is entitled, if not destined, to win.

A few months ago, Everyone decided that Slobodan Milosevic was so wicked that NATO — an alliance of democracies — should make war on him. Milosevic has unaccountably won the war he was fighting, having rid Kosovar of Albanians; so NATO, under Clinton’s leadership, has now achieved the distinction of losing a war without suffering a single combat casualty. (Maybe George Lucas should have directed the war.)

Likewise Everyone knows that we need more gun-control laws. Last month Everyone was profoundly shocked when two Colorado high school kids murdered a dozen of their classmates and a teacher, and Everyone always reacts swiftly to such horrors. Congress must do what Everyone demands. That’s what democracy is all about.

Clinton is the perfect spokesman for Everyone. He always says the right thing — the thing Everyone is thinking. He never says anything that seems to emanate from his own depths; he has no opinions that aren’t shared by Everyone. After listening to him, you never say: “So that’s what Bill Clinton really thinks! How interesting!” He seems to have no philosophy of his own, no view of the world that springs from his own life’s experience. His opinions are a sort of purée, safe, superficial, inauthentic.

The truth is that what Everyone thinks is never interesting. People who think what Everyone thinks are bores. And people who appeal to what Everyone thinks are usually tyrants at heart, who resent nonconformist views.

I used to have faith in Everyone, and a few years ago I was amazed to discover that Everyone was wrong about Shakespeare; that his supposed works were actually written by the 17th Earl of Oxford. How could the whole world be so mistaken? I’m still not sure, but the evidence persuaded me that our whole system of organized knowledge could be far more misleading than I’d ever dreamed.

Ever since, as I’ve argued the case for Oxford in articles and a book, I’ve had my honor and intelligence impeached. After all, Everyone worships the gent from Stratford, and no honest or intelligent person could dispute his claim. It’s amazing how supercilious people can be when they are secure in the knowledge that they agree with Everyone, their minds untroubled and uncomplicated by having any opinions of their own.

Modern education is designed to produce Everyone. It praises “diversity” and does its best to destroy the real thing, in the form of the individual who does his own thinking.

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Copyright © 1999 by the Vere Company
Originally published by the United Press Syndicate, copyright © 1999