Written by Delaney Tobin
They were one of the most popular bands of the mid-2000’s. With easy-to-memorize bops, and an edgy, bad-boy vibe paired with band members who looked as wholesome as bible camp counselors, they seemed enjoyable for everyone. However, without warning, reason, or ceremony, they became one of the most universally loathed bands in recent history. Now everyone knows their songs but can’t sing along, for fear of public ridicule. What happened here? Where did they go wrong? And most importantly…
Why does everybody hate Nickelback?
This is a question so confusing that scientific studies have actually been conducted, such as the one by Salli Anttonen, a cultural studies Ph.D. student at the University of Eastern Finland, scathingly entitled, “‘Hypocritical bullshit performed through gritted teeth’: Authenticity discourses in Nickelback’s album reviews in Finnish media.” Yeah…not the most impartial study but a thorough analysis nonetheless. If you would like to read more about her take on the band, the full article is can be found here: Authenticity discourses in Nickelback’s album reviews in Finnish media. Anyway, “science” aside, one can theorize other reasons for this band, and other major pop culture figures, failing to win the hearts of the public, or losing them after initial popularity.
In this case, it appears that the bulk of people have fallen victim to what Tocqueville calls the “tyranny of the majority” in his book Democracy in America. The basis of this is that people tend to be extremely susceptible to go with whatever the popular opinion is about things. It becomes a tyranny because often times if anyone chooses to voice an opinion or belief that is not in line with what the preponderance of society thinks, they are shut down and even ostracized. Although the example of Nickelback is a bit trivial, it is a perfect illustration of how this phenomenon works. Even now, you will never hear anyone saying they enjoy their music, and in the rare event that you do, they will be met with great mockery and protest, which is an immense detriment to freedom of opinion and expression. Many people, Salli Anttonen obviously excluded, don’t even know why exactly they dislike them, they just do because everyone else does.
This type of mob mentality is dangerous.
Tocqueville states in his book that a tyranny of the majority is much more dangerous than an actual tyrant, such as a dictator. Being forced to go along with what everyone else thinks due to fear of alienation from one’s peers puts a stop to individual thought and creative thinking – no one will have any desire to have original ideas anymore. Tocqueville goes as far as to say, “I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America.” He’s not wrong, even on seemingly free-thinking places such as college campuses, there have been people who have been violently driven from them for daring to voice an opinion outside of the norm. When individuals begin fearing extreme backlash from their peers for having original beliefs, conversations tend to cease, as does freedom of thought.
If the tyranny of the majority is capable of changing the general opinion about a popular band, imagine what else it can affect. Is it possible to have a stance on major issues without being swayed by popular opinion?