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First invoked in politics by Richard Nixon, the Silent Majority is a hypothetical mass of citizens that approve of the speaker's position, but have not publicly expressed this in any tangible way. It is the off-line equivalent of "The lurkers support me in email."
It is also the name of a song by the band True Sounds of Liberty (TSOL).
The "silent majority" is most often invoked by conservative politicians who argue that real Americans are conservative, but neither as politically active nor as loud as their liberal counterparts. Nixon initially employed it in reference to the Vietnam War: since most Americans weren't actively protesting the war, Nixon's reasoning went, it followed that they supported his policies. In contrast, those criticizing the war were a "vocal minority" whose views received disproportionate attention.
This logic is, to say the least, highly flawed, since it assumes facts not in evidence. By definition, the opinions of a "silent majority" are difficult to gauge since they do not engage in politicking outside of an election year. Assuming that all supporters of a position are silent, and all those who oppose it are vocal, is extremely dubious reasoning. Nixon's own domestic advisor, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, cautioned him that "the silent majority is silent because it has nothing to say."
With the rise of right wing media and activist groups over the past few decades, the term has become even more an oxymoron, which hasn't stopped Republicans from using it. Most recently, Donald Trump and his supporters have branded themselves a silent majority, even though most of them are neither silent nor (at this point) a majority.
Ironically, the phrase was originally euphemism for dead people, as in "he joined the silent majority". So when a politician says the silent majority will support them on election day...
- ↑ http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/richard-m-nixon/videos/nixon-addresses-silent-majority
- ↑ Joseph Lee. TSOL - Abolish Government \ Silent Majority. YouTube. 2009 June 12
- ↑ https://www.nixonlibrary.gov/virtuallibrary/releases/jun09/111370_Moynihan.pdf
- ↑ http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/12/us/politics/donald-trump-defiantly-rallies-a-new-silent-majority-in-a-visit-to-arizona.html
- ↑ [https://books.google.com/books?id=EcZZAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA302&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false Greenough, James Bradstreet; George Lyman Kittredge (1920)