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Sheeple, a portmanteau of “sheep” and “people,” is a pejorative used toward people who exhibit herd-like and conformist behaviors instead of putting critical thinking into practice. Online, the term is commonly employed by conspiracy theorists to criticize those who question the validity of their beliefs, as encapsulated in the ironic phrase “Wake up, sheeple!”
The earliest known use of term “sheeple” can be found in a volume of the Emory University Quarterly published in 1950. The term was popularized in the 1980s by radio host and conspiracy theorist Milton William Cooper. On September 26th, 1991, “sheeple” was used in reference to white Americans in a thread on the soc.culture.african.american group on Usenet.
In 1999, libertarian political blog Stentorian published an article titled “Defining a New Political Spectrum,” which contained a paragraph on “sheeple” who are described as those who “advocate state power over individuals.” On March 8th, 2002, the conspiracy theory blog The Forbidden Knowledge published an open letter addressed to “the sheeple,” which discussed the existence of the secret “New World Order” Illuminati organization. In 2003, several definitions for “sheeple” were submitted to Urban Dictionary. On October 30th, 2004, a Wikipedia page titled “Sheeple” was launched. On July 15th, 2009, xkcd posted a webcomic titled “Sheeple,” in which a group of train riders all think they are “the only conscious human in a world of sheep” (shown below).
On February 1st, 2010, the webcomic GoodNightNeverland uploaded a comic titled “Redditors Need Apply,” in which a sheep-person wakes their child by yelling “Wake up Sheeple!” (shown below, left).
On February 6th, 2012, xkcd posted a webcomic titled “Wake Up Sheeple,” in which a civilization of sheep-people hybrids are awakened from their underground slumber after a man yells “Wake up, Sheeple!” (shown below).