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Skeptiphobia (n) : Fear of thinking, fear of critical thought, fear of uncomfortable thoughts or unfamiliar ideas.

This condition is characterized by obsessive repeating of counter-factual claims, often intensifying in the face of additional evidence against those claims.

Such behavior appears to be rooted in a subconscious emotional belief that repeating something enough will make it true – which may even work on a functional level if the subject can find enough like-minded others who will both reassure them that the belief is true and work with them to suppress any dissenting opinions.

This is one of the core behaviors that leads to support for the US Republican Party (early-21st-century version) and right-wing policies in general.

It is deliberately exploited by right-wing think-tanks, demagogues, powermongers, and media outlets, which carefully frame issues as a battle between simple or familiar ideas that skeptiphobes find appealing or easy to swallow versus difficult or uncomfortable ideas against which skeptiphobes have innate resistance.

Unfortunately it appears that an interpretive frame, once installed in a receptive brain, is extraordinarily difficult to replace with another one (on the same order of difficulty with using evidence and reason) – so whoever gets their propaganda out first tends to control the discourse.


1. Same-sex marriage is framed as being in opposition to the institution of marriage and therefore a threat to "the family" and "family values" (vague but easily-swallowed concepts), whereas a more honest framing would present same-sex marriage as an enhancement and strengthening of the institution of marriage, a strengthening of the nuclear family, by extending its benefits to more of the population and providing a larger pool of married couples to do whatever it is that families do that we find valuable.

2. Global warming is framed as a conspiracy to demand higher taxes and more government control over private affairs, whereas a more honest framing would present it as a legitimate threat that we, as strong and innovative Americans, need not just to overcome but to be first in line to act upon in order to preserve our position of scientific and economic leadership in the world -- indeed, that failure to act promptly and accurately is (unlike ISIS, abortions, gay people, etc.) a serious threat to American exceptionalism and hegemony.


originally presented on Google+