The Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is due out in 2013. Although not a trained professional, I would nevertheless like to respectfully propose a new entry: Fear-based Ideological Behavior, or FIB.
FIB is characterized by an obsessive adherence to a belief or set of beliefs that either cannot be supported by factual evidence, or that directly contradicts factual evidence.
FIB is a relatively widespread disorder in American society at the present time.
You don’t hear about it by name in the press or on TV or radio, but the symptoms of FIB are all around us, and are widely reported. However, no one has yet connected the dots to reveal the larger picture.
Poll after poll, news story after news story, provide evidence that as many as 20% to 30% (in some cases, many more!) of Americans believe the opposite of such obviously factual and easily demonstrable ideas as:
- healthcare reform will lengthen patients’ lives, not cut them short via “death panels”
- lowering taxes increases the net worth of those already rich, but fails to stimulate economic growth
- “enhanced interrogation” (torture) is not only against international law, but yields less useful information than humane techniques
- Obama is a practicing Christian who was born in the U.S.
- the U.S. Constitution clearly calls for separating church and state
- unemployment compensation is a form of insurance paid for by a tax on workers, and cushions the blow of unemployment for both the individual and the economy as a whole
- net neutrality means what it says and will prohibit “tiered” services that favor the messages of those willing to pay more
- George Bush’s policies produced irrefutable economic and other numbers that mark him as the worst U.S. President of modern times
- Government stimulation of the U.S. economy has produced or saved millions of jobs and prevented the current recession from getting worse
- ACORN has been cleared of any wrong-doing by repeated investigations, and while active it actually helped people improve their lives
- People who decried certain “anti-President” or “anti-America” behaviors when GW Bush was president have been doing those same things since 2009
- The sub-prime mortgage crisis resulted from greedy and dishonest practices on Wall Street, not from poor people buying homes
- Lumping all Muslims together as terrorists is incorrect, violates the American multicultural tradition, and increases the ranks of real terrorists
- BP’s $20 billion restitution fund is an entirely appropriate payment from the company that polluted the ocean with their oil
- The so-called “Ground-Zero Mosque” is two blocks away (out of sight from Ground Zero), in the space where a clothing store used to be, and will be a cultural center (like a YMCA) incorporating room for prayer
The list could go on much longer.
That’s not the point.
The point is that we as a nation are experiencing a significant outbreak of FIB, and those suffering from FIB are deflecting the national conversation about important issues like war, debt, jobs, pollution, and how best to govern the nation. Whenever an important issue comes up, and sometimes even when one doesn’t, the poor unfortunates suffering from FIB offer their contribution of ideas, suggestions, analyses, or observations that do not acknowledge the reality that the rest of us experience.
Being compassionate people, we listen to these FIB-sufferers just as if they were making sense, and sometimes we even try to respond in ways that will help them understand where they have gone off the tracks. Naturally, nothing sensible gets through to them, just as “putting a knife under the bed” won’t cut the patient’s pain in two (as mentioned in “Gone With The Wind”).
Clearly, compassion and gentle treatment aren’t enough. In fact, you might call our current response to FIB “nequam nixus,” or worthless effort.
Instead, we need to recognize FIB as the serious and debilitating ailment it is. We must fund qualified scientists (not bloggers or pundits) who will study its causes and devise a practical remedy that can be applied as part of an overall treatment plan.
Otherwise, we risk the epidemic spreading farther and wider, and causing even more suffering for many years to come.
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(In a future post, I’ll comment on the likely etiology of FIB, which may give some clues to prevention, if not treatment.)