How '-Phobic' Became a Weapon in the Identity Wars

1/26/2016 - Professor of Psychology Gregory Herek in The New York Times.

The ‘‘-phobic’’ suffix has emerged as the activist’s most trusted term of art for pinning prejudice on an opponent. There’s ‘‘xenophobic,’’ ‘‘homophobic,’’ ‘‘Islamophobic,’’ ‘‘transphobic,’’ ‘‘fatphobic’’ and ‘‘whorephobic’’: Any blowhard who spews bigotry against a marginalized group — or any journalist who pens an article perceived as insufficiently sensitive — risks being called out for an irrational anxiety over one Other or another. When did this particular diagnosis become such a powerful weapon in the identity wars?

Bigotry is an emotionally charged phenomenon, and a persistent critique of the political ‘‘-phobia’’ is that it’s hooked on the wrong feeling. Anti-gay rhetoric and hate crimes often seem ‘‘more consistent with the emotion of anger than fear,’’ Herek wrote.

Read the full story in The New York Times.