Similar to “extreme/extremist,” this term is often used pejoratively to frame an idea, person or institution as dangerous.  Often, the word is used with political opponents or unpopular ideas as a way to shut down the conversation.  For instance, someone who raises questions about global warming, evolution or vaccines is often called a ‘fanatic’ - dismissing the idea that there are any legitimate questions or concerns that deserve to be explored.     

This is not to deny that extreme or fanatic ideas and people do, in fact exist - only to highlight how the word has been weaponized far beyond the original definition of a “person filled with excessive or single-minded zeal for a particular cause.”


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