of fear. And worse, it is an irrational fear.
YOU can decide if those who pushed this were evil or just rubes. Go ahead and make that call. My own take on it is that most were just rubes.
Others were so personally narcissistic and rigid that they couldn’t change or even seriously entertain that maybe they are wrong.
Still others, driving the issue, were knowingly evil.
Again, these are not mutually exclusive categories. There are indeed “hybrid” versions–some mixture of fooled, willing dupes, rigid narcissism, and actual malice. And that is almost for sure the most common occurrence.