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Let's say there's a large group of people who are under a negative influence but are forced to keep quiet about the fact or they may face brutal consequences.

My idea comes from the book "Watership Down", when the humanized warren with which the main character "Fiver" envisions a horrid slaughter factor concerning that specific warren. When the warren is asked about it, the questioner is automatically shunned, or is interrupted by a sudden interjection. Is there a word for this type of behavior? What is paranoid reluctance to answer something because of superstition/unnatural concern?

Edit: Think of a situation in which you start questioning and are suddenly hushed, interrupted or interjected because someone doesn't want you thinking about that, or possibly bringing it up, and that specific reason is kept from the questioner. What is that action/attitude against somebody called?

I need it in the context of being of accusation. Like,

You're being [word].

And if there's a specific saying or reference referring to this action, I would like to know that as an alternative.

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A questioner who experiences passive reluctance on the part of his peers to face unpleasant facts due to a simple lack of sophistication might characterize such individuals as ingenuous or credulous, but those terms are too formal to be sufficiently pejorative for a face-to-face accusation. Naive would be a better choice. If the intent is to imply—either generally or specifically—a psychologically based inability to accept a perilous situation, that could be referred to as self-deception or self-delusion.

Alternately, if willfulness is suspected:

You're being deliberately ignorant.

Given a case of intentional denial, the accusation might also be made using a colloquial idiom (the definitions have a British English source, but they are appropriate for North American English):

  • You're burying your head in the sand.
  • You're turning a blind eye to the facts.

If the failure to respond to the questioner has its source in group-based guilt or shame, then I suggest the term conspiracy of silence.

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Thanks! This will do. – Yippi Feb 5 '13 at 17:32
I don't think any of these except the last capture the essence implied by the question. I really think they should be removed from the answer, and "conspiracy of silence" given primacy. – starwed Feb 5 '13 at 17:52
The warren desires to maintain, via denial, the unsustainably blissful existence it has come to through providential circumstance. Fiver's intent is to steer the group from this self-delusion to real happiness--which he knows will be found only through clear-headed and virtuous engagement with the challenges of freedom. Yippi's explicit request is for a word describing the warren's reaction to Fiver's prophecies. My salient definitions are in the first paragraph. I provided the remaining contexts in anticipation of the legitimate expectations those unacquainted with Watership Down might bear. – Doc G. Feb 6 '13 at 9:18

Your description sounds like self-censorship,

the regulation of a group's actions and statements by its own members rather than an external agency

which I believe is a misnomer; I prefer auto-censorship with the prefix being an abbreviation of automatic rather than autonomic.

the act of censoring or classifying one's own work (blog, book(s), film(s), or other means of expression), out of fear of, or deference to, the sensibilities of others, without overt pressure from any specific party or institution of authority.1

and from a linguistics perspective,

in "Manufacturing Consent," Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman argue that corporate ownership of news media very strongly encourages systematic self-censorship due to market forces.1

For more superstitious fears, such as "Good luck!" and "MacBeth" bringing a curse or jinx for actors, I prefer auto-censorship to soft censorship, to describe the phenomenon. This is not to say I disagree with the term jinx, just that it has a puerile connotation.

Jinx, owe me a Coke!

Etymology: 20th Century: perhaps from New Latin Jynx genus name of the wryneck, from Greek iunx wryneck, the name of a bird used in magic

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OP's "reluctance to answer" is probably too specific to have a dedicated word. In more general terms, it's a matter of people's reluctance to engage with certain issues in any way whatsoever...

denial: a defence mechanism characterized by refusal to acknowledge painful realities, thoughts, or feelings.

EDIT: I've just realised no-one has put up what I think is a very likely word in OP's context...

"You're being evasive."

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They could say, You are being a "jinx"!


Noun - one that brings bad luck; also: the state or spell of bad luck brought on by a jinx

Transitive Verb - to foredoom to failure or misfortune : bring bad luck to

Examples of "JINX":

"I thought they were going to win but I didn't say so because I didn't want to jinx them."

"His luck has been so bad he feels jinxed."

Definition and examples from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

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The word "taboo" seems to fit here:

An inhibition or ban that results from social custom or emotional aversion.

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