Preponderance of conspiracy theories

ByUzair Ali

He is in the finance sector


August 2, 2022

Uzair Ali points out to a serious issue

Human existence is untenable from the beginning to the end. Human nature is conditioned to see lurking danger in every aspect of life. Conspiracy theory is an unconscious reflection of human insecurity. Conspiracy theories are, therefore, as old as human presence of this planet. It is only recently that psychologists have started to delve deep into the labyrinthine movement of human thought process that gives birth to conspiracy theories. It is often conjectured that conspiracy theories are explanations of psychological discomfort a group of people face in believing a given fact. The classic case of conspiracy theories is the unending probe into factors resulting in assassination of US President Kennedy.

That the impact of conspiracy theories lingers on for very long periods of time is borne out by exceptional interest taken in the release of cryptic pages of Kennedy assassination half a century ago. The search though did not prove anything conclusive but the abiding interest in the matter fails to die down. There is no dearth of people who perpetrate and believe in a conspiracy theory attached to climate change. A wide circle believes that deliberate policy was followed by developed states to bring about climate change so that rest of the world remains dependent on their technological superiority.

It is not very clear yet as to why a segment of population believes and even thrives on conspiracy theories. They summarise the characteristics associated with a person who is likely to believe in conspiracy theories as openness to experience, distrust, low agreeability, and certain twist of mental ability. Someone with low agreeability is an individual who is usually not very dependable, kind, or cooperative. Mental twist is equated with Machiavellianism compelling an individual to exclusively focus on his own interests and may not shy away from manipulating, deceiving, and exploiting others to achieve his objectives. In terms of cognitive processes, people with stronger conspiracy beliefs are more likely to overestimate the likelihood of co-occurring events, to attribute intentionality where it is unlikely to exist and to have lower levels of analytic thinking.

There is said to be certain co-relation between a person’s need for uniqueness and a belief of conspiracy theories. Individuals suffering from high need for uniqueness are more likely than others to endorse conspiracy beliefs because conspiracy theories represent the possession of unconventional and potentially scarce information. The spice is added to conspiracy theories by relying on narratives that refer to secret knowledge or information, which, by definition, is not accessible to everyone, otherwise it would not be a secret and it would be a well-known fact.

Consequently, people who believe in conspiracy theories feel special in a positive sense because they feel more informed than others about important social and political events. Individual narcissism or a grandiose idea of the self is positively related to belief in conspiracy theories. Interestingly paranoid thought mediates the relationship between individual narcissism and conspiracy beliefs. The need for uniqueness could be an additional mediator of this relationship.

It has been often observed that individuals endorsing conspiracy theories are likely to be higher in powerlessness and social isolation. Such disengagement from normative social order results in greater conspiratorial thinking for a number of related reasons. Individuals who feel alienated may consequently reject conventional explanations of events, as they reject the legitimacy of the source of these explanations. When such alienation occurs conspiracy theorists turn to groups prone to conspiracy for a sense of belonging and community, or to marginalised subcultures in which conspiracy theories are potentially more rife. Somehow people falling for conspiracy theories’ syndrome attain a sense of meaning, security and control over an unpredictable and dangerous world.
Conspiracy beliefs usually imply a level of twisted reasoning and power enacted by those without fixed morality and such beliefs are likely to resonate with people who feel powerless and believe that society lacks norms. Unstable self-esteem breeding self-uncertainty is also a characteristic associated with a greater likelihood to believe in conspiracy theories. People who feel an acute sense of lack of belongingness are often more prone to accepting conspiracy theories.

Almost everyone associated with conspiracy theory syndrome is rational but suffers from acute paranoia. Once confronted with contrarian factual evidence the sufferer dismisses both the evidence and the person who brings it. The cause of such discrepancy is that conspiracy theories are driven by people who tend to believe in their veracity and not on the factual support or logical reasoning of the theory itself.

For times to come conspiracy theories are going to stay particularly in Pakistan where levels of veracity are hard to find and where twisting facts is a national characteristic. Pakistan suffers duality on purpose on every level and it is very easy to sell a conspiracy theory here. The gradual dominance of internet and Facebook have resulted in manifold rise of conspiracy theories pertaining to every aspect of Pakistani polity. It is however advisable to look at things more critically and avoid falling for fantastic interpretation of very normal events. TW


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