The Kraken Myth and the Safe Harbor
Well, Kraken is a mythical giant octopus, that rose from the bottom of the sea to devour the bad, the malevolent. Let me clarify another term, the Safe Harbor, which talks about conduct that does not violate the rule. Not much of a difference between Kaliya, the serpent demon whom Lord Krishna overpowered in the Yamuna. And what is a safe harbor is a legal provision to reduce or eliminate legal or regulatory liability in certain situations as long as certain conditions are met (Investopedia).
For many, who are watching with anxiety, the Kraken Conspiracy has added to the folklore of conspiracy theories already pervading the US mythical landscape, the way the Flat Earthers have reigned so far. We all know the several conspiracies around JFK’s assassination. According to Rob Brotherton from Washington Post, over a third of Americans believe that global warming is a hoax, and over half believe that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
It is a famous past time here in the US. Indulging or ruminating the conspiracy theories, that have been recirculated and kept ripe with the grapevine. It’s not just American past time, conspiracies have always evoked interest, possibly because we love some goosebumps. As Rob Brotherton from the Washington Post explains, “But focusing exclusively on unconscious biases and cognitive mistakes overlooks the fact that there is often a kernel of believability at the heart of these theories”.
In rare circumstances, Conspiracy theories can be a bane and pose an existential threat to society. According to Smithsonian, “These new parties, which included the Democrats, the National Republicans, the Anti-Masons, and the Whigs, frequently used conspiracy accusations as a political tool to capture new voters—ultimately bringing about a recession and a collapse of public trust in the democratic process”.
In my view, ‘The Trump Effect’. aka Trumpism is not superfluous, it is deep and taps into the crevices of deep-seated insecurities of a particular set of ethnicities. It is a reflection of isolation, lack of opportunities, of vertical mobility within the society and as a group, of increased isolationism and seclusion. As a group or a part of a clique, people are simply attracted to conspiracy theories when they feel disempowered and helpless, specifically with a frustrating social event.
I believe, to avoid cognitive dissonance, the mind wanders and leans towards cognitive baises, and these biases of causality, which are unsubstantiated and inadequately documented, but supports the internal bias, that requires no evidence, results in subscription to a Conspiracy. Psychodynamically, this avoids greater stress and falling into cognitive dissonance. Anyways, persistent dilemma results in degradation of personality and morale, and this defensive mechanism stops the individual from falling into the vicious trap of dissonance.
Conspiracy theories are universal, across times, cultures, ethnicities, and ideologies often serving irrational delibrations to cater to the rational cravings of the mind. As mentioned earlier, they are enchanting since they evoke goosebumps for many than satisfying the quest of logical reasoning.
Karen Douglas, in her seminal work on ‘The Psychology of Conspiracy Theory’, explains that people like conspiracy theories, when they are anxious, feel powerless, and without control to influence the outcome and a subscription to conspiracies actually disempowers the individual or the group as a whole. What are the immediate implications of these on the outcome?
Impact on the Georgia Run-off
If the Trump or Republican votaries feel disempowered, they are unlikely to vote, because irrespective of their best efforts, they are likely to be robbed by the malevolent force behind the situation. ). It also causes disenchantment with politicians and scientists. the need for people to feel safe and secure in their environment and to exert control over the environment as autonomous individuals and as a clique. People turn to conspiracy theories for compensatory satisfaction when these needs are threatened. For example, people who lack instrumental control may be afforded some compensatory sense of control by conspiracy theories, because they offer them the opportunity to reject official narratives and feel that they possess an alternative account (Goertzel, 1994). Thus, Conspiracy Theories may promise to make people feel safer.
Douglas writes further, that people are clearly attracted to conspiracy theories when their social motivations are frustrated, it is not at all clear that adopting these theories is a fruitful way to fulfill these motivations. A feature of conspiracy theories is their negative, distrustful representation of other people and groups. Thus, it is plausible that they are not only a symptom but also a cause of the feelings of alienation and anomie—a feeling of personal unrest and lack of understanding of the social world—with which they are correlated. Believe in Conspiracies, is generally speculative and contrarian, represent the public as ignorant and at the mercy of unaccountable powers, and impute highly antisocial and cynical motives to other individuals. Studies have shown that people are likely to turn to conspiracy theories when they are anxious (Grzesiak-Feldman, 2013) and feel powerless (Abalakina-Paap, Stephan, Craig, & Gregory, 1999). Other research indicates that conspiracy belief is strongly related to lack of sociopolitical control or lack of psychological empowerment (Bruder et al., 2013). Experiments have shown that compared with baseline conditions, conspiracy belief is heightened when people feel unable to control outcomes and is reduced when their sense of control is affirmed (van Prooijen & Acker, 2015).
COVID-19 as a Myth and a Hoax
Some groups believe COVID-19 is a myth, a hoax. Is it common only in the US? Not at all. I was talking with a friend from central India and when I asked how’s COVID in his city, he said, people are moving around normally. Some even believe that COVID is a myth, a hoax. Why blame America? Well, it is related to all the factors cited above – of cognitively associating the causality of the trigger with an event, of finding inadequate reasoning to substantiate, of deeply inflicted anxiety and helplessness, and finally, a lack of control to fix the situation.
On the contrary, experimental exposure to conspiracy theories appears to immediately suppress people’s sense of autonomy and control (Douglas & Leite, 2017; Jolley & Douglas, 2014a, 2014b). These same studies have also shown that it makes people less inclined to take actions that, in the long run, might boost their autonomy and control. Specifically, they are less inclined to commit to their organizations and to engage in mainstream political processes such as voting and party politics.
History Repeats itself!
The Kraken: What is it and why has Trump’s ex-lawyer released it?
The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories
Karen M. Douglas, Robbie M. Sutton, Aleksandra CichockaFirst Published December 7, 2017 Research Article Find in PubMed
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/criq.12578 (worth a read)