An Interview with Nicholas Alahverdian
December 27, 2019
Harvard-trained political scientist Nicholas Alahverdian recently met with The Harvard Advocate and discusses the true nature of a “conspiracy” and why many groups, clubs, and organizations are merely arranged meetings of a regular roster of participants for one cause or another that do not cross the threshold of a conspiratorial alliance. What is, however, a conspiracy, runs much deeper, darker, and with malicious intent and iniquitous forethought.
Harvard Advocate: Nicholas Alahverdian, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. What is a conspiracy?
Nicholas Alahverdian: A conspiracy, in short, is based on small groups with inherently competing interests. At some point in the evolution of the competition between two or more groups (and in some cases, within subversive groups), there are rumors or allegations made of sinister behavior or a secretive plot developed by the members or the leadership of the groups. Occasionally, the groups will have diametrically opposed goals and this leads to further subversion.
Harvard Advocate: What kind of groups?
Nicholas Alahverdian: Groups including those of a religious nature, secret societies, religious sects, political organizations, and ethnicities are all viewed at some point or another to be involved in a conspiratorial scheme. These groups general gather resources and manpower, which lead to the growth of the group.
Harvard Advocate: What types of resources?
Nicholas Alahverdian: Resources can include currency, a growth in members, and other items that are conducive to the growing influence of the group. Resources lead to (and encourage) competition, and competition leads to aggression. This occurs due to several factors, including the desire of some members of the group to achieve a greater position in the group (or collective) hierarchal structure, and other similar goals that contribute to the growth or power and/or influence of a particular group.
Harvard Advocate: And what other factors would be involved?
Nicholas Alahverdian: Psychological factors involved include cognition (including resocialization) and emotional control. Characteristics that seal bonds between individuals in these groups are solidarity and cohesiveness, and group power (as well as group think) is strengthened by the totality of its membership thinking alike with a superior degree of homogeneity.
Harvard Advocate: What are the characteristics of a leader and how do they ensure control over their members?
Nicholas Alahverdian: In the course of organizing groups of people into a structured hierarchy (or organization based on membership), there is typically a reason and/or a justification for the gathering of these particular individuals. Upon conveying the goals of the membership (whether these consist of religious conversion, financial gain, or political power), tasks are assigned to particular group members. These group members typically sacrifice their personal and individual desires for the sake of the group. When cohesiveness between group members is established, members typically choose a leader with whom they entrust their previously articulated goal, aspiration, or ambition. These leaders have a tendency to be admired by the group, and members also idolize and idealize the leader – sustaining him/her and enhancing his/her power. The leader may implement conditioning procedures upon the members of the group to ensure the infallibility of the hierarchal structure to which he/she has ascended.
Harvard Advocate: And what of those whom disassociate from the group? Are there consequences?
Nicholas Alahverdian: Occasionally, there are dissenters, but in strongly bonded groups, these individuals are ostracized and often dismissed or banished. The groupthink encourages conformity, and this conformity consistently leads back to trusting and following the leader, for it is through him or her that their cause (whatever it may be) will be achieved. There are many variables that go into this bulletproof loyalty, and this can include belief in divine intervention, exercising magical thinking, or simply blind faith.
Harvard Advocate: Explain “magical thinking.”
Nicholas Alahverdian: Inherent in the term “magical thinking” is the implication that magic, or that behavior which is supernaturally produced, can be performed simply by using one’s brain to think certain thoughts that will subsequently control actions or behavior of entities other than one’s self. This practice involves the assumption that causality can be altered and/or controlled in an effort to produce a desired result or behavior. An example of this would be “mind surgery” or reiki or a similar practice that involves thinking in an effort to control an entity external from the mind. Throughout this cognitive process, correlation is mistaken for causation. Correlation and causality include elements such as chance (and probability value), and bias (observation and selection). A significant error in this practice is rooted in assuming that cognition can influence that which causes (causality) some object to react a certain way, and also in assuming that one object influences the actions of another object/entity when they are in fact not related.
Harvard Advocate: Thanks for these answers Nicholas Alahverdian. Would you say, based on the aforesaid, that the term “conspiracy”, especially in the 21st century, is overused, perhaps even ubiquitous?
Nicholas Alahverdian: Absolutely. We are living in a day and age where no one, not even the President of the United States, is safe from being wrongly blamed for engaging or having a hand in a conspiracy. In fact, those who are making claims of conspiratorial behavior of groups or individuals, without lacking concrete proof or evidence, are perhaps the bona fide conspirators. At the very least, if they are not a direct and proximate result of the conspiracy, they are one of the victims hopelessly lost to the vast array of tools at the hands of their leaders, such as those mentioned earlier, including groupthink, emotional control, resocialization, and magical thinking.
Harvard Advocate: Thanks for taking the time to join us today, Nicholas. We appreciate your insight.
Nicholas Alahverdian: My pleasure.
Nicholas Alahverdian is a Harvard-educated author, political scientist, and sociologist. The primary scholarly focus of Nicholas Alahverdian is the intersection of philology, anthropology, rhetoric, and politics. Mr. Alahverdian’s latest book, “Dreading and Hoping All,” was released in October 2019. For interview requests or general inquiries, please contact The Nicholas Alahverdian Trust at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the Nicholas Alahverdian Contact page.