Friday, January 15, 2010


So That's Why Cass Sunstein Has Been Donating to Free Advice

Ralph Raico draws our attention to this very disturbing story. I'll let Glenn Greenwald explain (emphasis mine, and I corrected two typos):
Cass Sunstein has long been one of Barack Obama's closest confidants. Often mentioned as a likely Obama nominee to the Supreme Court, Sunstein is currently Obama's head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs where, among other things, he is responsible for "overseeing policies relating to privacy, information quality, and statistical programs." In 2008, while at Harvard Law School, Sunstein co-wrote a truly pernicious paper proposing that the U.S. Government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-"independent" advocates to "cognitively infiltrate" online groups and websites -- as well as other activist groups -- which advocate views that Sunstein deems "false conspiracy theories" about the Government. This would be designed to increase citizens' faith in government officials and undermine the credibility of conspiracists. The paper's abstract can be read, and the full paper downloaded, here.

Sunstein advocates that the Government's stealth infiltration should be accomplished by sending covert agents into "chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups." He also proposes that the Government make secret payments to so-called "independent" credible voices to bolster the Government's messaging (on the ground that those who don't believe government sources will be more inclined to listen to those who appear independent while secretly acting on behalf of the Government). This program would target those advocating false "conspiracy theories," which they define to mean: "an attempt to explain an event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role."...

There's no evidence that the Obama administration has actually implemented a program exactly of the type advocated by Sunstein...Regardless, Sunstein's closeness to the President, as well as the highly influential position he occupies, merits an examination of the mentality behind what he wrote. This isn't an instance where some government official wrote a bizarre paper in college 30 years ago about matters unrelated to his official powers; this was written 18 months ago, at a time when the ascendancy of Sunstein's close friend to the Presidency looked likely, in exactly the area he now oversees.
Seriously guys, isn't this all getting just a little too "out in the open" for you? We have pictures of Americans sexually torturing prisoners of war; the NYT has stories matter-of-factly talking about a worldwide network of CIA-run prisons; the government is steadily taking over the housing market, energy sector, financial industry, and health care; we are installing full body scanners at airports; we have occupying troops in I-don't-even-remember-now how many Middle Eastern countries and are considering an attack on Iran...and now this. If we went back to, say, 1983 and you watched a Tom Clancy movie in which the Soviet Union did all of the above, what would you think? "Man, those are some altruistic commies, spreading their way of life all over the world with their own blood, sweat, and money."

Wake up, people. This is how it happens. This is what it feels like when it's happening in real-time.

The link to the abstract is not working for me ...
how did our most famous universities come to educate their students to become like Cass Sunstein? Where are the universities in America that promote ideologies of personal liberty and justice?
i don't see the big deal... i think you're being kooky

I think the essential point is not the stunning offensiveness of the Sunstein paper and its ideas, but rather as Dr Murphy is saying, the level to which that paper fits into a background tapestry of a quickly-forming global or semi-global hegemony of the state.
Didn't this kind of stuff already happen in the 1960's COINTELPRO days? That by no means excuses it, of course. It's kind of depressing that a guy this crazy has the ear of the president. I wouldn't be surprised if Bush II hadn't already instituted this kind of program. Why people act like there's a real difference between the current political duopoly is a mystery.

Well, we know two things for sure:

1. Tyler Cowen will employ his usual specious reasoning to dismiss the significance of this. Gotta stay in the good graces of people who read the NY Times.

2. Bob will never speak forthrightly about what's really behind this; makes him too uncomfortable. He kinda reminds me of Winston Smith at the end of 1984.
The Blackadder Says:

I've now read the paper in question, and yes, Bob, you are blowing this way out of proportion. Sunstein's idea is that government agents ought to go into "chat rooms" and undermine the credibility of conspiracy theories by . . . arguing that they aren't true. Basically, the idea seems to be that the government act like Glenn Greenwald.

It's a silly idea, of course, because inevitably the fact the government was doing this would get out, and this would discredit all critics of conspiracy theories, whether they had any government connection or not. Indeed, the mere fact that Sunstein published the article seems to be fanning exactly these sort of flames, however irrationally (if there was a giant conspiracy to turn the U.S. into the Soviet Union, do you really think conspiracy members would be publishing their plans in the SSRN?) But there's nothing particularly ominous or disturbing about the paper. If all the KGB had done was send agents into pubs to argue the merits of Marxism, they wouldn't have been very scary.
"But there's nothing particularly ominous or disturbing about the paper. If all the KGB had done was send agents into pubs to argue the merits of Marxism, they wouldn't have been very scary.'

But, as you well know (even if you did completely ignore the rather lengthy paragraph in which Bob placed this newest bit of lunacy in its proper context), that's not all our government does, now is it? So what does this rather churlish conclusion have to do with anything?

"It's a silly idea, of course, because inevitably the fact the government was doing this would get out, and this would discredit all critics of conspiracy theories"

Just like the Pentagon Military Analyst program. Boy, did that ever discredit both the Pentagon AND the MSM. NO ONE listens to those guys anymore.
At least give me my soma for God's sake!
The motive is curious...either they're distracting from their dark deeds, or they're covering bumbling inadequacies by bolstering confidence in the gov. Then again, I'm too binary. I think they borrowed their own MO for handling the economy.
I ponder things, conspiracy theories being no exception. I wonder if there hasn't already been major infiltrations, from multiple sources, not the least of which is the make some serious cash angle. Before destroying conspiracy theories, the gov should first contemplate how much of the GDP would be lost. Have you seen the price of some of the books? $69 bucks anyone? Feed your fear addiction, and our wallet. To really ride the wave, and rake it in, you need to overlap genres. I was recently given one by a guy claiming that he was once part of the inner shadow elite, and that that's where he learned the secrets of....bad diet conspiracies. He was writing to show you a healthy diet.
Another angle is to discredit by association. I'm pretty sure that a well known herbicide acts by growing the plant to death. It grows so fast that it dies, cells rupture, something like that. And so it is. Real threats are alongside bizarre ideas, both are regarded as kooky.
Just my musings.
Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]