Sunday, January 17, 2010

Good Day, Sunstein!

President Obama's appointee to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, current "Information Czar" and likely nominee for the Supreme Court Cass Sunstein, has just published a paper on conspiracy theories.

It's fascinating stuff. Sunstein believes that the Government Has To Do Something About Them, and his recommendations include infiltrating groups, both online and offline, to dispel their theories. The action the government should take includes "planting doubts about the theories and stylized facts that circulate within such groups, thereby introducing cognitive diversity". (p.15)

In English, this would seem to mean "planting doubts about facts to confuse people".

Wait a minnit! If I'd come out last week and said the government was planning to plant doubts about facts to confuse people, you'd have called me a Conspiracy Theorist!

And apart from planting doubts about facts, Sunstein also discusses imposing a tax on "those who disseminate such theories", hiring "credible private parties to engage in counterspeech" and ultimately, "under imaginable conditions" the "government might ban conspiracy theorizing". (p. 14)

His cited conspiracy theories are a grab bag. He thinks the belief that aliens crash landed at Roswell has caused no harm, "with the exception of bad television shows". Hey, everyone's a critic! You try writing a TV show, Cass! Betcha can't! However, there is apparently a conspiracy theory that exposure to sunlight is good for you, which is "false and dangerous". No it isn't. Many perfectly sane and expert scientists think sunlight is good for you... but then again they are human beings. It's highly likely Cass Sunstein is Undead, which means he would explode if sunlight fell on him. Or he's one of those lizards from Zeta Reticuli - I understand the New World Order is run by them. And the Illuminati.

Regarding the Oklahoma City bombing, he says the "perpetrators shared a complex of conspiratorial beliefs about federal government", and "[m]any who shared their beliefs did not act on them, but a few actors did, with terrifying consequences", and because explosives are cheap and easily delivered, he seems to think that people should not be allowed to have... er...beliefs. This includes of course, the 'many' who are harmless.

I'm not sure what 'beliefs' he's planning to cognitively diversify, but if it's the belief that the government's a tyrant and has to go, then he's up against the fact that America is founded on overthrowing tyrants. That belief is the Origin Myth of the United States. Good luck arresting Thomas Jefferson.

When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.

More here on this conspiracy theory site...oops, have I outed them? Hope not.

I wonder how he thinks the goverment will stop people having 'dangerous' beliefs? Even if they dosed the water supply with a Rationality Drug, rational people disagree, sometimes violently. So, the only way to prevent violence would be to have everyone agreeing on everything. And that would mean banning dissent entirely. Which is what this is all about, of course. 'Cognitive diversity' has no possible positive meaning in the context of the paper.


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