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Conspiracy theories, online government spooks, and Cass Sunstein Part 1

By Peter Ewart

Thursday, January 21, 2010 03:46 AM

 
By Peter Ewart
 
An increasingly common tactic of governments and establishment pundits in the U.S., Canada, and other countries these days is to refer to the opposition to their policies as being motivated by “conspiracy theories” of one kind or another. 
 
By so doing, these governments and pundits are attempting to lump together legitimate opposition and sound theories with that of “kooks” and “cranks,” and thus diminish the credibility of the opposition in the eyes of the public. 
 
Even more than that, government officials are proposing, and in some cases, taking action against those who put forward what these officials term “conspiracy theories,” especially ones which are being circulated via the internet.
 
At the very least, such governmental action is anti-democratic, and, some say, fascistic. Yet, the apologists for such repressive and invasive activity cloak themselves as “democrats” and even “civil libertarians.” Indeed, it is one of the great paradoxes of our times, that those who claim to be the biggest advocates of “freedom” and “liberty” are often the ones most eager to crush it.
 
A disturbing example of this sort of attitude is Cass Sunstein, a close confidant of U.S. President Barack Obama, “leading legal scholar” and current head of the U.S. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. 
 
According to him, “such [conspiracy] theories can…have pernicious effects from the government’s point of view, either by inducing unjustifiably widespread public skepticism about the government’s assertions, or by dampening public mobilization and participation in government-led efforts, or both.”
 
It is not effective, Sunstein says, for government to simply provide “credible public information” to dispel “false conspiracy theories.” That technique, he says, does not work. 
 
Thus, in an academic paper published in 2009 Sunstein advocates “breaking up the hard core of extremists who supply conspiracy theories” by having undercover government agents infiltrate chat rooms, online social networks, and even “real-space groups” “to undermine percolating conspiracy theories” by planting doubts about “their factual premises, causal logic, or implications for action, political or otherwise.” They could also “sow uncertainty and distrust” within these groups. 
 
He also advocates that the government should enlist so-called “independent experts” to challenge “conspiracy theories,” although “the price of credibility is that the government cannot be seen to control these independent experts.” That being said, the government can “supply the independent experts” with information and “prod them into action” from “behind the scenes.”
 
What is a “conspiracy theory”? According to Sunstein’s definition in his paper, it is “an effort to explain some event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who attempt to conceal their role (at least until their aims are accomplished).”
 
By this definition, of course, any group of citizens who criticize or mount opposition to government policy, or the activities of big business, or any other powerful force in society can be claimed to be following a “conspiracy theory.” It would, of course, be up to high government officials like Sunstein to judge as to which fit the category of being “false” and “harmful”.
 
Indeed, what are some examples of “false” ones? According to Sunstein, these include the claim that “9/11 was the work of the U.S. or Israeli governments” or that these governments at least knew of the attacks but “consciously failed to act”, that “the Central Intelligence Agency was responsible for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy”, that “the theory of global warming is a deliberate fraud,” that “the Trilateral Commission is responsible for important movements of the international economy,” and so on.
 
People who believe these and other “conspiracy theories”, Sunstein says, “suffer from a ‘crippled epistemology’, in the sense that they know very few things, and what they know is wrong.” The term “crippled epistemology” is, of course, academic jargon for saying that people are as dumb as posts. Such a situation requires a “benevolent” government, presumably with the help of “brilliant” intellectuals, such as Sunstein, to “persuade” people who follow conspiracy theories as to what is really the “truth”, or, as Sunstein so ominously puts it in his paper, to “silence them” if necessary.
 
It is interesting to note that by Sunstein’s definition, the 17th Century Italian astronomer, Galileo, would be classified as an “extremist” for putting forward the idea that the earth revolved around the sun – a belief that challenged the prevailing thinking of the time, as well as the religious authorities. 
 
Emile Zola, the great 19th Century French writer, would also be in that category for claiming correctly that French officials conspired against Alfred Dreyfus as part of an anti-semitic frameup. 
 
Indeed, George Washington himself, the father of the American nation, would certainly be classified as an “extremist” by British colonial authorities because he believed that American colonists were getting a raw deal.
 
Interestingly enough, Sunstein does admit in his paper that some “conspiracy theories” have been proven to be true, such as the bugging of the hotel room used by the Democratic National Committee that was discovered in the Watergate scandal, the CIA administering LSD to unknowing psychiatric patients (including ones in Canada), or more recently, “the Bush administration suggest[ing] that Saddam Hussein had conspired with Al Qaeda to support the 9/11 attacks.”
 
Even though he makes this admission, this does not slow him down in the least in advocating action against “extremists” who advocate “conspiracy theories.” 
 
In that regard, it is revealing to look at some of his own views, which many people would classify as “extremist,” especially in the Interior and Northern region of British Columbia. 
 
For example, in the past, he has argued that animals, through lawyers, should be able to bring legal suits against human beings. Thus, presumably, according to Sunstein, that moose you took a shot at while hunting last Fall could mount a law suit against you, as could the relatives of that chicken you had for supper.
 
At one point, he also put forward the idea (later withdrawn) of imposing mandatory “electronic sidewalks” on the World Wide Web, which would require websites to provide links to “opposing views”. Thus, if you wrote anti-war articles on a website, you would have to also provide links to pro-war articles (and vice versa) or presumably be prosecuted. The same would be true about abortion and other contentious issues. Sunstein later admitted that such a proposal would be difficult to regulate and probably “unconstitutional.” Certainly, it flies in the face of freedom of speech. 
 
It is disquieting to hear that various pundits and officials in the U.S. are actually speculating that President Obama may nominate Sunstein as a “leading legal light” to the Supreme Court of the country.   
 
While it is only fair to note that Sunstein wrote the paper a few months before he was appointed to his regulatory position with the U.S. government and that he has not put forward his ideas as policy – at least yet - questions should and are being raised by reporters and analysts, especially online, including Marc Estrin, who originally broke the story (see The Rag Blog, Jan. 11, 2010), Glenn Greenwald (see Salon.com, Jan. 15, 2010) and others. This is especially important given that other branches of the U.S. government and other governments in the world are carrying out precisely the kinds of activities that Sunstein advocates – a topic we will explore later.
 
So what does all of this have to do with Canada or the province of British Columbia or cities like Prince George? More than we might think, as will be discussed in the next article in this series: “Part 2 – Conspiracy theories, online spooks, and Cass Sunstein”. 
 
Peter Ewart is a columnist, writer and community activist based in Prince George, British Columbia. He can be reached at: peter.ewart@shaw.ca
 

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From my perspective of coincidental facts I would lump the views of Mr. Sunstein in with the core values of a true hard core political zionist.

The political zionists (neo cons, liberal left, communists, fascists, banksters, ect ect) would love nothing more than to have a legal way to silence any opposition to the agenda of a zionist controlled new world order. They already have that power, just not the legal/moral authority to exercise it in a pinch as of yet. The anti semite card can only be used so many times, and doesn't carry legal authority when wanting to silence the outing of a global banking cartel with a mission to rule the world through subterfuge and adoption of religions and political ‘parties’… as vehicles to capture loyalty from their enablers.

In short they don't want people talking about their agenda, their corruption of our democracies, their control of banking and finance industries, the mainstream (synergized and merged) media, and operated from a foreign nexus to the local interests around the globe. Knowledge by the people threatens their ability to influence events via fear, uncertainty, and lack of self awareness of circumstances and conditions as they really stand.

That Barak Obama would appoint this man to the Supreme Court would not surprise me in the least when one looks at the genus of the Obama administration... how they got to where they are, who funded him, and who Obama has appointed to key positions to date... to say nothing of the give away in treasure and sovereignty of the American economy to those very same people.

IMO the most current threat right now to Canada is the sale of key Canwest papers that is now taking place to keep them in the political zionist nexus. I think the government should follow through with the Bank of Nova Scotia taking them over and then distributing the local papers back to local ownership.... I would like to see the PG Citizen in an ideal world owned by the city itself with a board made up of locally elected independent, city appointed people, maybe someone from a journalism union of sorts... some way that no one person or group could dominate… and the political views would be grass roots generated with a reflection of local interests and values without censorship from abroad.

What is not reported on in the mainstream media these days is often far more important that what is reported on.

For Mr Sunstein I would say that there is not one good or right way, but that it comes in many forms unique to each circumstance, and that he should not let his own ignorance and ideological agenda blind him of other legitimate concerns and possibilities that do exist.
ps that was a great article Peter. I wasn't going to post this morning, but felt I had to add my two bits... its a critical topic for the survival of a free and sovereign people.
Eagleone you hit it right on the head!! Obama has something hiding in his closet as do the people who pull his strings. The internet is not liked by government because more and more people are waking up and seeing that the theories are being played out. I have a picture of our own special Harper sitting with the Bilderberg group. Canada's government is just as corrupt and there are shady deals going on behind our backs. All we can do is wait and let it all play out because Canadians will not stand up for their freedoms until it is too late. There will be so many people who knew about the theories but found it easier to ignore. These people will be the ones looking like deer caught in headlights. Money is moving and it is moving into the hands of the riche. As much as I feel for the people of Haiti, I believe that the all money being raised for them will not get to them. It is just like New Orleans, over a billion dollars was raised and there are still neighbourhoods in the same shape as it was after Katrina hit. I mean really, they made Bush and Clinton in charge of it that in itself tells all. My advice to all is to keep an open mind and pay attention because it is all being played out right now and there is not much time left. This is just my opinion because I actually spent the hours required to read and make my own judgement. I am in the Engineering/architectrual field and this is the video that opened my eyes!

Here is a good place to start:

http://www.ae911truth.org/

http://www.ae911truth.org/flashmov11.htm
Municca

I just watched the video you suggested. Amazing information! Thank you for sharing because up until this video I shrugged at the theories of 911. This is so unbelievable and this information definately opens a persons eyes.
This is what we get for living in a civilized society. If we were not civilized, this type of behaviour would never be reality!
What I found most disturbing about the Sunstein paper was his use of the term 'government' as if something above and apart from 'the people'. It is a chilling thought that this guy could be interpreting constitutional law, as a supreme court justice, with this attitude.

Paper, must read:
http://lakeweb.com/money/Conspiracy_Theories_SUNSTEIN.pdf

Best, Dan.
Thanks for the link Dan. I'll take the time to read it. It sure does a lot to discredit Harvard and Chicago Law schools. It seems thats where all the kooks come from these days that want to undermine our society and its laws.

I see Obama yesterday announced a planned new law not allowing banks to be involved in the investment side of things while remaining a bank... its a start, but the devil is in the details. Almost simultaniously by sheer coincidence the US Supreme Court struck down the McCain Fiengold election campaign finance reform laws, so it appears the corporations will have a free hand in the next American election....

I find it interesting how Sunstein talks about introducing new factual 'assumptions' into the debate to 'offer' new viewpoints... not new facts or researched conclusions, but rather 'assumptions' designed to mislead from a viewpoint. With all the big cognitive words thrown around its surprising they left out the most important one in regards to what they were really talking about... propoganda managment?

Sunstien should call his report the China syndrom... whereby the 'government' fears more than anything the knowledge of the people in anything that threatens the 'governments' ability to impose its will on the people.

In China they have a saying the you kill the chicken before the monkey. A chicken is easier to kill, and once the monkey sees the chiken killed it will not resist domination. That is essentially what the report is getting at in a round about way is what I think. That and a 35 page complaint that people don't listen to his opinions because they're stupid and don't want to know what he is telling them... which seems about the only correct 'assumption' in the whole report....

The biggest conspiracy may be the vilification of *all* conspiracy theories, therefore enabling some potential conspiracies...