Tuesday, March 22, 2011

OBAMA'S PEOPLE: INFO CZAR CASS SUNSTEIN

According to the White House Web site, Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein is current head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. That means he is in charge of “overseeing policies relating to privacy, information quality, and statistical programs.”  Troubling, then, that in an academic article he co-wrote in 2008 entitled Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Curesthat he blankly states that the government should engage in "cognitive infiltration" of "9/11 conspiracy groups", whatever that means.

In practice, what Sunstein argues is that government agents should be assigned to infiltrate "groups" that propose alternative theories on historical events via “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine” those groups. Boy oh boy, this Obama cat just keeps looking better and better, doesn't he? Thank FUCK Oprah gave him her personal seal of approval!

Of course, the fact is that governments in every country and at every level have been doing exactly this all along. It's just that they've had the decency and good taste to at least try to keep their tactics and motivations hidden away from hoi polloi. So there you go, ladies and gentlemen. Cass Sunstein... a name to keep our eyes on!

4 comments:

  1. This was the "echo chambers" guy. He made a good point about echo chambers -- the idea that somebody will post an idea (liberal or conservative) and the bloggers pick it up and echo it back and forth. In the meantime, nobody bothers to check out alternative information regarding the topic at hand because, according to cognitive dissonance and selective exposure theories, that would be uncomfortable. If I recall through the haze correctly, it was conservative blogs where this phenomenon was first reported. Things like Death Panels and missing birth certificates basically led to widespread belief, which led to misinformed voting. On one hand, it looks like he wants to plug up the fountain of bullshit. On the other hand, I wouldn't want my own bullshit plugged up. So I'm kinda on the fence on this one. Perhaps we need ideas like "Obama is a socialist muslim" being repeated and replicated ad infinitum. Perhaps it's good for democracy.

    Based on the article you posted, my initial thinking is that infiltrating groups in chatrooms (I have been accused of doing this with an anti-immigration group) and giving alternative explanations for why Obama's birth certificate has or has not shown up might not be a bad idea. It does bring up the question of where you draw the line.

    The PR an ad industries have been doing this for years -- In fact I actually learned about astroturfing and other assorted means of changing public opinion from the Daily Dirt. This is nothing new, but the idea of the government using similar tactics might be.

    OK that settles it -- I'm gonna go read the original article. The dissonance is just the right level that selective exposure might alleviate it. Cheers!

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  2. You know, just because he proposed something that sounds fishy, that doesn't mean I've come to any final conclusions about the guy. As you point out that I pointed out in my own post, this is nothing new. Think of CoIntelPro and other infiltration programs practiced by police, defense and security apparatchiks throughout history. I do believe, however, that this merits both attention and a certain amount of apprehension.

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  3. I've read about halfway into the article and realize there are conspiracy theories I 1) like, ones I 2)don't like, and ones 3) that never really crawled out of the bullshit to become a real theory. Examples:

    1) JFK's assassination was coordinated.
    2) Obama is a Kenyan-born muslim.
    3) Saddam Hussein bought yellowcake uranium from Somalia.

    What it looks like he's doing is focusing on the bullshit floating around in the blogosphere and totally ignoring the bullshit put out by the government, such as the uranium thing or anything that started with "this will be a quick and cheap war."

    In his perspective, it appears that We The People are the morons cooking up conspiracies rather than government public information people. I would argue that 1) government does a piss poor job of communicating because it's crippled by politics (local governments do much better) and 2) sometimes the government lies or pretends to believe in something that advances it politically, like Saddam Hussein buying uranium. Bewteen crappy info, misinfo, and disinfo, WTF is a thinking man supposed to believe?

    So I guess I'm still on the fence here.

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