Friday, January 15, 2010

Czar Sunstein planned to infiltrate your home

In a fascinating 2008 paper (click "download" over there to get the PDF file), the current White House regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein, together with Adrian Vermeule - both at Harvard University - argued that the conspiracy theories are dangerous.

In this paper, it is claimed that groups including the global warming skeptics undermine the society and secretly conspire to start a global conflict. "Many millions of people" hold conspiracy theories and they are a threat. These people think that many important things and events were and/or are controlled by the U.S. agents. And all of it is crazy, Sunstein and Vermeule argue. So far, so good. Well, almost.

Moreover, it is hard to disprove such theories because the counter-arguments are often considered to be fabrications and results of propaganda or government's infiltration. Fortunately, Sunstein and Vermeule have a smooth solution how to fight against the conspiracy theorists, and it is the following.

See Sunstein's message in full screen.

The "best response" according to Sunstein and Vermeule is for the government to "cognitively infiltrate" all the groups of people who believe any conspiracy theories - for example the "extremist group" of 200 million of the U.S. global warming skeptics. Government should take over their lives, "enlist independent groups to supply rebuttals" (I am sure that Real Climate and others have already been enlisted haha), and do many other things that guarantee that only state-sponsored propaganda may be printed in the newspapers or shown on TV.

I kid you not. Read the paper. That's what they propose as a "fix" to the "problem".

You know, I think that e.g. the truthers are nutcases (however, completely harmless ones, as far as I can say after some interactions with them) but these Sunstein and Vermeule folks are pretty much exactly the same nutcases. To "disprove" a "conspiracy theory", they're ready to actually do every single crazy thing that the "conspiracy theorists" just believe to be happening. They are ready to construct a system of mind control that would make Hitler's Third Reich an island of freedom and impartial thoughts in comparison.

In 2008, Mr Sunstein was just a loon at a university. But today, he is literally a part of the White House administration. His thinking about the world follows exactly the same patterns as the thinking of the truthers or those who believe that the Moon landing was staged in New Mexico if not Arizona. :-) The danger is always in a "conspiracy" of a small part of the population and it must be fought against by another conspiracy.

I find these general templates and far-reaching stories about "conspiracy theories" to be irrational. Every single question is different than other questions. Every question has a different answer and a different probability that the answer is Yes or No. The evidence in both directions must be carefully and impartially compared, and only when it's done, one may conclude - in a preliminary way - that something is likely, unlikely, very unlikely, extremely unlikely, or almost impossible.

By comparing the motivations and the required resources and by looking at some key known data, it's clear that it's far more likely that 9/11 was done by religious fundamentalists than the White House. But, as the authors admit, the Watergate hotel was indeed bugged by the GOP officials and LSD was investigated for "mind control" in the 1950s. Just because something "superficially" sounds similar to some hypotheses that have been labeled "conspiracy theories" doesn't mean that it's untrue.

The term "conspiracy theory" is just a summary that may heat a debate up - but this term is surely not an argument in either direction and in any context by itself.

So for example, I do think it's plausible that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Many other kids with similar fathers were born over there and thousands of parents have tried to upgrade their sons and daughters to the U.S. citizens because it has certain advantages. There are arguments on the other side, too. Be sure that I know some of them well.

But the idea to try to use the government to suppress and "cognitively infiltrate" everyone who believes something else than you do is simply a sign of a messiah complex. It's a lunacy. And it can't possibly lead to any improvement in the average validity of the people's beliefs - especially because the people who would be eager to supervise such "regulatory" ideological policies are far less likely to be right about anything than the sane people who realize that many things are uncertain and the best method to distort the opinions is to ban critical and independent thinking.

I am flabbergasted that similar borderline mentally ill people work at the top posts of the U.S. government.


  1. Yes, you are right.

    It is frightening - if predictable.

  2. Related publications:

    The Open Civil Engineering Journal Volume 2 2008 pp.35-40 (6):

    The Environmentalist Monday, August 04, 2008:

    The Open Civil Engineering Journal Volume 2 2009 pp.7-31 (25):