By Aaron Klein
Just prior to his appointment as President Obama’s so-called regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein wrote a lengthy academic paper suggesting the government should “infiltrate” social network websites, chat rooms and message boards.
Such “cognitive infiltration,” Sunstein argued, should be used to enforce a U.S. government ban on “conspiracy theorizing.”
Among the beliefs Sunstein classified as a “conspiracy theory” is advocating that the theory of global warming is a deliberate fraud.
The find comes as a government document reportedly relates the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s command center routinely monitors dozens of popular websites, including Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, WikiLeaks and news sites including the Huffington Post and Drudge Report.
Reuters reported that a “privacy compliance review” issued by DHS last November confirms that since at least June 2010, the department’s national operations center has been operating a “Social Networking/Media Capability” which involves regular monitoring of “publicly available online forums, blogs, public websites and message boards.”
The government document states such monitoring is meant to “collect information used in providing situational awareness and establishing a common operating picture” to help manage national or international emergency events.
While the DHS may be monitoring websites for security reasons, Sunstein advocated such actions with another goal in mind.
Sunstein’s official title is Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
In a 2008 Harvard law paper, “Conspiracy Theories,” Sunstein and co-author Adrian Vermeule, a Harvard law professor, ask, “What can government do about conspiracy theories?”
“We can readily imagine a series of possible responses. (1) Government might ban conspiracy theorizing. (2) Government might impose some kind of tax, financial or otherwise, on those who disseminate such theories.”
In the 30-page paper – obtained and reviewed by KleinOnline – Sunstein argues the best government response to “conspiracy theories” is “cognitive infiltration of extremist groups.”
Continued Sunstein: “We suggest a distinctive tactic for breaking up the hard core of extremists who supply conspiracy theories: cognitive infiltration of extremist groups, whereby government agents or their allies (acting either virtually or in real space, and either openly or anonymously) will undermine the crippled epistemology of believers by planting doubts about the theories and stylized facts that circulate within such groups, thereby introducing beneficial cognitive diversity.”
Sunstein said government agents “might enter chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine percolating conspiracy theories by raising doubts about their factual premises, causal logic or implications for political action.”
Sunstein defined a conspiracy theory as “an effort to explain some event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role.”
Some “conspiracy theories” recommended for ban by Sunstein include:
- “The theory of global warming is a deliberate fraud.”
- “The view that the Central Intelligence Agency was responsible for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.”
- “The 1996 crash of TWA flight 800 was caused by a U.S. military missile.”
- “The Trilateral Commission is responsible for important movements of the international economy.”
- “That Martin Luther King Jr. was killed by federal agents.”
- “The moon landing was staged and never actually occurred.”
Sunstein allowed that “some conspiracy theories, under our definition, have turned out to be true.”
He continued: “The Watergate hotel room used by Democratic National Committee was, in fact, bugged by Republican officials, operating at the behest of the White House. In the 1950s, the CIA did, in fact, administer LSD and related drugs under Project MKULTRA, in an effort to investigate the possibility of ‘mind control.’”
Sunstein’s paper advocating against the belief that global warming is a deliberate fraud was written before the November 2009 climate scandal in which e-mails hacked from the Climatic Research Unit at East Anglia University in the U.K. indicate top climate researchers conspired to rig data and keep researchers with dissenting views from publishing in leading scientific journals.
Sunstein: Ban ‘right wing’ rumors
Sunstein’s paper is not the first time he has advocated banning the free flow of information.
In his 2009 book, “On Rumors,” Sunstein argued websites should be obliged to remove “false rumors” while libel laws should be altered to make it easier to sue for spreading such “rumors.”
In the book, Sunstein cited as a primary example of “absurd” and “hateful” remarks, reports by “right-wing websites” alleging an association between President Obama and Weatherman terrorist William Ayers.
He also singled out radio talker Sean Hannity for “attacking” Obama regarding the president’s “alleged associations.”
Ayers became a name in the 2008 presidential campaign when it was disclosed he worked closely with Obama for years. Obama also was said to have launched his political career at a 1995 fundraiser in Ayers’ apartment.