Max Axiom | Sunstein’s “Conspiracy Theories” may be “the Operation Northwoods of ‘Cablegate’.”
Director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Cass Sunstein.
December 13, 2010′
Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule’s 2008 paper, simply titled, “Conspiracy Theories,” is a startling read for its intellectual dishonesty and implications because Sunstein is now Director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for President Obama. This document may be “the Operation Northwoods of ‘Cablegate’.”
Where Northwoods was classified and written in plain military English suggesting specific false-flag tactics for sparking an invasion of Cuba, this document is written publicly in quasi-academic terms such that the plainly stated goals are dressed up in deceptive rationalizations. Nevertheless it amounts to the classic three step plan: Ignore everything. Deny everything. Infiltrate everything.
It is this infiltration that is of interest to Axiom Today in the context of understanding current events regarding WikiLeaks. The question is not, so much, if Assange is an “Agent” of any type, but how and why this scandal is taking place in the mainstream media. As I argued yesterday, the “Houdini’s of Politics” have been hiding the elephant in the room: 9/11 truth. This topic, according to Sunstein and Vermeule, is actually dangerous, and could lead to terrorism.
“Consider the Oklahoma City bombing, whose perpetrators shared a complex of conspiratorial beliefs about the federal government,” the authors claim with no evidence available in the public domain to support it. What perpetrator(s)? The patsy Tim McVeigh? Who else? And who read their minds? That Oklahoma City bombing should be mentioned as the byproduct of “conspiracy theory” shows the deranged and absurd nature of this paper considering that bombing was, itself, a government conspiracy.
The document appears written for a parallel universe where government is “well-motivated” and “aims to eliminate ‘conspiracy theories,’ or draw their poison, if and only if social welfare is improved by doing so.” Not, you know, as techniques for cover ups. Nevertheless, the paper does concede that some “conspiracy theories” (which I again note would otherwise be known as a “scandals”) are actually true. Page 5:
Of course some conspiracy theories, under our definition, have turned out to be true. 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 Central Intelligence Agency did, in fact, administer LSD and related drugs under Project MKULTRA, in an effort to investigate the possibility of “mind control.” Operation Northwoods, a rumored plan by the Department of Defense to simulate acts of terrorism and to blame them on Cuba, really was proposed by high-level officials (though the plan never went into effect). In 1947, space aliens did, in fact, land in Roswell, New Mexico, and the government covered it all up. (Well, maybe not.) Our focus throughout is on false conspiracy theories, not true ones.
I find this paragraph to demonstrate the intellectual fallacy of this entire paper. The scandals mentioned would each have been treated with the same recipe Sunstein and Vermeule advocate as the thesis of their paper, however the focus on “false conspiracy theories” intends to distance the authors from cover ups. For the record “Operation Northwoods” did go into effect on Sept 11, 2001.
However the inclusion of aliens shows the authors speak with disregard to their own credibility. This was likely was summoned as comedic relief to the shocking list of real government conspiracies. There is also a long history of government collusion in fostering UFO conspiracy as a distraction tactic from weapons testing and experiments involving human lab rats. I don’t appreciate their sense of humour given the gravity of their policy considerations.
Sunstein and Vermuele define “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.
What they fail to mention is that the term is a widely-acknowledged as a derisive term having the connotation of being paranoid, dubious, and not to be trusted. Of course, that is because a telling of the history of the term “conspiracy theory” would show it used to negate claims of journalists and whistleblowers by the media and government.
Sunstein claims this sort of logic is a “self-sealing quality, which tends to fold government’s denials into the theory itself as further evidence of the conspiracy.”
Naturally what he cannot concede to is the fact his entire paradigm is a manifest travesty, fallacy, and atrocity.
With all the terrorist-preventing rationalizations out of the way, Sunstein and Vermuele outline how to counter “conspiracy theory”. Page 15:
What can government do about conspiracy theories? Among the things it can do, what should it do? 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. (3) Government might itself engage in counterspeech, marshaling arguments to discredit conspiracy theories. (4) Government might formally hire credible private parties to engage in counterspeech. (5) Government might engage in informal communication with such parties, encouraging them to help. Each instrument has a distinctive set of potential effects, or costs and benefits, and each will have a place under imaginable conditions. However, our main policy idea is that government should engage in cognitive infiltration of the groups that produce conspiracy theories, which involves a mix of (3), (4) and (5).
Here we suggest two concrete ideas for government officials attempting to fashion a response to such theories. First, responding to more rather than fewer conspiracy theories has a kind of synergy benefit: it reduces the legitimating effect of responding to any one of them, because it dilutes the contrast with unrebutted theories. Second, 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 those who subscribe to such theories. They do so by planting doubts about the theories and stylized facts that circulate within such groups, thereby introducing beneficial cognitive diversity.
These terms “More, rather than fewer” and “cognitive diversity” should be considered in the context of document dumps and WikiLeaks. Simply silencing the “extremist groups” is not the way as it will only embolden their cause. So the strategy is: bullshit baffles brains. Cripple their epistemology. Continuing:
(page 16) …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 those who subscribe to such theories.
(Page 19) [Government must] address the supply side of conspiracy theorizing by attempting to debias or disable its purveyors, to address the demand side by attempting to immunize third-party audiences from the theory’s effects, or to do both (if resource constraints permit).
(page 22) Many officials dismiss direct responses to the suppliers of conspiracy theorists as an exercise in futility. Rather, they implicitly frame their responses to the third-party mass audience, hoping to stem the spread of conspiracy theories by dampening the demand rather than by reducing the supply.
Sunstein and Vermeule prefer a information immunization program, termed “countermisinformation” over “counterspeech” in newspeak. In this context we can see how 9/11 truth (false flag awareness campaigns) has once again been overwhelmed by noisy, time consuming, and distracting current events. It appears that Cablegate is a sophisticated implementation of everything Sunstein and Vermeule hoped for.
Finally, the authors engage in conspiratorial behavior according to their own definition. They have outlined something that could be well described as, “the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role”:
(page 21) Although government can supply these independent experts with information and perhaps prod them into action from behind the scenes, too close a connection will prove self-defeating if it is exposed.
Here’s a side note: Not all false conspiracy theories are bad: Consider the (conspiracy theory?) of Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, and the Toothfairy. Page 6:
Within the set of false conspiracy theories, we also limit our focus to potentially harmful theories. Not all false conspiracy theories are harmful; consider the false conspiracy theory, held by many of the younger members of our society, that a secret group of elves, working in a remote location under the leadership of the mysterious “Santa Claus,” make and distribute presents on Christmas Eve. This theory is false, but is itself instilled through a widespread conspiracy of the powerful – parents – who conceal their role in the whole affair.
Max Axiom is a musician and cultural commentator. His blog is Axiom Today