Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Obama Appointee Wants to Ban Conspiracy Theories?

Well, that's a qualified yes . First, he'd try tricking people and then if that doesn't work, let ban them. Cass Sunstein is head of the The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. In 2008 (you know, like less than two years ago), he wrote this piece.

He think the government can ban conspiracy theories?? Setting aside First Amendment objections, how exactly would one go about enforcing such a ban? If there was ever an idea sure to generate more conspiracy theories, Sunstein has it. Hey, wait a minute....

In his own words:

Governmental Responses
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 are some "counterthoughts".

1. Government should avoid acting in ways today that make conspiracy theories turn out to be true tomorrow. Like MKULTRA (an earlier effort at government mind control through LSD), Watergate, and any number of other despicable activities.

2. Some conspiracy theories turn out to be true. We don't know which ones in advance. (Is it really impossible that J. Edgar Hoover's FBI had a hand in killing Martin Luther King, Jr.?) Maybe we are better off airing it all out and seeing what crazy stuff 'they' really did.

3. The government has no business telling the people what to think about the government may or may not be up to.

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