Gasoline Meet Fire, Fire Meet Gasoline – Government Conspiracy to Fight Conspiracy Theories


“Conspiracy Theories” by Cass R. Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule is making the blog controversy rounds.

Background – Cass R. Sunstein is Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration. The paper was written two years ago, before Sunstein became the Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator. It’s unknown if Sunstein still holds the views in this paper, but it’s fair to ask if Sunstein still holds these views.

The two lines in the paper that have set people off: (1) Government might ban conspiracy theorizing. (2) Government might impose some kind of tax, financial or otherwise, on those who disseminate such theories. The paper discusses these options, but does not conclude to follow either of these options.

The paper does, however, conclude the way to combat groups formed from conspiracy theories is by the government infiltrating the groups to break them up–In other words, a government conspiracy to fight conspiracy theories.

Half the paper dives into the psychology behind conspiracy theories, or as Ric Romero would say “people hold beliefs that are not based in fact.”

The other half of the paper weighs how governments should deal with conspiracy theories, and some of those suggestions are just like pouring gasoline on conspiracy theory fires.

Excerpts from the paper –

Our ultimate goal is to explore how public officials might undermine such theories, and as a general rule, true accounts should not be undermined.

When civil rights and civil liberties are absent, people lack multiple information sources, and they are more likely to accept conspiracy theories.

Our principal claim here involves the potential value of cognitive infiltration of extremist groups, designed to introduce informational diversity into such groups and to expose indefensible conspiracy theories as such.

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.

Conclusion – Our goal here has been to understand the sources of conspiracy theories and to examine potential government responses.

Some conspiracy theories create serious risks. They do not merely undermine democratic debate; in extreme cases, they create or fuel violence. If government can dispel such theories, it should do so. One problem is that its efforts might be counterproductive, because efforts to rebut conspiracy theories also legitimate them.

We have suggested, however, that government can minimize this effect by rebutting more rather than fewer theories, by enlisting independent groups to supply rebuttals, and by cognitive infiltration designed to break up the crippled epistemology of conspiracy-minded groups and informationally isolated social networks.

The underlying argument in the conclusion is akin to declaring war on war, but not calling it a war. To support fighting the cognitive dissonance of conspiracy theories with cognitive infiltration requires a great deal of cognitive dissonance.

My favorite part of the paper – What causes such theories to arise and spread?

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Scott Brown Defends Role In Romneycare – Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1sLegdL4EQ

Scott Brown is running in the special election to replace U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy next Tuesday.

Scott Brown voted in favor of health care for all (Romneycare) in Massachusetts.

Here is Neil Cavuto questioning Brown about the vote to pass Romneycare. Listen for the Freudian slip at the very end of the clip.

“People have lost face in the process”

Republican Scott Brown having to own up for supporting failed government mandated health care has lost face in the process.

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Big Pharma Pushing Hard For Health Care Bill

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5809Xe9-pg

Big pharmaceutical companies are donating heavily to Martha Coakley. If Coakley wins the special election to replace U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy on Tuesday, Coakley will vote for the passage of the health care reform bill. Pharmaceutical companies wouldn’t be backing Coakley if they didn’t stand to gain from passage of health care reform.

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Words and Phrases in Political Commentary and What They Really Mean

Don’t take political commentary at face value. This list explains the code for commonly used words and phrases in political commentary and what they really mean or are trying to say.

Biased – Holds views I would never entertain for a second.

Bipartisanship – My ideas are good ones and the opposition is partisan, because they don’t agree with me.

BrainwashedFundamentalist views different from my own fundamentalist views.

Change – From a politician, it means, “I’m not an incumbent.”

Code for – I take nothing they say at face value.

Conservative – Somewhere to the right of my views.

Cover-up – Not emphasizing what I think is important.

Democracy – My opinion is in the majority; in this case its OK for 51% of the people to tell the other 49% what to do.

Disinformation – You should listen to my bias, not the other side’s bias.

Extremist – The views farthest away from my own, and I consider them dangerous.

Face value – I’m about to take what they said and change it into something completely different.

Fascist – Picks on different groups than I pick on.

French – Effeminate.

Fundamentalist – They have strongly held, opposing views I consider dangerous.

Hates America – Political opponent pointed out something negative about America.

Ignorant – Prefers a different flavor of propaganda.

Indoctrination – They teach kids things I would not.

Informal – Secret.

Liberal – Somewhere to the left of my views.

Parrot – This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this and disagreed with it.

Profit – From liberals it means bad vs. from conservatives it means good.

Racist – An opponent who made any reference to race.

Radical – The views farthest away from my own.

Regular American – People that think the same way as I do.

Seems to suggest – Like the definitions on this list. I heard what they said but I know its code for.

Selfish – Not giving me what I want.

Serve the people – Should be doing only what I want.

Socialist – Somewhere to the left of me.

Spam – I didn’t agree with that the first time I heard it.

Stratigist – Bullshit artist, spin doctor.

Wingnut – Views so far from my own, I can’t discuss them and will instead call them names.

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Poll – Which Science Fiction Evil Computer Best Represents Washington DC?

What would things be like if congress were replaced with liberty-minded people? Would it do any good? It seems the bureaucracy has achieved a consciousness of its own, like a computer run amok in a Science Fiction story. Is anyone in Washington still in control? Can anyone pull the plug?

[poll id=”2″]

The list isn’t complete because computers controlling humanity is a common theme in Science Fiction. Please add any evil computers or thoughts on which computer best represents Washington DC in the comments section below.

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If They Just Kept it From the Public, There is no Crime

Judge Andrew Napolitano explains the legal ramifications behind the emails between the Federal Reserve and AIG.

Lawyers with the Fed told AIG to withhold details of the money being lent to AIG, becasue AIG was handing billions over to Goldman Sachs.

The upsetting part in this is, as the Judge puts it, “If they just kept if from the public, there is no crime and Geithner may actually be commended for his political wisdom. If it was required to be reported in a document and not accurately reported, that would be the criminal event.”

Sneaking billions to the worlds richest investment bank is only considered a crime if the paperwork wasn’t filled out properly.

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Rush Limbaugh – Hypocritical Alert Level Orange

The left and right commentary today has turned into a hypocrite battle. There are lots of people sharing wishful thoughts for Limbaugh’s death. Then people starting saying how awful it is to wish someone dead. Which, of course, leads to the comparisons of times conservatives were wishing a liberal would die. The next phase is comparing each side to the other, each claiming the other side is more hateful.

The religious hypocrisy will be overlooked by both sides. Liberals will make fun of conservatives for praying for Limbaugh’s recovery or say it’s bad karma to hope someone dies. The conservatives will point out for liberals its OK to talk about karma, but not about prayer. In the end, they will both point out the political incorrectness of the other–and the funny thing is they are right about each other.

The battles between these groups are often the news story of the day. Their battles are even less newsworthy and less entertaining to me than Britney Spears and Kevin Federline battles. The only thing newsworthy about the group of political entertainers would be if they spoke with each other without resorting to ad hominems.

The crew of Rush Limbaugh, Keith Olbermann, Bill O’Reilly, Chris Matthews are more akin to the world of professional wrestling personalities than to journalists or reporters. They’ll put their face right up to the camera or microphone and angrily besmirch and then challenge their counterparts to wrestle. They all keep each other in business–just as Andre the Giant vs. Hulk Hogan battles made money for both wrestlers.

When Rush Limbaugh is back on the airwaves, we will hear this battle all over again. Rush Limbaugh will bring up all the death wishes and poke fun at the “caring and tolerant” liberals. Keith Olbermann will then drag out every clip available of Rush Limbaugh hoping someone else dies. The ball bounces over to Bill O’Reilly, who points out Keith Olbermann doing the same…and on and on it goes.

I don’t want Rush Limbaugh to die; I just want all attention paid to the news personalities’ battles with one another to die.

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Healthcare Debate – Abortion and Banning High-Heeled Shoes

The debate over abortion being covered under healthcare reform brought to mind the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. The act required states to legislate the age of 21 years as a minimum age for purchasing and publicly possessing alcoholic beverages. If a state did not enforce the minimum age, the state would be subjected to a ten percent decrease in its annual federal highway funds.

While it wasn’t called prohibition for citizens under the age of 21, for all intents and purposes it was prohibition. When it came to equal rights for those 18 – 20 vs. billions of dollars, billions of dollars won. Rather than go through the trouble of amending the US Constitution (as the 18th amendment did to prohibit alcohol) congress took a shortcut by withholding highway funds for states that didn’t change their laws.

One of the big sticking points on healthcare reform is funding for abortions. The debate is cause for alarm about those “unforeseen” consequences of legislature, because the door opens for a host of social issues to drawn into funding for healthcare.

The objection for funding abortions is based upon moral values and fairness values. Bringing either moral or fairness issues into the debate will be the new political battleground for decades.

Here are some future moral and fairness values for debate. Should people be denied health care coverage or be charged a higher rate for any of the following?

Sexual promiscuity – should others have to pay for the consequences of promiscuity?

Not married –single people live shorter lives so there is probably a correlation to higher health costs.

Sports – football, cheerleading or any sport that could result in an injury costs more.

Smoking, being overweight, unprotected sex, not exercising, and drinking alcohol costs more.

Any action only a few people engage in could easily be added to the list if an unnecessary risk is vilified loudly enough.

None of these items listed would be made illegal; as in the congress didn’t make it illegal for those under 21 to drink alcohol; congress made it so states couldn’t afford to keep it legal. It’s not farfetched to believe an individual’s funding for healthcare could be cut off or be forced to pay more for each category they fall into. Of course you’ll still be free to pursue the activities listed above–if you are wealthy enough.

Some of the items on this list might seem silly at the moment. Keep in mind the political pendulum swings back and forth. Four or eight years from now, I can foresee a campaign speech calling for health insurance tax for bars because alcohol is a health risk and driving home from a bar puts others’ health at risk. Bars also promote the spread of STDs, so it only makes sense to tax them for enabling sex. The bar tax would be followed by the sporting arena tax….and on and on.

We could all turn into our neighbor’s unnecessary health insurance risk. Granted there are a few people who take no risks or have any vices and will benefit from this, but I’ll bet they aren’t much fun to be around.

Enjoy high-heeled shoes while you can because I’m tired of paying for your dangerous lifestyle.

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