Obama Confidant's Spine-Chilling Proposal to 'Cognitively Infiltrate' Conspiracy Theorist Groups
Continued from previous page
UPDATE: I don't want to make this primarily about the Gruber scandal -- I cited that only as an example of the type of mischief that this mindset produces -- but just to respond quickly to the typical Gruber defenses already appearing in comments: (1) Gruber's work was only for HHS and had nothing to do with the White House ( false); (2) he should have disclosed his payments, but the White House did nothing wrong ( false: it repeatedly described him as "independent" and "objective" and constantly cited allied media stories based in Gruber's work); (3) Gruber advocated views he would have advocated anyway in the absence of payment (probably true, but wasn't that also true for life-long conservative Armstrong Williams, life-long social conservative Maggie Gallagher, and the pro-war Pentagon Generals, all of whom mounted the same defense?); and (4) Williams/Gallagher were explicitly paid to advocate particular views while Gruber wasn't (true: that's exactly the arrangement Sunstein advocates to avoid "embarrassment" in the event of disclosure, and it's absurd to suggest that someone being paid many hundreds of thousands of dollars is unaware of what their paymasters want said; that's why disclosure is so imperative).
The point is that there are severe dangers to the Government covertly using its resources to "infiltrate" discussions and to shape political debates using undisclosed and manipulative means. It's called "covert propaganda" and it should be opposed regardless of who is in control of it or what its policy aims are.
UPDATE II: Ironically, this is the same administration that recently announced a new regulation dictating that "bloggers who review products must disclose any connection with advertisers, including, in most cases, the receipt of free products and whether or not they were paid in any way by advertisers, as occurs frequently." Without such disclosure, the administration reasoned, the public may not be aware of important hidden incentives (h/t pasquin). Yet the same administration pays an MIT analyst hundreds of thousands of dollars to advocate their most controversial proposed program while they hold him out as "objective," and selects as their Chief Regulator someone who wants government agents to covertly mold political discussions " anonymously or even with false identities."
UPDATE III: Just to get a sense for what an extremist Cass Sunstein is (which itself is ironic, given that his paper calls for " cognitive infiltration of extremist groups," as the Abstract puts it), marvel at this paragraph:
So Sunstein isn't calling right now for proposals (1) and (2) -- having Government "ban conspiracy theorizing" or "impose some kind of tax on those who" do it -- but he says "each will have a place under imaginable conditions." I'd love to know the "conditions" under which the government-enforced banning of conspiracy theories or the imposition of taxes on those who advocate them will "have a place." Anyone who believes this should, for that reason alone, be barred from any meaningful government position.
Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book " How Would a Patriot Act? ," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, " A Tragic Legacy ", examines the Bush legacy.