15 Jan 2010

So That’s Why Cass Sunstein Has Been Donating to Free Advice

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Ralph Raico draws our attention to this very disturbing story. I’ll let Glenn Greenwald explain (emphasis mine, and I corrected two typos):

Cass Sunstein has long been one of Barack Obama’s closest confidants. Often mentioned as a likely Obama nominee to the Supreme Court, Sunstein is currently Obama’s head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs where, among other things, he is responsible for “overseeing policies relating to privacy, information quality, and statistical programs.” In 2008, while at Harvard Law School, Sunstein co-wrote a truly pernicious paper proposing that the U.S. Government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-“independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites — as well as other activist groups — which advocate views that Sunstein deems “false conspiracy theories” about the Government. This would be designed to increase citizens’ faith in government officials and undermine the credibility of conspiracists. The paper’s abstract can be read, and the full paper downloaded, here.

Sunstein advocates that the Government’s stealth infiltration should be accomplished by sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups.” He also proposes that the Government make secret payments to so-called “independent” credible voices to bolster the Government’s messaging (on the ground that those who don’t believe government sources will be more inclined to listen to those who appear independent while secretly acting on behalf of the Government). This program would target those advocating false “conspiracy theories,” which they define to mean: “an attempt to explain an event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role.”…

There’s no evidence that the Obama administration has actually implemented a program exactly of the type advocated by Sunstein…Regardless, Sunstein’s closeness to the President, as well as the highly influential position he occupies, merits an examination of the mentality behind what he wrote. This isn’t an instance where some government official wrote a bizarre paper in college 30 years ago about matters unrelated to his official powers; this was written 18 months ago, at a time when the ascendancy of Sunstein’s close friend to the Presidency looked likely, in exactly the area he now oversees.

Seriously guys, isn’t this all getting just a little too “out in the open” for you? We have pictures of Americans sexually torturing prisoners of war; the NYT has stories matter-of-factly talking about a worldwide network of CIA-run prisons; the government is steadily taking over the housing market, energy sector, financial industry, and health care; we are installing full body scanners at airports; we have occupying troops in I-don’t-even-remember-now how many Middle Eastern countries and are considering an attack on Iran…and now this. If we went back to, say, 1983 and you watched a Tom Clancy movie in which the Soviet Union did all of the above, what would you think? “Man, those are some altruistic commies, spreading their way of life all over the world with their own blood, sweat, and money.”

Wake up, people. This is how it happens. This is what it feels like when it’s happening in real-time.

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