Government plans “cognitive infiltration” of conspirosphere

The Rag Blog on Jan. 11 was among those to take note in alarmist terms (“Got Fascism?”) of a suggestion by Cass Sunstein—President Obama’s Harvard Law School friend and recently appointed administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs—for “cognitive infiltration” by government agents to combat the growing popularity of conspiracy theory. In a piece entitled “Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures” in the August issue of the Journal of Political Philosophy, Sunstein and co-author Adrian Vermeule write:

[W]e 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 believers by planting doubts about the theories and stylized facts that circulate within such groups, thereby introducing beneficial cognitive diversity.

This is just about the most demoralizing paragraph we have read in a long, long time. Now any rationalist who dissents from the ever-increasing wackiness about how every terrorist attempt from 9-11 to the failed Christmas Day jetliner bombing to the Fort Hood shootings is a “false flag operation” will be baited as a government agent! Gee thanks, Sunstein! Just what we needed. You don’t think the Haiti earthquake was caused by the Pentagon? You’re a cognitive infiltrator! We can hear it already…

See our last post on the 9-11 conspiracies.

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  1. this is new?
    Maybe for Obama. I’ve always been convinced, and posted here, that the truthers were being pumped up by some paid Karl Rove ops in 2004 to annoy the idiot right into voting against Kerry and the Dirty Hippies. I have no evidence of this except this photo where you can clearly see a cyber Karl Rove piloting the second plane into the WTC.

    I answered the poll. If they come knocking don’t take less than 75k / year and full benefits for part time.

  2. Cognitive Infiltrators
    You’d have to say this has been going on for some time. But, alas, knowing that there is possible government involvement does nothing to help sort out which conspiracy theories are valid and which are not. Sorry. If you decide to discredit all conpiracy theories that’s probably the intention of the government involvement to begin with. Which of course leads to the idea that they have something to hide. Another conspiracy perhaps?

  3. “cognitive infiltrator” program realized
    They did it.

    The Guardian reported March 17 that US Central Command (Centcom) under a program dubbed with the predictably Orwellian sobriquet Operation Earnest Voice (sic!) has signed a $2.76 million contract with Los Angeles-based Ntrepid corporation to develop what is described as an “online persona management service” that will allow one US serviceman to control up to 10 separate identities—or “sock puppets”—based all over the world. Centcom spokesman Commander Bill Speaks said: “The technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US.”

    This is way more sinister than what the State Department is already doing—basically, hiring bloggers—both because of the automated sock-puppet element (so you can’t even be sure you are dealing with a real human being) and the attempt to shape debate to meet actual military and not merely political ends…