Cass Sunstein: Still Plagued by his Imaginary Conspiracy Theorists
A story had came out the other day, based on a study published in JAMA, about how lots of Americans believe in nutty medical conspiracy theories (i.e., flouride is bad, cell phone radiation is bad, etc) --
You're Not Alone: Medical Conspiracies Believed By Many
I found it nauseating to read and ending up commenting on multiple locations out of frustration, wasting time. But then I noticed that Voice of America was running the story (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voice_of_america#VOA_as_a_propaganda_tool) and that Cass Sunstein was also writing about it, and it was even more nauseating, yet also, made sense. They are trying so hard to hold onto their control of things that their propaganda is practically glowing.
The good news is that about half of Americans see through it. The comments on these news articles indicated the views went about 50-50 -- half the people understood that being skeptical of every official claim is healthy and normal, and half the people were automatically defending authority without question
How dare anyone question fluoride in the water?
(The Sierra Club is against adding it to water -- oops, another conspiracist organization! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_fluoridation_controversy).
How dare anyone question cell phone radiation?
You must be a medical conspiracy theorist too and so can join the ranks of the rejected uneducated masses who also think the world is flat.
Nonetheless, it was nice to see that commenters were outing Sunstein openly, not many, but a few --
Guest • a day ago
Here's a conspiracy theory for you: The brief bio of Sunstein Newsday provides fails to mention, quite revealingly, that Cass Sunstein served the Obama administration as Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. He was hired a year after he and a coauthor wrote this in a harvard scholarly paper (aptly titled 'conspiracy theories'):
"We can readily imagine a series of possible responses [to inconvenient conspiracy theories]
(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."
It's a great summary.
Here is the JAMA article this is all based around --
Research Letter | March 17, 2014
Medical Conspiracy Theories and Health Behaviors in the United States
J. Eric Oliver, PhD; Thomas Wood, MA
JAMA Internal Medicine, online March 17, 2014.
Looking closer I note that the both authors are not scientists, but are affiliated with the Department of Political Science, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois . . . JAMA is likely the front-line of defending medical establishment authority. It's an incredible resource, of course, but also has stooped to a very low level by publishing this.
Doing a brief search, I find that core readings for the course at Dartmouth: GOVT 30: Political Misinformation and Conspiracy Theories, by Prof. Brendan Nyhan (http://www.dartmouth.edu/~nyhan/misinformation-syllabus.pdf), include:
Eric Oliver and Thomas J. Wood (N.d.). “Conspiracy Theories, Magi-
cal Thinking, and the Paranoid Style(s) of Mass Opinion.” Unpublished
Cass R. Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule (2009). “Conspiracy Theories:
Causes and Cures.” Journal of Political Philosophy 17(2): 202–227.
Why is the philosophy of "conspiracy theories" being taught to students in political science? I guess they will go on to be at the frontline of the propaganda wars themselves, if they go into politics.
Anyway, here is the latest masterly article by the great Sunstein . . . who hopes to tax Americans who dare to advocate ideas that diverge from the official story. See also: http://911blogger.com/topics/cass-sunstein
Sunstein: The conspiracy of conspiracy theories
Originally published: March 18, 2014 1:10 PM
Updated: March 18, 2014 1:37 PM
By CASS R. SUNSTEIN, Bloomberg
Conspiracy theories surround us. Witness the reactions on the Internet to the tragic and mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Perhaps North Korea hijacked the plane. Perhaps the Chinese are responsible.
Maybe aliens did it.
Or, as an influential legislator in Iran contended to the New York Times, perhaps the U.S. "kidnapped" the lost plane in an effort to "sabotage the relationship between Iran and China and South East Asia." Pick your topic: Ukraine, the National Security Agency, assassinations of national leaders, recent economic crises, the authorship of Shakespeare's plays -- it's child's play to assemble a host of apparent clues, and to connect a bunch of dots, to support a relevant conspiracy theory. In recent years, for example, many Americans have become convinced that the U.S. (or Israel) was responsible for the attacks of Sept. 11, that the U.S. government concocted HIV/AIDS, and that federal agencies have conspired to hide the association between vaccines and autism.
Why do people accept such theories? The first explanation points to people's predispositions. Some of us count as "conspiracists" in the sense that we have a strong inclination to accept such theories. Not surprisingly, conspiracists tend to have a sense of personal powerlessness; they are also more likely to conspire themselves.