Just prior to his appointment as President Obama’s so-called regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein wrote a lengthy academic paper suggesting the government should “infiltrate” social network websites, chat rooms and message boards.
Such “cognitive infiltration,” Sunstein argued, should be used to enforce a U.S. government ban on “conspiracy theorizing.”
Among the beliefs Sunstein classified as a “conspiracy theory” is advocating that the theory of global warming is a deliberate fraud.
The find comes after a report of a government document indicating that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s command center routinely monitors dozens of popular websites, including Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, WikiLeaks and news sites such as the Huffington Post and Drudge Report.
Reuters reported that a “privacy compliance review” issued by DHS last November confirms that since at least June 2010, the department’s national operations center has been operating a “Social Networking/Media Capability” which involves regular monitoring of “publicly available online forums, blogs, public websites and message boards.”
The government document states that such monitoring is meant to “collect information used in providing situational awareness and establishing a common operating picture” to help manage national or international emergency events.
While the DHS may be monitoring websites for security reasons, Sunstein advocated such actions with another goal in mind.
Sunstein’s official title is administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
As WND was first to report, in a 2008 Harvard law paper, “Conspiracy Theories,” Sunstein and co-author Adrian Vermeule, a Harvard law professor, ask, “What can government do about conspiracy theories?”
“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.”
In the 30-page paper – obtained and reviewed by WND – Sunstein argues the best government response to “conspiracy theories” is “cognitive infiltration of extremist groups.”
Continued Sunstein: “We 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.”
Sunstein said government agents “might enter chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine percolating conspiracy theories by raising doubts about their factual premises, causal logic or implications for political action.”
Sunstein defined a conspiracy theory as “an effort to explain some event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role.”
Some “conspiracy theories” recommended for ban by Sunstein include:
- “The theory of global warming is a deliberate fraud.”
- “The view that the Central Intelligence Agency was responsible for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.”
- “The 1996 crash of TWA flight 800 was caused by a U.S. military missile.”
- “The Trilateral Commission is responsible for important movements of the international economy.”
- “That Martin Luther King Jr. was killed by federal agents.”
- “The moon landing was staged and never actually occurred.”
Sunstein allowed that “some conspiracy theories, under our definition, have turned out to be true.”He continued: “The Watergate hotel room used by Democratic National Committee was, in fact, bugged by Republican officials, operating at the behest of the White House. In the 1950s, the CIA did, in fact, administer LSD and related drugs under Project MKULTRA, in an effort to investigate the possibility of ‘mind control.’”
Sunstein’s paper advocating against the belief that global warming is a deliberate fraud was written before the November 2009 climate scandal in which emails hacked from the Climatic Research Unit at East Anglia University in the U.K. indicated top climate researchers conspired to rig data and keep researchers with dissenting views from publishing in leading scientific journals.
Sunstein: Ban ‘right wing’ rumors
Sunstein’s paper is not the first time he has advocated banning the free flow of information.
In his 2009 book “On Rumors,” Sunstein argued websites should be obliged to remove “false rumors” while libel laws should be altered to make it easier to sue for spreading such “rumors.”
In the book, Sunstein cited as a primary example of “absurd” and “hateful” remarks reports by “right-wing websites” alleging an association between President Obama and Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers.
He also singled out radio talker Sean Hannity for “attacking” Obama regarding the president’s “alleged associations.”
Ayers became a name in the 2008 presidential campaign when it was disclosed he worked closely with Obama for years. Obama also was said to have launched his political career at a 1995 fundraiser in Ayers’ home.
‘New Deal Fairness Doctrine’
WND also previously reportedSunstein drew up a “First Amendment New Deal” – a new “Fairness Doctrine” that would include the establishment of a panel of “nonpartisan experts” to ensure “diversity of view” on the airwaves.
Sunstein compared the need for the government to regulate broadcasting to the moral obligation the U.S. had to impose new rules that outlawed segregation.
Sunstein’s radical proposal, set forth in his 1993 book “The Partial Constitution,” received no news media attention and scant scrutiny until the WND report.
In the book, Sunstein outwardly favors and promotes the “Fairness Doctrine,” the abolished FCC policy that required holders of broadcast licenses to present controversial issues of public importance in a manner the government deemed “equitable and balanced.”
Sunstein introduces what he terms his “First Amendment New Deal” to regulate broadcasting in the U.S.
His proposal, which focuses largely on television, includes a government requirement that “purely commercial stations provide financial subsidies to public television or to commercial stations that agree to provide less profitable but high-quality programming.”
Sunstein wrote it is “worthwhile to consider more dramatic approaches as well.”
He proposes “compulsory public-affairs programming, right of reply, content review by nonpartisan experts or guidelines to encourage attention to public issues and diversity of view.”
The Obama czar argues his regulation proposals for broadcasting are actually presented within the spirit of the Constitution.
“It seems quite possible that a law that contained regulatory remedies would promote rather than undermine the ‘freedom of speech,’” he writes.
Writes Sunstein: “The idea that government should be neutral among all forms of speech seems right in the abstract, but as frequently applied it is no more plausible than the idea that it should be neutral between the associational interests of blacks and those of whites under conditions of segregation.”
Sunstein contends the landmark case that brought about the Fairness Doctrine, Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. Federal Communications Commission, “stresses not the autonomy of broadcasters (made possible only by current ownership rights), but instead the need to promote democratic self-government by ensuring that people are presented with a broad range of views about public issues.”
He continues: “In a market system, this goal may be compromised. It is hardly clear that ‘the freedom of speech’ is promoted by a regime in which people are permitted to speak only if other people are willing to pay enough to allow them to be heard.”
In his book, Sunstein slams the U.S. courts’ unwillingness to “require something like a Fairness Doctrine” to be a result of “the judiciary’s lack of democratic pedigree, lack of fact-finding powers and limited remedial authority.”
He clarifies he is not arguing the government should be free to regulate broadcasting however it chooses.
“Regulation designed to eliminate a particular viewpoint would of course be out of bounds. All viewpoint discrimination would be banned,” Sunstein writes.
But, he says, “at the very least, regulative ‘fairness doctrines’ would raise no real doubts” constitutionally.