Should the government try to undermine conspiracy theories involving the government ?

In 2009 an article by Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule appeared in the Journal of Political Philosophy (Volume 17, 2, pp. 202-227). Among other things, the authors argued that governments should engage in ‘cognitive infiltration of groups that produce conspiracy theories’. According to them, this involves governments developing and disseminating arguments against conspiracy theories, governments hiring others to develop and disseminate arguments against conspiracy theories and governments encouraging others informally to develop and disseminate arguments against conspiracy theories (2009, p. 218). In particular they suggest that government agents enter chat rooms and online social networks to raise doubts about conspiracy theories and generally introduce ‘cognitive diversity’ into those chat rooms and social networks.

This article has so outraged 9/11 conspiracy theorist David Ray Griffin that he has written an entire book attacking it. The book, Cognitive Infiltration: An Obama Appointee’s Plan to Undermine the 9/11 Conspiracy Theory (Olive Branch Press, 2010) is so named because Cass Sunstein has recently been appointed as regulator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

So to convince conspiracy nuts that the government was not behind the 9/11 attacks you recommend the government engage in “cognitive infiltration” in order to “disseminate arguments” that the government is not trying to cover up their purported involvement?

Can’t imagine why that wouldn’t work.

Sunstein is a smart guy and his intentions are noble (Trutherism really is idiotic). But this is the type of dumb idea that is all too typical of our technocratic elite.

Also, isn’t it a bit creepy to suggest sending government agents to promote “cognitive diversity?” I guess the thinking is, “If we can’t send you to reeducation camps, we’ll send the indoctrination agents to you.”

(Via: Matt Hoberg , who has more thoughts on the issue.)

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