The Government Hack Trying to Squash Discussion of Government Corruption – Cass Sunstein – Doesn’t Understand BASIC Math Or Law

Yves here. This piece is heated, but looking at Cass Sunstein’s work does that to people.

Cross-posted from Washington’s Blog.

Most people know that Cass Sunstein is a hack.

He’s the guy largely responsible for ensuring that torture and spying have gone unpunished.

And as Glenn Greenwald writes:

Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein, a close Obama adviser and the White House’s former head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote a controversial paper in 2008 proposing that the US government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-”independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites, as well as other activist groups. [Background on Sunstein here and here.]

Sunstein also proposed sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups” which spread what he views as false and damaging “conspiracy theories” about the government.

As shown below, Sunstein is also clueless about basic math and legal reasoning.

Sunstein Doesn’t Understand Basic Math

Sunstein has long been a pimp for genetically modified foods, even going so far as speaking out against even labeling GMO food so consumers have a choice. Famed risk expert Nassim Nicholas Taleb just shreded GMOs … and Sunstein. As Taleb and his co-authors write:

Cass Sunstein —a critic of the precautionary principle — claims (in a series of papers that are totally oblivious to, or unininformed of, the notion of fat tails) a ”false belief that nature is benign” on the part of agents. The entire method of analysis misses both the statistical significance of nature and the fact that it is not required to believe in the perfection of nature, or in the ”benign” attributes, rather, in its statistical power.

A “fat tail” is a statistical probability for moderate risk which is greater than most people would assume.

The “precautionary principle” is a basic principle that states that – if an action has a suspected risk of causing harm, and there is not yet scientific consensus on how harmful it may be – the burden of proof should be on those proposing the action. For example, if the government proposed scooping up samples of dust from the surface of the moon and dropping it from helicopters over major cities, the precautionary principle would say: “Uh, let’s look at what’s in it first”.

Taleb continues:

Often narrow models reveal biases that, in fact, turn out to be rational positions, except that it is the modeler who is using an incomplete representation. Often the modelers are not familiar of the dynamics of complex systems or use Gaussian statistical methods that do not take into account of fat-tails and make inferences that would not be acceptable under different classes of probability distributions. Many biases such as the ones used by Cass Sunstein about the overestimation of the probabilities of rare events in fact correspond to the testers using a bad probability model that is thin-tailed. See Silent Risk, Taleb (2014) for a deeper discussion. It became popular to claim irrationality for GMO and other skepticism on the part of the general public —not realizing that there is in fact an ”expert problem” and such skepticism is healthy and even necessary for survival. For instance, in The Rational Animal, the author pathologize people for not accepting GMOs although ”the World Health Organization has never found evidence of ill effects” a standard confusion of evidence of absence and absence of evidence. Such a pathologizing is similar to behavioral researchers labeling hyperbolic discounting as “irrational” when in fact it is largely the researcher who has a very narrow model and richer models make the ”irrationality” go away). These researchers fail to understand that humans may have precautionary principles against systemic risks, and can be skeptical of the untested for deeply rational reasons.

In other words, Sunstein doesn’t understand basic statistics. And this is the guy we’re supposed to trust as to food safety and health, torture, spying, and government corruption?

The Fat Tail of Conspiracies

Obviously – while many “conspiracy theories” are false, many are true.

There’s Madoff. The heads of Enron were found guilty of conspiracy, as was the head of Adelphia.

The big banks have manipulated virtually every market on the planet, and are committing massive crimes.

Time Magazine’s financial columnist Justin Fox writes:

Some financial market conspiracies are real … Most good investigative reporters are conspiracy theorists, by the way.

Numerous lower-level government officials have also been found guilty of conspiracy. See this, this, this, this and this.

Of course, there have been conspiracies of government leaders, as well.    For example:

  • A BBC documentary shows that:

There was “a planned coup in the USA in 1933 by a group of right-wing American businessmen . . . . The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse & George Bush’s Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression”

Moreover, “the tycoons told General Butler the American people would accept the new government because they controlled all the newspapers.” Have you ever heard of this conspiracy before? It was certainly a very large one. And if the conspirators controlled the newspapers then, how much worse is it today with media consolidation?

  • The government’s spying on Americans began before 9/11 (confirmed here and here. And see this.) But the public didn’t learn about it until many years later. Indeed, the the New York Times delayed the story so that it would not affect the outcome of the 2004 presidential election
  • The decision to launch the Iraq war was made before 9/11. Indeed, former CIA director George Tenet said that the White House wanted to invade Iraq long before 9/11, and inserted “crap” in its justifications for invading Iraq. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill – who sat on the National Security Council – also says that Bush planned the Iraq war before 9/11. And top British officials say that the U.S. discussed Iraq regime change one month after Bush took office. Dick Cheney apparently even made Iraqi’s oil fields a national security priority before 9/11. And it has now been shown that a handful of people were responsible for willfully ignoring the evidence that Iraq lacked weapons of mass destruction. These facts have only been publicly disclosed recently. Indeed, Tom Brokaw said, “All wars are based on propaganda.” A concerted effort to produce propaganda is a conspiracy

Moreover, high-level government officials and insiders have admitted to dramatic conspiracies after the fact, including:

(And as Famed whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg explains, most conspiracies are not discovered for many decades after the events.)

So what does all of this means statistically?  Simply that conspiracies are fat-tailed events, which happen more than you think, and can have huge consequences.

How Judges Look at Conspiracy Theories

As a Harvard law school professor, you would think that Sunstein would know that that conspiracies are so common that judges are trained to look at conspiracy allegations as just another legal claim to be disproven or proven based on the specific evidence.

As we noted in 2009:

Federal and all 50 state’s codes include specific statutes addressing conspiracy, and providing the punishment for people who commit conspiracies.

But let’s examine what the people trained to weigh evidence and reach conclusions think about “conspiracies”. Let’s look at what American judges think.

Searching Westlaw, one of the 2 primary legal research networks which attorneys and judges use to research the law, I searched for court decisions including the word “Conspiracy”. This is such a common term in lawsuits that it overwhelmed Westlaw. Specifically, I got the following message:

“Your query has been intercepted because it may retrieve a large number of documents.”

From experience, I know that this means that there were potentially millions or many hundreds of thousands of cases which use the term. There were so many cases, that Westlaw could not even start processing the request.

So I searched again, using the phrase “Guilty of Conspiracy”. I hoped that this would not only narrow my search sufficiently that Westlaw could handle it, but would give me cases where the judge actually found the defendant guilty of a conspiracy. This pulled up exactly 10,000 cases — which is the maximum number of results which Westlaw can give at one time.

In other words, there were more than 10,000 cases using the phrase “Guilty of Conspiracy” (maybe there’s a way to change my settings to get more than 10,000 results, but I haven’t found it yet).

Moreover, as any attorney can confirm, usually only appeal court decisions are published in the Westlaw database. In other words, trial court decisions are rarely published; the only decisions normally published are those of the courts which hear appeals of the trial. Because only a very small fraction of the cases which go to trial are appealed, this logically means that the number of guilty verdicts in conspiracy cases at trial must be much, much larger than 10,000.

Moreover, “Guilty of Conspiracy” is only one of many possible search phrases to use to find cases where the defendant was found guilty of a lawsuit for conspiracy. Searching on Google, I got 3,170,000 results (as of yesterday) under the term “Guilty of Conspiracy”, 669,000 results for the search term “Convictions for Conspiracy”, and 743,000 results for “Convicted for Conspiracy”.

Of course, many types of conspiracies are called other things altogether. For example, a long-accepted legal doctrine makes it illegal for two or more companies to conspire to fix prices, which is called “Price Fixing” (1,180,000 results).

Given the above, I would extrapolate that there have been hundreds of thousands of convictions for criminal or civil conspiracy in the United States.

Finally, many crimes go unreported or unsolved, and the perpetrators are never caught. Therefore, the actual number of conspiracies committed in the U.S. must be even higher.

In other words, conspiracies are committed all the time in the U.S., and many of the conspirators are caught and found guilty by American courts. Remember, Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme was a conspiracy theory.

Indeed, conspiracy is a very well-recognized crime in American law, taught to every first-year law school student as part of their basic curriculum.

Telling a judge that someone has a “conspiracy theory” would be like telling him that someone is claiming that he trespassed on their property, or committed assault, or stole his car. It is a fundamental legal concept.

Obviously, many conspiracy allegations are false (if you see a judge at a dinner party, ask him to tell you some of the crazy conspiracy allegations which were made in his court).

Obviously, people will either win or lose in court depending on whether or not they can prove their claim with the available evidence. But not all allegations of trespass, assault, or theft are true, either.

Proving a claim of conspiracy is no different from proving any other legal claim, and the mere label “conspiracy” is taken no less seriously by judges.

But as attorney “Zver Muzhik” notes:

Under Federal law, a conspiracy is defined as merely a criminal agreement to commit some substantive underlying offense (e.g., me: “hey, let’s rob that store”, you: “hell yeah, sounds fun”, *start walking towards store*), or to defraud the US Government. Federal conspiracy cases range from penny ante stuff like conspiracy to rob the Kwik-e-mart to more complex schemes like bribery, financial manipulation, etc. But most of those cases are of the penny-ante variety, and thus not like high-level, widespread conspiracies that you discuss above.

A better way to look at it is to ask WHY we punish mere agreements to commit a crime (with one minor act in furtherance). The philosophical reasoning is that a criminal agreement represents a unique and significant threat, versus the ‘lone wolf’ criminal. Thus, we should always be on the look-out for wrongdoing by powerful groups in business or government, as their concerted efforts have the potential to be much more damaging than a single bad actor.

When Sunstein argues that allegations of government conspiracies are bad, he demonstrates little understanding of the concepts of the legal principles involved.

What Sunstein Really Means: Only Allegations of Corruption Against Currently Powerful People Are Bad
As we pointed out in 2010, Sunstein does not attack every conspiracy … only ones which allege corruption among the powerful:

Obama’s current head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs – and a favored pick for the Supreme Court (Cass Sunstein) – previously:

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.”

He has called for the use of state power to crush conspiracy allegations of state wrongdoing. See this, this and this.

Sunstein has admitted past conspiracies:

Of course some conspiracy theories, under our definition, have turned out to be true. 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 Central Intelligence Agency did, in fact, administer LSD and related drugs under Project MKULTRA, in an effort to investigate the possibility of “mind control.” Operation Northwoods, a rumored plan by the Department of Defense to simulate acts of terrorism and to blame them on Cuba, really was proposed by high-level officials ….

He only wants to silence allegations of corruption by currently powerful people.

In other words, Sunstein is not only a dimwit when it comes to statistics and legal reasoning, but he is the ultimate bootlicker and defender of the powers-that-be.

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    1. Katniss Everdeen

      The family that licks boots together, stays together. And usually gets invited to all the right parties. Then there’s their net worth…….

    2. jrs

      And where do they come up with their names? We have Mr. blowing Sunstein up our @sses. And then of course Mrs. Power (corrupts).

  1. leapfrog

    “Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein, a close Obama adviser and the White House’s former head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote a controversial paper in 2008 proposing that the US government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-”independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites, as well as other activist groups. [Background on Sunstein here and here.] Sunstein also proposed sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups” which spread what he views as false and damaging “conspiracy theories” about the government.”

    ASTROTURFERS! It’s always fun to have a bully beatdown on them and send them packing.

  2. diptherio

    That’s an extensive list of admitted bad acts that you’ve got here:

    I have to admit, I was a little surprised at how common this sort of thing is, not just in US military/intel (where I fully expect it). I shouldn’t be, of course, but apparently even I’m not cynical enough yet, though I’m working on it.

    I’ll also note that these sort of machinations make much more sense to me since I’ve started playing strategy board-games with my friends. The totally unethical behaviors detailed in the above link sound a whole lot like the kind of shenanigans my friends and I pull on each other every Sunday. The difference is, of course, that when I stab my friend in the back and take territories I said I wouldn’t, or try to convince my opponents to engage each other in ruinous combat, the stakes are much lower than when our “fearless leaders” do the same things in the real world.

    This quote from a Brookings Institution paper in the link above is chilling:

    It would be far more preferable if the United States could cite an Iranian provocation as justification for the airstrikes before launching them. Clearly, the more outrageous, the more deadly, and the more unprovoked the Iranian action, the better off the United States would be.Of course, it would be very difficult for the United States to goad Iran into such a provocation without the rest of the world recognizing this game, which would then undermine it. (One method that would have some possibility of success would be to ratchet up covert regime change efforts in the hope that Tehran would retaliate overtly, or even semi-overtly, which could then be portrayed as an unprovoked act of Iranian aggression.)

    1. JerseyJeffersonian

      Here’s a listing of some of the more notorious nests of vipers responsible for the augmentation of human suffering:

      The cardinal “conspiracy theory” is assigning credibility to the existence of the Deep State. Well, Binky, if you associate yourself with that that sort of thinking, then this listing is a good starting point. (Hi, Banger!)

      Reflect on how individuals associated with these listed organizations consistently appear in the media to play up (or when needed, to play down) information or overarching explanatory frameworks that enable or impact the agenda of the Deep State.

      Merely fortuitous? I think not. And on the internet, where the reliable media gatekeeping is reduced, there is a role for Sunstein’s “cognitive disruption”. Here the idea is to “kettle” those who don’t accept the favored party line into smaller, low profile venues, by restricting access to sites favoring the elite consensus through enforcement of ideological purity, whether through administrator censure or banning (the optics are even better when this measure is a “community” decision…), or through professional trolling or other forms of hasbara.

  3. susan the other

    Enjoyed this post very much. I’ve believed in conspiracies so long now that I take them as a given and have become totally cynical. And maybe some conspiracies will have good results; and may be good things will happen regardless.

    1. allcoppedout

      Party Invite:
      Let’s visit the Fairies at the bottom of the garden tonight,

      Yet even on this Hugh Dowding, in charge of RAF Fighter Command before and through the Battle of Britain was a man who lived with his mother and believed in Fairies.

    2. 1 Kings

      Susan, first that me say that I enjoy your posts.

      Amen on taking them as a given: I assume everything spoken by ‘officials’, ‘consulters’, big-media-types, and the FIRE regime is a lie, and proceed accordingly. And if any so called ‘consipiracy’ falls between cracks of said statements, it must therefore be true.

  4. Peter Pan

    I used to come up with conspiracy theories all the time. But ever since I learned that the NSA can hack my tinfoil hat I’ve decided to call it quits. No since letting the government know I’m on to them, right?

    Oh, and Cass Sunstein can kiss my ass!

  5. JGordon

    “Such a pathologizing is similar to behavioral researchers labeling hyperbolic discounting as “irrational” when in fact it is largely the researcher who has a very narrow model and richer models make the ”irrationality” go away).”

    That’s it exactly. Many people have ideas that other’s beliefs and behaviors are bizarre or irrational based on their own preconceived and limited notions of reality. A chief complaints of people who advocate things like Second Amendment rights and prepping is that those against them have very narrow, naive views of the world that would lead to greater systemic fragility were such views more widely accepted. Instead of having the idea that you can control other people through government fiat and violence, you could instead just stop worrying about what others are doing, allowing them autonomy to conduct their personal affairs as they see fit.

  6. Banger

    Sunstein is not a hack and it’s a mistake to demean him in that way. He is a powerful political operative within the Deep State–he is not for sale to the highest bidder but on of many “made” men and women running around the Capitol city with real influence and power.

    As for the whole “conspiracy theory” meme, can’t we just drop the term? If you don’t understand that conspiracies are always present in any high stakes political situation then you know nothing about politics or history. The fetish that American intellectuals have about viciously assaulting anyone who connects a few dots as a “conspiracy theorist” as if that were akin to a mental illness always amazes me–and these people are mainly on the “left” to boot.

    Sunstein understood very cogently that without connecting dots the oligarchs can do as they please and plot away to their heart’s content which is why he made a big deal of disrupting alternative views of history which has been a chief focus for some time by counter intel agents since the death of JFK.

    1. Jackrabbit

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen a stronger defense of Sunstein.

      So Sunstein is really protecting us from the Oligarchs!?! How kind of him – and unusual, given his closeness to the Obama Administration.

      1. allcoppedout

        There is a film version of Robin Hood in which Robin is a rebel dangerous to all and the Sheriff a learned intermediary protecting the people from the evil (Robin and Marion).

      2. Banger

        You need to retread what I wrote. All I said is that he is not a hack but one of the bosses. I loathe him and his wife–they symbolize everything I hated about the Washington scene that caused to run screaming out of that Byzantine hell.

        1. Jackrabbit

          Well I never would have imagined that you “loathe him and his wife” when you tell us that:
          a) we shouldn’t demean him
          b) conspricacy thereories are no big deal – the’re everywhere! So lets not worry about anyone/anygroup that is trying to manipulate our public discussion as Sunstein has urged them to do;
          c) Sunstein is doing us all a big favor(!) because if the government wasn’t doing it, the oligarchs would be.

          1. James Levy

            I took what Banger said as critique, not an endorsement.

            That said, I’ve read stuff by Sunstein and I’m sorry but he is not that bright. I’m smarter than he is and can compose a better essay using superior logic and evidence. I think we need to resurrect terms like cunning, conniving, clever, and sly, and stop assume that people like Sunstein, Obama, Summers, and Kagan are brilliant, or even highly intelligent, which I think is demonstrably untrue. These are people who know how to answer questions the way the grader wants them answered, not think for themselves. In that, I disagree with Banger–Sunstein is a hack, at least intellectually.

            1. Jackrabbit

              Sometimes its difficult to read Banger because he can be all over the map.

              In this case, his beginning might be read as a critique, but what to make of the middle and last paragraphs? The best interpretations I can get to are just what I wrote: that Banqer plays down conspiracies as being so common as to be meaningless (nothing to see here) and that Sunstein (“very cogently”) is saving us from unscrupulous oligarchs who MIGHT actually conspire against us. This endorsement of Sunstein leads one to re-interpret the first paragraph (“Not a hack . . . mistake to demean”) as being less a ‘critique’ than it is push-back: beware Sunstein – he is not someone you want to mess with.

              Now maybe Banger was loose with his wording here (as his subsequent “loathe” comment indicates) but, again, its hard to read Banger sometimes.

    2. hunkerdown

      We can’t drop the term because we aren’t the ones carrying it. Those allied with incumbent power (and “all the newspapers”) are. If there were a do that we should ought, it would be to respond to such clear derailing in such a way that discourages them from enforcing their incuriosity and embarrasses them from speaking it.

  7. Jim Shannon

    TAX ALL wealth above $10,000,000 @100% and corruption of governments wll end.
    The TAX CODE always and everywhere is the beginning foundation leading to all corruption!

    1. allcoppedout

      Make that $1 million Jim.- with a proviso you’ll lose that if you don’t work or sign on or are disabled.

  8. dutch

    Absence of evidence is very good evidence of absence, e.g.
    “There is no snow on the ground this morning. That is evidence that it did not snow over night.” OR
    “There are no broken branches or large footprints in my back yard. That is evidence that there have not been any elephants there recently.”
    The failure to accept the absence of evidence as evidence of absence is the gateway to paranoia. This does not mean that the absence of evidence is PROOF of absence, only that it is evidence that must be considered and only discounted in the face of stronger counter evidence.

    1. jrs

      Well with GMOs there’s also the problem that there is big money behind finding GMOs harmless. So there’s a question of whether the basic research is reliable. It’s like with the medical studies – the greatest predictor on whether a drug was found harmful or effacious was who was funding the study! And of course some GMOs have been found quite harmful and those who did the studies had a tendency to lose their jobs. And even if human harm can not be proven there is plenty to be skeptical from an ecosystem and agricultural resilience perspective.

      Maybe we’d get better science in a different economic system, but for now …

    2. hunkerdown

      Human agency complicates that, though. Where there is a means and a motive to deceive, one can’t exclude that deception will occur — and based on the knowledge of contemporary shared value systems and established conspiracy fact, assuming deception has far greater explanatory and predictive power than not. Cui bono from sucking on a pacifier?

  9. hunkerdown

    Ginna Husting’s paper “Dangerous Machinery: ‘Conspiracy Theory’ as a Transpersonal Strategy of Exclusion” calls much of this out in the abstract:

    Our findings suggest that authors use the conspiracy theorist label as (1) a routinized strategy of exclusion; (2) a reframing mechanism that deflects questions or concerns about power, corruption, and motive; and (3) an attack upon the personhood and competence of the questioner. This label becomes dangerous machinery at the transpersonal levels of media and academic discourse, symbolically stripping the claimant of the status of reasonable interlocutor—often to avoid the need to account for one’s own action or speech. We argue that this and similar mechanisms simultaneously control the flow of information and symbolically demobilize certain voices and issues in public discourse.

    Or, in short, “What kind of dog turd would DARE to question me and make me uncomfortable?!”

      1. allcoppedout

        Spot on. I guess there is a bit more. In giving you the treatment they hope you will smack someone responsible in the mouth so they can revictimise you.

  10. allcoppedout

    I claim conspiracy! My post on conspiracy vapourised (and seemed to do so faster than the standard moderation bin). This is hardly proof NSA-GCHQ is responsible and every such instance of glitch in USUK is conspiracy.

    There are conspiracies. Here’s a link to the US-fascist stuff –
    The USUK classic was the Suez Crisis. Get the Israelis to invade Egypt and then step in with a policing action with Anglo-French troops (100,000 plus) that just happen to be lurking about on the spot. The US President gets to step in and make a lot of democratic noise. Big deal, Arabs can’t fight organised battles worth spit these days and Britain and France will have taken all the Middle East in a week. Tory toff running UK blinks when he was expected to show some mettle, believes Eisenhower is serious rather than doing jokey PR. We know the rest.

    Yet if we nip out onto collective USUK streets, how many will we find who know about either of these very real conspiracies? I’m now teaching undergraduates who haven’t heard of these issues or even the Rodney King beating.

    We need some new ways to come at this problem. Like Banger, I think anyone who doesn’t know conspiracy goes on when two best mates sit down with someone else both are sexually interested in, or hasn’t seen the face of a female chimpanzee ‘out on the town’ or listened to primate politics (like Prime Minister’s Questions with civility) and doesn’t know history is written by the victors is likely an idiot, The stunning realisation is two-thirds of my new undergraduates (and likely more than half leaving clutching degrees) don’t know the half of any of this.

    I want to suggest the conspiracy starts in our complete mis-definition of “education” and where this takes place.

      1. James Levy

        Eisenhower did mean it. That’s why Lord Avon collapsed and suffered a nervous breakdown. Eisenhower was not in on the conspiracy, and it caught him at a bad moment right before an election. His whole persona was that he was a leader and in charge, and here you have the British, French, and Israelis conspiring behind his back. It threw him into a rage. The French told the British to tell Ike to fuck himself or they’d never get out from under Washington’s thumb, but the Brits lacked the guts. Uncle Sam was threatening to dump all his Sterling and sink the pound. That was enough for the boys at 10 Downing Street. Luftwaffe bombs they could handle. The destruction of their financial system, well, that was another story.

        1. allcoppedout

          There are some reports about that Ike thought the Brits wouldn’t blink. Eden did and recently there have been interpretations that Ike needed to issue his threats for political reasons, hoping Eden was made of sterner stuff, But how can we really know? Your version is the standard one. We still gave Eden a title despite his lying.

      2. jrs

        I think with many people it’s not that conspiracy theories are less likely to be true and thus not worth the bother of investigating, and more they are less likely to be knowable and thus not worth the bother of investigating. A conspiracy will be covered up afterall.

  11. allcoppedout

    In the spirit of Wittgenstein’s standard decconstruction, one can look at conspiracy and government sides on, say 9/11, and find the same paranoia at work on both sides.

    Washington’s blog is conspiracy theorist. But it doesn’t claim the universe is populated by alien proctologists. Even this claim might have metaphorical validity, in that we are being rimmed by the rich, Sci-fi often has the rich living in off-world luxury, while the rest of us shovel donkey-dung for a living. Not too hard to see the present in that.

    What academics are complicit in is false history, This is compounded by what appears an idiot and sycophant media and has been since we have records. Classics include Good Queen Bess seeing off the brave English boys going off to fight the vile Armada with her famous rousing speech. This was made at Tilbury on 18th August and is always portrayed as before the fighting. In fact, Howard had called off the pursuit of the Spaniards on 12th August off the Firth of Fourth (Scotland). Despite the fact such news has reached Wikipedia, I have never seen a film or BBC programme managing to tell us this.

    I think it may be a mistake to focus on people conspiring. Conspiracy is more or less ubiquitous, We might conspire to out the truth. But we aren’t facing facts, Some of the truth of a battle in 1588 is out in Wiki. But this truth still isn’t really in public consciousness.

    Quine (1953) argued empiricism had at least 3 fatal flaws. One of these was that facts just impinge on a world-view network in the individual and are dealt with to maintain comfort. Even on something like the Armada, to ask people to free themselves of dulldung soaked-up in classrooms, family, media and society (we could update Bacon’s Idols to these), is to ask them to do mental work, itself discomforting to most in my teaching experience.

  12. Tom Denman

    Sunstein fails to understand or, like President Obama, simply doesn’t give a rat’s tush?

  13. Tam's careless handler

    There’s a certain kind of moron that thinks one particular word has overwhelming power as an epithet. Right-wing morons tend to think the word ‘racist’ has that kind of power. Centrist morons think ‘conspiracy’ is the magic word that shames and crushes all opponents. It’s all the CIA indoctrination (that was their JFK OPSEC strategy, after all, just yell conspiracy conspiracy conspiracy loud as you can.) Other-directed mediocrities like Sunstein suck that up like a sponge.

    Sunstein’s a useful idiot for government criminals. Sadly, the infiltrators he advocates cannot in practice argue their way out of a paper bag. They’re routinely sliced and diced in online discourse and they don’t even know it. Dunning-Kruger in action. These are typically the low-level government drones or wannabes who have no idea what Fletcher Prouty was talking about.

    A much more effective tactic is the cartoon conspiracy nuts who show up when a sensitive topic gets discussed, and start talking about lizard overlords and neutronic force beams and that time they got posed for a space-alien Mapplethorpe shoot. Icke is the high-profile archetype. (Interestingly, Icke acolytes also played a role in the tormail takedown, trying to scare people away from it with rumors of kiddyporn kompromat.)

    Hey, if conspiracies are bullshit the best way to debunk them is to ratify the Rome Statute and let the wild accusations get publicly debunked once and for all… Right?

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