Green Room

Genius: Regulatory Czar Cass Sunstein spends 30 pages describing how government should suppress free speech without mentioning First Amendment

posted at 8:01 pm on January 21, 2010 by

President Obama’s Regulatory Czar is a well-known law professor named Cass Sunstein, who regularly exhibits a troubling disregard for the Constitution. Last year Sunstein co-authored a 30-page paper on the government’s obligations to combat conspiracy theories (i.e., free speech). Among the “conspiracy theories” that Sunstein would have the government rebut:

• “The theory of global warming is a deliberate fraud.”

• “The 1996 crash of TWA flight 800 was caused by a … missile.”

In this discussion of public speech, Sunstein fails to mention the Constitution, the First Amendment or the Bill of Rights — even once.

What can government do about conspiracy theories? Among the things it can do, what should it do? 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. (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. Each instrument has a distinctive set of potential effects, or costs and benefits, and each will have a place under imaginable conditions. However, our main policy idea is that government should engage in cognitive infiltration of the groups that produce conspiracy theories, which involves a mix of (3), (4) and (5).

…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 those who subscribe to such theories…

…Some conspiracy theories create serious risks. They do not merely undermine democratic debate; in extreme cases, they create or fuel violence. If government can dispel such theories, it should do so. One problem is that its efforts might be counterproductive, because efforts to rebut conspiracy theories also legitimate them. We have suggested, however, that government can minimize this effect by rebutting more rather than fewer theories, by enlisting independent groups to supply rebuttals, and by cognitive infiltration designed to break up the crippled epistemology of conspiracy minded groups and informationally isolated social networks…

How could an attorney and law professor omit the First Amendment issues inherent in a discussion of the government suppressing free speech which — in the case of global warming fraud — sometimes proves true?

Simple. He’s another of President Obama’s leftist hacks who concerns himself only with helping the government amass more power at the expense of our founding documents.

Hat tip: Aaron Klein. Cross-posted at: Doug Ross @ Journal.

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Flight 800 was brought down by a missle.

I have friends who witnessed it personally.

bill30097 on January 21, 2010 at 8:53 PM

“Vote early, vote often.” We must get this freak show out of Washington and back to the wax museum as soon as possible. There is only one other alternative and it is too terrible to append with serious discussion.

Robert17 on January 21, 2010 at 8:53 PM

Where are we headed here? Free speech is ok if it’s what the author wants to hear but is not if it doesn’t seem to be his choice of message,is not formatted as he thinks it should be or might reach the ears of the wrong group.. This guy is one of O’s more nutty nuts…and that’s saying a lot in the world of Obama.

jeanie on January 21, 2010 at 9:04 PM

“Dam that Constitution! It always gets in our way of making a peoples paradise here in America” said Dr. Evil

EliTheBean on January 21, 2010 at 9:12 PM

This is beyond ridiculous – it is positively insane and un-American. I can hardly believe anyone actually seriously proposed this as a suitable role for government.

Then again, these are the people who hired Jonathan Gruber to go out and “engage in counterspeech, marshaling arguments to discredit conspiracy theories.” The people who have “formally hire(d) credible private parties to engage in counterspeech.”

DamnCat on January 21, 2010 at 9:39 PM

Oh, and I forgot that this administration also set up a web site for people to rat out thier friends, neighbors, and co-workers who opposed Obamacare.

Nothing they do or propose should surprise us.

DamnCat on January 22, 2010 at 9:20 AM

Gotta love the “libertarians” who were all for this guy.

Crawford on January 22, 2010 at 10:28 AM

He and his boss have a bottomless slush fund with which to force these Marxist policies on the American people. He’s going to use our money to enslave us. Unfortunately for them the Supremes got it right Wednesday and gave us some of our 1st Amend back.

Kissmygrits on January 22, 2010 at 10:32 AM

Stunningly juvenile thesis, logic and presentation. From which junior college did he get his degree?

lionheart on January 22, 2010 at 4:00 PM

What’s missing in this conversation? The sheer fact that this is what’s teaching at our most (formerly) prestigious universities. If in fact the professor is a professing loon then it stands to reason that his/her students will learn this behavior and most probably become proficient at it.

Where did Sunstein learn it? Just how deep is our problem?

larvcom on January 23, 2010 at 12:01 PM

Of, I forgot to add this is why you don’t allow professional agitators a.k.a. community organizers into the White house to live.

larvcom on January 23, 2010 at 12:03 PM