View Full Version : Obama Advisor Promotes "Cognitive Infiltration"

Ed Jewett
01-14-2010, 03:12 AM
Obama Advisor Promotes ‘Cognitive Infiltration’ (http://alethonews.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/obama-advisor-promotes-cognitive-infiltration/)

Your government appointees at work: Cass Sunstein seeks “cognitive” provocateurs
By Marc Estrin | The Rag Blog | January 11, 2010
Cass Sunstein is President Obama’s Harvard Law School friend, and recently appointed Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
In a recent scholarly article, he and coauthor Adrian Vermeule take up the question of “Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures.” (J. Political Philosophy, 7 (2009), 202-227). This is a man with the president’s ear. This is a man who would process information and regulate things. What does he here propose?
[W]e 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. (Page 219.)
Read this paragraph again. Unpack it. Work your way through the language and the intent. Imagine the application. What do we learn?

It is “extremists” who “supply” “conspiracy theories.”
Their “hard core” must be “broken up” with distinctive tactics. What tactics?
“Infiltration” (“cognitive”) of groups with questions about official explanations or obfuscations or lies. Who is to infiltrate?
“Government agents or their allies,” virtually (i.e. on-line) or in “real-space” (as at meetings), and “either openly or anonymously,” though “infiltration” would imply the latter. What will these agents do?
Undermine “crippled epistemology” — one’s theory and technique of knowledge. How will they do this?
By “planting doubts” which will “circulate.” Will these doubts be beneficial?
Certainly. Because they will introduce “cognitive diversity.”

Put into English, what Sunstein is proposing is government infiltration of groups opposing prevailing policy. Palestinian Liberation? 9/11 Truth? Anti-nuclear power? Stop the wars? End the Fed? Support Nader? Eat the Rich?
It’s easy to destroy groups with “cognitive diversity.” You just take up meeting time with arguments to the point where people don’t come back. You make protest signs which alienate 90% of colleagues. You demand revolutionary violence from pacifist groups.
We expect such tactics from undercover cops, or FBI. There the agents are called “provocateurs” — even if only “cognitive.” One learns to smell or deal with them in a group, or recognize trolling online. But even suspicion or partial exposure can “sow uncertainty and distrust within conspiratorial groups [now conflated with conspiracy theory discussion groups] and among their members,” and “raise the costs of organization and communication” — which Sunstein applauds as “desirable.” “[N]ew recruits will be suspect and participants in the group’s virtual networks will doubt each other’s bona fides.” (p.225).
And are we now expected to applaud such tactics frankly proposed in a scholarly journal by a high-level presidential advisor?
The full text of a slightly earlier version of Sunstein’s article is available for download
Source (http://palestinethinktank.com/2010/01/13/got-fascism-obama-advisor-promotes-cognitive-infiltration/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+PalestineThinkTank+%28Palesti ne+Think+Tank%29)

Magda Hassan
01-14-2010, 03:56 AM
Here comes the Thought Police. Ready to apprehend any one suffering from cognitive dissonance that they live in a free society and yet don't really feel things are right.

Anyway, I thought these guys were already employed on the forums and other internet venues. Hence the existence of the DPF.

But remember there are no conspiracies. They will secretly infiltrate groups who are 'extremists' and who don't accept the official orthodoxy of the day and undermine the 'crippled epistemology of believers' by planting doubts about the theories and stylized facts. But that is no conspiracy. That is just a conspiracy theory. Everyone is 'free' to believe what they want as long as it is the officially approved version of events.And there is a free media. :rofl:

Ed Jewett
06-04-2010, 04:52 PM
Friday, January 15, 2010

Sunstein, Vermeule, Obama, and Conspiracy Theories

I'll have more to say about this over time - but an email touting Obama's role in suppressing conspiracy theories is going around. While I do not have enough evidence to know if Obama knew or agreed with the opinions in the paper referenced below, it's certainly cause for question and concern.

Glenn Greenwald sums it up nicely here:

It's certainly true that one can easily find irrational conspiracy theories in those venues, but some of the most destructive "false conspiracy theories" have emanated from the very entity Sunstein wants to endow with covert propaganda power: namely, the U.S. Government itself, along with its elite media defenders. Moreover, "crazy conspiracy theorist" has long been the favorite epithet of those same parties to discredit people trying to expose elite wrongdoing and corruption.

Who is it who relentlessly spread "false conspiracy theories" of Saddam-engineered anthrax attacks and Iraq-created mushroom clouds and a Ba'athist/Al-Qaeda alliance -- the most destructive conspiracy theories of the last generation? And who is it who demonized as "conspiracy-mongers" people who warned that the U.S. Government was illegally spying on its citizens, systematically torturing people, attempting to establish permanent bases in the Middle East, or engineering massive bailout plans to transfer extreme wealth to the industries which own the Government? The most chronic and dangerous purveyors of "conspiracy theory" games are the very people Sunstein thinks should be empowered to control our political debates through deceit and government resources: namely, the Government itself and the Enlightened Elite like him.

It is this history of government deceit and wrongdoing that renders Sunstein's desire to use covert propaganda to "undermine" anti-government speech so repugnant. The reason conspiracy theories resonate so much is precisely that people have learned -- rationally -- to distrust government actions and statements. Sunstein's proposed covert propaganda scheme is a perfect illustration of why that is. In other words, people don't trust the Government and "conspiracy theories" are so pervasive precisely because government is typically filled with people like Cass Sunstein, who think that systematic deceit and government-sponsored manipulation are justified by their own Goodness and Superior Wisdom.Read the whole thing at http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/.

Then read my letter to Adrian Vermeule below, re this paper, which he co-authored with Sunstein.

Dear Professor Vermeule:

I’m reading the paper you and Cass Sunstein wrote about Conspiracy Theories (http://ssrn.com/abstract=1084585), and had a few questions I hope you can answer.

1. Who wrote which parts? Did one of you write most of it and if so, who was that?

2. Why do you say “as a general rule, true accounts [of conspiracies] should not be undermined.” Which true accounts should be undermined, and under which circumstances?

3. If we say “all Asian people” do something, aren’t we being racist? When you generalize about conspiracy theorists as if they are a homogenous set of people (and trust me, that’s far from the truth), aren’t you being, shall we say, labelist? Assigning characteristics of some individuals to an entire group, without justification?

4. Which statement would you agree with more, and why?
a. All conspiracy theories should be dismissed at first glance.
b. All conspiracy theories should be investigated, and evaluated on the evidence.

5. There was a time when the Watergate affair was characterized as a “third-rate burglary.” Would the public have been better served by not pursuing what really happened?

6. If a conspiracy theory becomes consistently predictive, does that make it valuable? Isn’t that how we judge scientific theories, by their consistently predictive value?

7. Did you ever consider the possibility that it is not a lack of information, but rather a supply of information, that gives birth to some conspiracy theories? That conspiracy theory is sometimes simply pattern recognition?

8. There was a time when the notion of an arms-for-hostages deal, i.e., Iran-Contra, was considered a crazy conspiracy theory, until, of course, it was proven to be true. Some people had the information before others, and were denigrated as conspiracy theorists. Should we then acknowledge that some conspiracy theorists can be very good researchers?

9. If the CIA really did kill Kennedy, isn’t that worth investigating? As someone who knows for fact that the CIA lied about what they knew about Oswald, because I have the records from the CIA to prove it, isn’t it worth pursuing WHY they lied about Oswald? Isn’t that an act of patriotism, not paranoia?

10. Why do your talking points sound so similar to the ones published in this CIA memo (http://www.realhistoryarchives.com/collections/assassinations/jfk/cia-inst.htm)? (And yes, I have a copy of this memo from the National Archives. I’m not relying on some Internet page. I typed this in from the document myself.)

11. How can you say that we can’t keep secrets in this “open society” when CIA people know they lose their job, their pension, and can be sent to jail for revealing them?

12. What is redacted here, or is this still a secret, nearly forty years after the document was first shown to members of Congress? Why can’t I know what’s redacted in this “declassified” report of the CIA’s “family jewels”? (http://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?docId=60409&relPageId=5)This is jewel #1, of all things.)

For the record, I too am frustrated with how gullible people are, and how quickly they can jump to unsupported conclusions. Why do some people refuse to believe a conspiracy happened, even when the evidence is there (e.g., Holocaust deniers)?

Some conspiracy theorists are indeed too gullible, are not skilled in the evaluation of evidence, and see shadows where none exist. But to group all conspiracy theorists into this bucket is to miss the fact that there are serious people -- professors, lawyers, judges, presidents -- who believe these theories precisely because of the evidence, not in spite of it.

As someone who has spent nearly twenty years studying the actual conspiracies of Watergate, Iran-Contra, Smedley Butler’s account of the plot to overthrow FDR, and in great detail, the CIA’s full history (mind control, infiltration and manipulation of the media, using academics to promote practices favorable to the agency, etc., bugging schemes, exotic weaponry, coups and assassinations and yes, the CIA’s curious obfuscations regarding its potential role in the assassination of President Kennedy), it seems that an honest investigation of conspiracy theories is the only way to dispel false conspiracy theories. Dismissing them out of hand without a proper hearing is anti-intellectual and simply compounds the problem.

Opening records, providing access to witnesses, conducting an honest inquiry -- isn’t that the simple way to either prove or disprove conspiracy theories? The trick is to find an honest group to hold an honest investigation. I’ve known very few truly honest people in my life. This will forever be a challenging task, especially when money and power are at stake.

Conspiracy theories aren’t the problem; they’re the symptom. And they’re not the symptom of “mental illness, such as paranoia or narcissism” that you suggest. They are the symptom of a government that lies to the people, often through the mainstream media. Most people aren’t stupid. And you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

We know the CIA lied about what they knew about Oswald to other agencies of the government just a month before the assassination because we have two communications drafted within hours of each other, by the same people, with one describing Oswald as older, fat and balding, and one describing him accurately. That’s not an accident, because the inaccurate description was escalated to nearly the Deputy Director’s level for approval, indicating, as one of the signees said on the record, sensitive information that was closely held and revealed only on a “need to know” basis. Those were the CIA officer’s words, not some screenwriter’s.

Does that prove the CIA killed Kennedy? Of course not. But it proves people are not crazy to suspect such. And it proves people who automatically discount that either haven’t seen the CIA’s own records to this effect for themselves, and understood them, or that they are suffering from, to borrow your words, a “crippled epistemology.”

What we really need is conspiracy literacy. People need to be taught how to evaluate evidence. There’s a hierarchy of evidence. For example, most people should believe sworn testimony over unsworn testimony, for example, if there’s a very real chance the person not only could but would be prosecuted for perjury. And to demonstrate why that caveat is needed, since there was no chance Richard Helms was going to be prosecuted for perjury when he lied about the CIA’s role in overthrowing Allende in Chile, he lied in his testimony. And while he was initially charged, it was dismissed, despite his outright admission of lying -- calling it a “badge of honor.” Is it any wonder people imagine hidden conspiracies when they see this kind of behavior flaunted openly, instead of punished?

What we really don’t need is what you suggested: “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. They do so by planting doubts about the theories and stylized facts that circulate within such groups, thereby introducing beneficial cognitive diversity.

Been there, done that. It was called COINTELPRO when the FBI did it and Operation Chaos when the CIA did it. And neither worked. Which leads to my final question:

13. Why would you suggest the conspiratorial infiltration of groups by government operatives as a means to combat conspiracy theory? Can you appreciate the irony there?

I’m cc’ing this to many people, and will post this publicly. I will do the same with any response you provide.

Thank you for your time.

Lisa Pease
Conspiracy Realist
http://realhistoryarchives.blogspot.com/Labels: 9/11 (http://realhistoryarchives.blogspot.com/search/label/9%2F11), CIA (http://realhistoryarchives.blogspot.com/search/label/CIA), conspiracy theorist (http://realhistoryarchives.blogspot.com/search/label/conspiracy%20theorist), conspiracy theory (http://realhistoryarchives.blogspot.com/search/label/conspiracy%20theory), Family Jewels (http://realhistoryarchives.blogspot.com/search/label/Family%20Jewels), Glenn Greenwald (http://realhistoryarchives.blogspot.com/search/label/Glenn%20Greenwald), JFK (http://realhistoryarchives.blogspot.com/search/label/JFK), Kennedy Assassination (http://realhistoryarchives.blogspot.com/search/label/Kennedy%20Assassination), obama (http://realhistoryarchives.blogspot.com/search/label/obama), Sunstein (http://realhistoryarchives.blogspot.com/search/label/Sunstein), Vermeule (http://realhistoryarchives.blogspot.com/search/label/Vermeule)

posted by Real History Lisa at 10:23 PM - Permanent Link - (http://realhistoryarchives.blogspot.com/2010/01/sunstein-vermeule-obama-and-conspiracy.html)


Show #474
Original airdate: May 13th, 2010
Guest: Dave Ratcliffe / Lisa Pease
Topic: Understanding Special Operations

Play Part One Interview - Dave Ratcliffe (http://www.blackopradio.com/black474a.ram)

Understanding Special Operations and Their Impact on The Vietnam Era (1999)
Special offer: $15 for the book available here under our "Products (http://www.blackopradio.com/products.html)" page
Dave was introduced to Fletcher Prouty in about 1988 by John Judge
Prouty was responsible for designing and then running the Focal Point System in the Air Force...
...that provided military support for clandestine operations (covert activities) of the CIA
In time Prouty ran the Focal Point Office for all military branches from the Office of the Secretary of Defense
The significance of Col Fletcher Prouty in revealing current inner-governmental history
Dave's book is fully indexed
Clip: Prouty talks about the Focal Point System
Without a Focal Point System, clandestine operations of the CIA would be revealed...
...through its interactions with other governmental agencies
The Focal Point System allowed the CIA a place to go and do business and keep the lid on covert operations
Embedded employees throughout the government were (and are) CIA agents and these are the...
...people that the CIA deals with. It's one way to preserve the silence necessary for operations
These embedded agents not only do their ostensible activity in the job they've been placed in,...
...their real job is to provide for the CIA when called upon and keep that activity a secret
The jobs these people do are generational and even the managers of each department no...
...longer know who is CIA and who isn't, the cover is that tight
These people, numbering in the thousands are a part of what Prouty called "The Secret Team"
The Secret Team is worlwide and there is no indication it has ever reduced it's size
Allen Dulles created the Focal-point system that embedded people from the CIA in positions...
...throughout military and civilian agencies of the federal government
Clip: How embedded Secret Team members are moved further into the cover jobs
Frank Hand, Alexander Haig and Alexander Butterfield were three of these embedded agents who moved...
...up the chain of command through natural promotions as a result of their ostensible job
Prouty was present at significant events that gave rise to the post-WWII national security state structure
He was a very smart man whose quick mind was recognized by the superiors who assigned him the duties he was given
During the Iran-Contra hearings Oliver North admitted that Nicaraguans and Iranians knew what the CIA was doing;...
...the only people North was concealing things from was the American public.
Dave Ratcliffe's book is a useful resource describing how publicly unaccountable operations...
...of the federal government increased in size and scope after World War II.

Play Part Two Interview - Lisa Pease (http://www.blackopradio.com/black474b.ram)

Sunstein writes article promting infitration View Here (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1084585)
Sunstein wants to silence anti government statements... by government counter speech
Sunstein paints Conspiracy Theorists with a broad brush as if most researchers are automatically insane
He then allows that some theories have been proven to be true
The result has the effect of confusing the audience muddying the waters
Lisa's letter to Cass Sunstein/Vermeule (http://realhistoryarchives.blogspot.com/2010/01/sunstein-vermeule-obama-and-conspiracy.html)
The only solution Sunstein doesn't present is an honest inquiry into these events to find the truth
Sunstein wants to infitrate politcal reseach groups with government agents
Because they are extremely resistant to correction (and need correction...)
...if you follow the evidence where it leads, that's just good journalism, not a conspiracy theory - Robert Perry (paraphrased)
Examples of undocumented, erronious and therefore poor journalism
The Press are just telling what they're told to say, reporting these days should more correctly be called "repeating"
How the CIA sent orders out on how the media should deal with the JFK assassination
There would be fewer 'conspiracy theories' if these events were just thoroughly and honestly investigated
We are not the children of our government, we are the parents of it
Conspiracy theorists are a threat to government. They question the official story
CIA asset, Priscilla Johnson McMillan not only reviewed all JFK books for the New York Times,...
...she was also conveniently in the USSR when Oswald was there and interviewed him
Sunstein and Vermeule propose a program like the FBI's COINTELPRO
COINTELPRO was also a program to infiltrate and subvert dissenting groups in America
They also propose silencing dissenters(conspiracy theorists). This could mean...
...anything from illegalizing conspiracy theorists to outright domestic assassination
We need more conspiracy literacy...how to evaluate theories for credibility
Lisa talks about the early Usenet groups were infiltrated with deliberate deceivers
The dilemma of the ego wars in assassination research
TWA 800 and how hundreds of witnesses were ignored in their missile testimony


Peter Lemkin
06-04-2010, 05:53 PM
So, this is what was meant by 'Change you can believe in'....?!....it strikes me as the same old, same old!.....:bike:

Ed Jewett
07-02-2010, 04:05 AM
July 01, 2010

That's what they want you to believe:

http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/files/2010/07/all_seeing_eye.jpgThe Psychologist has a fascinating article (http://www.thepsychologist.org.uk/archive/archive_home.cfm?volumeID=23&editionID=190&ArticleID=1694) on the psychology of conspiracy theories, looking at what characteristics are associated with believing in sinister far-reaching explanations and what role these beliefs play in society.
I was particularly interested in one part where they note that we are influenced by such ideas even when we're not aware of it:

Other relevant work has examined the psychological impact of exposure to conspiracy theories, particularly in relation to mass media sources (e.g. Butler et al., 1995 [who studied (http://www.jstor.org/pss/3791831) the psychological impact of the film JFK]), but also in relation to the third-person effect (the tendency for people to believe that persuasive media has a larger influence on others than themselves). In one study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18512419), Douglas and Sutton (2008) had participants read material containing conspiracy theories about Princess Diana’s death before rating their own and others’ agreement with the statements, as well as their perceived retrospective attitudes. They found that participants significantly underestimated how much the conspiracy theories influenced their own attitudes.

The piece also covers why conspiracy theories can seem so attractive and discusses compatibility with prior beliefs, the fact they might fill an emotional need, and how they might reflect a general distrust of authority.
However, it doesn't touch on the fact that truth can often be stranger than fiction, giving even the most unlikely theories a wide margin of error:
The CIA setting-up fake brothels to spike punters with LSD to test its effectiveness as a new generation of mind control drug - been done (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Midnight_Climax); secret international network to listen in on telephone calls, faxes and e-mails - old hat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echelon_%28signals_intelligence%29); foreign journalists in the pay of intelligence services to spin the media - yesterday's news (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Mockingbird#Church_Committee_investigati ons).
It is interesting that both conspiracy theorists and conspiracy hiders use this grey area to equal effect.

Link (http://www.thepsychologist.org.uk/archive/archive_home.cfm?volumeID=23&editionID=190&ArticleID=1694) to Psychologist article 'The truth is out there'.

Full disclosure: I'm an unpaid associate editor and occasional columnist for The Psychologist. This site is entirely independent of the Knights Templar.
—Vaughan (http://tinyurl.com/6udmu).

Link to this post (http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2010/07/thats_what_they_wan.html) | Comments (0) (http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2010/07/thats_what_they_wan.html#comments)

Jan Klimkowski
07-02-2010, 05:22 PM
Ed - important find. Thank you.

Let's put some meat on them thar spooky bones.

The paper below is written by two Stanford University psychologists and one Stanford University psychiatrist.

Here's the ostensible academic rationale for the research:

The psychological impact of viewing the film JFK: emotions, beliefs, and political behavioral intentions

Oliver Stone's controversial film, JFK induced an array of psychological sequelae in an educated, politically diverse audience seeing the film under natural circumstances. Fifty-three adults were surveyed as they entered a theater to see the film, while another 54 respondents answered the same questions as they exited from seeing the film. The film significantly aroused anger and changed beliefs toward accepting the broad conspiracy hypothesis of multiple agents and agencies involved in the Kennedy assassination and its cover-up. The film's impact on moods, beliefs, and judgments was found to be specific to the themes and persuasive message of the film and did not carry over to general political judgments or to perceptions of conspiracies in viewers' own lives, with one exception: viewing JFK was associated with a significant decrease in viewers' reported intentions to vote or make political contributions. A general helplessness effect is proposed to account for the increase in feelings of anger and hopelessness and the decrease in intentions to vote or make political contributions.

Feedback loop.

Definition: the causal path that leads from the initial generation of the feedback signal to the subsequent modification of the event