Add this Page to Facebook!   Submit to Twitter   Submit to Reddit   Submit to Stumble Upon   Pin It!   Fark It!   Tell A Friend  
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite Save As Favorite View Article Stats
54 comments, In Series: Thinker's Tool Kit

OpEdNews Op Eds

Infiltrating the Truth Movement

By (about the author)     Permalink
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

View Ratings | Rate It

Headlined to H3 2/17/10
Become a Fan
  (15 fans)

opednews.com


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of other OEN editors or of the organization.
~~R B Shreve
An academic treatise on conspiracy theories has provoked howls of outrage among those who call themselves the truth movement. The paper can hardly be considered news, it was first released as a draft in January of 2008. But when one of its authors, Cass Sunstein, became part of the Obama administration, the appointment alarmed conspiracists because his paper advocates "cognitive infiltration of extremist groups" both foreign and domestic.

Consider for a moment the word infiltration and its implications in the context of a belief. When you have an open mind and are seeking to expand your knowledge and understanding, new information is a desirable thing. The open-minded seeker welcomes diversity of thought, and simply accepts what is useful and rejects what is not. By contrast, the true believer regards discordant information as a threat, heresy, and wants to suppress it -- to keep it from infiltrating the body of concordant information that sustains his or her belief.

So when Sunstein was appointed to a job in the Obama administration, his writing took on sinister implications for those who must defend their conspiracy beliefs from infiltration. Could that appointment be part of a grand conspiracy to suppress and discredit the truth movement? A conspiracy against conspiracies?

In a word, yes -- and it is high time.

A fundamental principle of our society is the right of the people to democratically decide matters that affect civic affairs. For the process to work, people need to make good judgments. Americans have long respected the right and responsibility of everyone to be educated and thus equipped to think and discern what is best for themselves and their nation -- to be informed citizens. The ability to reason and think are essential to self-governance.

Something goes awry in that process when a group isolates itself cognitively -- when the group demeans and excludes those who disagree. We see it within our political parties, our religions, our academic circles, and in just about every voluntary group. Denial and self-validation are the rule, not the exception. We humans are not strictly rational creatures, despite our avowed respect for reason. We have structures of knowing that are part intuitive, part emotional, and part logical.


Ideas, even wrong ideas, have power. And where there is power, there are those who will exploit it. The politics of fear has been employed widely in campaigns over the past two decades. Radio and TV personalities like Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh have discovered that they can exploit doubt and fear to capture audience and make millions. Though the allegations they make and the questions they raise are often quickly put to rest when the facts are known, it is alarming how the misinformation and doubts persist long after the initial shock has dissipated. Leaders of groups that believe in a conspiracy gain prestige, power and access to money by feeding the fear and stoking the underlying belief.

Our tendency to circle the wagons in the presence of doubts and fears adds up to a fortress mentality that tends toward extremes and becomes ever more defensive and paranoid. From the outside the behavior looks like a cult. From the inside, the group seems like a shelter protecting members from succumbing to dangerously seductive lies. The doubt and fear makes objectivity impossible.

Contributors to OEN include a number of prolific writers who advocate for conspiracy theories of all sorts including: 9-11 false flag theory, UFO's are real, JFK was killed by the CIA, Obama isn't a native US citizen, and many many more. On the one hand editors wish to be open and not pre-judge these writers, but at the same time, we want to be discriminating and publish work that is intellectually honest and is not misleading or propaganda veiled as news and opinion. We want OEN to be credible.

How does one separate faulty reasoning and sophist thinking from good reporting? We look at the quality of the sources. We look at the credentials of the writer. We look for case-building posing as inquiry. We look for fear-mongering. We look for personal (ad hominem) attacks. We look for unsupported negative characterizations (slurs).

Applying these sensibilities, let's examine the Sunstein paper about conspiracy theories. Sunstein is a respected academic, a lawyer, a contributing editor to the New Republic, and has published extensive research and a book on the topic of extreme beliefs and conspiracy theories. His reasoning and facts have endured rigorous peer review. He is indisputably an expert. His paper cites extensive related research supporting his considered opinion. It was accepted and published by both Harvard University Law School and by the University of Chicago Law School. The language and style of the paper are logical and lack the hallmarks of a rant or of an an attempt to build a false case -- it is objective analysis at a high level of scholarship.

No need to belabor the issue of merit further. However, if you remain unclear about discerning credibility in articles that present a conclusion, I include a series of links below. The first is to Sunstein's paper. The second to a humorous review of it and the remaining ones are to articles about conspiracies that OEN has published. Check them out. Read the comment threads. When you do, you will find you can easily decide what and who is to be believed.

The remaining links reveal a range of conspiracy thinking, either in the articles or the comments following the articles. There are many more, just search OEN for "conspiracy."

What you choose to believe ... well that is purely your call, no one is pronouncing a verdict on these matters to declare what is immutable truth. As for me, I'm very happy to know that Sunstein and those like him are in the administration. And I wish him the best of luck "infiltrating" his detractors -- he'll need every bit of luck he can muster.

Conspiracy Theories (free download of full paper)

Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures

Glen Greenwald's discussion.

Obama's Info Chief advocates Disinformation and Domestic Covert Ops

State of Propaganda: Is Cass Sunstein the New Big Brother?

Swallowing the Official Account of 9/11: A Condition for Running for Office

Stop Shooting Conspiracy Theory Messengers

 

Richmond Shreve is a citizen journalist and former Senior Editor at OpEdNews.com. He is a published author of fiction (Lost River Anthology, Amazon) and training materials (Instructor Candidate Manual, LulU.com and PDIPUBS.com) A retired (more...)
 
Add this Page to Facebook!   Submit to Twitter   Submit to Reddit   Submit to Stumble Upon   Pin It!   Fark It!   Tell A Friend

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

The US is Broke -- Not!

Barstool Economics - A Viral Conservative Fable

Infiltrating the Truth Movement

What is Coffee Party USA?

How I Became a "Bestselling" Author

Roots of Conspiracy Exposed

Comments

The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
22 people are discussing this page, with 54 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)
If you believe the politically correct government ... by Catlover on Wednesday, Feb 17, 2010 at 6:52:56 PM
Wasn't Joseph Mengele fully credentialed?... by Peter Duveen on Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 1:06:07 AM
Catlover makes a great deal of sense.Cass Sunstein... by richard on Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 7:21:53 AM
As I write this, there are already three comments ... by Richmond Shreve on Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 10:01:04 AM
Dear Richard- It seems that you are accusing peopl... by Josh Mitteldorf on Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 10:31:03 AM
Josh,I'm simply not interested in such debates, th... by Richmond Shreve on Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 11:34:51 AM
You accuse us of failing to do "the kind of work t... by Maxwell on Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 3:02:37 PM
and that he's simply posing the rhetorical questio... by Dick Thomson on Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 11:38:40 AM
Infiltration probably won't work as Sunstein propo... by Richmond Shreve on Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 12:21:19 PM
"You can't really wall yourself off from informati... by Ms Nan on Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 2:54:50 PM
Problem is, Richmond, I am applying all the critic... by Maxwell on Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 3:24:10 PM
A conspiracy theory can be dismantled with contrar... by Dick Thomson on Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 6:01:49 PM
Sunstein is way off base with his apparent desire ... by Natalie Oberman on Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 3:39:09 PM
Mr. Shreve, you wrote the following fawning gurgle... by boomerang on Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 5:43:47 PM
The clear-headed writer George Washington, a frequ... by MikeZimmer on Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 6:40:59 PM
The government admits it carried out false flag o... by Robert Gormley on Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 6:49:51 PM
From Democracy Now:click here".... In a Massachuse... by MikeZimmer on Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 1:38:26 AM
We have the video of the driver of the car turning... by daveys on Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 8:56:58 PM
The entire premise of this article is beyond hypoc... by Craig Ranke on Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 at 10:12:09 PM
"I'm not asking you to believe me or any conspirac... by F. Apoda on Saturday, Feb 20, 2010 at 11:03:59 AM
You say people believe what they want to believe.... by Nick van Nes on Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 1:38:55 AM
"...more than 1000 independent engineers have chal... by F. Apoda on Saturday, Feb 20, 2010 at 11:35:00 AM
Looks like Cass's agents have their work cut out f... by Lips Malloy on Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 3:07:31 AM
"Look up the history of steel framed skyscrapers, ... by Maxwell on Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 8:41:22 AM
"...Look up the USS Liberty."Here it is:http://www... by F. Apoda on Saturday, Feb 20, 2010 at 1:47:03 PM
CNN recently showed photos of the 9/11 World Trad... by Robert Gormley on Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 6:50:38 AM
This is an excellent write up of the way groups wo... by gravity32 on Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 8:33:02 AM
This is an excellent write up of the way groups wo... by gravity32 on Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 9:49:46 AM
For those of you who want to debate the conspiracy... by Richmond Shreve on Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 12:45:17 PM
Switzerland bragged about being neutral throughout... by Nick van Nes on Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 3:48:25 PM
Hello Richmond,A few weeks ago I had a letter publ... by Nordic on Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 5:23:48 PM
There is an illuminating blog on the ACLU site tha... by Nordic on Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 5:56:44 PM
All the comments in here so far, except Mr. Shreve... by adam syed on Saturday, Feb 20, 2010 at 4:30:28 AM
Yes Adam, it seems the readers of OpEdNews are now... by gravity32 on Saturday, Feb 20, 2010 at 7:41:48 AM
You forgot to put quote marks around the word "tru... by F. Apoda on Saturday, Feb 20, 2010 at 10:12:00 AM
In other words, you are telling us that you were n... by LeftWright on Saturday, Feb 20, 2010 at 7:54:55 AM
"...you will see that 20% of a building cannot cru... by F. Apoda on Saturday, Feb 20, 2010 at 10:48:44 AM
Nice try.... but you're side is losing at an alarm... by Robert Gormley on Saturday, Feb 20, 2010 at 12:00:46 PM
Nice try.... but you're side is losing at an alarm... by Robert Gormley on Saturday, Feb 20, 2010 at 12:01:16 PM
<Sorry Lefty, but I reside in the reality-based... by Ron Brassfield on Saturday, Feb 20, 2010 at 3:26:17 PM
Couldn't have said it better myself!... by Robert Gormley on Saturday, Feb 20, 2010 at 4:51:06 PM
"If you are not a "government" agent yourself..."O... by F. Apoda on Sunday, Feb 21, 2010 at 3:55:47 PM
Mr. Brassfield, I would like to see you post an ar... by boomerang on Sunday, Feb 21, 2010 at 11:26:35 AM
F. Apoda, you said, <Of course, out comes the a... by Ron Brassfield on Sunday, Feb 21, 2010 at 8:49:22 PM
"I never said you, personally, dragged out the "An... by F. Apoda on Sunday, Feb 21, 2010 at 9:28:03 PM
"Okay, but how many times have you repeated the sa... by Ron Brassfield on Sunday, Feb 21, 2010 at 9:56:19 PM
Some of the "Dancing Israelis" arrested said on Is... by Ron Brassfield on Sunday, Feb 21, 2010 at 9:34:00 PM
This thread is getting kind of worn Mr. B. You mig... by boomerang on Sunday, Feb 21, 2010 at 9:34:13 PM
It is curious that Tom Murphy and Allbury Smith ar... by MikeZimmer on Sunday, Feb 21, 2010 at 11:06:23 PM
Awww, come on, we all just"know" bin Laden did it!... by Ron Brassfield on Sunday, Feb 21, 2010 at 9:36:25 PM
By the way, F. Apoda, my faithful sparring partner... by Ron Brassfield on Sunday, Feb 21, 2010 at 9:38:24 PM
There exist far too many Laws of Physics reversed ... by boomerang on Monday, Feb 22, 2010 at 7:33:24 AM
Thanks for your supportive words and information, ... by Ron Brassfield on Monday, Feb 22, 2010 at 7:13:47 PM
You manifest a Noble Spirit Sir, and a fine use of... by boomerang on Monday, Feb 22, 2010 at 9:01:09 PM