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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, marshalling 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).
Infiltration of any kind poses well-known risks: perhaps agents will be asked to perform criminal acts to prove their bona fides, or (less plausibly) will themselves become persuaded by the conspiratorial views they are supposed to be undermining; perhaps agents will be unmasked and harmed by the infiltrated group.
However, this logic overlooks an important synergistic gain: rebutting many conspiracy theories can reduce the legitimating effect of rebutting any one of them. When government rebuts a particular theory while ignoring most others, the legitimating effect arises at least in part because of a contrast between the foreground and the background:...
...Practically speaking, government might do well to maintain a more vigorous countermisinformation establishment than it would otherwise do, one that identifies and rebuts many more conspiracy theories would otherwise be rebutted. There will still have to be some minimum threshold for governmental response, but the threshold will be lower than it would be if this synergistic gain of rebutting many theories did not exist.
Originally posted by Drunkenshrew
I just finished reading the paper. ...
...unmasked and harmed by the infiltrated group.
Originally posted by JayinAR
reply to post by Donny 4 million
You know. I have noticed in your recent contributions that you consider yourself to be an intellectual.
I guess I'll have to wait a little longer to see how that is working for ya.
Thanks for the responses, though.
Originally posted by soficrow
Logged on just to S&F this one.
NOTE to Mr. Sunstein:
I learn more about the world-as-it-really-is from insurance corporations' actuarial report summaries than from ANY news source. PubMed is my best source for information about medical conspiracies. I read the Economist and Forbes more than I read Mother Jones or Chomsky or gasp! the Nation.
I assure you, my epistemology is not crippled. However, yours appears to be so corrupted as to be effectively disabled.
Originally posted by digalog
reply to post by ProtoplasmicTraveler
Name: Cass R. Sunstein
Work Address: University of Chicago Law School, 1111 East 60th Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60637
Telephone: 773-702-9498 (business)
Fax: 773-702-0730 (business)
give him a call would ya
Hal Turner Admits He Worked for the FBI * Text size * Larger * Smaller Kurt Nimmo Infowars July 28, 2009 In a lame attempt to save his hide and stay out of prison for allegedly threatening to kill federal judges, the racist talk show host Hal Turner has admitted in court that he is an FBI informant, the Chicago Breaking News Center reports today.
Proof of Marcos Moulitsa's Involvement with the CIA After Forming Daily Kos Moulitsas says he talked to the CIA about his website. His website was begun in May of 2002. By his own account, Marcos Moulitsas at least interviewed with the CIA AFTER he formed Daily Kos, not (only) before. It may be he began the interview process in 2001 and that it continued (or training continued) to just before June 2003.