Cass Sunstein, Administrator of the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, recently suggested that the feds should "cognitively infiltrate" conspiracy theorist hang-outs and anti-government groups online. Over at Huffington Post, former BB guestblogger Arthur Goldwag, author of the fantastic book Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies, lays out why the government "shouldn't resort to secret agents and bought-and-paid-for claques and shills and ringers to promote its ideas." From HuffPo:
Sunstein's proposal was not issued under the auspices of the government, but in an academic paper. Co-authored with Harvard Law School Professor Adrian Vermeule and published in The Journal of Political Philosophy in 2008 (it can be downloaded as a PDF file here), "Conspiracy Theory" surveys the existing scholarship on the origins and characteristics of conspiracy theories and contemplates whether or not governments should try to neutralize them. In general, it takes a social sciences approach, arguing that conspiracy theories are neither legitimate political ideas nor symptoms of a psychological disorder, but are rather the inevitable distortions of closed-off, self-reinforcing belief systems. Using government agents to inject "cognitive diversity" into those communities, it suggests, just might provide the body politic with an antidote to the thought contagions they inspire."Cass Sunstein's Thought Police"
David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco.