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Obama Appointee Sunstein Favors Infiltrating Online Groups

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the freedom-of-somethingeruther dept.

Government 689

megamerican writes "President Barack Obama's appointee to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs advocated in a recent paper the 'cognitive infiltration' of groups that advocate 'conspiracy theories' like the ones surrounding 9/11 via 'chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine' those groups. Sunstein admits that 'some conspiracy theories, under our definition, have turned out to be true' Sunstein has also recently advocated banning websites which post 'right-wing rumors' and bringing back the Fairness Doctrine. You can find a PDF of his paper here. For decades (1956-1971), the FBI under COINTELPRO focused on disrupting, marginalizing and neutralizing political dissidents, most notably the Black Panthers. More recently CENTCOM announced it would be engaging bloggers 'who are posting inaccurate or untrue information, as well as bloggers who are posting incomplete information.' In January 2009 the USAF released a flow-chart for 'counter-bloggers' to 'counter the people out there in the blogosphere who have negative opinions about the US government and the Air Force.'"

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689 comments

Why fear terrorists... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30771956)

Why fear Middle Eastern terrorists, when there are home-grown Americans so eager to utterly destroy freedom of expression...

Re:Why fear terrorists... (1, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772078)

Is that what these reports say? Or do they simply advocate countering free speech with *GASP* more free speech? It sounds like propaganda, which is bad, but nothing like COINTELPRO.

Re:Why fear terrorists... (5, Interesting)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772280)

State-sponsored infiltration is NOT free speech. Free speech means the government doesn't control (nor attempt to influence) what people are discussing. Planting paid 'experts' in strategic locations to diffuse conversation is so far from unrestricted speech that I can only assume you have no idea what's actually being suggested.

Observe:

By "crippled epistemology" Sunstein means that people who believe in conspiracy theories have a limited number of sources of information that they trust. Therefore, Sunstein argued in the article, it would not work to simply refute the conspiracy theories in public -- the very sources that conspiracy theorists believe would have to be infiltrated.

In a negative light, this means "find the people saying things we don't like and replace them with people who say what we want."

And despite the meme at play, this is NOT a conspiracy theory, it is exactly what he is proposing.

Re:Why fear terrorists... (2, Informative)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772418)

So the government is joining conspiracy theory groups, posing as ordinary citizens, winning their trust, and then debunking their theories. This is bad, but again, nothing like COINTELPRO, which encouraged illegal behavior, spread gossip to break groups apart, even stooping so low as to have their agents have affairs to break apart groups.

Re:Why fear terrorists... (4, Insightful)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772514)

So the government is joining conspiracy theory groups, posing as ordinary citizens, winning their trust, and then debunking their theories. This is bad, the end.

FTFY

Just because other bad events exist you wish to excuse this behavior away?

Re:Why fear terrorists... (1)

tsm_sf (545316) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772474)

I'm not sure I understand the concern. This man is simply advocating a policy that has been in place on a national and state level for decades. Since the level of outrage never reached a dull roar, I'm sure they just assumed everyone was ok with the practice.

Or is this one of those "first they came for the blacks and the anarchists" moments for you.

no civil rights for politicians (1)

astar (203020) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772314)

you have a fine argument, but the details are less interesting than the pattern. And just looking at this weeks headlines with respect to AIG, the new york fed, and the sec, it seems pretty clear legality is not the first priority:-)

Perhaps we will manage to do something about some of this. but long term i favor reduced civil rights for politicians and public servants. make it hard to stonewall. make it easy to convict them

Is President Obama secretly a Republican? (1, Interesting)

Loki_1929 (550940) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772104)

He's doing just about everything he can to help the GOP win every seat in Congress that's up for election this year. Between him and the Democrats in Congress, it's a wonder anyone's left to support the lot of them. Perhaps if the GOP made an effort to make itself more palatable (or distinguishable), they'd be the ones in a supermajority.

Re:Is President Obama secretly a Republican? (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772160)

Yea it's pretty sad that we're stuck with the 2 party system. When you get tired of the party in power and decided to vote them out you find out that as bad as you thought they were, the other side is still worse. Perhaps someday we can migrate to the Progressive party vs. the Libertarian party and just combine the Dems/Reps as being the left and right wing of the Progressive party.

Re:Is President Obama secretly a Republican? (1)

Loki_1929 (550940) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772410)

I'm not a big fan of some of the Libertarian Party's platform. I think we need 6 - 8 major parties and a number of minor ones. Let them split Congress among them and let the people have some distinguishable choice between the party that sucks today and the party that'll suck tomorrow after they're elected.

Re:Is President Obama secretly a Republican? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30772378)

He is a black horse they set up for the job well in advance.

IMO; All US presidents have been pedophiles controlled by CIA, ever since JFK.

Re:Why fear terrorists... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30772130)

If you are willing to give up your liberty for security, you will get neither liberty or security.

No matter how secure a nation makes itself, it is still vulnerable to attack by citizens or foreign nationals. The Idea of liberty is that citizens actively participate in the security of their nation by allowing citizens the freedom to keep and bear arms. At the start The President of the United States walked around without security and among dissenters themselves wearing guns. The idea was that as an elected leader he would be protected by his fellow Americans.

Now the roles have reversed and we are kept swine for the government to protect. It is almost more of a crime to protect yourself from a criminal than it is for them to visit hostilities upon you.

Re:Why fear terrorists... (1)

muindaur (925372) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772228)

They are trying to counter bad information not shut sites down unlike Woodrow Wilson; he ordered the Post Master General to prevent any magazines that had a negative opionion of WWI from being allowed to mail. There was aslo the Seditious Acts Law( or something like that I think) that almost had some New York Times journalists imprisoned. They had good lawyers that got them off on freedom of the press and speech.

It is in no way a violation of freedom of speech to put information out there to clarify a certain point of view but it's the essence of freedom of speech.

Re:Why fear terrorists... (1, Interesting)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772304)

It is in no way a violation of freedom of speech to put information out there to clarify a certain point of view but it's the essence of freedom of speech.

That's exactly what he is proposing the government avoid doing. He says that the government attempting to inform people will strengthen the conspiracist's belief.

Instead he proposes the government REPLACE the trusted sources of information COVERTLY.

Viola, violation of freedom of speech.

Re:Why fear terrorists... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30772250)

Exactly. Often we get told it's "racist" to say this but blacks really are going to destroy america.

Re:Why fear terrorists... (4, Insightful)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772362)

I don't know, they're blogs and chat groups. Open to all, generally. I see it as a legitimate use. It's no more subversive than any other astroturfer would be, and such postings are pretty easy to recognise. Now, if they actually blocked content or filtered it in any way (you listening, Conroy?) then that would be truly evil.

Re:Why fear terrorists... (1)

The FBI (1717712) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772380)

This is America, you have all the freedoms, including the freedom to fear anyone you want.

Re:Why fear terrorists... (-1, Flamebait)

bonch (38532) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772504)

Liberals are maniacally pro-government and want a hugely powerful entity capable of forcing everyone to live the way they want them to live because they believe they are enlightened intellectuals. This means disintegrating personal ownership and income and giving it to the state through redistribution, government regulation of opinion (e.g., flag@whitehouse.gov, the "Fairness Doctrine," "Net Neutrality"), the state takeover of private industries so that governments can control them, and so on.

In the battle between the left and the right, the left is more dangerous because they dutifully empower the legislative entities that make the laws and thus are above them. It's a lot harder to change governments than it is to punish a private business for wrongdoing. Liberalism fears privatization and free opinions because it doesn't have total control over them, and it needs that government control to make everyone live the "right way."

GWB (4, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772516)

Remember when the left-wingers merely suspected GWB of thinking about possibly doing something similar and how apeshit crazy they went over that slim possibility?

Where are those people now?

Now that someone is actually proposing these CHILLING suggestions, because they are against "right wing nutjobs" it is okay?

Hypocrites. It wasn't right then, it isn't right now. It doesn't matter what you "agree" with; that which needs protection is that which you DON'T agree with.

Obama Administrator is no friend of Liberty, and he is making GWB look angelic at this point. Don't get me wrong, the Republicans aren't any better, and I'm not defending them either.

Free speech for the dumb (1)

gimmebeer (1648629) | more than 4 years ago | (#30771962)

Watch what you type friends, Big Brother O is watching.

Re:Free speech for the dumb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30772496)

Obama is a big dumb nigger and I hope a horse shits on him.

US Airforce kills innocent women and children (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30771970)

Counter that!

Re:US Airforce kills innocent women and children (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772102)

Those women and children had it coming. You could tell from their shifty eyes!

- A fellow blogger not representing the establishment.

Re:US Airforce kills innocent women and children (1)

countSudoku() (1047544) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772332)

It's not April 1 yet, is it? This is so bizarre that I think it might be a counter-counter conspiracy that is perpetrated on the easy to blame government. Very convincing, Truthers, but you failed to cover-up the evidence of this mock-up to your "news release" by removing the joke name of one of the characters in your grand scheme... to wit; from the wired article "It's all part of an Air Force push to "counter the people out there in the blogosphere who have negative opinions about the U.S. government and the Air Force," Captain David Faggard says."
        I mean, come on, can't you come up with a more realistic name that that? Very funny, but we're on to you, matey.

-An ordinary citizen and part-time software pirate and NOT an agent of the Air Force Cyber-Posting Army. Go, Flying Nerds! Woot!!1!

What do you expect... (4, Insightful)

Kazoo the Clown (644526) | more than 4 years ago | (#30771978)

What do you expect from the party of Barbara Streisand, than to institutionalize the "Streisand Effect"?

Re:What do you expect... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30772230)

As an outsider who used to be a liberal, I find conservatives' fixation on Barbara Streisand to be utterly bizarre. When I was a liberal, the only times I ever thought about Barbara Streisand were when conservative wackadoos got enraged over things she said or did -- and that was just long enough to think "Barbara Streisand? Huh? Who gives a shit?" The other liberals I knew had more or less the same reaction.

  Now that I've moved to a position outside that of the R vs. D "Go team!" demographics, I think I grasp the foundation of the problem: modern conservative politics, lacking much in the way of coherent principles since Goldwater went down, has to appeal to emotion. Consequently, the conservative hate machine is born, and every two minutes, there has to be a new Two Minutes Hate, and a constant cycling of new targets for hatred. Otherwise conservatives might stop being angry for a moment and start thinking for themselves. This would be as dangerous for Republican politicians as if the Democratic base really sat down and thought about what they actually want and whether their politicians ever showed any inclination of giving it to them. (No, being the answer to that. The Democratic party is a self-contained, self-interested machine at this point.)

  Then again, I guess that "Streisand Effect" is also easier for conservatives to stomach than "Nixon Effect", the real modern archetype of an individual who made things worse by trying to hush everything up.

  - mantar

Re:What do you expect... (1)

aurispector (530273) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772328)

Pshaw. It works both ways. Perhaps you could coin a "Palin effect" considering how she gets liberals all worked into a lather. And you're still very much "inside" the democrat team demographic, aren't you? C'mon, admit it!

Hurf Durf - (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30771990)

In before screeching about the Thought Police - who are apparently real. This sort of thing will only agitate paranoid netizens and make the rest of us even less trusting of the government (and information that appears to be supportive of it) than we already are.

Responsible dissent. (0, Flamebait)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 4 years ago | (#30771992)

Our nation was founded on the concept of dissent, and it is a very important aspect of maintaining a free and civilized society.

However, there ARE people out there who practice irresponsible dissent, and their sole purpose is to disrupt the lives of everyone in order to make a point which most find irrational. I am all for these people getting shut down, so long as those who are responsible and do not infringe on the liberty of others are left in peace.

Re:Responsible dissent. (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772068)

However, there ARE people out there who practice irresponsible dissent, and their sole purpose is to disrupt the lives of everyone in order to make a point which most find irrational. I am all for these people getting shut down, so long as those who are responsible and do not infringe on the liberty of others are left in peace.

The question is, who gets to decide which is which? It would be very easy for a government engaged in an unjust war to label peace protesters as "irresponsible dissenters" and have them shut up.

Re:Responsible dissent. (4, Interesting)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772120)

The question is, who gets to decide which is which?

I dunno, who can yell the loudest? They usually win these days it seems.

Re:Responsible dissent. (1)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772344)

Is that what the Constitution is for? The framework for deciding who is responsible and who is not has been written, and it's simply a matter of interpretation to decide which is which.

The key is to define one's liberty, and take action against those who restrict the daily freedom of Americans in the name of dissent. A simple negative opinion on a blog should be left as is, while someone who decides that burning down a ski lodge in the name of animal rights [adl.org] should be targeted.

Re:Responsible dissent. (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772358)

The question is, who gets to decide which is which? It would be very easy for a government engaged in an unjust war to label peace protesters as "irresponsible dissenters" and have them shut up.

That concept isn't nearly as scary as what they are actually proposing.

The actual plan, in the document, would be better described as taking key peace protesters and replacing them with pro-war government employees.

Re:Responsible dissent. (1)

dwiget001 (1073738) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772094)

Really? And who is to be the just of "irresponsible dissent"?

This gets into "if the government deems it irresponsible, then it is", no matter what "it" is. This is tyranny and should be utterly squashed as such.

The U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, it does not qualify whether that speech is "responsible", "irresponsible" or any shade in between.

Re:Responsible dissent. (2, Insightful)

MarkPNeyer (729607) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772108)

Who gets to determine the difference between responsible dissent and irresponsible dissent? A Conservative might claim that comparing George Bush to Hitler is "irresponsible", while a Liberal might say that claiming Obama is not a U.S. Citizen is "irresponsible."

It's best just to let people who are wrong keep talking, and simply ignore them. Shutting them up with the power of the government is a bad idea - because those same powers could be used against people trying to bring attention to government misdeeds, like the people in Boston who were arrested for recording what they saw as police brutality.

Re:Responsible dissent. (1)

PaddyM (45763) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772110)

Yeah. Why focus on the global warming questioners. There's all those people making money selling supplements on TV. I think those people are more harmful to society than the (perhaps misguided) questioners of global warming. At least, I think it is worth keeping an open mind about the global warming debate since the behavioral changes required are so disruptive, as they would have to be, to counter global warming (especially if we are fighting a universe-caused matter of fact). The policies which grow from managing climate change, to distributing resources are going to be important.

But the supplement leeches and the spammers should definitely be infiltrated. Of course, since those are harder to stop, we're not focusing any efforts on those ;(

Re:Responsible dissent. (4, Insightful)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772114)

I agree, it's OK for the government to shut down people I disagree with as long as they leave the people I agree with alone.

Re:Responsible dissent. (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772414)

I agree, it's OK for the government to shut down people I disagree with as long as they leave the people I agree with alone.

I disagree. Someone shut this guy down!

Re:Responsible dissent. (3, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772162)

What on earth do you consider irresponsible dissent? Publicly asking for a birth certificate from the president of the US on your TV show? Or do you consider it something more disruptive, like the sit-ins and freedom rides that happened during the civil rights movement?

I can think of a lot of inane things out there, from birthers to truthers to GNAA, but those people are just annoying. A good moderation system like slashdot's can fix all of them.

This isn't talking about a moderation system, this is talking about sponsoring bloggers to try to influence public perception. This is like what Nixon did, he had a letter-writing organization that would write tens of thousands of letters to news agencies trying to get them to change their programming. The ONLY time infiltrative deception is acceptable is if the organization is criminal, like the mafia. You shouldn't be trying to infiltrate tea-partier groups, even if you disagree with their politics.

The only thing I can think of that would be irresponsible dissent would be something like starting your own militia and invading your neighboring town, and even that in some cases would be morally acceptable. I mean, we have people who are literally trying to secede from the union, and that is alright. But if that isn't irresponsible, what is?

Re:Responsible dissent. (5, Informative)

krou (1027572) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772308)

In the words of Noam Chomsky: "Goebbels was in favour of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you're really in favor of free speech, then you're in favour of freedom of speech for precisely for views you despise. Otherwise, you're not in favour of free speech."

Re:Responsible dissent. (3, Interesting)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772486)

However, there ARE people out there who practice irresponsible dissent, and their sole purpose is to disrupt the lives of everyone in order to make a point which most find irrational.

You're absolutely right. If the Republicans win the next election, I hope they vote to silence irresponsible dissenters who say things like:

  • Global Climate Change is real.
  • Intellectual Property is imaginary.
  • Free Software is good for America.
  • Pot should be legalized.
  • Gay marriage should be legalized.
  • Health care reform is necessary.
  • Networks should be neutral.
  • Abortion should remain legal.
  • Monsanto should be limited.

Any time you wish your buddies had a power, imagine what it would be like if the other team had that same ability.

What, no "propaganda" tag? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30771998)

What, no "propaganda" tag?

Attempt to undermine those groups (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30772004)

Don't you merely confirm their conspiracy theories with this dunderheaded plan?

Totally inaccurate and unture (3, Funny)

The FBI (1717712) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772028)

For decades (1956-1971), the FBI under COINTELPRO focused on disrupting, marginalizing and neutralizing political dissidents, most notably the Black Panthers. More recently CENTCOM announced it would be engaging bloggers 'who are posting inaccurate or untrue information, as well as bloggers who are posting incomplete information.' In January 2009 the USAF released a flow-chart for 'counter-bloggers' to 'counter the people out there in the blogosphere who have negative opinions about the U.S. government and the Air Force.'"

The information above is totally inaccurate and untrue. You are advised to retract your statements and apologize, otherwise legal action will be brought against you. Thank you.

Have a nice day.

GENIUS! (5, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772040)

What better way to prove that there isn't a conspiracy
THAN TO TRY AND STOP PEOPLE FROM SPREADING IT.

This would have been a good article to write one of my 5 or 6 paragraph conspiracy theories that I whip up out of thin air, but I already did one of those today, and my brain hurts.

Re:GENIUS! (4, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772172)

and my brain hurts.

Oh no! That's not mental fatigue, that's their mind-control satellite preventing you from concocting further conspiracy theories! It's too late for you, brother, but don't worry. I'll fight on, spreading the truth about the critical role Fluoride and the Cadbury Bunny played in the 9/11 attacks... as soon as I get some Tylenol... Ow...

After infiltrating several on-line forums .... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30772076)

the Obama administration has become very concerned with the situation in Azeroth and plan to spend 10 billion in on-line gold to help the cause.

Re:After infiltrating several on-line forums .... (1)

Nylathotep (72183) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772164)

the Obama administration has become very concerned with the situation in Azeroth and plan to spend 10 billion in on-line gold to help the cause.

I've heard rumors Azeroth is facing an upcoming Cataclysm that will allow the Obama administration to enforce marshal law and suspend elections.

This is OLD news (1)

harrytuttle777 (1720146) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772080)

The only reason, it would not be is if you believe the corporate news media, who got us into the situation that we are in right now. The only I

Counterproductive? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30772112)

I guess the whole infiltration thing will convince the conspiracy theorists that they were right all along, and anyone who questions their theories can now be dismissed as a government infiltrator :/

Obama Appointee Sunstein Favors Infiltrating Onlin (2, Funny)

omar.sahal (687649) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772118)

Lilly levered Democrats, the solution lies with cruise missiles.

Re:Obama Appointee Sunstein Favors Infiltrating On (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772218)

See? This is the perfect example. It is about the dumbest thing I have read today. And yet, I will defend to the death your right to say it. Where does this person even get off thinking this is a good idea?

Brilliant! (4, Insightful)

straponego (521991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772148)

By floating this, he's ensured that participants in these groups, who by definition are more suspicious than most, will now be paranoid that their peers are government infiltrators. They'll be less open with each other, and may quit altogether. And the Man doesn't even have to follow through to have this effect-- it's totally free! Well played, fascist.

Of course, social interaction may be the last thing holding some of the target audience from going lone gunman, but you can't make an omelette without killing a few people. At least, I can't. And the more incidents we have, the more funding the security apparatus gets. There is no downside!

Wait... should I post this? ...ah, I trust you guys.

Re:Brilliant! (2, Funny)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772182)

And the more incidents we have, the more funding the security apparatus gets.

Unless you underestimate the number of lone gunmen and you security apparatus suddenly suffers a total existence failure.

Re:Brilliant! (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772326)

... social interaction may be the last thing holding some of the target audience from going lone gunman...

These days it's "lone underpants-man". Get with the times!

Turn the Feds? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30772426)

I would welcome a Fed listening in. After a while maybe, just maybe, he'll start to see things from the other side.

Any asshole can mount a one man attack an have everyone hate him. But to get the folks on the inside to see it you way? Brilliance.

Start comparing the Fed with the Stazi? Sure, at first he's drunk the Kool-Aid and is all gung-ho - out to catch some terrorists - USA! USA! USA!

But then, one day, he goes online and reads the Stazi link that someone posted. Now, the Fed is USA! Yeah.

Later on, maybe he starts to realize that the Constitution he's sworn to uphold is eroded ever so slightly when he spies on citizens.

Then maybe, he wonders, if the Constitution is being eroded and eventually it becomes more of a meaningless symbol, then exactly what is he defending? America? The values of America are in the Constitution that he may be violating. So, what's he fighting for? Our way of life? Our way of life is the life specified in the Constitution - of course, lately, our "way of life" == cheap oil but that's another rant.

Hah! Who am I kidding! He's going to spy, fuck the Constitution, go home and watch '24' while polishing his gun.

Not a good source (4, Insightful)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772170)

I'd probably consider myself right of center, but I also don't think World Net Daily is a very unbiased source.

Free means free (5, Funny)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772178)

First they came for the 9/11 truthers, and I said noth- well, actually, anything they can do to mess with *those* loons is OK by me. Can they eff up ther anti-vaxxers, too?

ma83 (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30772180)

butts are exposed stupid. to the fatal mistakes, serves to reinforce CAn be like OUTER SPACE THE flaws in the BSD prospects are BSD addicts, flame

Hold on wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30772186)

The summary says that CENTCOM will be telling bloggers that their information is incorrect or completely untrue. Wouldn't that be able to give bloggers a chance to argue right back to the people they're complaining about? I see this as a positive step towards a more direct democracy where we can all comment and have a response from someone in the loop in a government agency. It would be kind of like the TSA blog, but with a two way response from someone that will listen and relay the information to someone useful. Maybe this is all wishful thinking.

Fire him (3, Insightful)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772198)

He ought to be fired for being stupid enough to think the government should waste even a penny dealing with conspiracy theorists. Just ignore them. It works just fine. Sure, they pop up now and then, but really, think about it: Of all the various theories about the Kennedy assassination, what do any of them matter in the long run? How does it really affect the government? It doesn't.

All the 9/11 conspiracy theorists have accomplished what? Pretty much nothing.

The more important question is: Who gets to decide who is the conspiracy theorists? That's where the real danger is. Hard to believe Obama would hire such an idiot. Sounds like a George Bush kinda guy.

Awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30772200)

More chains we can believe in from the Obama administration.

There's a saying in Washington, I know they have it in Texas: fool somebody 20 times, they'll probably get fooled again.

Good job (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772204)

Now anyone who defends the administration online can immediately be accused of being a paid shill and marginalized.

Re:Good job (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772442)

How can the fringe that believes in wide spread paid shills actually marginalize anybody?

Wow, you can't get better sources than WND? (5, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772208)

Why not link in HuffingtonPost, FreeRepublic, and MichaelMoore.com while you're at it. ;)

For those who care about the actual paper [ssrn.com] rather than the right-wing spin of it:

--------

Abstract:
Many millions of people hold conspiracy theories; they believe that powerful people have worked together in order to withhold the truth about some important practice or some terrible event. A recent example is the belief, widespread in some parts of the world, that the attacks of 9/11 were carried out not by Al Qaeda, but by Israel or the United States. Those who subscribe to conspiracy theories may create serious risks, including risks of violence, and the existence of such theories raises significant challenges for policy and law. The first challenge is to understand the mechanisms by which conspiracy theories prosper; the second challenge is to understand how such theories might be undermined. Such theories typically spread as a result of identifiable cognitive blunders, operating in conjunction with informational and reputational influences. A distinctive feature of conspiracy theories is their self-sealing quality. Conspiracy theorists are not likely to be persuaded by an attempt to dispel their theories; they may even characterize that very attempt as further proof of the conspiracy. Because those who hold conspiracy theories typically suffer from a crippled epistemology, in accordance with which it is rational to hold such theories, the best response consists in cognitive infiltration of extremist groups. Various policy dilemmas, such as the question whether it is better for government to rebut conspiracy theories or to ignore them, are explored in this light.
------

Note how the Slashdot header linked to COINTELPRO, to imply that that's what's being talked about? Even in the *scenario* where infiltration is discussed, the paper explicitly states, "By this we do not mean 1960s-style infiltration with a view to surveillance and collecting information, possibly for use in future prosecutions." The paper is about how (or whether to) dispel conspiracy theories to prevent them from spreading, not to prosecute the individuals who promote them. Cognitive infiltration is discussed (again, in purely theoretical terms) in not just a covert manner, but also an overt manner. A lot (although not all) of the paper also is about overseas actions against muslim radical organizations, too, giving examples of tactics we're already employing to dispel conspiracy theories that help fuel terrorist organizations. Anyone who doesn't realize that our government actively employs propaganda even against non-conspiracy-theories isn't paying attention.

Now, all of that said, Sunstein does come across in the end as as supporting debunking conspiracy theories which can "create or fuel violence" by "rebutting more rather than fewer theories, by enlisting independent groups to supply rebuttals, and by cogitive infiltration designed to break up the crippled epistemology of conspiracy-minded groups and informationally isolated social networks." Which form of cognitive infiltration discussed -- covert or overt -- is not mentioned, nor is whether this is a reference to domestic, international, or both kinds of conspiracy theories.

I disagree, but it's not as radical of a paper as it's being made out to be.

Re:Wow, you can't get better sources than WND? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30772450)

Okay, thanks for straightening that out, but I think your analysis evades a crucial point: why does the government *care* about conspiracy theorists and what they think?

Put another way, what interest does the government have in paying special attention to the cognitive processes of its people? Does this kind of analysis survive the flip test? What would the implications be if the party of the opposition had been in power at the time of its creation?

What's the point, here?

Re:Wow, you can't get better sources than WND? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30772476)

There you go ruining everything with your crazy "reason" and "facts". And we were just about to have such a lovely flamewar.

Re:Wow, you can't get better sources than WND? (1, Interesting)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772490)

I disagree, but it's not as radical of a paper as it's being made out to be.

I find the very notion that an individual who finds thought dangerous can participate in a democratic government to be just about as radical as it gets.

People should be encouraged to explore their theories, not prevented from thinking about them.

You need to watch the people O trusts... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30772220)

He's steering the ship into Venezuela all the while pointing out the sights along the way hoping we won't notice. Bush was terrible at selling his ideas, but this guy is the best salesman we've ever seen.

Proof the standard media is worthless (2, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772238)

To me this reads like a complete admission that government has little or nothing to fear from standard media, which is something I've felt for a long time. And they think I should be giving them my money or that Google should be paying them for their worthless prattling of the establishment line.

Your First Premise IS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30772244)

Wrong. The U.S. only appears as a democracy. The political system is ONE party.

I hope this helps the discussion.

Yours In Novy Urengoy,
Kilgore Trout

but of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30772258)

so wait... they're infiltrating internet groups and paying people to spend large amounts of time within them?

I'll be right back. I have to hand in my resume to the CIA now.

which (2, Insightful)

memnock (466995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772264)

online groups?
Sarah Palin's Facebook followers? better off going to the circus.

E.L.F.? do they post their plans for world domination to their forums?

this is an appointee for Obama, but i have to wonder who actually proposed this person for Obama to nominate. someone left over from the Bush regime, like Gates? is he contracting work out to John Yoo? anyway, it's not like the C.I.A. or N.S.A. isn't already doing this.
 

Good but not enough (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772266)

In January 2009 the USAF released a flow-chart for 'counter-bloggers' to 'counter the people out there in the blogosphere who have negative opinions about the U.S. government and the Air Force.'"

Dear government. Do you want a tip to improve the efficiency of these counter bloggers ? Identify them as "official bloggers" and feed them with true and real information. If your goal is really to fight fake information, this should work like a charm. And despite my sarcastic tone, I really think it would work. Give someone (a journalist or an administrator, or anyone really) an insight on public files and a freedom of speech so that s/he can use informal speech to rant on internet and you will have your counter-blogging force. Lies and disguise rarely serve the cause of truth, don't believe people who try to sell such solutions.

This is my First Amendment Right of Free Speech.. (2)

Rene S. Hollan (1943) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772284)

... and this is my Second Amendment Gun.

ANY QUESTIONS?

Re:This is my First Amendment Right of Free Speech (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772404)

Try shooting someone who's done nothing physical against you, even a provocateur, and we'll see how long you get to keep your "Second Amendment" Gun. BTW, Rene, are you making an implicit threat against some future government agent who might just want to talk?

Re:This is my First Amendment Right of Free Speech (1)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772478)

I'm sorry sir but I must inform you that you are using an inaccurate information source and I must also ask you to refrain from propagating this incorrect information. There is no second amendment and your interpretation of the first amendment is not correct.

-Minitruth

He gazed up at the enormous face..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30772306)

O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Barack Obama.

There is NOTHING in there suggesting a ban! (4, Informative)

sirwired (27582) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772360)

If you read the damn paper, you will learn that a banning of such sites is listed as one of many responses that could be taken, but the author pointedly did not suggest that actually be done. The bulk of the paper focuses on when and how the govt. should attempt to counter conspiracy theories.

As far as the govt. infiltrating groups that propound conspiracy theories: This is stated as a mechanism for the govt. to sow its own views into the groups, not as a law-enforcement mechanism. I view this as nothing more than speech. Just as citizens can speak, so can the government. If Joe Random Citizen can join a group and talk about random B.S., why can Joe Random PR-Flack not do the same?

SirWired

Obama Cares (3, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772386)

Post anything negative to a Twitter-aware company like Comcast, and they connect you with somebody from corporate who will set right whatever you're complaining about. What's the difference between that and the Air Force wanting to debate people spreading inaccurate information about them?

If you allow comments on your blog... that's something who disagree with you can use.

Disregard this article - it's from World Net Daily (4, Informative)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772388)

World Net Daily is a few fries short of a happy meal. This is the same news organization that claims that Obama worked to fund terrorists [wnd.com] , that 9/11 was caused by the New Yorkers who had it coming [archive.org] , and that the Russian spy poisoned by the KGB using polonium was actually a muslim terrorist trying to sneak radioactive materials into the US [wnd.com] . They are basically a forum for conspiracy theories wrapped up in nice packaging.

WARNING (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30772400)

I have a distinct warning to all frothy-mouthed Liberals that love the idea of a "Fairness Doctrine" which was used in the past to remove Communist influences in the media and is trying to be used today to remove Conservative influences on the radio. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR

One simple question: (4, Insightful)

BorgAssimilator (1167391) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772432)

Why is our tax money being used for this?

I mean, I don't care about people who think the moon landing is fake. Let them spend their time thinking that. It doesn't hurt me. What does hurt me is _my_ hard earned money being used for a useless cause.

It even states in TFA that "some conspiracy theories, under [their] definition, have turned out to be true." So why spend time and energy arguing potentially the wrong side?

Aaron Klein is disingenous. (4, Informative)

Seor Jojoba (519752) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772440)

Don't let yourself get bent out of shape over this. Read the paper which is being quoted by the article before you start believing nonsense and posting your own. The Klein article misrepresents and quotes out of context. For example, here is the Cass Sunstein quote that Aaron Klein picks and edits to his liking:

"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."

Sounds really scary right? Okay, here is the full paragraph from Sunstein's paper, available online at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1084585 [ssrn.com] :

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).

Note the last sentence. Sunstein leaves the 2 points quoted by Klein out of the recommendation. The paper itself is somewhat insightful and worth a skim. There are things to disagree with perhaps, but this isn't some civil liberty crushing maniac.

I fully expect ... (1)

adipocere (201135) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772468)

... to see these HEY THERE IS NO CONSPIRACY bots auto-responding to anything mentioned about $conspiracy, amongst the webcam bots, in the handful of remaining Yahoo! Chat rooms which remain until Yahoo! gives up and shuts down chat altogether. See also the Israeli "MegaPhone" application.

Automated comments, emails, robodialers, blog posts, and messages: making humans more distrustful of human communication year by year.

This isnt news (1)

jdcope (932508) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772506)

Will this post will be considered a reason to spy on Slashdot? Its really too bad Glenn Beck is such a wanker, because he gets put down for bring things like this up. He outed Sunstein months ago. Half of the people Obama has appointed have similar views. I am beginning to regret voting for the guy.
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