Obama advisor suggests “cognitive infiltration”

paranoia circo de invierno

Glenn Greenwald on Nudge co-author Cass Sunstein’s creepy propaganda proposal:

Cass Sunstein has long been one of Barack Obama’s closest confidants. Often mentioned as a likely Obama nominee to the Supreme Court, Sunstein is currently Obama’s head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs where, among other things, he is responsible for “overseeing policies relating to privacy, information quality, and statistical programs.” In 2008, while at Harvard Law School, Sunstein co-wrote a truly pernicious paper proposing that the U.S. Government employ teams of covert agents and psuedo-“independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites — as well as other activist groups — which advocate views that Sunstein deems “false conspiracy theories” about the Government. This would be designed to increase citizens’ faith in government officials and undermine the credibility of conspiracists. The paper’s abstract can be read, and the full paper downloaded, here.

Sunstein advocates that the Government’s stealth infiltration should be accomplished by sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups.” He also proposes that the Government make secret payments to so-called “independent” credible voices to bolster the Government’s messaging (on the ground that those who don’t believe government sources will be more inclined to listen to those who appear independent while secretly acting on behalf of the Government). This program would target those advocating false “conspiracy theories,” which they define to mean: “an attempt to explain an event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role.”

Glenn Greenwald: The creepy mind-set behind Cass Sunstein’s creepy proposal

See also: Air Force launching blog comment propaganda program

(Photo credit: Circo de Invierno / CC BY 2.0)


  1. COINTELPRO, at your service…

  2. This just increases the very ambivilant feelings I have about conspiracy theory. On the one hand, conspiracy theories are predominately lurid fictions and myths; however, people who reject conspiracy theories as being inherantly the product of irrational minds are as deluded, if not more so, than the conspiracy theorists themselves. This anti-conspiracist perspective tends to give goverments a free-reign to engage in the kind of shady, covert activities which time and time again they have been shown to be actively involved in.

  3. Does talking about that in public make you more credible or does it blow your cover too much?

  4. Lord Snorkington

    January 16, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    How come nobody ever talks about the spurious conspiracy theories concocted by prosecutors attempting to build RICO cases against organized crime syndicates?

    For many reasons too abstruse to discuss here, it’s easy enough for people to grasp the concept of one person committing one crime on one occasion. But for those same reasons, the notion that one or more people may repeatedly plan and commit criminal and/or immoral acts, and that such activity is merely business as usual and the bedrock on which civilization rests, well that invokes the double and triple think filters. People who don’t believe in conspiracies or conspiracy theories ought to go to law libraries and research cases with the keyword “conspiracy.” They also ought to read about why revolutions and wars take place.

    Another point of irony, Sunstein is, by his own admission, part of a group of intellectual elites who conspire to limit and curtail other people’s First Amendment freedoms.

  5. @Lord Snorkington


  6. First, everything that people do together with any intention could be called a conspiracy. Most human group activities are conspiracies. The word has gotten a basd rap as it is now assumed that those who conspire are up to no good. That being said, the government is only now catching up to corporations with this kind of propagana. Every tech company of any decent size has someone who, as at least part of their job, monitors venues such as Usenet groups. Many of these folks post as part of their jobs. While the representatives of the more honest organizations will identify themselves, it is very common to find unidentified company reps talking up their own products on Usenet support groups and similar places:

    “Personally, I use Technoccult(TM) brand brain widgets, and they are far superior to those brain widget made by widgetco that caused my Grandmother to accidentally shift species. No one with the slightest shred of self-respect or real intellect would ever recommend anything other than genuine Technoccult products to anyone, except in a deliberate attempt to cause grave semiotic injury and hermeneutic humiliation.”

  7. WTF? Sunstein is more original than this – the gist of what he is proposing was already done under COINTELPRO and other government program throughout most of the second half of the last century. I would wager these tricks were done in much of the first half of the century as well (How did Palmer find out who/when/where to raid?)

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