"In what sense is the money in our pockets and bank accounts fully ‘ours’? Did we earn it by our own autonomous efforts? Could we have inherited it without the assistance of probate courts? Do we save it without the support of bank regulators? Could we spend it if there were no public officials to coordinate the efforts and pool the resources of the community in which we live? Without taxes, there would be no liberty. Without taxes there would be no property. Without taxes, few of us would have any assets worth defending. It is a dim fiction that some people enjoy and exercise their rights without placing any burden whatsoever on the public. There is no liberty without dependency." - Cass Sunstein
Cass Sunstein Wants to "Nudge" Us All - NYT
Why Groups Go to Extremes & The Paralyzing Principle - Cass Sunstein
Towards a Theory of Conspiracy Theories - Stonefruit
The Power of Unreason - DEMOS
Flashback: DoD "Clarifies" Doctrine on Psychological Operations - FaS
Towards a Psychological Operations Reading List - Skilluminati
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.
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).
Via: Conspiracy Theories - Cass Sunstein & Adrian Vermeule