By Kevin Barrett
Global Research, February 06, 2019
The Unz Review 1 February 2019
A Review of Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas by Cass Sunstein (based on an earlier paper co-authored with Adrian Vermeule); In Defense of Troublemakers: The Power of Dissent in Life and Business by Charlan Nemeth; and Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them, edited by Joseph E. Uscinski
On January 25 2018 YouTube unleashed the latest salvo in the war on conspiracy theories, saying
“we’ll begin reducing recommendations of borderline content and content that could misinform users in harmful ways—such as videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness, claiming the earth is flat, or making blatantly false claims about historic events like 9/11.”
At first glance that sounds reasonable. Nobody wants YouTube or anyone else to recommend bad information. And almost everyone agrees that phony miracle cures, flat earthism, and blatantly false claims about 9/11 and other historical events are undesirable.
But if we stop and seriously consider those words, we notice a couple of problems. First, the word “recommend” is not just misleading but mendacious. YouTube obviously doesn’t really recommend anything. When it says it does, it is lying.
When you watch YouTube videos, the YouTube search engine algorithm displays links to other videos that you are likely to be interested in. These obviously do not constitute “recommendations” by YouTube itself, which exercises no editorial oversight over content posted by users. (Or at least it didn’t until it joined the war on conspiracy theories.)
The second and larger problem is that while there may be near-universal agreement among reasonable people that flat-earthism is wrong, there is only modest agreement regarding which health approaches constitute “phony miracle cures” and which do not. Far less is there any agreement on “claims about 9/11 and other historical events.” (Thus far the only real attempt to forge an informed consensus about 9/11 is the 9/11 Consensus Panel’s study—but it seems unlikely that YouTube will be using the Consensus Panel to determine which videos to “recommend”!)
YouTube’s policy shift is the latest symptom of a larger movement by Western elites to—as Obama’s Information Czar Cass Sunstein put it—“disable the purveyors of conspiracy theories.” Sunstein and co-author Adrian Vermeule’s 2008 paper “Conspiracy Theories,” critiqued by David Ray Griffin in 2010 and developed into a 2016 book, represents a panicked reaction to the success of the 9/11 truth movement. (By 2006, 36% of Americans thought it likely that 9/11 was an inside job designed to launch wars in the Middle East, according to a Scripps poll.)
Sunstein and Vermuele begin their abstract:
Many millions of people hold (sic) 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.
Sunstein argues that conspiracy theories (i.e. the 9/11 truth movement) are so dangerous that some day they may have to be banned by law. While awaiting that day, or perhaps in preparation for it, the government should “disable the purveyors of conspiracy theories” through various techniques including “cognitive infiltration” of 9/11 truth groups. Such “cognitive infiltration,” Sunstein writes, could have various aims including the promotion of “beneficial cognitive diversity” within the truth movement.
What sort of “cognitive diversity” would Cass Sunstein consider “beneficial”? Perhaps 9/11 truth groups that had been “cognitively infiltrated” by spooks posing as flat-earthers would harbor that sort of “beneficial” diversity? That would explain the plethora of expensive, high-production-values flat earth videos that have been blasted at the 9/11 truth community since 2008.
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