First of all, to put some of his more absurd ideas in perspective, Sunstein advocates a "libertarian paternalism" type of government. As Paul Hsieh writes:
The basic premise of libertarian paternalism is that the government should use its power to "nudge" people into acting in their best interest, while leaving them the choice to "opt out." If the government decides that saving money is good, it would automatically divert a percentage of your paycheck into a savings account in your name unless you explicitly declined. Supporters claim that this preserves freedom because government is only changing the default, while leaving individuals the final choice. It is merely a gentle "nudge," not a hard push.While the name may be different, this philosophy is little different than Leo Strauss' neoconservative rantings and it boils down to the same essence. Stripped of its politico-babble newspeak, it basically amounts to the following: "People are too stupid to know what's good for them, so we the enlightened leaders, will decide for them and force them to comply." In other words, it's Schizoidal Government Lite, with a "nudge" instead of a boot in the face. At least, that's the image they'd like to present. The reality, as always, is often much more disturbing.
Take Sunstein's stance on organ donation. Right now, unless someone consents, while living, to donate their organs upon death for the purpose of transplantation, their organs are left intact within their mortal coil. At least, that is the way it is supposed to happen. Some Israelis (and Sunstein, too, as we'll see) seem to think that is just a formality. Organs, it seems, are free for the taking, as long as they belong to those with little or no means to have their rights defended, as is the case with the countless Palestinians who have been murdered and exploited for their organs in the past decades.
But contrary to common sense, Sunstein believes that organs do exist for the taking, and wishes to make it policy. Rather than giving your consent, your organs should be free game, unless you say otherwise, of course.
"The major obstacle to increasing [organ] donations is the need to get the consent of surviving family members," said Sunstein and Thaler.The problem is, this "presumed consent" presumes a lot, and I'm betting Sunstein and friends are counting on it. First of all, it presumes a person is fully informed about the issue in the first place, and has the means to "register their unwillingness". It also suggests that your organs are not in fact your property. In the absence of any informed choice on your part, your organs are not yours to keep. This also just so happens to make organ theft that much easier. The "authorities" can simply take a page out of Israel's handbook and murder someone for their organs. If they haven't "registered their unwillingness", it's all free and legal! (Except the murder of course, but that's easily taken care of by denouncing those who make such claims as "conspiracy theorists". As we see below, Sunstein's already got the ball rolling on that one).
Comment: As the Israelis have shown, this isn't much of an obstacle, but it helps to have it look good on paper.
This problem could be remedied if governments changed the laws for organ donation, they [Sunstein and co-author Thaler] said. Currently, unless a patient has explicitly chosen to be an organ donor, either on his driver's license or with a donor card, the doctors assume that the person did not want to donate and therefore do not harvest his organs. Thaler and Sunstein called this "explicit consent."
They argued that this could be remedied if government turned the law around and assumed that, unless people explicitly choose not to, then they want to donate their organs - a doctrine they call "presumed consent."
"Presumed consent preserves freedom of choice, but it is different from explicit consent because it shifts the default rule. Under this policy, all citizens would be presumed to be consenting donors, but they would have the opportunity to register their unwillingness to donate," they explained.
How's that for creating your own reality?
However, that's not the end of it. Sunstein is also a firm advocate of COINTELPRO to combat "real risks" posed by so-called conspiracy theorists or those who "attempt to explain an event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role." Again, stripped of its jargon gloss, this really means: "People who are smart enough to recognize crooks and liars are dangerous to crooks and liars." And that's actually pretty close to the truth. When a government comprises mainly criminals and compliant accessories to their crimes, people that dare to call them on their brazen lies are dangerous to them. After all, if the right people listen to their "crazy theories", they might actually be taken seriously and that means the slammer or worse for the megalomaniacs pulling the strings.
Glenn Greenwald of Salon rightly calls Sunstein's position "repugnant", but it's more than that. It's dangerous to anyone with more than two neurons firing and who has anything to say about the mass crimes being committed by Obama and his criminal posse, not to mention his less intellectually endowed predecessor. Sunstein is calling for the "cognitive infiltration" of "chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine [the evil conspiracy theorists]."
You can read his paper on the subject, which was published in early 2008, here. Greg Roberts of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth highlights two zingers from the paper:
The existence of both domestic and foreign conspiracy theories ... is no trivial matter, posing real risks to the government's antiterrorism policies...This section could easily, and more accurately, be applied to the very people Sunstein is defending:
Comment: Again, this is a no-brainer, considering the farce that is the government's "antiterrorism policies".
Even if only a small fraction of adherents to a particular conspiracy theory act on the basis of their beliefs, that small fraction may be enough to cause serious harms. Consider the Oklahoma City bombing, whose perpetrators shared a complex of conspiratorial beliefs about the federal government. Many who shared their beliefs did not act on them, but a few actors did, with terrifying consequences. James Fearon and others argue that technological change has driven down the costs of delivering attacks with weapons of mass destruction, to the point where even a small group can pose a significant threat. If so, and if only a tiny fraction of believers act on their beliefs, then as the total population with conspiratorial beliefs grows, it becomes nearly inevitable that action will ensue. [p. 17]
Even if only a small fraction of adherents to a particular conspiracy theory (e.g. the belief in a pervasive network of Muslim jihadists conspiring to take over the world and rob us of our freedoms) act on the basis of their beliefs, that small fraction may be enough to cause serious harms. Consider the Reichstag fire, whose perpetrators shared a complex of conspiratorial beliefs about communist infiltration. Many who shared their beliefs did not act on them, but a few actors did, with terrifying consequences. James Fearon and others argue that technological change has driven down the costs of delivering attacks with weapons of mass destruction, to the point where even a small group can pose a significant threat. If so, and if only a tiny fraction of believers act on their beliefs, then as the total population with conspiratorial beliefs grows, it becomes nearly inevitable that action will ensue.
In fact, action has ensued. The world is the scene of an endless "War on Terror" that is based on a lie which has become a delusion. And it is dangerous. In fact, hundreds of thousands are dead and entire populations are broken as a result. Sunstein is simply creating another dream of a conspiracy, and his ideas are the dangerous ones, as they have proven to be time and time again. He makes his allegiances clear:
The most direct response to dangerous conspiracy theories is censorship. That response is unavailable in an open society, because it is inconsistent with principles of freedom of expression. We could imagine circumstances in which a conspiracy theory became so pervasive, and so dangerous, that censorship would be thinkable.In other words, "We can't censor people, because then they'll know we're a dictatorship in all but name." All that said, however, the only thing more absurd than the twisted logic he uses to justify his position is the idea that these operations haven't been ongoing for the last nine years. 9/11 was an inside job and you can bet that Sunstein wasn't the first to realize how dangerous a thinking public is. As Fletcher Prouty makes clear in his expose of the CIA, Secret Team, you don't commit a black op without a cover story, and you take all steps necessary to control the opposition.
Comment: So Sunstein is basically saying that conspiracy theories will justify a closed society. Maybe he didn't realize he was revealing his own game plan with this little gaff.
But in an open society, the need for censorship would be correspondingly reduced. In any case censorship may well turn out to be self-defeating. The effort to censor the theory might well be taken as evidence that the theory is true, and censorship of speech is notoriously difficult.
Maybe Sunstein didn't get the memo.