Sunstein and Beck Attack 9/11 truthers

Jan 26, 2010
— Gregg Roberts

Officials, journalists, activists say 9/11 truth activists pose a violent threat; call for secret government disruption of their work – or worse

You know you’re getting somewhere on issues of paramount public importance such as a new 9/11 investigation, when your opponents stop making fun of you and start describing you as a threat to the established order, and supporting interference with or the elimination of your First Amendment rights, and even accuse you of being a terrorist.

Background 1: Weitzman’s Defamation

One of the first shots in the threat campaign was fired just over two years ago by Mark Weitzman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (to which we responded).

Testifying in November 2007 before a House subcommittee of the Homeland Security committee, Weitzman portrayed AE911Truth in what could be construed as part of a jihadist campaign in support of “violent radicalization,” ” homegrown terrorism,” and “ideologically based violence.”

COINTELPRO Revisited – by Harvard Law Professors

In early 2008, Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule published a preliminary draft of a Harvard Law / University of Chicago Law working paper entitled “Conspiracy Theories“.

According to the abstract:

Those who subscribe to conspiracy theories and other groups [such as 2nd amendment advocates] may create serious risks, including risks of violence… [T]he best response consists in cognitive infiltration of extremist groups.

COINTELPRO, the FBI’s 15-year Counter Intelligence Program initiated by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover himself in 1956, illegally targeted a wide spectrum of citizen activist groups for infiltration and disruption. The openness of Sunstein and Vermeule’s call for such a program to be resurrected supports what many in the 9/11 Truth movement have suspected for many years: that government money is being used to pay people, posing as “Truth” activists, to knowingly promote false information and “increase factionalism.”

In the body of the paper, Sunstein and Vermeule waste no time explaining the danger of 9/11 alternative theories:

The existence of both domestic and foreign conspiracy theories … is no trivial matter, posing real risks to the government’s antiterrorism policies…
[p. 3]

Even if only a small fraction of adherents to a particular theory act on the basis of their beliefs, that small fraction may be enough to cause serious harms.  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]

Thus, the absurd line of “logic”: [US citizens who call for investigations of our illegal activities] might have WMDs, or might get them someday! Therefore we must act decisively now!

In a different sense of “wasting no time,” the authors do not mention any evidence cited by 9/11 skeptics as to why they believe as they do. Where the correctness of the official story of 9/11 is not merely assumed as a backdrop, it is supported by fallacious arguments. One is a brief reductio ad absurdum suggesting that distrust in the official story of 9/11 would require an unreasonably wide and deep distrust of all the authorities that support the official story – as if people could not reasonably agree with authorities on many things, while disagreeing with them on a few.

According to the authors, those who reject the official account of 9/11 are simply uninformed, not (as a rule) crazy or stupid. The problem, according to these authors, are the various ways by which beliefs get erroneously adopted and retained, such as “crippled epidemiologies,” “conspiracy cascades,” “group polarization,” and “selection effects.” For example:

Whenever a bad event has occurred, rumors and speculation are inevitable. Most people are not able to know, on the basis of personal or direct knowledge, why an airplane crashed, or why a leader was assassinated, or why a terrorist attack succeeded. In the aftermath of such an event, numerous speculations will be offered, and some of them will likely point to some kind of conspiracy. To some people, those speculations will seem plausible, perhaps because they provide a suitable outlet for outrage and blame, perhaps because the speculation fits well with other deeply rooted beliefs that they hold. Terrible events produce outrage, and when people are outraged, they are all the more likely to attribute those events to intentional action.

This is only one example of course, but to this author it was fascinating to see how much space could be spent in an academic paper, accepted for publication by respected institutions, which fleshes out various arguments that all boil down to ad hominems – and in which the arguments are being provided in support of a thesis that is never directly stated.

The authors also present this somewhat strange explanation for the existence of so many 9/11 skeptics:

There is a close connection, we suggest, between our claim on this count and the empirical association between terrorist behavior and an absence of civil rights and civil liberties. When civil rights and civil liberties are absent, people lack multiple information sources, and they are more likely to accept conspiracy theories.

Perhaps this explanation is meant for some reason to apply only to foreign countries that we could all agree respect human rights and civil liberties far less than the United States traditionally has done. Whatever the intent, the authors avoid mentioning the obvious implication of their earlier review, which showed that 9/11 conspiracy theories different from the official one are widely held in the United States as well. Combining that with their causative statement above, the implication is that civil rights and civil liberties are dangerously low in the United States, leading to the “lack of multiple information sources” which the authors blame for the generation of “conspiracy theories” (always understood, without evidence, to be false). Yet, the range of possible government responses to the problem that they consider go even further than infiltration in the opposite direction for increasing civil liberties:

The most direct response to dangerous conspiracy theories [sic] 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.(emphasis added)

After suitably stretching the boundaries of what is “imaginable,” they step back from the brink:

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.

Glenn Beck

In 2009, based loosely on the one example of Holocaust Museum gunman James W. Von Brunn, Glenn Beck spuriously associated 9/11 “Truthers” with white supremacy, violence, and treason:

Those people who would like to destroy us – our enemies like, uh, Al Qaeda. There are also enemies like white supremacists or 9/11 Truthers who would also like to destroy the country. They’ll work with anybody they can.

Just a few days ago, Beck repeated the association between “9/11 Truthers” and violence:

Now, here’s why the president is in trouble:

Van Jones was a 9/11 Truther. He thought government was capable of murdering thousands of U.S. citizens. Put yourself in the mindset of a 9/11 Truther. You have access to the president of the United States. You think he’s now joined the cabal that is capable of murdering people and he promised you a revolution.

Do you think it’s safe to have that individual around the president? Are you comfortable with that?

What Sunstein and Vermeule did for the ivory tower, Beck does for average-Joe Faux “conservatives.”

Background 2: Theodore Olson’s Defense of Official Lying

Avid students of 9/11 Truth will remember that Theodore (Ted) Olson, solicitor general under George W. Bush, was the original and apparently only source of the story that boxcutters had been used by the terrorists to take over Flight 77. According to David Ray Griffin’s 9/11 Contradictions, Ted Olson has flip-flopped twice on the details, and his account is contradicted by FBI evidence presented in the Zacharias Moussaoui trial . Olson told the Supreme Court in 2002, “It’s easy to imagine an infinite number of situations where the government might legitimately give out false information” ( And yet, one of the many thousands of laws that provide US and state governments with endless pretexts for locking people up is USC § 1001, known as the False Statements statute. This statute makes it a crime to lie to any federal official or agent, “even if the lie is harmless and does not interfere with an investigation.” More irony: In a country where our government is supposed to be “of, by, and for the People,” it is a crime for citizens to lie to their government, yet it is legal for the government to lie to its citizens.

In fact, it is apparently a career-enhancing move for highly placed people to call for such deception. Olson does not seem to have displeased his masters with his 2002 remark, having been seriously considered for high judgeships and the post of attorney general. Sunstein was just appointed by President Obama to head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. And there seems no end in sight to Beck’s “journalism” career at Fox, despite his attacks on the First Amendment rights of 9/11 activists and his split-personality remarks for and against various positions espoused by the libertarian Right.

Those who truly care about obtaining a real 9/11 investigation had better do whatever they are going to do to help make that happen, before those who run the Land of the Free make it any more difficult . We have been warned.


A Cass Sunstein Primer

Cass Sunstein’s Conspiracy Theory: Introduction

Top Obama czar: Infiltrate all ‘conspiracy theorists’
Presidential adviser wrote about crackdown on expressing opinions

The Creepy Mindset Behind Cass Sunstein’s Creepy Proposal

Obama confidant’s spine-chilling proposal


Cass Sunstein’s despicable ideas on regulating the internet

The Internet is making us stupid

Cass Sunstein for Souter slot?

Sunstein’s Dangerous Advice to Obama


  1. fred

    February 7, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    It is ironic that Sunstein emanates from the same Hyde Park intellectual neighborhood as the (Neo)conmen who truly did conspire to cause the USA to wage an illegal, shameful, and ongoing pre-emptive war on Iraq. If Sunstein considers mere suspicion of politicians or authorities to indicate a “crippled epistemology” then he should just cut to the chase, admit that the Founders were idiots and openly declare himself an opponent of the US Constitution. As if it is even necessary to declare it…the main purpose of the document is protect people from exactly the those machinations of men in government which Sunstein at once assumes cannot happen, and admits has happened.

    As for accountability, the 9/11 Truthers, as represented by David Ray Griffin are truly accountable. They tell you exactly why they believe what they believe, they do not attempt to merely insult you until you obey or agree with them, they encourage investigation and debate, and they admit when they are wrong. Meanwhile, I defy Beck, Sunstein or any other aspiring Quisling to defuse the myriad just and well-founded suspicions about 9/11 the old fashioned way: by encouraging open, honest, rigorous investigations that are not designed to serve the purposes of anything besides revelation of the complete and unfiltered truth. They can start and have a big, early success by telling us how WTC7 fell down, and why? They can explain either how you can prep a building for controlled demolition in one afternoon (while it is filled with smoke), or why it collapsed on itself due to minor fires on two floors. Structural design or manufacturing weaknesses? No problem! Just investigate them rather than destroying the crime scene! Or, they can show us verifiable debris (landing gear, fuel pumps, large pieces of engines…) from the plane alleged to have hit the Pentagon. Video tape from the other 81 video cameras recording that area at the time would be nice too. Real investigations, such as the one that investigated the Challenger disaster, are obvious by the way the participants really want to get at the truth. The 9/11 investigation is only notable for it’s efforts to conceal it.

    As it is, powerful interests profit from wars and those powerful interests must be tempted to mislead the American people into fighting wars for any mixture of patriotic and non-patriotic reasons limited only by their imaginations and by their ability to mislead us. To deny that the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars through our defense industries may not tempt powerful people to twist intelligence to fit a foregone conclusion or policy objective is to defy the prescience and sincerity of Dwight Eisenhower, the recent past history of the Iraq War, and every moral, religious and intellectual obligation that citizens share in our country. If it was not our obligation to have exactly those suspicions that Sunstein seems to fear so much, then how else does one explain either Eisenhower’s warning, or George Washington’s farewell address:'s_Farewell_Address ?

    If the press wants to earn the “accountability” that foomanchoo (above) seems to ascribe to our mainstream media, then they must do the exact opposite of what Sunstein desires – which is unquestioning acceptance of any myth drafted by someone like Philip Zelikow. They must question the government when it beats the drums for war. It took decades for the Gulf of Tonkin incident to be revealed and widely appreciated for the Big Lie that it was. That lie killed 58,000 US citizens and a couple million Vietnamese. (How can any lie be worth those lives? …Sunstein…?) When the USA reverts to being a country in which military men, politicians, journalists and academics all act collectively and immediately to prevent, publicize and oppose such lies from the moment of their inception or recognition, then and only then will it be safe for us to take suggestions such as those made by Sunstein casually and only then as the ravings of a morally-challenged person who has spent too much time among academics and too little with the cannon-fodder and their familes.

    Lies kill. Sunstein wants to protect such lies as the Tonkin Incident and 9/11 from the suspicions of journalists and citizens. I say Damn him and the intellectual cesspool that bred him and his Neocon brethren. And shame on the President for inviting such a person to a place named after George Washington. Every additional person like Sunstein who shows up in Washington D.C. makes it easier and easier to believe that persons who are articulate for peace, like JFK, MLK and even pat Tillman… end up dead merely because they oppose the war du jour and will lead others in such opposition.

    see also:

  2. Tom Petrie

    February 20, 2010 at 10:53 am

    It’s very sad that Constitutional Scholar, Barack Obama appointed a man like Cass Sunstein to Information Czar. Our rights have been going down hill for many decades… It seems like under Sunstein, they will deteriorate even further.

    So much for the 2nd Amendment. It’s amazing how individuals can be jailed for saying false things but our gov’t lies to us all the time! That comment about the Tolkin false-flag operation and the deaths that followed was poignant: It clearly explains how we MUST question our gov’t and not be swayed by pompous folks who think they have the corner on the truth. No they don’t. Free thinking individuals have the corner on the truth and that’s the way it’s always been.

    Nietzsche said the majority of folks are wrong most of the time. And sadly, even folks from Harvard (and Yale for that matter), are wrong. Not necessarily because they don’t know the truth, but because they LIE while pretending to know the truth. Bush and the lies of his administration cost over 1 million Iraqi lives and over 4,300 America lives–not to mention many thousands of serious, life-changing injuries. Meanwhile, the CEO of Haliburton has earned over 100 million dollars in the past eight years! Yes, lies are bad, BUT they’re highly profitable–for the war profiteers, that is.

    Americans, stay awake! That’s all I can say.

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