Cass Sunstein's Dangerous Ideas

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cass Sunstein, Harvard Law School professor, recent administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), member of the President's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies and the author of Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas (Simon & Schuster, 2014), talks about his new essay collection around the theme of why smart people and groups of people decide badly.


Cass Sunstein

Comments [20]

Mike from Manhattan

The 1% says if you don't suffer any consequences then you have no responsibility for your self... they use this to deny the safety net to the poor.

Yet they are too big to fail and get bailed out of their financial irresponsibility ...

Mar. 20 2014 11:23 AM

Perhaps the book "The Day We Bombed Utah" should be required reading.

I think what surprised me most about the book was not that we exposed our citizens to far more nuclear radiation than the government chose to admit; but that it only took two minor government functionaries to qualm the addressing of grievances for many thousands of people.

Mar. 20 2014 11:23 AM
Your Boss from from the office

John ..... get back to work

Mar. 20 2014 11:20 AM

[[FYI, if you're worried about people posting under your name, the best way to fix that is by registering for an account with WNYC.

Also, please, don't post under other people's names.
-BL Moderator-]]

Mar. 20 2014 11:19 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Yes, even when they're wrong, black conspiracy theories are usually plausible.

Mar. 20 2014 11:19 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

So, Obama is not a socialist Muslim?

But seriously, our privacy has been under assault like no other time in history, by both the State and corporations.

This author wants people to trust the elites in power he has worked for and been a part of. I never will.

Mar. 20 2014 11:16 AM
Barb from here in town

Calling the Obamacare requirement to buy health insurance a "mandate" was a huge mistake. It should have been characterized in terms of personal responsibility, something the wild-eyed, market-adulating GOP mouthpieces would have had a harder time attacking.

Mar. 20 2014 11:16 AM
Jonathan from Brooklyn

How would Cass suggest combating or shutting down misinformation? You might consider this a conspiracy theory, but it seems that our country is facing a multitude of serious, critical challenges that a lot of people are working very hard to hide, dissemble and distract.

Lies and misinformation spread faster than attempts to correct them. Attempts to silence demagoguery, propaganda and sanctimony are met with huge blowback. What can we do to force the direct address of crises staring us in the face, without resorting to extreme measures?

Mar. 20 2014 11:11 AM

This discussion is infuriating. Is Mr. Sustain willing to admit that the U.S. has done, and is doing, terrible things? And does he believe those terrible things should be freely acknowledged, so we're all clear on what's true and what isn't?

Or is any charge that the U.S. is doing terrible things by definition a conspiracy theory?

Mar. 20 2014 11:11 AM
Gabriel from NYC

Does pattern recognition have anything to do with conspiracy theories?

Mar. 20 2014 11:10 AM
Jf from Reality

The whole corrupt government is a conspiracy corporations are destroying the wart and our bodies, killing all life, mass extinction is a fact

Mar. 20 2014 11:10 AM

I wonder if Cass Sunstein is ready to admit that Hillary Rodham Clinton's "vast right-wing conspiracy" was, in fact, absolutely true?

Mar. 20 2014 11:06 AM

How are modern conspiracy theories different from how people once used religion, pagan or mythological beliefs to explain the unexplainable?

Mar. 20 2014 11:06 AM
RJ from prospect hts

Unfortunately, the US's role in other countries lays serious groundwork to conspiracy theories--the US's actual, documented role in from the overthrow of Mossedegh in Iran to the attempted coup against Chavez in Venezuela. Hoover's widespread spying on individuals and groups and Bloomberg's infiltration of Muslim groups. And the private versions--those who register in the opposition party to manipulate primaries. It's a challenge to not take it a step further on instances that seem outrageous.

Mar. 20 2014 11:06 AM
Jeb from Brooklyn

Dispelling myths is difficult because belief is tied inherently to sense of self:

Shaming doesn't work. It makes us all feel safely smug, but it's not exactly effective. Brendan Nyhan's work on the subject is chilling:

"[W]hen you're confronted by information that you don't like, at a certain level you accept that the information might be true, but it damages your sense of self-esteem. It damages something about your identity. And so what you do is you fight back against the new information."

Mar. 20 2014 11:05 AM

Oh, dear. The Obama administration, which claims to be the most open in American history, is hardly a beacon of truth -- just look at what Mr. O. said about what the NSA was/is doing. And as former minister of that government, Mr. Sunstein has a great of untruth to answer for.

As for saying terrible things about America -- what do we say about the terrible things which are not at in dispute and happen to be true? I.e., that we have routinely supported tyrants and their torture chambers and don't give a damn for freedom and democracy when they conflict with "our" interests?

In such a climate, how can we reproach anyone for believing "conspiracy theories"?

Mar. 20 2014 11:04 AM

The present administration has done its part reinforcing the non-theory that its agencies are prying into people's lives where they have no business.

Mar. 20 2014 11:04 AM
john from office

It is a shame that the internet, what could be a great benefit to humankind, is basically a sewer of nonsense, advertisment and porn.

The internet generation is more concerned with taking selfies, cat videos and themselves, than global politics, a generation of idiots.

Mar. 20 2014 10:20 AM
antonio from baySide

Gotta push back. Most people have no time to dive down a rabbit hole to really understand a topic. They just choose a narrative, which helps sustain the 'load bearing beam' of their universe...

I think the sad part of it all, is we can't even have a discussion about a topic...

Example (this is not a conspiracy but in the last cycle it was referred to as a 'Ponzi scheme', I think by Senator Santorum)

Social Security:
The oligarchs, ruling class and media hacks, love to talk about the lack of funds and it's insolvency, without ever mentioning S.S has a cap at about 110K..Raise the cap and problem is solved.

Mar. 20 2014 09:42 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

“If you surround yourself with like-minded people, you'll end up thinking more extreme versions of what you thought before.”

“To become an extremist, hang around with people you agree with.”

LOL, my two favorite Cass Sunstein quotes that exemplify the people who really are dangerous to our culture and economy – those who live in New York City, read only the New York Times, and get all of their news and views from WNYC.

… or, as your description says, “why smart people and groups of people decide badly.”

Mar. 20 2014 07:19 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.