Well, it’s been roughly half a month since Aaron Dames posted a link to the reductionist new Conspiracy Theories page over at America.gov. Within about a week, astute reader 5by5 would comment that the State Department is now deliberately downplaying the effects of depleted uranium, or at least equating its effects with those of tungsten. Of course, the healthy distrust so imbues Disinformation‘s readership that 5by5’s comment became quite popular.
As posted at The Buffalo Beast, a new article about how the State Department’s newest claims stand up against medical experts, the EPA, and those working closest with victims of heavy-metal poisoning:
Late this May, America.gov sought to clear the air on a wide variety of topics: aliens, anti-Semitism, Islam, fake moon landing stories, various 9/11 theories, government synthesized AIDS and more. The page is produced by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs and, as expected, they endorse none of their cataloged conspiracies. The Grassy Knoll was as obviously bunk as the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, and that’s just as crazy as depleted uranium being more of a health risk than low-toxicity tungsten. With all the ideas given equal weight, the vibe is somewhere between Ted Kaczynski and Howard Hughes.
It reminded me of Cass Sunstein, now administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and his tone in a 1998 co-authored research paper called Conspiracy Theories. Sunstein is fascinated by how conspiracy theorists are led astray, and consequently Sunstein and co-author Adrian Vermeule repeatedly emphasize how peer pressure, concern for reputation and group dynamics produce beliefs that should not fall within normal consideration. Toward the beginning of the essay, the authors are willing to acknowledge some conspiracy theories’ essential truth. (The authors cite adults’ obvious conspiracy regarding Santa Claus’ existence.) But by the end of the essay, they consider conspiracy theories exclusively in the framework of a false belief that governments may or may not have some reason to subvert through various means. Too conveniently, the authors provide no rubric by which “the government” decides which conspiracy theories in question are false and require subversion.
An incessant consternation with conspiracy theories’ “self-sealing” nature influences Sunstein’s entire advisory study. And this consternation would seem almost naïve if the essay did not largely conclude with a tedious rumination on the meaning of the Freedom of Information Act, the selective necessity of government agencies disclosing information and Judicial Watch’s long attempt to get the entirety of the Pentagon 9/11 surveillance footage released to the public. The essay parrots the cliché that governments have enormous trouble keeping big secrets, but seems to spend an awfully long time contradicting that claim by evidencing how footage so sensational could and even should have been kept from the public for years on end…
[continues at The Buffalo Beast.