From the desk of Cass Sunstein
Former Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
Former appointment to NSA Advisory Panel
March 3, 2014
Hello there citizen! I hope you are enjoying your day. I also hope you are enjoying your freedom from oppression that our kind, benevolent government provides. As a former lead bureaucrat in the Obama Administration, let me assure you, Washington is working around the clock to protect you and add fulfillment to your life.
You see, without the American government, roaming bands of thieves would run rampant in our country. There would be terror in the streets. Old ladies would have their purses snatched while out for their Sunday walks. Babies would never have candy since criminals would be forever stealing it. Your right to privacy within your home would be contested by armed thugs. And your eyes and ears would be continually bombarded with propaganda by greedy corporations.
Society is always hanging by a thread. That’s why the government is here to make sure it stays secure. Yes, it’s a good thing Washington protects you. Within the state, enforcers hold a monopoly on legal force to keep you safe. If it weren’t for their tireless efforts to protect law and order, society would wither away. You should, of course, be grateful that your liberty is secure thanks to Uncle Sam.
I recently had the pleasure of returning to public life to help establish new guidelines for the unjustly scrutinized National Security Agency. Ever since the traitorous rat Edward Snowden leaked documents alleging government wrongdoing, it seems that Americans have lost faith in their government. They seem to think the government collects vast swaths of private information without court-issued warrants. They also wrongly believe they have constitutional protection for their personal belongings. This is not good. That’s why I was brought aboard to help reform the NSA and shore up support for our great overseers…I mean public servants.
Unfortunately, our recommended changes to the NSA’s policy of data collection were largely ignored by President Obama. No matter though, what Washington decides is best is always for the best. Don’t like it? When you teach at Harvard Law School, you can start criticizing how our government works. Until then, go on with your quiet, desperate lives.
Forgive me if I come off as rude. Sometimes tough love is needed to ensure our great nation remains safe and protected. We work hard to keep our society free. And yet, all we get in return is suspicion and distrust. Some of you people don’t know how to be grateful.
Lately, the efforts by the NSA have once again begun to raise eyebrows in some rather unsavory corners. It’s remarkable. Again, the government only exists to protect and serve citizens like you. Why there is any question of our moral scruples, I cannot begin to comprehend.
For your protection, I must warn you that there are dangerous conspiracies out there. A few individuals are spreading theories about government spying that shouldn’t be believed. Those who circulate such nonsense are only perpetuating evil and sinister lies. They shouldn’t be believed. In due time, they will be stopped. Their alleged “truth-seeking” is nothing but treasonous libel.
One of these rumors is that the government has actually infiltrated the World Wide Web with a number of decoys and fake identities to quell dissent. This is a ridiculous assertion. For one thing, the government respects the free sharing of ideas the internet fosters. It would never do anything to inhibit free speech rights or slander anyone who voices a false opinion. In our great American Republic, the right to free expression is absolute. It will never be trampled upon for the purposes of aggrandizing those of us attached to the state.
Sure, I once co-authored a paper urging our government to infiltrate and discredit political dissent groups. Is that a crime? It was a harmless recommendation. What’s dangerous are theories that undermine our government’s efforts to stop terrorists. I only offered our guardians in Washington a way to respond, which would consist of “cognitive infiltration of extremist groups.” No big deal there. On the 1st Amendment, I also once argued the free flow of ideas may be better served with a government that regulates speech so as to ensure a better democracy. I truly do believe that our “constitutional guarantee of free speech” is not “adequately serving democratic goals.” Here again, I was only making recommendations so as to ensure a more perfect, more just, and more free country.
Now, there apparently is documented evidence proving the government dispatched a number of gadflies to silence political dissenters. Well, that just can’t be. The government is always a source of truth and goodness. None of the million or so bureaucrats who man our glorious state apparatus have a devious bone in their body.
The source of these rumors is the new media outlet founded by that unpatriotic scoundrel Glenn Greenwald. He claims to have unadulterated proof that government agents clandestinely work to dispel dissent by spreading lies online. Remember: this is the same Greenwald who fled his own country to live in Brazil. That means he can’t be trusted.
And let me assure you, if there is any truth to these revelations, then you are still in good hands. Our government only targets those who pose as threats to the nation’s health. Innocent, hard-working citizens have nothing to worry about. Certainly, there may be mistakes from time to time. But rest assured, any injustice inflicted by our good-natured officials is corrected as soon as possible.
There’s also another crazed assertion going around that our friends in the British government are capturing images of civilians in possibly compromising positions. The NSA supposedly assisted in this effort. Let me just say that all sounds like nonsense. Only in the make-believe world of George Orwell would such a thing to take place.
A foreign news outlet is trumpeting these claims. It claims to have proof of this gross violation of privacy. Now a few United States Senators are looking into the issue. Their efforts might score political points back home, but I can assure you, citizen, there is no violation of basic rights going on.
All of this breaking news is really a shame. It was the efforts of bureaucrats such as myself that we really had you ignorant of your own government’s activities. It was for your own good of course! Keeping you safe means knowing everything going on within our national borders. It also means monitoring the national “conversation” and making sure no unapproved comments are brought to light. The Zeitgeist is very important. If our government is to survive so as to protect the nation, then we must maintain legitimacy in the eyes of the serfs….I mean taxpayers.
For decades, Washington had a strict policy of labeling folks who challenge the efficacy of the government paranoid freaks who shouldn’t be given any attention. The news media followed its lead. As did the academics within prestigious universities including yours truly. For a good while, the state’s influence pervaded all corners of the country. But since the advent of the internet, and the terribly, unguided pool of information it houses, you and your fellow citizens are now subject to unverified truth. It used to be that you needed the permission of bureaucrats like me to know what’s real and what’s not. Now you can figure it out yourself, and that’s not good.
I will confess something to you citizen: there is a grain of truth to the notion that government attempts to influence your personal behavior. Sometimes, government officials try to discredit voices that challenge their authority. Other times they attempt to influence your spending habits to control the economy. And many times regulators flood the school system with pro-state propaganda to influence the next generation. In my book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, I outline a plan for government to coerce you into making certain decisions. I only presume to know what you want, because I do. That’s why I travel in the upper branches of government.
This isn’t anything new. In the 1950s, the CIA instituted a program known as “Operation Mockingbird” in an attempt to influence the mainstream news. Journalists were recruited to spread the message of honor and nobility within the ranks of our government. Anybody who questioned our message was immediately marginalized. We couldn’t let the American people know they were being played for pawns. It’s all for national security, you see.
You must understand that this is all done for your own good. For your safety and posterity, it’s sometimes better for you to be left in the dark. There are smarter, more capable people taking care of you. Don’t like it? You can spend some time in luxurious prison system where guns, drugs, and other paraphernalia are within your grasp. You should be so lucky as to experience that kind of vacation!
I’ll leave you with one final reminder: the government is always watching. Uncle Sam does it for your own benefit. You’re not allowed to disagree. Just think of me and my bureaucratic colleagues as wise paternal figures. Sit down. Shut up. And keep paying your taxes.