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Got Cognitive Diversity? Take the Barrett-Sunstein “Crippled Epistemology Quiz” !

How Crippled is YOUR Epistemology?

In 2008 Harvard professor Cass Sunstein “co-wrote a truly pernicious paper proposing that the U.S. Government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-‘independent’ advocates to ‘cognitively infiltrate’ online groups and websites — as well as other activist groups — which advocate views that Sunstein deems ‘false conspiracy theories’ about the Government” (Greenwald). Sunstein’s main target: 9/11 “conspiracy theories.”

Sunstein, who has not responded to my request for an interview, argues that by undermining 9/11 truth groups through cointelpro-style infiltration, or even banning “conspiracy theories” altogether, the government would be doing the “conspiracy theorists” a favor, by helping heal their “crippled epistemology” by providing them with much-needed “cognitive diversity.”

Wait a minute, Cass…just what do you mean by “crippled epistemology” ?

Take NIST’s WTC-7 report…please. Now THAT is crippled epistemology! Setting out to explain the “collapse” of WTC-7 while refusing to consider the most likely hypothesis — controlled demolition — is like cutting off both legs before learning to walk.

So “crippled epistemology” means believing just about any damned thing, no matter how ridiculous, as long as it fits your preconceived worldview (or the demands of your paymasters)…and rejecting any new information, no matter how well-supported, if it doesn’t. Another word for this is “confirmation bias.”

Let’s face it–all of us suffer to some degree from confirmation bias. And those of us in the 9/11 truth community, having learned just how deep the rabbit hole goes, sometimes have a hard time distinguishing satire from reality.

To find out whether YOUR epistemology is crippled or healthy, take the Barrett-Sunstein Crippled Epistemology Quiz!

Barrett-Sunstein Crippled Epistemology Quiz

1. Which of the following articles about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an actual news report, and which one is satire?

A) Ahmadinejad plugs Truth Jihad 

B) Ahmadinejad: ‘Osama bin Laden is living in Washington’

2. Which of the following articles is an actual news report about Sen. Joe Lieberman, and which one is satire?

A) Joe Lieberman introducing bill to strip suspected terrorists’ citizenship 

B) Lieberman’s “draft Americans for Israel” bill

3. Which of the following two articles on Goldman-Sachs shorting the Gulf of Mexico was intended as satire and which one was serious?

Goldman Sachs Reveals it Shorted Gulf of Mexico

No joke: Goldman Sachs shorted Gulf of Mexico

4. After reading them both, do you think Goldman-Sachs shorted the Gulf of Mexico?

A) Definitely – I’d bet the farm on it.
B) Quite possibly – I wouldn’t put anything past them, and there seems to be some evidence for it.
C) I doubt it, but who knows?
D) Of course not! That’s just a crazy conspiracy theory!

Feel free to submit your answers as comments on this blog, or by emailing me at kbarrett(AT]

Kevin Barrett
Author, Questioning the War on Terror: A Primer for Obama Voters:

7 Thoughts to “Got Cognitive Diversity? Take the Barrett-Sunstein “Crippled Epistemology Quiz” !”

  1. Anonymous

    Sunstein's original article reads like satire. Was it written by "conspiracy theorists" making fun of the government they imagine is persecuting them? Or by the government making fun of its own fear of "conspiracy theorists"? Any way you slice it, Sunstein's ravings about "cognitive infiltration" and "cognitive diversity" and "crippled epistemology" and the government actually banning conspiracy theories has got to be a joke…right? How come nobody's laughing?

  2. Anonymous

    "U.S. Government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-'independent' advocates to 'cognitively infiltrate' online groups and websites"

    If a 9-11 truth activist has been targeted blatantly for years by these "infiltrations", is sunstein simply leaking an ongoing, historical activity under the guise of divulging "plans"?

    If that truth activist has been targeted for years, even stalked, and they can provide feasible explanations for things, is the information they share better than those that are not being stalked?

  3. Anonymous

    I'm retired from a private practice in psychology. Not 'psychotherapy' but teaching Cognitive Psych.

    At points it sounds like somebody is using the word Cognitive in inappropriate ways.

    Is there really a professor who has written a book asking if one has "Cognitive Diversity"??

    Hmmm….all sounds a little suspect to me.

    too much of this whole article is not ringing true for me. But then I've been
    wrong before.

    This story is for real?

  4. My dear anonymous retired professor, I wish it WERE a joke. But unfortunately it is real. Cut and paste this link into your browser:

  5. Anonymous

    Thanks for the link to the original paper. The term "cognitive diversity" only appears half-way through the paper, and then in the context of "beneficial cognitive diversity". The question is, beneficial to whom, i.e. the classic "who benefits". The answer provided is of course "the public" in being relieved of the cognitive dissonance-making distortions of those darned conspiracy theorist-nuts. It is hard to tell when the author is being satirical or when he is being patronizing, as in characterizing the Santa Claus myth held by children to be the result of a conspiracy by authorities (parents) and then seemingly straight-facedly applying that illustration to real conspiracy theorists. The author also arbitrarily concedes that some 'conspiracy theories' turn out to be true, but he has reasons for why that is, all about democratic open societies meaning that governments and other powerful entities can't hide their malfeasance for long. He cites Karl Popper to support this view. Popper would roll over in his grave, as the United States in its current propaganda-soaked media-concentrated state would not qualify as a true open society. Popper towards the end of his life woke up to the corrosive possibilities of mass media, even in a putatively 'open' society, as expressed in his interview in an Italian paper called (from memory) Popper Contra Televisiono (in Italian).
    Even for someone who was scrupulously open-minded and non-partisan, the paper ought to be seen as an embarrassment to the reputation of Harvard, where Sunstein taught. Oh, on the issue of terminology, Sunstein is wont to use the term "epistemology" in a very un-philosophical manner, where he really means essentially "belief system". Epistemology may entail beliefs about the appropriate stance to take in an inquiry, but it does not refer to the beliefs themselves, only the level of analysis that best explicates a thesis one is exploring. In other words, Sunstein is a glib idiot whose obfuscations are convenient for a compromised administration.

  6. Neocons/Straussians speak with forked tongue. One tongue-tine speaks to the masses (in this case the academic masses, who are foolish enough to believe the rule of reason), while the other speaks to the neocon/Straussian elite. Straussians like Sunstein have such a low opinion of the (academic) masses that they don't expect to be called on the violations of reason and logic that appear in the first-level, superficial reading. Those violations of logic are both (a) the result of the imposition of the second-level, elitist reading, which contradicts the first-level reading, and (b) intentionally strewn about to confuse non-neocon readers and make them underestimate and thus overlook the neocon project: the overthrow of the Enlightenment and the establishment of an Orwellian dictatorship, in which the Party is invisible and made up of the neocons themselves.

    Let's look at a key example from Sunstein's paper: the Santa Claus analogy. If Sunstein really believed that the 9/11 "conspiracy theory" was false, would he use belief in Santa Claus as an example of a conspiracy theory? This example invites the careful, discerning reader (especially the reader who has read Strauss, who advocates precisely this kind of dissembling) to compare children who suspect that Santa Claus is an illusion foisted on them by their parents, to "conspiracy theorists" who believe that the official story of 9/11 is an illusion foisted on them by their government. This textual maneuver is not satirical, but it certainly is patronizing. Sunstein thinks non-Straussian readers are too stupid to realize that he is saying that both conspiracies are real, and both are benign. Parents deceive children about Santa Claus for their own good, and because humans are mythologizing creatures; likewise the neocon elite creates myths like 9/11 for the good of the nation (in this case mainly the nation of Israel, but that's another story). Nobody who has read Strauss could fail to see Sunstein's Santa Claus metaphor as a confession to involvement in the Straussian project of the creation and maintenance of the 9/11 myth.

  7. I have seen evidence of Sunstein's desire to 'cognitively infiltrate' the Truth, and other movements, in chat rooms and other places on the net, well before, years before, anything was said about it. Some of that may have been from duped sheeples, although some of it seems polished and professional, right out of the cointelpro hand book. It is difficult to determine the motive of a disruptor, is he/she just an ass, or is he/she a paid agent? In either case such a person is a detriment, regardless of motive.

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