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Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas

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Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas

Simon & Schuster,

15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

Legal scholar Cass R. Sunstein offers thoughtful, worthy essays on conspiracies, animal rights, government and climate.

Editorial Rating



  • Controversial
  • Innovative


Legal scholar and former Obama administration official Cass R. Sunstein’s essays provide insight into a variety of issues, including conspiracy theories, climate change, animal rights and a form of Obama’s “New Progressivism” that urges a less-ambitious role for government. Conservatives bash Sunstein, now a Harvard professor, as a big-government liberal, but he presents measured, nuanced views on public policy. He acknowledges that spending too much time with only like-minded people leads both liberals and conservatives into extremism, and explains why people savor conspiracy theories. Sunstein’s writing style is engaging, though his often-strong opinions sometimes dissipate or disappear, as in a rudderless chapter on climate change. getAbstract recommends his intelligent essays to students of government, policy makers, those interested in animal rights or cognitive science, and corporate leaders seeking insight into decision making.


Conspiracy Theories

Everyone loves a conspiracy theory. This frustrating but fascinating reality reveals a lot about how people process information and reach conclusions. Decades after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, many theorize that the US Central Intelligence Agency orchestrated his murder. Holocaust doubters dismiss Nazi German’s murder of six million Jews as mythical. The aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks reveals how people from all cultures of the world claim to see shadowy forces manipulating events. A 2006 poll found that 22% of Canadians believe that “influential Americans,” not Osama bin Laden, orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. A poll taken in seven Muslim nations found that 78% of the respondents rejected the notion that Arabs carried out the 9/11 attacks. Many Muslims hold the US or Israeli governments responsible.

People embrace conspiracy theories to make sense of complex, unexpected events or to reinforce a strongly held worldview. A French bestseller, 9/11: The Big Lie, posits that a missile fired during a military coup – not a hijacked plane – damaged the Pentagon. It claims that the US military-industrial complex sprang...

About the Author

Law professor Cass R. Sunstein directs Harvard’s Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy. From 2009 to 2012, he ran the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

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    D. O. 10 years ago
    Very important to every people to understand our natural tendency in creating conspiracy theories from every major problem on our society.