What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

FBI Astroturfs the Astroturfers to Nab Nut Who Threatened Sen. Patti Murray

April 7, 2010, 9:00 AM
Astroturf

An FBI Special Agent impersonated a representative of a real, legal anti health care reform group in order to positively identify a Washington man who allegedly left a series of anonymous death threats on the office voicemail of Sen. Patti Murray (D-Wash). The agent called up Charles Alan Wilson claiming to be a representative of the group Patients United Now. FBI spokesman Fred Gutt told me that the FBI doesn't normally impersonate members of real, active groups without getting the group's permission first. However, this time agents assumed that Patients United Now was defunct because the telephone number on the group's website was disconnected. The FBI didn't contact PUN's parent group, Americans United For Prosperity, Gutt said. You can read my whole story at AlterNet.

On the one hand, it's satisfying to hear that a notorious astroturf group was itself astroturfed to catch a potentially dangerous suspect. Wilson told the agent he was packing heat and "wouldn't blink" if confronted. He has a registered .38 revolver and a concealed carry permit. So, we should all be glad this guy is off the street and charged with threatening a public official.

On the other hand, it strains credulity to think that the FBI just assumed Patients United Now was defunct without contacting its parent organization. The PUN website they got the number from clearly identifies the group as a project of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation--one of the most visible and well-funded opponents of health reform in the country. The FBI spokesman admitted to me that investigators probably should have been more persistent in trying to contact AFP.

The mere fact that contact info on a website is out of date is not a good enough reason to assume an organization is defunct. It's disturbing that the FBI would charge ahead on that basis. Secret agents shouldn't go around impersonating members of real, legal, non-violent groups without first getting permission. Clearly, the feds felt they had to act quickly to protect the senator. Still, what happened in the investigation is a troubling detour from the FBI's normal procedure of getting prior permission.

 

FBI Astroturfs the Astrotur...

Newsletter: Share: