Epistemic closure

In the process of reading everyone’s ten books lists, I built up such a high tolerance for pseudo-intellectual pretension that I decided to brave that Julian Sanchez “epistemic closure” piece everyone’s been talking about. It’s pretty good:

One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they’re liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!) This epistemic closure can be a source of solidarity and energy, but it also renders the conservative media ecosystem fragile. Think of the complete panic China’s rulers feel about any breaks in their Internet firewall: The more successfully external sources of information have been excluded to date, the more unpredictable the effects of a breach become. Internal criticism is then especially problematic, because it threatens the hermetic seal. It’s not just that any particular criticism might have to be taken seriously coming from a fellow conservative. Rather, it’s that anything that breaks down the tacit equivalence between “critic of conservatives and “wicked liberal smear artist” undermines the effectiveness of the entire information filter.

Well said.

I may add Sanchez to my RSS reader though I remain troubled by the fact that he refers to Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations as an “invaluable judo manual”.

117 replies
  1. 1
    Zifnab says:

    Rather, it’s that anything that breaks down the tacit equivalence between “critic of conservatives and “wicked liberal smear artist” undermines the effectiveness of the entire information filter.

    What’s even more fun to consider is that a lot of the conservative pillaring we’ve been seeing has resulted from conservatives – David Frum for instance – complaining that the hermetic seal is breaking.

    The conservatives are losing their base as more and more people start balking at the increasingly insane rhetoric. Reagenomics and Randianism – comforting theories at least bounded by current events and reference data – have been replaced by Limbaugh Logic and Beckism – a collection of ongoing whining and crackpot conspiracy theories that have no foundation whatsoever.

    The system isn’t just fragile, it’s allergic to the idea of it’s own fragility. The intellectuals leading the party can’t put the breaks on memes gone wrong or pivot out of souring political positions. You can’t change your mind on Iraq. You can’t back down to the President. You can’t suggest any kind of tax increase for any reason whatsoever.

    Forty rounds with the tar baby, and you can’t even admit that the next punch might be a bad idea.

  2. 2
    mantis says:

    Tom Coburn, of all people, recently pushed back against this phenomenon:

    Weird.

  3. 3
    neill says:

    I’ve found that Ludwig’s On Certainty will fuck you up even worse…

  4. 4
    canuckistani says:

    A lot of big words in there. Can you summarize it onto a poorly spelled sign?

  5. 5
    Punchy says:

    This is damn good, and battle tested. Tried it with my dad many times over….anything that goes against his viewpoint (but clearly factual) is a “liberal lie”, and anything Beck says must be pondered and evaluated. Even when I can show him the data/article, he just turns away and says “I dont want to see that crap”.

    It’s like they’re deathly allergic to truisms and reality.

    Ed: I see Zifnab beat me to my punchline…./shakes fist

  6. 6
    tc125231 says:

    It’s an interesting way to talk about it. In fact, however, the situation can be deconstructed into very simple elements.

    The people running the “Movement” care only about power and money (another form of power) in the near term. They will pander to any set of fears, or, in general, say ANYTHING, to attain their short term goals. Thus Bush’s remark to McCain after slandering him to the effect that “It’s just politics.”

    Because it’s very much in their interests, they tend to aggarndize the suckers who buy their BS. Thus the authentic meme.

    Since they are only interested in THEIR wealth and power, not overall national well-being, they tend to run things poorly. The US economic long-term position continues to degrade. Despite that fact, they are aided and abetted by the “liberal” media, which is almost utterly worthless. This is probably because it is owned by the same short-term SOBs who consititute the backbone of the GOP. You know, the ones GW called his peeps.

    If the electorate allows this to continue, in 20 years our children would be perfectly entitled to decide to hunt down the Baby Boomers who did this like the dogs we are.

  7. 7
    El Cid says:

    Any fearful ideological movement depending on rigidity & group adherence does this.

    I remember picking up the weirdest cultlike leftist periodicals like Maoist International Notes and — even being familiar with soshullist terms and debates — it was an entirely internal code. Every individual, thinker, and group not sharing 100% of the ideology — except for fetishized foreign revolutionaries, and even then sometimes — was really just an enemy or ideological cancer to be battled.

    The Talibangelical arguments on not just enemy ideas like evolution or cosmology but between rival sects are the same way. For one sect, if you use the ‘wrong’ version of the Bible, you too are part of the Satanic conspiracy.

    What I feel like I’m seeing here is the complete takeover of the Republican Party and its spinoff TeaTard component by a combination of the shortwave / militia paranoid right of the 1990s, the neo-Confederates of the 1980s, and the weirdo Randroid cults.

    [That said, I suppose it is interesting that they’ve dropped most of — though certainly not all — of the Talibangelical portion, outside abortion and abstinence crap. I think. At least in argument & appearance. I don’t know how much if any of the money and organizational links have changed.]

  8. 8
    EconWatcher says:

    By the way, sometimes there’s loose talk around here suggesting that anyone who identifies as a libertarian must be intellectually dishonest and a DB. While this generalization is mostly true, I believe Julian Sanchez is an exception. He’s worth reading.

  9. 9
    neill says:

    @ tc125231:

    In 20 years, we boomers will be soylent green…

  10. 10
    Bob K says:

    Had to google “Epistemic” Wikipedia definition:

    Branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope (limitations) of knowledge.

    Conservapedia:

    There is no page titled “epistemic”.

    therefore, I must conclude the subject of this post is more made up liberal bullshit.

    Now back to “Faux & Fiends”

  11. 11
    Citizen_X says:

    Can you summarize it onto a poorly spelled sign?

    RUSH SAID IT
    I BELEIVE IT
    THAT SETLES IT

  12. 12
    malraux says:

    What I think is most interesting about the closure of the conservative mind is the fact that the RNC ends up with so little control of the party.

  13. 13
    flukebucket says:

    Mantis@#2

    From the article

    Coburn closed the town hall by telling the crowd to read broadly and warned the mostly conservative audience about the danger of getting all their information from the same source.

    A 21st century Republican who decides to expand his mind ain’t gonna be a 21st century Republican for long.

  14. 14
    superking says:

    Wittgenstein can suck it, imho.

  15. 15
    Roger Moore says:

    @Zifnab

    Forty rounds with the tar baby, and you can’t even admit that the next punch might be a bad idea.

    No fair winning the thread on the first comment.

  16. 16
    Osprey says:

    @ Punchy #5
    (wtf happened to the reply button?)

    Same thing here…but it’s not an allergy, it’s fear. Unbridled fear of anything that doesn’t fit into their lock-tight worldview.

    A good example is the health-care bill. Folks complain ‘how do they expect to PAY FOR IT ALL’, and I explain to them how it works/gets paid for, and how it’s supposed to decrease the deficit (CBO approved) and it gets dismissed as smoke and mirrors.

    Same thing racially-anytime I’m on the phone with the folks they’ll ask about work, and anytime something bad happens or goes wrong, the first thing I hear back is ‘was it a black person?’.

    Can add guns to the same argument. The NRA sends around these ACTION ALERT messages ‘Obama is coming to take your guns, donate NOW to stop it!’ and it’s a guarantee the check is in the mail the day after, regardless of what Obama has actually said…and the fact that any sane person knows he’s not going to try to confiscate everyone’s guns…

    It’s fear. And all these organizations (Republican Party, NRA, Fox News etc.) build it up and use it. This ties in with Doug’s post because these people harbor this incomprehensible fear that something, no matter how truthful or fact-based it may be, might contradict and destroy their predispositions. So they will make up anything and lie to themselves and internalize everything in order to stay safe in their own little world.

  17. 17
    Punchy says:

    warned the mostly conservative audience about the danger of getting all their information from the same source.

    That’s a really long-winded way to say “Fox News”.

  18. 18
    Randy P says:

    I get what he’s saying, but “epistemic” is obviously related to “epistemology”, a word that automatically puts me to sleep whenever I hear anyone using it.

    I have compared modern Republicanism with destructive cults, and this kind of stuff is right in line with those methods. The cult I know used to claim “no member of [our cult] has ever been divorced”. Which was technically true, since as soon as someone divorced they were automatically ex-communicated. They also used to come down heavily on any attempts by their members to read outside articles written about their cult.

    With the Republicans, what I keep seeing everytime somebody gets totally fed up with the nonsense, leaves the fold and starts criticizing them is “you can’t believe them, they’re DISGRUNTLED”. Somebody critical of the party line is obviously a suspect source because they’re, you know, critical. Valid criticism can only come from people who are still uncritical.

    That certainly helps the loyal culties avoid listening to any criticism but I think/hope Sanchez is right that it’s fragile, and can’t keep working forever.

  19. 19
    danimal says:

    You can see the how the same dynamic has corrupted evangelical Christianity over the past few decades. Evangelicals (primarily the fundamentalist variety) aren’t by nature stupid, but they have boxed themselves in to a constrictive world view that is not supported by the facts. And it leads them to stupidity.

    For example, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy leads them to believe that giants walked the earth, that Noah’s flood was literal, that Adam and Eve were our progenitors 6K years ago, etc. They simply can’t give an inch or the whole structure of their faith falls apart. Evangelicals have built their own culture to prop themselves up and reinforce the shaky foundations of their doctrines. While authentic Christianity engages with the world, evangelicals have sheltered themselves in their own fanciful culture built around megachurches, bookstores and tv/radio.

    As evangelicalism calcified, the conservative political movement (a separate, but related strain of the American ethos) is calcifying. Soon, they will lose their ability to persuade anyone on an intellectual level and will only be able to attract converts (voters) through manipulation and emotionalism.

  20. 20
    El Cid says:

    Tom Coburn lecturing people on broadening their sources of information is like being lectured on how great vegetarianism is by someone urging you to try all different types of meat.

  21. 21
    Luthe says:

    This is why conservatives believe Stephen Colbert is really one of theirs.

    @danimal

    Soon, they will lose their ability to persuade anyone on an intellectual level and will only be able to attract converts (voters) through manipulation and emotionalism.

    Soon? You mean they already haven’t?

  22. 22
    Little Dreamer says:

    Being that I make my living via newspaper delivery, I’m waiting for the day that the two “realities” have become so far disconnected that the staff writers can’t figure out how to write headline news stories that makes sense to everyone anymore.

    I’ll know we’ve hit that moment when I go in to pick up papers at 2 am and I’m still waiting for them 24 hours later.

  23. 23
    Roger Moore says:

    @Osprey:

    This ties in with Doug’s post because these people harbor this incomprehensible fear that something, no matter how truthful or fact-based it may be, might contradict and destroy their predispositions.

    They honestly think that they’ll stop believing the moment they open their minds wide enough to admit a thought that contradicts their current beliefs. They have no faith in the power of their own faith.

  24. 24
    cleek says:

    i’d be a lot happier about this if i didn’t have a nagging suspicion that the same criticism can be applied – nearly word for word – to liberals.

    for example: without looking it up, how many GOP party HQs have been vandalized in the past few weeks ?

    how many of the incidents have been discussed here?

    how many of you think i’m a secret Republican for mentioning it?

  25. 25
    John W. says:

    I knew Sanchez when he was in college at NYU. He’s a really smart guy, and not the idiotic sort of libertarian. He’s the type who’s read Nozick a bunch and really understands him.

    I don’t agree with him but he’s just frighteningly smart and intellectually honest. Glad he’s getting some attention.

  26. 26
    Phoebe says:

    This type of construction really is all-or-nothing. You have to put the institution above the truth, or even the idea of looking for the truth, every single time, or you’re asking for trouble, because there absolutely is a conflict of interest. [cough]tholicchurch.

  27. 27
    Face says:

    i’d be a lot happier about this if i didn’t have a nagging suspicion that the same criticism can be applied – nearly word for word – to liberals.

    You’re trolling, right? Ok, thought so! Whew!

    how many of them have been discussed here?

    WTF does discussing GOP HQ attacks (so, how many were there? link please) have to do with trying to establish that libs are intellectually incurious? Not only is this premise laughable, such a ridiculous comparison isn’t even apples v. oranges; its more like air v. Nissan Sentra

  28. 28
    danimal says:

    @luthe

    There used to be a serious (though I believe misguided) conservative governing philosophy. That’s going away.

    IOW, the pragmatic country club Republicans are Democrats these days.

  29. 29
    cleek says:

    my point, Face, you’re making it.

  30. 30
    rageahol says:

    julian sanchez writes slightly better than megan mcardle.

    only slightly.

    and that is their only difference.

  31. 31
    Paris says:

    In the latest ‘the Nation’ I received, there are two major articles on the right’s concern over “Cloward-Piven strategy.” I had no idea what it was or that the Tea Baggers were even concerned about it. They truly make up their own reality. How do you defend yourself from insane conspiracy theorists who have lost touch with reality?

  32. 32
    cyntax says:

    how many of you think i’m a secret Republican for mentioning it?

    If you’re a secret repub, you’re deeper cover than Aldrich Ames.

    I’m gonna say two or three Repub HQ’s, not counting Cantor’s office.

    And I’d say the Investigations are invaluable, though “judo manual” might be taking it a bit far.

  33. 33
    Martin says:

    And the right hardly has a corner on the market, as we saw during the Democratic primary when the Clinton and Obama supporters bunkered down in their respective camps, and as we saw more recently over HCR. The left is generally quicker to break out of it and the right quicker to jump into it, particularly since the right was promised their 1000 years of prosperity under Bush/Rove, but none of us are immune. Everyone seeks a Cliff Notes version for life to one degree or another.

  34. 34
    ppcli says:

    “Wittgenstein” is German for “gasbag”.

  35. 35
    Fergus Wooster says:

    @superking:

    Wittgenstein can suck it, imho.

    He’s not as bad as that Nazi bastard Heidegger, though.

  36. 36
    mantis says:

    @Cleek

    without looking it up, how many GOP party HQs have been vandalized in the past few weeks ?

    I heard about 2.

    how many of the incidents have been discussed here?

    Not sure. Zero?

    how many of you think i’m a secret Republican for mentioning it?

    Probably a bunch. There are a few blogs I check religiously, mostly snarky ones, but for the most part my daily reading is NYTimes, WaPo, and Chicago Tribune & Sun-Times (local), then on to Memeorandum to find out what everyone is talking about. That brings me all over the rightosphere and leftosphere.

    But you’re right about some lefties only getting info from a narrow selection of sources. I’ve bumped into more commenters than I can count who just seem to ignore some basic facts about what they’re arguing, until you follow their links and discover that they probably aren’t ignoring them, they’re oblivious.

    It seems to me this is common no matter what the group. I’ve definitely noticed it among the anti-vaccine crowd, with folks who simply do not accept, or often know, that there are facts or expertise beyond what they get from their biased sources. And they don’t easily fall into any partisan political group or ideology.

    The difference, to my mind, between the right and left at this moment in the U.S., is that most of the right takes pride in their ignorance beyond what they get from narrow, biased sources, whereas most on the left at least pay lip service to the principle of openness to a wide range of sources of information, even if they don’t actually seek it out (though a great many do).

  37. 37
    russell says:

    for example: without looking it up, how many GOP party HQs have been vandalized in the past few weeks ?

    how many of the incidents have been discussed here?

    I had to look it up, and I found four.

    To my knowledge, the answer to question number 2 is zero.

    WTF does discussing GOP HQ attacks (so, how many were there? link please) have to do with trying to establish that libs are intellectually incurious?

    I think the point of the original post is not so much intellectual incuriosity, but unwillingness or inability to consider things that don’t comply with what you already think is true.

    Those two things are not the same.

    cleek’s example does demonstrate the latter.

    I don’t really know which side of the aisle is more blinkered. It would be hard for me to evaluate that, because I actually do have a dog in the fight, so my opinion is going to be subject to bias.

    I do know that folks on the left are inclined to think and embrace ideas that I find congenial, and that’s mainly why I am one. I try to keep my mind open, but on my best day my success rate would probably qualify as a mediocre major league batting average.

    A little self-awareness goes a long way.

  38. 38
    Little Dreamer says:

    @ Osprey (16):
    __

    It’s fear. And all these organizations (Republican Party, NRA, Fox News etc.) build it up and use it.

    It is fear (it’s been fear since 9/11, how could we not know this?) but it’s not just organizations using it, don’t forget the Rovenator, as well as Big Dick and his little Dickess Cheney.

  39. 39
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    cleek@24

    Yes, all you have to do is see how Glenn Greenwald is received here to see how the Democratic/progressive blogosphere is also just one big hermetically sealed container that allows no disagreement.

    Not that I don’t think there are some purity elements on the Democratic progressive side also, but there’s simply no comparing that to what’s going on the extreme right these days.

    That’s the problem when one of these movements goes truly critical, the circle of purity becomes smaller and smaller, and soon you have the old joke about “Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?” Die, heretic scum!”

    (second joke down here)

    In any case, “the same criticism word for word can be applied to the liberal blogosphere” goes too far in precisely the same way that “exactly the same as Bush” does.

  40. 40
    tc125231 says:

    @cleek, #24

    i’d be a lot happier about this if i didn’t have a nagging suspicion that the same criticism can be applied – nearly word for word – to liberals.

    In the first place, I think that dividing the world into two camps is the first step towards decision making that is based on emotions not facts.

    The evolutionary purpose served by the evaluation of information and subsequent decision making is survival.

    When decision making becomes, to paraphrase Moynihan, based on your “own facts” –e.g. based on those fantasies that make you warm and fuzzy inside, rather than intellectual constructs that appear to represent external information –decision making becomes flawed, and rarely serves its evolutionary purpose.

    The point is not that such foolishness is limited to a single group. That would be absurd. The point is that the leaders of a specific group –for their own private reasons –are actively ENCOURAGING this behavior.

    This behavior pattern is an endemic problem in human civilization. Civilizations that actively encourage it don’t last very long.

  41. 41
    Martin says:

    And to underscore Cleeks point and further my own, I don’t see the GOP retreating into their own reality as anything different than people of various religions retreating into the realities their respective religions create. Everyone (and I mean everyone) has their conspiracy theories that are no different. They may be less organized and structured and by all means may be less destructive to society, but *everyone* has their own reality that they retreat to when they are unwilling or unable to deal with the full scope of the world around them. If we think the left is rational it’s only because we’re grading on a pretty steep curve.

  42. 42
    cleek says:

    mantis and russell got it. update: tc125231 and Martin, too.

    Bill E Pilgrim:

    Yes, all you have to do is see how Glenn Greenwald is received here to see how the Democratic/progressive blogosphere is also just one big hermetically sealed container that allows no disagreement.

    umm… are you sure you’re saying what you want to say ?

    disagreement is tolerated on small issues, sure. but it’s hardly unusual for disagreement in the leftosphere to blossom into accusations of “working for the enemy” or “putting her/himself above the good of the party”, etc.. Greenwald and Hamsher were practically Enemies Of The State around here, two weeks ago. i’m not sure if they’re OK or not, this week.

    we tolerate disagreement, but only within certain narrow boundaries.

  43. 43
    Little Dreamer says:

    Cleek, you make it sound like Democrats are definitely to blame for these attacks on GOP HQ’s.

    You are aware that there are pro-libertarian anarchists out there who are more than happy to do these sorts of things and are happy to see others make the exact same assumption you are making?

    Prove to me that Democrats attacked these HQ’s.

    Moreover, this is not an equivocation regarding the competing realities. I’m sure it would be hard to find a majority here who would refuse to believe that GOP HQ’s might be attacked, which is exactly opposite of the finger in the ears response you get from rightwingers on just about any topic of discussion they didn’t see introduced on Faux Nooz!

    I think you woke up on the wrong side of the bed today, you’re out of your element, you’re usually much better than this. Rethink that post!

  44. 44
    bemused says:

    Good post.
    It’s always puzzled me that the R’s I know never seem to question that the “news” that they take in might not be accurate & it’s just a given for them that any other “news” is liberal. That’s not even logical but they only want to hear the echo of their own cherished world views.
    I’ve seen republican family, friends, acquaintances immediately tense up when a differing viewpoint which they instantly identify as evil/liberal comes up. They snort “Nah”, flush red & look as though they were about to have a stroke. Seeing normally nice people who live their lives & raise their kids pretty much like their liberal relatives & friends do erupt so quickly in such intense agitation always astonishes me. It’s disturbing to see people you know well become unhinged so quickly. We all have so much in common & it would be productive to discuss the pros & cons of issues calmly but they just don’t seem capable of doing that.

  45. 45
    tc125231 says:

    @Martin, #41

    You might be right. However, on that basis, I think you can pretty much be assured that US living conditions and preeminence will continue to degrade, as we make repeated decisions based on constructs that have a poor mapping to external conditions.

    You know, the only real justification for elites is to attempt to limit this sort of thing. Unfortunately, US elites are far more like the French aristocracy in the 14th century (self absorbed, and apparently unable to learn from the negative consequences of their actions) than the British aristocracy of the 19th century, or the present day Chinese Communist Party.

  46. 46
    Seanly says:

    RUSH SAID SED IT
    I BELEIVE BEELEAFS IT
    THAT SETLES IT

    As a long time resident of Arkansas, South Carolina and Pennsyltucky, I have a unique insight into the mind of our conservative brethren. I’ve fixeted hte shorter for y’all to reflect their true spelling potential.

    Oh & Duke sucks. That is all.

  47. 47
    El Cid says:

    If there were “pro-libertarian anarchists” or, in other time periods, actual communists or Maoists attacking GOP HQ’s, there is no evidence now or previous of the entire Democratic Party apparatus and its mouthpiece / allied billion dollar media encouraging.

    It’s a different phenomenon. Yeah, there was the Anarchist Cookbook, but you don’t see elected Democratic Senators speaking to audiences saying that ‘maybe what we need to do is go a little bit more Haymarket on these guys’.

    It’s not that there can’t be those willing to use vandalism or violence of any particular ideology or cult status, it’s that there’s a relation between those groups and the powerful who are supporting them through word and deed.

  48. 48
    tc125231 says:

    @cleek #42

    I agree that this blog occassionally seems like a lynching party. However, it is more fact based than most –although not nearly up to the standards of Yglesias or Krugman.

    I note that the blog founder is a bit of a hysteric, and feels free to engage in name calling towards people like Krugman pretty much whenever he feels like it.

  49. 49
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @Cleek,
    It was sarcasm, not sure if that’s what you’re asking.

    Greenwald and Hamsher were practically Enemies Of The State around here, two weeks ago.

    Not to Cole, in Greenwald’s case at least. Yes some of the posters here took it to that level but it certainly wasn’t what JC was saying, he instead made a point of stressing how people can disagree and still respect each other.

    It was entirely Glenn G’s point, and he’s brought it up many, many times, that being Democrats doesn’t mean that you can’t criticize a Democratic President. Despite the fact that some here don’t agree, I realize.

    Disagreement is tolerated on more than “small issues”. The whole point here is that Democrats and even progressives (remember how the public option actually polled, despite the Beltway myths that it was “far left”) represent more of the country, far more, than the extreme right, which is all that’s left of the Republican party right now.

    That is entirely the point.

  50. 50
    AB says:

    Well, you know, “they” say the same about “us”. Which the “I want both viewpoints” fetishist seizes upon immediately.

    Kind of dumb, the more I expose myself to politics, the harder I find it to prove any semblance objective reality, since another person can just say “no you’re wrong” and it becomes an issue of “understanding both sides”. So I’m kind of wanting to give up.

  51. 51
    Little Dreamer says:

    @ El Cid:

    Well, since the GOP are the ones who are frothing the base with “Reload” hyperbole, are you stating that they’re pro-GOP?

    I have not seen any left/moderate Dem types trying to foment this type of anger, have you?

    I’m sure there are plenty of anarchists who would love to start a second (un)civil war though.

  52. 52
    russell says:

    Prove to me that Democrats attacked these HQ’s.

    I’m not going to speak for cleek, but it seems to me that this question is beside the point.

    The question isn’t who vandalized Republican HQs. The question is whether folks of liberal persuasion are even aware that Republican HQs were vandalized, at all.

    In general, the answer would appear to be “no”.

    The point (or at least what I take away from cleek’s comment) is that facts that don’t fit the narrative you have already bought into, aren’t considered. They don’t even appear on the radar, and if they do they are dismissed or denied out of hand.

    QED. Not trying to pin it on Little Dreamer, but QED.

  53. 53
    Little Dreamer says:

    @ Bill E Pilgrim:
    __

    being Democrats doesn’t mean that you can’t criticize a Democratic President.

    Criticize all you want, I would hope that you would draw the line at imploding the support for the left which would in turn give rise to a President “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran” McCain or a President “I can see Russia from my house” Palin.

  54. 54
    El Cid says:

    Little Dreamer:

    Well, since the GOP are the ones who are frothing the base with “Reload” hyperbole, are you stating that they’re pro-GOP?

    Yes. No, I haven’t seen left/moderate or Dem types fomenting that type of violent / vandal tendency, that was my point.

    I’m not sure I was disagreeing with either you or cleek, just making a general point.

    The Republicans encourage their connection to radical groups, the Democrats flee from them.

  55. 55
    Llelldorin says:

    There is a difference, though–liberals, as little as many of us like it, are structurally in an alliance. We can’t close off our world, because guys like Nelson and Stupak are in a party with us. Of necessity, our leaders are diplomatic, cautious types like Obama and the Clintons, who edge the country slightly leftwards while holding the party together. Candidates with the stridency of a Bush or a Cheney get nowhere in our party, because they can’t unite the factions. (see Kucinich, D. for a typical example).

    Yes, we rant and rave about it, but as a piece of a broader alliance we’re forced to at least consider other points of view from time to time. That used to be true of the Republicans as well, but the days of Javitz and Weicker are long gone. When your range of political views runs from Snowe to Inhofe, you’re in a bubble.

  56. 56
    Martin says:

    However, on that basis, I think you can pretty much be assured that US living conditions and preeminence will continue to degrade, as we make repeated decisions based on constructs that have a poor mapping to external conditions.

    Well, I think that’s true, actually.

    Our rise came at first from a natural advantage that the US gives us – virtually unlimited natural resources (relative to other nations) and only 2 borders to deal with, one of which has always been friendly and the other generally so for over a century. With that advantage in hand, when the world decided to settle their differences, we were allowed to sit out the nasty shit. Sure, we showed up and did our part, but every time this happened we were left standing larger than before. We could afford, for a very long time, to be detached from reality because we were primed for success. The world has gotten smaller though, those resources aren’t so inexhaustible as we like to think (particularly the big one – oil), and we’ve gone quite a while without top nations blowing each others cities to hell and back. Simply put, we’ve lost most of our advantage and if we want to stay near the top, we need to get out of our haze and sober up.

  57. 57
    handy says:

    Russell @52:

    But the point has been brought up before that the real issue isn’t that liberals may have selective bias (if that’s even the right term in this context) in their knowledge pertaining to “the other side.” It’s that the right wing has dug itself into an epistemic hole, where memes are self-affirming and self-fulfilling, and because of this foundational issue no single data point which contradicts any portion of conservative belief is to be considered, let alone believed.

  58. 58
    cleek says:

    russell @ 52 gets it right.

    further: any time you find yourself thinking something like “this is why My Group is inherently superior to Your Group because of criticisms X, Y, and Z” you need to step back and see if X, Y and Z apply to you, too.

    usually they do.

    most of what Sanchez is describing is tribalism, selective reading and group think – which are all common human failings. liberals are not immune.

  59. 59
    Nicole says:

    True story- I was on the horse racing board I like to visit (four weeks until the Kentucky Derby!) and one member put up a very misspelled post. A few of us had some fun at the post’s expense, and another member put up an angry post yammering about how we were stuck up snobs and that Kennedy, Dukakis and Kerry had their east coast elitist asses kicked.

    So, you heard it here first: apparently correct spelling is now an elitist liberal position. Next to be branded liberal will be breathing through one’s nose.

  60. 60
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @Little Dreamer

    Of course. At least in my case of course, and I wouldn’t have a hard time guessing who Greenwald voted for, partly based on his praise for Obama many times.

    Listen, I don’t think this is hard to get. The Republicans are very good at being in lockstep right now. That’s about all that they’re good at, and it will eventually be their undoing, even more than it already has been. Everyone’s afraid to criticize Rush Freaking Limbaugh, for pete’s sake.

    The Democrats aren’t so good at the lockstep thing. Having managed to herd enough cats to get this health care vote even so should be seen as a miracle on the order of the loaves and the fishes.

    In any case, “both parties are the same” in that regard is simply more brain dead Beltway false equivalence, if you ask me.

  61. 61
    Little Dreamer says:

    @ russell:

    Well, we all know that there was a bullet shot into a window at Cantor’s office. We discussed that quite extensively.

    That we didn’t discuss other attacks may be because either we were busy with other topics (on most days here I see about 15 different threads that are active at one time) or that MSNBC/CNN didn’t discuss it much (perhaps other bloggers didn’t either) and we missed it.

    Is it the fault of all of us here that we were either unaware of these attacks or felt that other matters were more timely and important?

    You say the question is beside the point, I say that Cleek is apparently inferring that the violence came from our side. Cleek has no way of knowing if others here knew of these incidents and either didn’t discuss for whatever reason or simply didn’t know; and I have no way of knowing if Cleek is definitely suggesting that the violence came from Democrats. I think it’s a fair question.

    Am I suggesting that these attacks didn’t occur? Nope, and I’m sure that hardly anyone here would insist these attacks never happened (unlike the rightwingers).

  62. 62
    someguy says:

    What makes you think any Republicans think any of Snowe’s views are acceptable? Acceptable Republican thought ranges from Inhofe to Santorum. The others are dissenting filth, like David Frum, who have to be driven out of Teh Movement.

    The reason for isn’t rational; you can’t argue them out of their parochialism. As a number of psychological studies have demonstrated, conservatism is associated with mental illness. Whether it’s the result of mental illness or deserves a page in the DSM as an affliction in and of itself is beyond my knowing, but the correlation between abberrant psychological factors – like paranoia and inability to process new facts – and conservatism is really strong. Once you understand that, then conservative isolation within the right wing echosphere seems a lot more logical. You can’t argue them into venturing outside of their narrow world any easier than you can sit down and convince an agoraphobe to just get up and walk outside to get a paper. Sure, once in a while one of them will get cured, like David Brock. But mostly it seems to be an affliction they take with them to their graves.

  63. 63
    Little Dreamer says:

    @ cleek:

    liberals are not immune

    I never said liberals were immune, although the vast majority of those I have met in the past 40+ years have been quite passive and advocate for policies based more on Jesus’ Beatitudes (great public policy for a sochulist utopian society, picked it for the sochulist example, not for the religious trope) than for “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb… Bomb, Bomb Iran”!

    (I say this as a 40+ year old woman who grew up in a Republican home where Reagan and Nixon were considered to be almost gods).

  64. 64
    Little Dreamer says:

    Oh bloody hell, I wrote “See Alice” and now I’ve encountered moderation mayhem.

  65. 65
    monkeyboy says:

    Epistemology in a crude sense can be cast as a theory of information flow – of tracing out where ideas and ‘facts’ come from and go to – and can be seen analogous to an electrical network in system theory.

    In an purely epistemic closed system there is no contact with with outside systems or events that happen in the real world, and there is nothing to drive its internal state. Thus one needs to consider the inputs to an otherwise closed system.

    A stream of real world events can be interpreted as carrying positive or negative moral values (e.g. “good for us” vs. “bad”) that alternate, analogous to an alternating electrical current. It is important that such an information stream be rectified, either ‘half wave’ which selects only positive information and ignores negative, or ‘full wave’ which converts negative information to positive and delivers twice as much power.

    For an epistemic closed system to have any correspondence to reality all if its inputs need to pass though rectifying bridges and the leading thinkers in such a system are those who serve as gate keepers on the bridges.

  66. 66
    Randy P says:

    Well, we all know that there was a bullet shot into a window at Cantor’s office. We discussed that quite extensively.

    I don’t know anything of the sort.

    I know that: a. There was a bullet fired vertically into the air which penetrated a first floor window of a building on the way down, landing a foot inside. b. There was an office in the same building with a connection to Cantor, but c. It was a pretty weak connection. They were consultants who had at one point done some work for Cantor.

    It’s a big stretch to even call it “Cantor’s office”, let alone “a bullet shot into a window at Cantor’s office”.

  67. 67
    cleek says:

    I say that Cleek is apparently inferring that the violence came from our side.

    but i neither implied nor asserted anything like that. and it wasn’t my point in bringing them up.

    russell was right: i mentioned them because they were examples of things most liberals probably don’t know because they don’t fit our preferred narrative – not because i wanted to discuss who did them.

    though, if you want to get into it… i will note that if liberal blogs really thought the incidents against GOP HQs were caused by conservative rat-fuckers trying to balance the incidents for PR reasons, we’d probably see a lot of liberal blogs saying as much. but we don’t. instead i suspect most libs are holding their breath, hoping it wasn’t pissed-off libs.

  68. 68

    To tc125231:

    The evolutionary purpose served by the evaluation of information and subsequent decision making is survival. When decision making becomes, to paraphrase Moynihan, based on your “own facts”—e.g. based on those fantasies that make you warm and fuzzy inside, rather than intellectual constructs that appear to represent external information—decision making becomes flawed, and rarely serves its evolutionary purpose. The point is not that such foolishness is limited to a single group. That would be absurd. The point is that the leaders of a specific group—for their own private reasons—are actively ENCOURAGING this behavior. This behavior pattern is an endemic problem in human civilization. Civilizations that actively encourage it don’t last very long.

    Wow. Interesting point. It irritates me when people seem to run on their “own facts” but the I am easily irritated, I think. It never occurred to me that this behavior might sabotage one’s own evolutionary arc and so would be associated with far worse consequences than Linda’s irritation.

    [or maybe it has negative evolutionary consequences BECAUSE of Linda’s irritation. :)]

  69. 69
    matoko_chan says:

    It goes way deeper than that.
    Notice that conservative booklists are exclusively populated by First Culture intellectuals.
    ie, people talking about stuff….philosophers talking philosophy.
    The rise of the Third Culture is simply going to make conservatism obsolete.

    In the past few years, the playing field of American intellectual life has shifted, and the traditional intellectual has become increasingly marginalized. A 1950s education in Freud, Marx, and modernism is not a sufficient qualification for a thinking person in the 1990s. Indeed, the traditional American intellectuals are, in a sense, increasingly reactionary, and quite often proudly (and perversely) ignorant of many of the truly significant intellectual accomplishments of our time. Their culture, which dismisses science, is often nonempirical. It uses its own jargon and washes its own laundry. It is chiefly characterized by comment on comments, the swelling spiral of commentary eventually reaching the point where the real world gets lost.
    In 1959 C.P. Snow published a book titled The Two Cultures. On the one hand, there were the literary intellectuals; on the other, the scientists. He noted with incredulity that during the 1930s the literary intellectuals, while no one was looking, took to referring to themselves as “the intellectuals,” as though there were no others. This new definition by the “men of letters” excluded scientists such as the astronomer Edwin Hubble, the mathematician John von Neumann, the cyberneticist Norbert Wiener, and the physicists Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, and Werner Heisenberg.
    How did the literary intellectuals get away with it? First, people in the sciences did not make an effective case for the implications of their work. Second, while many eminent scientists, notably Arthur Eddington and James Jeans, also wrote books for a general audience, their works were ignored by the self-proclaimed intellectuals, and the value and importance of the ideas presented remained invisible as an intellectual activity, because science was not a subject for the reigning journals and magazines.

    Oakeshott, Hume, Burke?
    who dat?

    My generation read Hawking and Hofstadter and Greene and Penrose and Susskind and Dawkins.
    Third culture intellectuals.

  70. 70
    Little Dreamer says:

    @ cleek:
    __

    most of what Sanchez is describing is tribalism, selective reading and group think – which are all common human failings. liberals are not immune.

    That’s funny, I’m not disagreeing that liberals are not immune, but I spend quite a bit of time reading at Free Republic because the other side fascinates me and I enjoy watching the whole show, not just certain acts.

    I don’t think it’s as tribal as you suggest. We who believe Fox News is selling crap to their viewers are not subject to having our entire worldview collapse if we watch some of their programming. We can hold multiple ideas in our head at once without it upsetting the apple cart of sanity.

    The problem is that while I’m more than willing to learn about the beliefs of the right to try to understand why those people act the way they do (and we discuss them and their antics at length here), they are much less willing to turn on a “liberal news” program and be subjected to a more accepted version of “reality”.

  71. 71
    tc125231 says:

    @Martin, #56

    Sadly, I think this post is completely accurate.

  72. 72
    Little Dreamer says:

    russell was right: i mentioned them because they were examples of things most liberals probably don’t know because they don’t fit our preferred narrative.

    I don’t think they don’t fit our preferred narrative. I think we’re more than willing to admit if these events occurred and would be less likely surprised by them than rightwingers (nastiness begets nastiness – it’s only normal that their behavior might bring about this sort of thing) – just because we didn’t discuss these attacks doesn’t mean that they don’t fit our preferred narrative.

    I’m more likely to believe that GOP offices were attacked than I am to believe that Fox News discusses reality on a daily basis.

  73. 73
    Little Dreamer says:

    It never occurred to me that this behavior might sabotage one’s own evolutionary arc

    Perhaps you are unaware that many of those on the right are hoping that the world is about to end? They think it’s an indication that Jesus is coming. So, if they make our world (and it’s environment, including the social kind) uninhabitable, they think they are spurring the Son of God to action.

    Think about that!

  74. 74
    scav says:

    Whoops, had a phone call so this is very late.

    Two thing I’ve read recently seem to apply here. First is from my current book (The Number Sense by Stansislaus Dehaene). “Augustine likewise noted that cogito means “to shake together” while intelligo means “to select among.” At the immediate point I read it, it made me think of how much I enjoy some of the more agitated threads we get going. Ideas shaken? indeedy. The select among stage we can’t really judge as it presumably takes place later, in solitary.

    Second this is from the NYT Seeking Emotional Clues Without Facial Cues. Originally read as I’ve essentially got Bell’s palsy (technically not as we know why I’m a gimp) but it also got me thinking about why things got intensified in web discussions as, on the web, we’re all communicating without those physical cues. Not a new observation, but the thing in the article about mimacy, well, here:

    Studies so far point to what psychologists call facial mimicry. During a social exchange, people subconsciously mirror each other’s surprise, disgust or delight — and, in effect, interpret the emotion by sensing what’s embodied on their own face. Interfere with the ability to mimic, these studies suggest, and people are less adept at reading others’ expressions.

    If we’re mimicking now using text (almost really our only work-around option on the blog end of the tuubz, CR’s hieroglyphics and emoticons aside), well then mimicry could easily feedback into more amplification than we’re used to.

    Anyhoo, there they are.

  75. 75

    To Monkeyboy:

    For an epistemic closed system to have any correspondence to reality all if its inputs need to pass though rectifying bridges and the leading thinkers in such a system are those who serve as gate keepers on the bridges.

    That’s what we need, more rectifying bridges. All in favor signify by saying “Aye.”

    [I am just kidding monkeyboy. It is a good point.:)]

  76. 76
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    further: any time you find yourself thinking something like “this is why My Group is inherently superior to Your Group because of criticisms X, Y, and Z” you need to step back and see if X, Y and Z apply to you, too.

    Yes but what you’re getting wrong here is the notion that there’s some “My Group” equivalence, which again is a false assumption.

    There’s nothing at all unusual about your point of view, it’s in fact the only accepted mainstream viewpoint allowed, and bolstered, by news anchors and cable networks, every night. Stated as a theorem, it would be roughly:

    “There are always precisely two groups, and they must always be precisely equivalent, in ways that might not be apparent at first, but you can always find it if you look hard enough.”

  77. 77
    Little Dreamer says:

    @ cleek:
    __

    though, if you want to get into it… i will note that if liberal blogs really thought the incidents against GOP HQs were caused by conservative rat-fuckers trying to balance the incidents for PR reasons, we’d probably see a lot of liberal blogs saying as much. but we don’t. instead i suspect most libs are holding their breath, hoping it wasn’t pissed-off libs.

    But, see this is what I’m saying, you’re forgetting there is another completely different element out there, the anarchist, who doesn’t care who takes the blame, so long as they can start creating damage and getting the other two sides to bicker even more.

    I don’t think it was GOP ratfuckers (I surely hope not anyway), nor do I believe it was leftists. I see no reason why the anarchists didn’t have a perfectly good motive to be suspect. (Note: I don’t equate anarchists with GOPpers, they are not the same, although they may come together where matters of convenience suggest/same goes for their Dem connections.)

  78. 78
    matoko_chan says:

    Martin….

    I don’t see the GOP retreating into their own reality as anything different than people

    “conservative” is a religion….it is White Evangelical Christianity.
    The selection fitness of the evangelical meme is quite astonishing when you consider it….it allows for the rapacious exploitation and domination of out-tribes while salving the conscious of the morally queasy by insisting that Big White Christian Bwana is delivering benefit by imposing a “superior” culture and harvesting souls for Baby Jesus.
    It is fake-altruism.

  79. 79
    Martin says:

    A better example than GOP offices might be the case of the Kentucky census worker. A lot of energy was devoted to that from the left with accusations that some Bachmann teapartier offed the guy, or that he bumped into someones meth lab.

    When it later turned out that he offed himself and tried to cover it up as having been murdered by some Bachmann teapartier, there was no discussion of it. Now, it’s a sad incident, no doubt, but it also reveals an uncomfortable prejudice that many on the left hold as this guy thought that backwoods retribution against the census was a plausible cover story and, frankly, most folks on the left rushed *immediately* to the same conclusion even before much evidence had been reported on. I’ve yet to see anyone that jumped into the fray conclude that no only did we get it wrong, but we took our little cookie-cutter fantasy view of conservative Kentuckians and stamped it on there hard and fast.

    No self-reflection over that. The final result of that incident just didn’t reinforce the narrative.

  80. 80
    cleek says:

    “There are always precisely two groups, and they must always be precisely equivalent, in ways that might not be apparent at first, but you can always find it if you look hard enough.”

    with all due respect, that’s completely wrong. i’m not saying anything like that.

    Sanchez: conservatives are all like X !
    Libs: stupid conservatives! we’re all like Y !
    Me: actually, we’re all like X, because X is a human failing.

  81. 81
    different church-lady says:

    there is nothing more potentially fatal to the momentum of an insurgency fueled by anger than a conversation.

    Can’t add a thing to that.

  82. 82
    scav says:

    And the “everybody does it” argument, while fine and dandy, in no way addresses the “Is everybody doing it to the same degree?” question, let alone the “At what degree does the behavior become toxic?” question.

  83. 83
    Little Dreamer says:

    @ Martin:

    Well, perhaps that’s because there’s a vast majority of rightwingers who seem to have no problem voicing the idea that they’d like to off a bunch of us.

    I’m a pacifist, as far as I know, most people I encounter on the left (unless they are harboring some emotions that I’m totally unaware of) are also fairly pacifist.

    The same cannot be said for a group that holds the idea that Armageddon is coming and it can’t come soon enough so all liberals can be made to suffer in Hell.

  84. 84
    cleek says:

    But, see this is what I’m saying, you’re forgetting there is another completely different element out there, the anarchist, who doesn’t care who takes the blame, so long as they can start creating damage and getting the other two sides to bicker even more.

    true. there are also plain ol’ crazy people, too.

    but, when you get right down to it, there’s not a lot of evidence against any person (or group). so, it makes no sense to blame anyone.

    still, we all know who benefits if it’s group A or who benefits if it’s group B. and i think that influences which incidents get talked about (and how they are talked about) and which don’t.

  85. 85
    Little Dreamer says:

    Cleek, how often do you hear those on the left say they’d like to kill rightwingers or have them all die?

    The closest I’ve seen to that is the “if they’re all raptured, we can have their stuff” idea – which says that they are all gone to a place they said they wanted to be. We are not hoping to physically maim or kill them.

    How many leftist militias can you count?

  86. 86
    Little Dreamer says:

    @ cleek:
    __

    still, we all know who benefits if it’s group A or who benefits if it’s group B. and i think that influences which incidents get talked about (and how they are talked about) and which don’t.

    Well, I agree with you if we’re talking about who is blamed, not if we’re talking about who actually caused the destruction.

    Group C can blame anything on Group A or Group B.

  87. 87
    Undercover FBI Agent DougJ says:

    for example: without looking it up, how many GOP party HQs have been vandalized in the past few weeks ?

    I think we did discuss this. There was a post about the guy who made threats against Cantor, for example.

  88. 88
    Undercover FBI Agent DougJ says:

    @Martin

    We wrote that it was too early to say anything about the case while it was being investigated and then did a post when the truth of what happened came out.

  89. 89
    scav says:

    Undercover Arkon Dougj Didn’t bother to remember the number but I knew some happened both from TPM and NYT.

  90. 90
    cleek says:

    Cleek, how often do you hear those on the left say they’d like to kill rightwingers or have them all die?

    i do hear/read such things quite often. and i usually shrug it off (doesn’t fit my narrative, obvs). but i will start keeping track.

    How many leftist militias can you count?

    far fewer these days, but in the 60’s and 70’s they were a dime a dozen. there are left-wing terrorist groups, however: the Animal Liberation Front, Earth Liberation Front, Earth First, etc.. i obviously don’t know how many unknown groups there are, the same way i don’t know how many unknown right-wing militia groups are operating right now.

  91. 91
    El Cid says:

    Is the Animal Liberation Front left-wing? I mean, do they view caged animals as a proletariat? Is there an animal bourgeoisie?

  92. 92
    Randy P says:

    @Cleek#90:

    i do hear/read such things quite often. and i usually shrug it off (doesn’t fit my narrative, obvs). but i will start keeping track.

    Strange. You must read parts of the left blogosphere that I’ve never seen.

    I don’t care whether you keep statistics on them or not, but could you link to one or two of these numerous examples?

  93. 93
    scav says:

    ah, so at some point in history leftists have been violent so everything’s hunky dorey and equivalentey and there are to be no holds barred on anyone doing anything because we’re all human and humans are shit and I’m really not getting this anymore.

  94. 94
    Face says:

    my point, Face, you’re making it.

    I refuse to accept your premise; neigh, I reject it. So now I’m wearing blinders, eh?

    Sure, there are hard-core lefties who cant see out of a box. But Libs in general are not the Look-For-Jesus-in-the-Toast kind of people. And especially not the moderate libs that populate this site.

  95. 95
    Face says:

    The point (or at least what I take away from cleek’s comment) is that facts that don’t fit the narrative you have already bought into, aren’t considered. They don’t even appear on the radar, and if they do they are dismissed or denied out of hand.

    Really? Being unaware of an event is equivalent to knowing the facts about it and “dismissing or denying it out of hand”? Sucks living in that world.

  96. 96
    matoko_chan says:

    Is there a liberal analogue to the Left Behind series?

    i dont think so…..

    The key to understanding the Evangelicals is to understand the popularity of the Left Behind series of books about the “return of Christ” (and the whole host of other End Times “ministries” from the ever weirder Jack-the-Rapture-is-coming!-Van-Impe to the smoother but no less bizarre pages of Christianity Today magazine). This isn’t some new or sudden interest in prophecy, but evidence of the deepening inferiority complex suffered by the evangelical/fundamentalist community.

    Left Behind
    The words “left behind” are ironically what the books are about, but not in the way their authors intended. The evangelical/fundamentalists, from their crudest egocentric celebrities to their “intellectuals” touring college campuses trying to make evangelicalism respectable, have indeed been left behind by modernity. They won’t change their literalistic anti-science, anti-education, anti-everything superstitions, so now they nurse a deep grievance against “the world.”

    This has led to a profound fear of the “other.” Jenkins and LaHaye (the Left Behind authors) provide the ultimate revenge fantasy for the culturally left behind against the “elite.” The Left Behind franchise holds out hope for the self-disenfranchised that at last soon everyone will know “we” were right and “they” were wrong. They’ll know because Spaceship Jesus will come back and whisk “us” away, leaving everyone else to ponder just how very lost they are because they refused to say the words, “I accept Jesus as my personal savior” and join our side while there was still time!
    The bestselling status of the Left Behind novels proves that, not unlike Islamist terrorists who behead their enemies, many evangelical/ fundamentalist readers relish the prospect of God doing lots of messy killing for them as they watch in comfort from on high. They want revenge on all people not like them–forever.

  97. 97
    cleek says:

    ah, so at some point in history leftists have been violent so everything’s hunky dorey and equivalentey and there are to be no holds barred on anyone doing anything because we’re all human and humans are shit and I’m really not getting this anymore.

    obviously not.

    but could you link to one or two of these numerous examples?

    mm k, how’s that ?

    i went for those two sites because they helpfully combined multiple examples, and i wanted to get the most out of the two links BJ’s comment filter allows. once you’ve told me why those aren’t satisfactory, i’ll go look for others.

  98. 98
    cleek says:

    Really? Being unaware of an event is equivalent to knowing the facts about it and “dismissing or denying it out of hand”?

    you need to take it a step further: why do you become aware of certain events but remain ignorant of others ?

    Sanchez asserts that it happens for conservatives because they limit themselves to information sources which selectively promote certain events which fit the conservative narrative. he calls it an “epistemic closure”. well, i assert that liberals do it too, for the simple reason that everybody does it. everybody ignores, dismisses, or declines to forward information that contradicts their narrative. scientists do it, lawyers do it, spouses do it, children do it, politicians do it, pundits do it. it’s just what people do.

  99. 99

    What I’ve found on the left is that there is group think and isolationism within groups that make up the generally considered left but there is such a degree of fractured interests that it doesn’t become an adherence to a narrow set across the left. I suppose that a glaring case would be guns. Here you have a general public perception that the left is harder on guns than the right though statistically as a group there isn’t any such real large slant. But a conversation between camps on the topic doesn’t usually stay very polite – all on the left.

    I’ll let it go at this, trying to take this any farther is going to result in a lot of words and a mess.

  100. 100
    Randy P says:

    once you’ve told me why those aren’t satisfactory, i’ll go look for others.

    No, no, those are satisfactory. But it explains why the disconnect between my perception of the world and yours.

    I said I’d never seen that kind of language in the left blogosphere.

    Your two sites are not from the left blogosphere. One is a collection of anonymous images that say “kill Bush”, of which I agree there are many examples. The other is a list of quotes from celebrities or radio hosts, some of which do indeed bear some resemblance if you squint to the rhetoric on the right. Others are pretty silly to include in the list.

  101. 101

    Face:

    there are hard-core lefties who cant see out of a box. But Libs in general are not the Look-For-Jesus

    You know, you make his point while contesting it. Us/them = smart/stupid.

  102. 102
    Martin says:

    Well, perhaps that’s because there’s a vast majority of rightwingers who seem to have no problem voicing the idea that they’d like to off a bunch of us.
    I’m a pacifist, as far as I know, most people I encounter on the left (unless they are harboring some emotions that I’m totally unaware of) are also fairly pacifist.
    The same cannot be said for a group that holds the idea that Armageddon is coming and it can’t come soon enough so all liberals can be made to suffer in Hell.

    But it’s not a ‘vast majority’, nor does the ‘group hold the idea that Armageddon is coming’. Yes, there are some that hold either or both views, and yes, its troubling that they are there and in not trivial numbers, but we don’t focus on the folks on the right that don’t hold those views, do we? So it only seems like there are raging hordes of homicidal rapture-ready conservatives. There really aren’t. And we seek the narrative that there are hordes of them because it makes it very easy to dismiss them outright. And the teabaggers see a sea of pot smoking hippie communists bent on bringing abortion and Al Qaeda to the US because it makes it very easy to dismiss us outright.

    Seriously, at the point that you think that conservatives really, genuinely as part of their base conviction want to kill Democrats, you’re pretty solidly in teabagger disconnected from reality country. And I hate to break the news, but most liberals aren’t pacifists. I’d say most (overwhelmingly so) pacifists are liberals, but there are very few on the left that think we should have sat out WWII or would have refused to serve on conscientious objector terms. I’d say that most on the left would prefer a *significant* de-escalation of the use of force from this nation, but there wasn’t a whole lot of dissention from the left about going into Afghanistan.

  103. 103
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @cleek:

    he calls it an “epistemic closure”. well, i assert that liberals do it too, for the simple reason that everybody does it. everybody ignores, dismisses, or declines to forward information that contradicts their narrative. scientists do it, lawyers do it, spouses do it, children do it, politicians do it, pundits do it. it’s just what people do.

    Your idea seems reasonable to me. If selection bias and other related cognitive artifacts are not a human universal, then I’ve yet to encounter the evidence (perhaps because I’m biased against it? that would be ironic).

    I can’t really judge how impermeable to outside ideas the people in different groups are without spending more time with them than I’ve got to spare, e.g. like Mike Taibbi did when he was working on The Great Derangement, to take an extreme example of going all in on trying to understand the other side.

    It does seem intuitively obvious to me that today’s media environment makes epistemic closure easier to get for anybody who wants it, than it was a generation ago, but I don’t know how it shakes out in conservative vs liberal circles. I prefer to hang out with people who I hope are more open minded liberals (and the closed minded ones bore me), so maybe I’m missing out on how closed minded large parts of the left are today. I do enjoy reading conservatives like Larison who at least on some topics make sense (but of course that is just my selection bias talking). On the other hand it takes a lot of effort to keep fishing in the pond on the other side of the road so to speak, and how long do you keep hauling up nothing to show for it but tires and old boots before it just doesn’t seem worth the effort anymore? I don’t have any good answers here.

  104. 104
    cleek says:

    I said I’d never seen that kind of language in the left blogosphere.

    but before you said that, you said this:

    Cleek, how often do you hear those on the left say they’d like to kill rightwingers or have them all die?

    note the difference.

    i aimed for the original location of your goalposts. i wouldda scored, too.

  105. 105
    Martin says:

    Is there a liberal analogue to the Left Behind series?

    It’s not an exact analogue, but I’d put the hard-end of the environmental movement in that category. There’s a real (if small) environmental armageddon coalition out there, serious enough about it that they’re willing to bomb auto dealers and developers, and willing to devote their life to stink-bombing Japanese whaling ships. They see conspiracies behind every corner as well and see themselves as part of the chosen few who will save the planet from a certain doom.

    And like the Rapturists, this group has coattails. How many calls to immediately cease oil drilling and coal mining do you see from the left? – quite a few. No minding the fact that an enormous number of people would freeze to death in the first winter, or how many hospitals would go without electricity? There’s just no serious thought put into it. And I say that as an environmentalist myself.

  106. 106
    Sock Puppet of the Great Satan says:

    “julian sanchez writes slightly better than megan mcardle.”

    Except Sanchez can write a paragraph without throwing in a hippy-punching sentence.

    And Sanchez isn’t intellectually lazy, like McArdle, who’s concept of an argument is “I spoke to lots of smart people who think [XYZ liberal idea] is the suxxor.” She’s the intellectual equivalent of a welfare queen.

    I like reading Sanchez. Reading him makes me smarter. Wheras reading McArdle makes me stupider, because I start to think libertarian conservatives are all like her.

  107. 107
    Geeno says:

    Successfully trolled, Cleek!
    We’ll now discuss how much we should widen our horizons while the frothers descend into madness.
    The thing the other side does that the left does not is simply dismiss reality. I may not seek out uncomfortable information, but if something is demonstrated to me to be true, I can’t simply reject it, but simply rejecting reality is commonplace on the right.

  108. 108
    Sock Puppet of the Great Satan says:

    “Is there a liberal analogue to the Left Behind series?”

    Well, there’s the His Dark Materials trilogy by Pullman for a pretty crude whack-em-over-the-head atheism.
    Makes C.S. Lewis’ Christian apologism look positively subtle.

    Pullman doesn’t have the eliminationist fantasies that make the “Left Behind” series such right-wing fapping material, though.

  109. 109
    cleek says:

    Successfully trolled, Cleek!

    ouch. yeah, i suppose so.

    i swear i wasn’t trying to do that, though.

  110. 110
    Little Dreamer says:

    @ Martin (102):

    I think the evangelical Armageddonites are more numerous than you seem to think. We live in a world where it is not only accepted, but encouraged, to go to church on Sundays and listen to such crap. Scary.

    As for whether I would have supported WWII – yes, I would have. When I say I’m a pacifist, I realize wars are necessary but they should also be limited to absolute necessity and not wars for profit or choice like we had during the Bush years. I realize that war is a reality that is not going away, I just wish most of us (us = humans) realized how dangerous a world we create when we get stuck playing toy soldiers with real lives.

  111. 111
    russell says:

    I’m not sure if this is worth pursuing any further, but for folks who are taking exception to cleek’s comments (and/or mine), maybe it will be helpful to distinguish this claim:

    “people on the left think and behave exactly like people on the right”

    with this one:

    “like people on the right, and in fact like all people, people on the left often have self-reinforcing blind spots about the things they think are true”

    Nobody is making claim #1.

  112. 112
    matoko_chan says:

    “the hard-end of the environmental movement in that category”

    Well ……NO, Martin.
    It isn’t the same.
    There is SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE that AGW may be the endtimes for Earth……like my sempai-sama Steven Hawking SAYS….

    You don’t get it, do you Martin?
    This is the memetic…..

    We are just as smart as you snotty elitist scientists and intellectuals….we are just smart in a DIFFERENT way…..a BETTER way……the ONLY way that counts….
    We are GODSMART!

  113. 113
    matoko_chan says:

    the link that doesn’t show is “Pink Terror Hawking”.
    google it.

  114. 114
    tc125231 says:

    Again, I return to my original reply to Cleek. The GOP is memorable because its leadership ENCOURAGES people to believe things that are not true.

    This makes them a serious nihilist problem to governance.

    It does not mean, however, that the desire to believe things you KNOW aren’t true, because you find it comforting to do so, is not a human failing.

    It DOES mean that the trait is exacerbated among the followers of the GOP BY the leaders of the GOP because it suits their non-public agendas to do so.

    Since these leaders are nihilists, and care only about their immediate money and power, they will continue to do so until they run the country into the ground.

    If the Opposition wants to stop this, they had better start living in Moynihan’s world –where people are entitled to their own opinions, but NOT their own facts.

    Otherwise, the opposition will fail, and our children and grandchildren will be screwed.

    Remember, it is far easier to create disorder for opportunistic reasons, than it is to create order out of disorder.

    In other words, anyone opposed to what Rush Limbaugh stands for CANNOT afford the self indulgence of believing in things that are not real.

  115. 115
    Steeplejack says:

    @cleek:

    [. . .] there are left-wing terrorist groups, however: the Animal Liberation Front, Earth Liberation Front, Earth First, etc.

    I think it’s a stretch to call Earth First a terrorist group. Who did they kill and who did they try to terrify?

  116. 116
    matoko_chan says:

    tc125231

    it is far easier to create disorder for opportunistic reasons, than it is to create order out of disorder.

    yup, second law. [of thermodynamics]
    systems tend to increasing entropy [disorder].
    But you have to consider that that teabagger double-down on sloganeering and falsehoods is a REACTION to increasing disorder and complexity in the electorate.
    Conservatism has been culturally disenfranchised, and is about to soon be electorally disenfranchised permanently.
    Blacks and hispanics, even though socially conservative, vote liberal, because of racism. Women, also, tend to vote liberal because of the tendency of teh White Christian Patriarchy to suppress the reproductive rights of the XX.
    Attempts at rebranding the GOP (see Palin, Steele) have simply been disastrous. Palin actually drove women away from the GOP, and Steele is just a comedic goldmine in blackface.

  117. 117
    Keid A says:

    matoko_chan
    “conservative” is a religion….it is White Evangelical Christianity.

    That may be true in America, matoko_chan, but if you were familiar with say, Catholic Christianity in Europe, where my family came from, you’d know there are movements within Catholicism that can be just as inflexibly conservative. I suspect you could say the same is true for Islamic societies, or Hindu society.

    There is something about many religions that makes them take deeply conservative forms. The most conservative forces in society are often the religious conservatives. It’s not just White Evangelical Protestants in America.

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