Bartlett grows weary of epistemic closure (18 posts)

Thread tags: Bruce_Bartlett, epistemic_closure, Julian_Sanchez, Karl_Rove
  • Profile picture of milemarker milemarker said 3 years ago:

    One of my fave commentators on the right let’s it all hang out on the party he has spend a lifetime working for:

    …[M]y boss called to chew me out, saying that Karl Rove had called him personally to complain about [my article for the Times]. I promised to be more circumspect in the future.

    Interestingly, a couple of days after the Suskind article [which mention his Times article] appeared, I happened to be at a reception for some right-wing organization that many of my think tank friends were also attending. I assumed I would get a lot of grief for my comments in the Suskind article and was surprised when there was none at all.

    Finally, I started asking people about it. Not one person had read it or cared in the slightest what the New York Times had to say about anything. They all viewed it as having as much credibility as Pravda and a similar political philosophy as well. Some were indignant that I would even suspect them of reading a left-wing rag such as the New York Times.

    I was flabbergasted. Until that moment I had not realized how closed the right-wing mind had become. Even assuming that my friends’ view of the Times’ philosophy was correct, which it most certainly was not, why would they not want to know what their enemy was thinking? This was my first exposure to what has been called “epistemic closure” among conservatives—living in their own bubble where nonsensical ideas circulate with no contradiction.

    *Julian Sanchez, scholar of the libertarian Cato Institute, is credited with the definition of “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 [is] epistemic closure …

  • Profile picture of catpaw catpaw said 3 years ago:

    I watch or read a variety of news sources; mostly CNN, HLN, BBC. I do watch Fox News now and again, even the commentators. Not to see what my “enemy” is thinking but to get a different perspective on the issues. And My biggest concern–and criticism–of broadcast journalism is how much is either omitted or slanted from the stories. I have the distinct impression that broadcast news is more interested in catering to a particular mindset than objective reporting.

  • Profile picture of catpaw catpaw said 3 years ago:

    The recent presidential campaign is a good example. If I’m getting unbiased reporting, I shouldn’t have to consult fact check sources.

  • Profile picture of ApolloDawn ApolloDawn said 3 years ago:

    That’s a very interesting take on it, Milemarker; it’s akin to a self-imposed form of information control, a very common device for mind control.

    It severely constrains the universe of acceptable or “thinkable” thoughts. In politics, it severely shrinks the range of “acceptable” political candidates to a very small range, the “purer,” the better. That significantly explains the hardcore Republicanism of Kern County even as many Kern residents express centrist, liberal, or libertarian views.

    I can be conversing with people whose lifestyles or views on lifestyles are similar to my own. (That says a lot, as long-timers know.) And then, one day, they blurt out something about how Obama has to go and how evil Democrats are – sight unseen.

    And so as not to hammer exclusively on the right, the closest approximation of the same phenomenon that I see toward the left is found in my own front yard: feminism. (Union supporters come in second place, in my opinion.) There are some, the so-called “radical feminists,” who dismiss anything that they don’t want to hear as representative of “white male privilege.”

    I don’t automatically consider all things male to be adversarial. I’m what you might call a “togetherness feminist,” not an “oppositional feminist.”

    But, to return to your topic, I have never seen anything that quite compares to the epistemic closure on the present-day right. The mere suggestion that the mainstream media aren’t “liberal” incenses such people, as if doubting that article of faith shatters all that holds together their reality. (That’s close to being true, by the way.)

    Epistemic closure certainly explains the sheer reeling shock and disbelief that followed the 2012 elections, frantically seeking shelter in false beliefs in widespread voter fraud, or in Republican candidates and activists blaming themselves for not being radicalized enough.

    “The American people must agree with us, because that’s what our closed reality says! We only lost because we didn’t present that reality purely and faithfully enough!”

    That second to last sentence; yes, many on the left do that, too.

  • Profile picture of Deleted User said 3 years ago:

    “sheer reeling shock and disbelief” ?
    Certinally not by anybody that was paying attention.
    From my point of view what the conservatives were trying to put forward was reality.
    Unsustainable debt.
    The need to reform so much of our Govt.
    The fact that you cant tax and spend your way to prosperity.
    But the bliss ninnies don’t want to hear it and they actually think something is going to change when it’s only going to get worse.
    Welcome to reality AD, it’s going to be fun.

  • Profile picture of Mach5 Mach5 said 3 years ago:

    In case you ever have occasion to wonder: Yes, the New York Times is definitely part of the liberal news media. Just take it from their own 2003-2005 “public editor” (“The public editor serves as the readers’ representative. His opinions and conclusions are his own”), Daniel Okrent:

    Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?

    Of course it is.

    . . . the social issues: gay rights, gun control, abortion and environmental regulation, among others[—]if you think The Times plays it down the middle on any of them, you’ve been reading the paper with your eyes closed.

    . . .

    Start with the editorial page, so thoroughly saturated in liberal theology that when it occasionally strays from that point of view the shocked yelps from the left overwhelm even the ceaseless rumble of disapproval from the right.

    . . . it’s one thing to make the paper’s pages a congenial home for editorial polemicists, conceptual artists, the fashion-forward or other like-minded souls (European papers, aligned with specific political parties, have been doing it for centuries), and quite another to tell only the side of the story your co-religionists wish to hear. . . .

    . . . for those who also believe the news pages cannot retain their credibility unless all aspects of an issue are subject to robust examination, it’s disappointing to see The Times present the social and cultural aspects of same-sex marriage in a tone that approaches cheerleading.

    (Read the whole thing.)

    The Times’ 2010-2012 public editor, Arthur Brisbane, adds,

    I also noted two years ago that I had taken up the public editor duties believing “there is no conspiracy” and that The Times’s output was too vast and complex to be dictated by any Wizard of Oz-like individual or cabal. I still believe that, but also see that the hive on Eighth Avenue is powerfully shaped by a culture of like minds — a phenomenon, I believe, that is more easily recognized from without than from within.

    When The Times covers a national presidential campaign, I have found that the lead editors and reporters are disciplined about enforcing fairness and balance, and usually succeed in doing so. Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times.

    As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.the New York Times has not endorsed a Republican for president since Eisenhower

  • Profile picture of think4yourself think4yourself said 3 years ago:

    Neither can we tax cut our way to prosperity. The GOP continue to talk about accepting ‘new revenues’, but oppose any tax increases. So where do these new revenues come from? New tax payers? That’s fine and dandy in the long term assuming we experience economic growth, but what do we do in the meantime? We have to roll back the Bush Tax Rates AND cut expenditures. In which case makes you wonder-is going over the cliff HONESTLY the healthiest option?

  • Profile picture of John  Bravo John Bravo said 3 years ago:

    Revenue increases come from cuts in deductions. When you don’t have deductions, your tax bill is higher. Pretty simple math. But this increased revenue won’t make a dimes worth of difference when unemployment benefits are increased to 300 months.
    Democrats are firmly entrenched and unwilling to talk about expenditure cuts. The only cuts they talk about are the cuts 10 years from now as a result of not having a war in Iraq.
    I have no problem with going back to the Bush tax rates if we follow that up with the Bush spend rates.

  • Profile picture of milemarker milemarker said 3 years ago:

    I have no problem with going back to the Bush tax rates if we follow that up with the Bush spend rates.

    Maybe you could elaborate, John. As I understand it, the Bush tax rates are what we presently have and the Bush spending is the problem. Put another way, the Bush era decreased revenue by cutting taxes, what, 3 or 4 times to get to the present level? But we had more bills to pay than there was revenue (tax dollars) coming in to pay them. The bills? Two wars and unfunded spending mandates. Result – HUGE debt! That’s huge debt made worse by the collapse of the housing market which guaranteed less tax money (revenues) to pay the bills. The revenue to spending ration was completely out of whack and it was intentionally made that way by Bush era spending while cutting taxes. Money out, but no money in.. It sounds like you’re saying you are comfortable with that. So, please. Elaborate.

    And let’s be clear. Republicans lawmakers just can’t say the words “tax increase” so they say “revenue increase”. It’s a trick on the tax-phobic Tea Party base.

  • Profile picture of milemarker milemarker said 3 years ago:

    Daniel Okrent’s observation is an interesting one.

    Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?Of course it is.

    . . . the social issues: gay rights, gun control, abortion and environmental regulation, among others[—]if you think The Times plays it down the middle on any of them, you’ve been reading the paper with your eyes closed.

    Isn’t this laundry list a matter of political perspective? For every item Okrent lists, there are conservatives on both sides of the social issues fence. Can’t it be said that the Times speaks to people, both liberal or conservative, who share a common view?

    Let’s take the marriage issue, for example. If anything, the institution of marriage is most certainly at the core of the conservative soul. Personal commitment matters deeply to conservatives. They know what the outcome of long-haul commitment is. We’re not hearing from people on the right who embrace that view. Rather, we are hearing from religious fundamentalists who have aligned themselves with the right for the purpose of advancing their own agenda. The Times receives as much criticism from pro same-sex marriage proponents as they do from religious fundamentalists who call themselves “conservative” merely by virtue of being registered Republicans.

    I suppose we all get to be literary critics in light of Bartlett’s point. But the Times has quite the ugly track record on gay issues. Do you think Daniel Okrent is being willfully dismissive? I don’t know him because I tend to read a narrower group of conservative commentary – mainly from moderate conservatives who are both Republican and Democrat. Is Okrent’s criticism simply an example of epistemic closure? It doesn’t seem quite as suspect that he would be since he seems to read the Times at least enough to form an opinion about their political leanings. But that could be symptom of a person who simply scans the pages of the Times looking for only those articles that prove his point rather than taking a look at (gulp) an article written by Bruce Bartlett, David Frum or Andrew Sullivan, all of which have had numerous articles published in the Times.

  • Profile picture of Mach5 Mach5 said 3 years ago:

    The New York Times is a Liberal news paper, everyone knows it, but who cares? lots of liberal media out there. I think we should all move past if it’s liberal or plays both sides fair, it dosen’t, so be it, if you dont like it, dont read it. But don’t try to pretend it’s something that it isn’t, you then just look foolish

  • Profile picture of John  Bravo John Bravo said 3 years ago:

    “As I understand it, the Bush tax rates are what we presently have and the Bush spending is the problem. ”

    Take a look at the facts and then tell us all it is the Bush spending that is the problem….

  • Profile picture of milemarker milemarker said 3 years ago:

    “Take a look at the facts and then tell us all it is the Bush spending that is the problem….”

    Would you mind guiding me through those tables. I’m not an economist or accountant. Looks like in the Bush era, outlays exceeded receipts every year except his first year in office, which makes sense if you cut taxes while engaged in two unfunded wars and don’t call for revenues to fund an entitlement. It is interesting to see how Bush’s first year in office is the only year where receipts exceeded outlays. That was the point in which President Bush worried that congress would spend the surplus. So he fixed that by dropping everyone’s taxes, continuing to spend, and borrowing money to finance the war. Less money in – more money out. It adds up over time. Clintion surplus – poof! Do you miss President Bush? You defend his record so stridently it seem a legitimate question.

  • Profile picture of milemarker milemarker said 3 years ago:

    National Review’s Avik Roy puts his job on the line by echoing Bartlett’s weariness with epistemic closure:

    “Many of us are gnashing our teeth about the Hispanic vote, which was 10 percent of the 2012 electorate. However, as I note in Forbes today, 15 percent of Americans are uninsured, and countless more could lose their coverage if Obamacare continues to drive premiums skyward. When tens of millions of these Americans become dependent upon Obamacare’s subsidies, and the Republican message is solely to take those subsidies away, whom do you think these voters will support…? There are … things that conservatives can do to reform our entitlements and improve our health-care system. But we must keep those twin goals in mind, instead of fighting a fight against Obamacare merely for the sake of fighting. I fought that fight too, so I can fully relate. But I hope we can find a way to put our heads together and pick the right battles for 2016 and 2020; these are battles that we can win, which will make a difference in the lives in the Americans whose support we seek,” – Avik Roy, National Review.

    One hopes he bought the G.I. Joe with the Kung Fu grip for his kid’s Christmas before he published that. Spending Christmas unemployed can be a sobering experience. NRO may have to disable comments on this article. Roy is drawing support from regular readers while those who dissent are calling him a liberal. Isn’t that just the way Julian Sanchez came up with the term epistemic closure? You’re not permitted to deploy constructive criticism. You’ll be called the “L” word and you’ll stop getting invitations to right-wing cocktail parties.

  • Profile picture of John  Bravo John Bravo said 3 years ago:

    You said Bushs spending was the cause of the deficits. The most Bush spent was the last year in office, in which he spent 2.9 trillion on two unfunded wars. That same year (2008), his tax cuts also brought in 2.54 trillion, the second highest amount of revenue in history.
    Fast forward to 2011. Obama brought in 2.3 trillion dollars, but spent 3.6 trillion, 700 billion more than Bush ever did, yet he does not have to pay for two wars……Obama had the first two years of his presidency to raise taxes and he did not.
    Now fast forward to 2016. The projection is for receipts to be 3.68 trillion, which is awesome. That is over 1 trillion more than the highest yearly reciept ever in the Bush administration. Yet spending is projected to be 4.328 trillion. So what happened to the cuts??? That is 1.428 trillion more than Bush ever spent. I thought the purpose was to cut spending. Why is he increasing it almost 50% more than Bush ever did??? I await your answer….