First used in this context by Julian Sanchez of the libertarian Cato Institute, the phrase “epistemic closure” has been ricocheting among conservative publications and blogs as a high-toned abbreviation for ideological intolerance and misinformation.Conservative media, Mr. Sanchez wrote at juliansanchez.com — referring to outlets like Fox News and National Review and to talk-show stars like Rush Limbaugh, Mark R. Levin and Glenn Beck — have “become worryingly untethered from reality as the impetus to satisfy the demand for red meat overtakes any motivation to report accurately.”
Soon conservatives across the board jumped into the debate. Jim Manzi, a contributing editor at National Review, wrote that Mr. Levin’s best seller, “Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto” (Threshold Editions) was “awful,” and called the section on global warming a case for “willful ignorance,” and “an almost perfect example of epistemic closure.” Megan McArdle, an editor at The Atlantic, conceded that “conservatives are often voluntarily putting themselves in the same cocoon.”Bruce Bartlett, a veteran of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush’s administrations, wrote that in the last few years, “epistemic closure” had become much worse among “the intelligentsia of the conservative movement.” He later added that the cream of the conservative research institutes, including the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, had gone from presenting informed policy analyses to pumping out propaganda.
Conservative defenders dismissed the complaints. At National Review, Mr. Levin replied that “Manzi is guilty of ‘epistemic one-sidededness’,” if not “lunacy” and “wingnuttery.” Many of Mr. Manzi’s colleagues attacked him for his takedown of Mr. Levin.
How great! On the one hand, these guys are taking each other apart. They're addressing the point I've been making seemingly forever: the Republican Party, along with its RWS™ and media mouthpiece, have devolved into mere propagandizing based on lies, rejecting all meaningful discourse and any attempt at real contributions to the debates over our most pressing problems. They've validating my whole premise, as I shiver ecstatically. (And while the body politic suffers immensely.)
On the other hand -- and it's, I admit, way too much for which to hope -- it raises, if ever so slightly, the possibility (far off and small as it might be) that there could be some sort of awakening on the right. We could -- and I realize this is like believing in flushes -- get back to (yes, it's pollyannish in extremis) a two-party system where both are intellectually strong and working from different positions toward (well, one can dream, can't one?) the same goal, with serious discussions and mutual (I tread here on shells of eggs spread upon the thinnest of ice) respect. All it would take is a little more back and forth like the above-referenced fracas, a bit of self-directed reflection, and.... and.... well... okay... I know I'm reaching here, because it'd take... something... like... yes...