The Corner

Because Liberals By Definition Cannot Be Closed-Minded

This is kind of amazing. William Saletan has a piece in Slate today arguing that we should be more bipartisan in our reading, in order to challenge our beliefs and develop more robust arguments. “Epistemic closure” and all that. He begins: “If you watch only Fox News or read only angry left-wing blogs, you become closed to contrary information. You lose touch with reality.”  Fair enough, though I’m not sure the comparison between Fox News and left-wing blogs holds. But I get the point.

And then his ten-point critique goes, in part:

1. A conservative who matches wits with the New York Times every day is stronger than one who mainlines Fox….

2. Sanchez goes through a list of bogus or overhyped stories that have consumed Fox and the right-wing blogosphere: ACORN, Climategate, Obama’s supposed Muslim allegiance, and whether Bill Ayers wrote Obama’s memoir….

3. Conservatives duck internal disputes ….

Starting to see a trend here?

4.  [Ross] Douthat explains how Republican factions defer to one another ….

5. Some conservative bloggers, responding to Sanchez and his sympathizers on the right, dismiss conversation with the liberal enemy as a political trap. Creative policy ideas won’t bring Republicans to power, argues Jonah Goldberg ….

6. Conservatives who see the epistemic-closure conversation as a political threat describe politics as a “team” contest. …

Notice anything missing yet?

7. Some writers have turned the epistemic-closure conversation into a debate over which party is more smug. Conor Friedersdorf, a blogger at the American Scene, aptly mocks their hypocrisy: “There may be a problem in our thinking, but the important thing to focus on is that the other guys are worse.” [Jonah] Goldberg, a perpetrator of this blame-deflecting tactic ….

8. Beware abstraction. This was Bush’s fatal flaw, and it persists in bloggers who boil down all disputes to “statists,” “socialism,” and who’s “consistently conservative.” …

9.  One sign of a closed worldview is its refusal to risk falsification. No fossil can debunk creationism; no atrocity can discredit the party; whatever happens is God’s will or history’s mandate….

10. Real conservatives understand that desire is a lousy way to run a society. …

Beyond the non-obvious argument that Bush’s “fatal flaw” was that he was too much of an abstract thinker (!), Saletan here is, forgive the hackneyed expression, engaged in what appears to be an act of self-parody: a liberal guy, writing a paean to bipartisan open-mindedness, can find almost nothing to criticize other than the (tendentiously described, if not outright mischaracterized) intellectual shortcomings of those who hold opinions other than his own. Because we all know that liberals, including those appointed to federal office by Barack Obama, are immune to “bogus or overhyped stories” (and what exactly was bogus overhyped about the ACORN stories? Or Climategate?), just as they are far too good, caring, decent, and nuanced to view politics as a “team sport.”

Now, lest you think I’m being unfair in my editing of Saletan, I do encourage you to go read the entire piece, the comic effect of which much exceeds my ability to capture it here in abbreviated form.

Egad, Saletan.


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