The Great Epistemic Closure Debate of 2010

by Jaime Weinman

There’s been a surprising amount of online commentary in the last few weeks that prominently uses the term “epistemic closure,” a term I’d never actually heard used in casual conversation before this year. It started with some posts by libertarian blogger Julian Sanchez, who was writing about the excommunication of David Frum from the conservative think tank AEI. Sanchez argued that this was part of a conservative move toward “epistemic closure,” meaning being unreceptive to facts that don’t fit into the pre-approved worldview:

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.

This argument was taken up both by heterodox conservatives and by liberals, who agree with the claim that Frum and Bruce Bartlett and other conservative apostates have been making: that in the era of Fox News, conservatives have effectively created their own reality which cannot be violated by outside facts.

There’s arguably a certain sour grapes quality to this, since some of it comes from conservatives who used to have think tank sinecures and got rewarded when they were willing to push the party line. Frum is the most famous example here, because during the run-up to the Iraq war, he wrote a famous article called “Unpatriotic Conservatives” about conservatives who were against the war — that is, he did exactly what is now being done to him, trying to excommunicate people from the conservative movement for trying to argue things that, in some cases, were true. And no one is immune from epistemic closure. After President Bush launched his “surge” in Iraq, there was resistance to the idea that conditions in Iraq were improving (relative to 2006, anyway), even as the statistics demonstrated that they were.

But I think it is true that the modern conservative movement often depends heavily on creating its own reality, or, maybe more accurately, its own mythology. Much of Fox News and talk radio depends on a litany of myths and legends that are sometimes incomprehensible outside of the conservative movement. For example, it’s accepted within the conservative movement that Saul Alinsky is the key to everything that Obama does. And when Republican Senate candidate Sue Lowden made her infamous comments about how people should barter chickens for health care, she was simply re-stating what was commonly accepted in conservative circles throughout the health care debate: that the health care problem could be solved if more people paid out of pocket (and, by extension, that people can afford to pay out of pocket or make deals with doctors like they did in the olden days). The ex-conservative, now-liberal blogger John Cole has a longish list of tenets of modern conservative mythology.

Now, the conservative riposte to this is that it’s not conservatives who are closed-minded, it’s liberals. That’s the argument with regard to global warming (or “AGW” as conservative mythology now requires it to be termed), that liberals refuse to accept any facts that demonstrate that the science isn’t settled, while conservatives are open-minded about alternative explanations. Though the National Review‘s Jim Manzi — a conservative who frequently argues against government solutions to global warming — looked at the global-warming chapter in a book by talk-radio hero Mark Levin and found plenty of “closure” on his own side. (And Manzi was instantly attacked by his National Review colleagues for daring to criticize Levin, who is on the good side and therefore presumed to be right about everything.)

But in any case, what’s obvious is that the two sides are not disagreeing about the interpretations of known facts. They are disagreeing about what the facts are. That’s a much more problematic thing, and it demonstrates why “bipartisanship” is a pipe dream in today’s politics, particularly U.S. politics. The premise of much of conservative television and talk radio is that certain facts are “liberal” and therefore not to be trusted, and to advance alternative facts in their place. The most famous example is on taxes, the core conservative/Republican issue. The idea that tax cuts always help the economy and tax hikes always hurt the economy is constantly repeated on these outlets, and facts that cast doubt on the idea (Reagan’s tax hikes, which occurred just before the economy recovered, or Clinton’s, ditto) are not discussed.

One of the intellectual fathers of this idea was the intellectual father of so-called neoconservatism, Irving Kristol (William’s father). When he adopted the doctrines of supply-side economics, particularly the idea that you could cut taxes without increasing the deficit he admitted that he didn’t really know whether this was true. (It wasn’t, or at least it hasn’t proven to be true in practice.) The point was that this theory would be appealing and help to build “a new majority, which evidently would mean a conservative majority, which came to mean, in turn, a Republican majority – so political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government.”

The blogger known as Anonymous Liberal had a (as the name implies) liberal take on this issue, where he lists several other key facets of conservative mythology: Obama is an ignoramus who can’t talk without a teleprompter; the way to reduce the deficit is to cut taxes; Obama is the most liberal president ever. These are things that can be objectively disproved (which makes them different from matters of opinion or morality: how high taxes should be is a matter of personal opinion, but that tax cuts tend to lower government revenue is not).

We’ve reached a point where the right wing in this country has achieved complete epistemic closure. Aided by their extensive and growing media apparatus and a traditional media that is uninterested in playing umpire, the Right has managed to escape entirely from the gravitational pull of the empirical world, and in fact, has a created a world of its own.

Again, I realize that there’s an easy reply to all of this: when I assume that one person lives in a bubble, that may just be because I am in the bubble and don’t realize it. The entire “liberal media” argument is based on the idea that the “MSM” creates epistemic closure by reporting liberal bromides as facts. What we’re starting to see now is a bit of turnabout, with liberals and disgruntled conservatives arguing that the media (and Fox News certainly has to be considered “mainstream media” at this point) is creating an alternate universe. One thing’s for certain: there is no agreement on what the facts are. It’s not an argument about opinion, or policy. It’s about epistemology: what do we know, and how do we know we know it?




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The Great Epistemic Closure Debate of 2010

  1. I do not understand how the tax myth persists, other than the fact that people really want it to be true that they can pay less taxes, and have the deficit reduced. I know enough conservatives to realize it's not that they are stupid, some of the smartest people I know are conservative, but refuse to accept basic facts. When Bartlett came out and said that even Reagan never said that the tax cuts would increase revenue, but that certain targeted cuts might in the long run produce enough growth to break even, I figured that was the end of the debate. But no luck. What really gets me is the conservatives ability to simply deny long standing facts, like Nixon didn't really do anything all that wrong. Or to elevate criminals to hero status like they have done with Liddy or Oliver North. I mean for a group that claims to revere the constitution, they seem to love the people that spent time crapping all over it. I mean can anybody imagine the outcry from the cons if Obama was caught wiretapping people without a warrant?

  2. "The entire “liberal media” argument is based on the idea that the “MSM” creates epistemic closure by reporting liberal bromides as facts."

    People argue this because of people like Weisman who write sentences like this – "…. but that tax cuts tend to lower government revenue is not …. " I think Arthur Laffer would disagree with this bromide being passed of as fact – and links to bloggers like Anon Liberal. Obama has nationalized the auto industry, wall st and health care but Anon Liberal writes Obama hasn't " …. made a single policy decision that can fairly be described as liberal, much less radical." and we are supposed to think this is a vigorous argument.

    And conservatives also think we have liberal media because only conservatives get analyzed like this by media. All parties engage in 'epistemic closure' but msm only focuses on right wing to make it seem like they are intolerant.

    I am curious to know what sources Weinman reads to make these sweeping claims about what "modern conservative movement" thinks or is doing, other than ezra klein and matt yglesias of course.

    • "…Arthur Laffer would disagree with this bromide being passed of as fact…"

      I agree with you, but the fact that Republican politicians have (ab)used Laffer's theory doesn't change the fact that they've convinced the public that life would be roses if only taxes were cut to the bone and the power of the market set free to enrich us all. Which is what Weinman's argument is all about.

      "And conservatives also think we have liberal media because only conservatives get analyzed like this by media."

      If you really believe this, I think you're living proof of the epistemic closure idea.

      • Why shouldn't I believe it. Where are all these article analyzing why there are so few pro-life or pro-gun people in Liberal or Democratic parties.

        You want a good article on what's going on in Republican Party at moment, read Kim Strassel in WSJ last Friday.

        "The Republican Party is split. But the real divide is between reformers like Mr. Rubio and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, who are running on principles and tough issues, and a GOP old guard that still finds it politically expedient to duck or demagogue issues. As Republicans look for a way out of the wilderness, this is the rift that matters."
        http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703

        • Another characteristic of epistemic closure that I've noticed: failing arguments are dropped and fade from existence in favour of newer, shinier arguments.

          You made a point about Laffer's work and Republicans. I refuted that point. Anything to say about that?

          "Why shouldn't I believe it. I would like to see some links to msm articles analyzing why there are so few pro-life or pro-gun people in Liberal or Democratic parties."

          Here:http://www.google.com

        • Another characteristic of epistemic closure that I've noticed: failing arguments are dropped and fade from existence in favour of newer, shinier arguments.

          You made a point about Laffer's work and Republicans. I refuted that point. Anything to say about that?

          "Why shouldn't I believe it. I would like to see some links to msm articles analyzing why there are so few pro-life or pro-gun people in Liberal or Democratic parties."

          Here:http://www.google.com

    • reality has proven laffer wrong. full stop….unless everything else in your comment is parody, you're living proof of weinman's entire post.

      • Hasn't this post more or less been formulated to define any disagreement as an example of its truth?

        • no…but when somebody responds with stuff like "Obama has nationalized the auto industry, wall st and health care ," they're proving winman's point, since this ia a perfect example [three actually] of the type of nonsense that only conservatives who live in the aternative media bubble centered around fauxnews believe.

        • "Hasn't this post more or less been formulated to define any disagreement as an example of its truth?"

          This is really good. I have to remember this one.

  3. The pretentiousness has reached "epistemic" proportions.

  4. Epistemic closure: sort of like mass, contagious cognitive dissonance?

    First example that comes to mind with our current government is the law and order issue: they seem to believe crime is running rampant while the statistics almost universally indicate the contrary. I've largely assumed that senior (read: in positions of power) politicians understood the facts but chose to ignore them for political gain while the less senior and the unwashed masses really believe the myths. Guess with "epistemic closure", I need to start considering that even the senior Cons really believe their own bull.

    • That's a great point, beautifully illustrated by Shelly Glover:

      "So, again, numbers can be skewed any which way, but I do take issue with the misleading comments made by my colleagues. I worked in this system. I'll tell you straightforward, Canadians are seeing an increase in crime. I don't care what Stats Canada has reported because they only count reported crime. They do not count unreported crimes. And as a police officer, I'll tell you, I worked sex crimes for four and a half years, 92% of sex crime victims do not report their crime."
      http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/03/31/the-insight-of

      • " Next, since the official crime rate is based on incidents reported to police, does the reported crime reflect the actual crime rate?

        The answer is no. The real crime rate is much higher.

        Every five years, Statistics Canada conducts the General Social Survey. It asks a representative sample of Canadians, among other things, whether they have been crime victims.

        From the last survey in 2004 (the next one is being conducted now, with the findings to be released next year) Statistics Canada reached the following conclusions.

        First, progressively fewer Canadians who are crime victims are reporting the crime to police — only 34% in 2004, compared to 37% in 1999.

        Second, based on the GSS, an estimated 92% of sexual assaults were never reported to police, 46% of break-ins, 51% of motor vehicle/parts thefts, 61% of physical assaults and 54% of robberies.

        Yes, you read that right.

        The reported crime rate also excludes federal drug offences — odd, given the huge role drugs play in violent crime — and Criminal Code traffic offences." Lorrie Goldstein, The Sun, Oct 2009

        • "The answer is no. The real crime rate is much higher. "

          Of course it is. And it always shall be.

          Are unreported crimes on the rise? Because the measured crime rate has been in a steady decline for a very long time. Which is the point Glover is trying to brush aside.

          • "First, progressively fewer Canadians who are crime victims are reporting the crime to police — only 34% in 2004, compared to 37% in 1999."

            Soon enough, no one will be reporting crimes because they don't believe justice system will do anything and liberals will be able to claim we live in crime free country while accusing the right of epistemic closure.

          • So is the real/total crime rate on the rise? That was Glover's claim, the claim that flew in the face of the steady decline in crime rates for decades.

          • Sharp observation.

            The name bergkamp, that sounds Dutch. And you know: if you ain't Dutch, you ain't much – how's that for epistemic closure! :)

          • I use to be jolyon but decided to change my name to my favourite soccer player – Dennis Bergkamp – when I reached 100p on Intense Debate. Dennis B is indeed Dutch but I am not, sadly. I love the Netherlands but I am Canadian with Anglo ancestors.

          • Changing names when reaching the Intense debate 100 mark, eh! Well, I'm not there yet, and by the looks of it I'd better keep my head up and shinpads secured:

            "Bergkamp played most of his best games as a support striker, where his tactical awareness and deft passes made him a great exponent of the game from the 'hole'."

          • "Changing names when reaching the Intense debate 100 mark, eh!"

            I subscribe to Groucho Marx's idea – “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member” – and when I reached 100p it felt like I was joining a club.

          • You can always tell a Dutchman…but you can't tell him much! ; )

          • Party_of_One, you can tell her anything! :)

          • Thanks for digging out the General Society Survey and noting that not all crimes are reported.

            Sorry to cut & paste but from the very start of the 2004 GSS.

            "General Social Survey 2004 – Cycle 18

            Page content follows
            Cycle 18: of the General Social Survey (GSS). The rate of violent victimization in Canada, based on information provided by Canadians themselves, was no higher in 2004 than it was five years earlier, according to a new survey that examined the extent and nature of criminal victimization. "

            It is truly bizarre that you would dig up the hard evidence that Shelly Glover is spouting nonsense and then pull irrelevant (to that question) nuggets out of that body of evidence and claim it supports Glover. Perhaps you were just demonstrating epistemic closure for us?

          • What nonsense has Glover spouted, exactly? She was a cop, and I am guessing you aren't, and I am more inclined to believe someone who has actual experience.

            There is a difference between violent and non-violent crimes. Violent crime may, or may not, have increased since 2004 but what about the other types of crime. Fact is, we don't actually know what's going on with crime because Canadians don't have much faith in justice system so they don't report crimes in the first place.

          • "What nonsense has Glover spouted, exactly?"

            This nonsense: "I'll tell you straightforward, Canadians are seeing an increase in crime."

            Her supporting data demonstrated only that a large number of crimes go unreported. She had/has no evidence that the real crime rate has increased, and didn't even bother to mention a slow, gradual increase in the percentage of unreported crimes (as you said above, 34% –> 37% over 15 years), which was at least sorta relevant while still failing to prove the point.

            She made a claim that flies in the face of decades' worth of data and had nothing to back it up.

            "Fact is, we don't actually know what's going on with crime because Canadians don't have much faith in justice system so they don't report crimes in the first place."

            Can you support that? Beyond your own lack of faith in the statistics, is anyone with any qualifications expressing this concern?

          • What nonsense has Glover spouted, exactly? She was a cop, and I am guessing you aren't, and I am more inclined to believe someone who has actual experience.

            There is a difference between violent and non-violent crimes. Violent crime may, or may not, have increased since 2004 but what about the other types of crime. Fact is, we don't actually know what's going on with crime because Canadians don't have much faith in justice system so they don't report crimes in the first place.

        • Oh my bad, I forgot we were all "epistemic closuring"…let me accommodate your dissonance: all statistics are to be ignored except the few that support your particular position. Ah, that feels better. I really could get to be comfortable with the epistemic closure crowd. If I join , do I get a code book and decoder ring?

        • I’m sure this fine post will be wasted on a signicant number of the commenters here, who’ll just create more of their own reality to dismiss it, out of hand.

  5. Nice post… perhaps lengthy given this tidbit.

    "Science is built on a culture that assumes information sharing and intellectual honesty. Unfortunately, such an approach leaves it vulnerable to abuse from those who are not interested in intellectual honesty."

    which is really important and well stated.

  6. That tax cuts might lead to enhanced government revenues thanks to less inhibited economic growth is an appealing concept that may sometimes be true, and may sometimes not. But for ANYONE to declare tax cuts as a guaranteed contributor to lower deficits is missing the whole picture. Like, the bottom of the bottomless pit: government spending.

    Some may claim tax cuts are attractive for its increased revenues. I have long been a fan of tax cuts instead for its forced starving of the beast. It only works with responsible governments staying within their means.

    Quoth the Governator: "We don't have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem." And so, alas, spending continued to spiral out of control in Sacramento, Greece-on-the-Pacific.

    And it was (I believe) Milton Friedman, long a fan of tax cuts, who countered the tax-cuts-raise-revenues line with the excellent riposte that if such were true, then the tax cuts should have been deeper still.

    • It's NEVER true. Sometimes new economic opportunities may arise so that the overall loss is a less than one to one ratio, but the idea that revenue would increase would take a model so hypothetical it would look like cold fusion.

      As for the ol' starving the beast, setting random targets to run the polity is never effective planning.

      • To insist that "new economic opportunities" could not possibly arise thanks to a more favourable tax situation is an interesting choice, especially in a blog post with "epistemic closure" in the title. Well done, Mike.

        • I think you might have misread the post. I didn't say new opportunities wouldn't arise, in fact I explicitly said they could. I just said it's foolish to expect they would increase overall revenues.

          • You know, Mike, you are absolutely right. You didn't say new opportunities wouldn't arise (but I did not charge you with that), and, further, you made no comment at all as to whether those new opportunities may or may not be directly related to the new tax policy (which I did erroneously allege). I apologize.

            What you DID say (feel free to correct me if I blow it again) was that it was a complete impossibility that the economic growth realized thanks to tax cuts could generate a tax revenue stream that could eclipse the initial estimate of the "lost" revenue. Assuming I nailed it better this time…

            To insist that tax revenues from economic growth due to tax cuts could not possibly surpass the original estimate of the "lost" revenue is an interesting choice, especially in a blog post with "epistemic closure" in the title. Well done, Mike.

      • "It's NEVER true."

        You are arguing we could have 90% tax rate and that would not affect revenues or tax compliance amongst public which is nonsense on stilts. Laffer curve does not look like cold fusion to me, looks quite sensible in fact.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laffer_curve

        Of course letting people keep more of their own money would help businesses – people have more money to spend and they have more money to create their own business if that's what they wish to do.

        Even Christina Romer, one of Obama's economic advisers understands why tax cuts are helpful.

        "Therefore, it's worth looking at what the Romers did and didn't find. Their bottom line is that "exogenous" tax cuts–that is, tax cuts not intended to offset the business cycle–have a large positive effect on gross domestic product. Specifically, a tax cut of 1% of GDP will raise GDP by about 3%.

        The Romers' research actually undercuts the Keynesian approach in a more fundamental way. They find that tax cuts to offset a recession are ineffective, but their reasoning would also apply to government spending increases to offset a recession." Forbes, January 2009
        http://www.forbes.com/2009/01/07/romer-obama-stim

        • How come both of the conservative posters who responded to my response are addressing points I didn't actually make?

        • Interesting report. You may want to read the actual paper written by Romer.. one of the things pointed out is that while decreases in taxes will increase GDP, increases in taxes to deal with a deficit do not decrease GDP. And spending-driven tax increases actually slightly increase the GDP for a short period "Following a spending-driven tax increase, real GDP on average rises moderately, reaching a maximum of 0.7 percent after two quarters (t = 1.5). Thereafter the effect fluctuates irregularly around zero and is always far from significant."

          Which means that the Forbes guy needed to read a little deeper.

          However, what I find most interesting is that they find significant differences between deficit driven tax increases and other tax increases. Specifically in investment. Tax increases for deficits actually have a positive effect, other tax increases a negative effect. Yet since they both affect people the same way on the bottom line, what this suggests to me is that people are investing more on emotion than on rational logic — or in other words.. the market is irrational.

  7. Is it permitted to express appreciation for Jaime Weinman's succinct and entertaining post? Why am I reminded — when I read some of the comments here — of persons who come to "know more and more about less and less until they know everything there is to know about nothing at all"?

    • I think you're onto something: perhaps we think we need to know it all, but can't and therefor start fragmenting the larger picture, hence seeing less of an overall picture, hence creating more problems than solving them.

  8. I'd thumb this up twice if I could.

  9. Interesting topic.

    But wouldn't the act of accusing the conservatives (or Republicans) of being epistemically closed be an act of epistemic closure likewise?

    • He does point out that that would be the counter-argument.

      It's essentially along the lines of "I know you are, but what am I?"

      So the best means to handle it, is to discard the labels entirely, and concentrate on the verifiables. Really the only way to deal with epistemic closure is to constantly go back to the source materials and check the real facts.

  10. epistemic closure and creating one's own reality. How about this one:

    The dictionary states that contraceptives are for preventing conception. So who is creating a reality of one's own by insisting that abortion is contraceptive?

    Now I may be wrong but I believe it was the "conservative-opposed" group who did not mention abortion separately but lump-summed it under "contraceptives".

    Or, do guns really kill people? I have never encountered a gun which is capable of killing anything. Yet, once again, the "conservative-opposed" group keeps insisting that guns can indeed kill. Would such belief not be considered the creation of one's own reality?

    • Way to stick it to that large group of latte-swilling liberals who are running around insisting that guns are killing people of their own volition.

      • Bullets fired from guns can certainly kill you, as can volcanoes, arsenic, speeding cars and falling rocks. Guns are not capable of murder of course since they are inanimate. However, just as we have rules to keep people safe from poisons, we also need rules to keep people safe from guns. Especially from people who have lost their grip and think that everyone else is crazy.

        • No, we need rules to keep people safe from themselves, and it's done by mens of reason.

    • You do realize pedantry may be considered evidence of epistemic closure as well. I somehow doubt that anybody who says that guns kill people believe that a gun gets up and goes off on a shooting spree on its own, yet this is what you're trying to imply — thus simply shutting out opposing views without dealing with them.

      • Pedantry "may" be considered evidence of epistemic closure? "Must" perhaps? What are you saying? That pedantry is evidence of epistemic closure?

        Anyway, if people who say "guns kill people" but they don't really imply that "guns kill people", then why don't they just say so clearly. Why can they not simply say: "guns in the hands of people can kill. "

        You do know that some people just say it like that:: "guns in the hands of people can kill." and I wouldn't be surprised if those people were conservatively minded.

        Ah, well, details, details.

        • Because most reasonable people can understand the statement as it stands, and having to rephrase everything so that those who choose to be deliberately obtuse can't twist it about is what we pay lawyers for.

          • Thwin, we have to, first of all, thnk about what the gun registry is aiming at. Is it aiming at reducing long gun crime, for instance. If that was or is the aim, it has not succeeded. And so yes, the gunregistry debate is entirely about what or who kills people. And stating so cleary, in other words, making a clear distinction between "what" and "who" is of the essence. I am not deliberately being obtuse: on the contrary, I am saying that the gunregistry debate is entirely about whether people kill people or guns kill people.

            That one side does not want to be specific about the core question is their weakness within the ongoing debate, not mine,
            .

  11. How about this one:

    Frank Graves, just recently, considered himself to be a small 'l' (L)iberal ) as in belonging to the "conservative-opposed" crowd.

    Of course, he accused the conservatively minded of being moralists, parochial, racists, homophobic and autocratic.

    Yet, who is not inclusive here? Who is acting like an autocrat here? Who sounds utterly parochial if not Frank Graves himself?. I think it would be Frank Graves first of all who is creating one's own reality by pretending that opinions differing from his don't count. Like he said: "If the cranky old men in Alberta don't like it, too bad."

    He considers himself a small "l" liberal? He better look up the word and face realty.

    • Actually, to quote the Globe:

      "Mr. Graves went on to say that polling data shows the Conservative Party “does seem to provide a haven” for people with xenophobic or homophobic views"

      While you said: "he accused the conservatively minded of being moralists, parochial, racists, homophobic and autocratic."

      With a slight twist of words, you totally changed the meaning of Graves' statement.

      • It doesn`t matter how you try to excuse Graves and his comments. He`s finished. Kory Tenyecke showed that Graves is not credible. A non credible pollster has no future, except maybe as an advisor in the OLO.

        • I didn't try to "excuse" him at all, I only pointed out that FVerhoeven had twisted the meaning of his words. Epistemic closure in action, kinda like your attacking a point I never made.

          • The CBC would not dare have Graves reappear on their network lest they have him try to excuse ( defend, rationalize, explain,… etc……. play with words ) his previous comments when he slagged a poiticial party, and a whole province while he was pretending to be independent giving advice to the Liberals.

          • Uh, whatever you say.

            Anyway, again, my point was that FVerhoeven twisted Graves' words to mean something else entirely. Do you see what I was talking about?

          • And my point is that unless you agree with the insulting statements made by Graves, I don`t see the purpose of you slicing and dicing the opinion of FV.

            Maybe you could explain what Graves actually meant.

          • Your logic is faulty.

            Maybe you're dizzy from changing the topic so many times.

          • OK, I`ll assume you agree with Graves` comments but you`re too afraid to say so.

          • Assume whatever you want – it's your tiny, insular world.

            Epistemic closure in action, it's like arguing with an 8-year-old.

          • Oh there you go playing with words again…….you`re going to hurt yourself if you`re not careful.

          • "OK, I`ll assume you agree with Graves` comments but you`re too afraid to say so."

            Well, I'm not. The Conservative Party is a haven for moralists, parochials, racists, homophobes and autocrats.

            And I knew what before Frank Graves ever mentionned it.

          • Yes, what did Graves actually mean when he advised the Liberals? I am really curious as to what it meant to TJCook, for instance.

      • Fair is fair. You are correct TJCook in stating that Graves' comments have been disected in various ways,one of the ways being the G&M way.

        But who is the homophobic here? Who is doing the excluding? Who is being parochial? If you believe Graves was not acting in homophobic, intolerant (excluding) and parochial manner, you are not in rational understanding of what the words mean.

        I didn't intend to change the meaning of Graves' statement: I just wanted him to be clear on things regarding the things he'd said. Does Graves understand himself what he has stated? I have my doubts about that. Gauging by his behaviour of late, I would consider Graves to be a dumb man. Very simplistic in understanding how the world works.

        • I don't know why you and Common Man think I'm obliged to defend Graves' comments. I didn't state an opinion on the topic, and don't intend to.

          What I did – in this discussion of epistemic closure, and manufactured "facts" – was point out that your description of Graves' quote was misleading.

          Graves is a pollster. His data apparently shows that xenophobic and homophobic views are more prevalent among Conservative voters. He wasn't stating an opinion, he was reporting on his data.

          You said "he accused the conservatively minded of being moralists, parochial, racists, homophobic and autocratic." As far as I've seen, that's simply not true, whether you intended to change the meaning of the quote or not.

          You're entitled to your own opinions, you're not entitled to your own facts.

          • Of course you are not obliged to defend Graves' comments – point well taken.

            But you did say, within your first reply to my original post, that: "With a slight twist of words, you totally changed the meaning of Graves' statement. "

            So, could you clarify how I have managed to do that? How has Graves not crerated a reality of his own by dismissing a large part of our Canadian society? If that isn't being epistemically closed, I don't know what is.

            And as for such people being pollsters? Well, that's downright scary!

          • Graves was reporting on xenophobic and homophobic attitudes, which can be clearly defined and measured. By reporting on that data, he wasn't expressing opinion, nor was he making accusations. His data simply (apparently) show higher prevalence of these attitudes within Conservative voters.

            Your choice of words (unintentionally, I'm sure, since you seem to be here in good faith) made it sound like 1) an accusation that went way beyond just xenophobia and homophobia and 2) applied to all Conservative voters, rather than a sub-group of Conservative voters.

            It was a subtle change of words but I think it really changed what Graves said.

          • But the point is this: Jaime Weinman's article is all about how the conservatives (or Republicans for that matter) can be accused of creating their own reality by shutting out various views, and are thereby being or becoming epistemically closed.

            Yes, what Graves did within his labelling is exactly that: excluding others, labelling them and thereby creating a realty of his own.

            So if Graves declared himself to be a small "l" liberal (which he did on that CBC video clip), then it is not just the crowd "clinging" to the conservative side who could be labelled out of touch with reality and being epistically closed: the small "l" liberal crowd could very easily be considered doing likewise (see Graves, for example). That was the point I wanted to make all along.

          • So… to report on hard data is to exclude others? To report on hard data is to be out of touch with reality?

            It sounds like you don't like the facts Graves reported.

  12. I wish one of the neo-conservative commenters at Macleans who fling "msm" around as if it's a known entity would once and for all define "msm" for us. What are the criteria to be main stream vs. some apparently more reliable alternative?

    Is it broadcasting reach? Viewers/listeners/readers? Profitability? Or is it a list that gets approved by a central authority?

    Or can any one of us just declare something msm whenever we want to dismiss an argument or avoid having to read opinions alternative to our own?

  13. I don't think this is a conservative phenomenon. I think its very human. We like to hear arguments that agree with what we believe, and we are much more critical of arguments that we disagree with. When it comes to issues like global warming with no clear answers and error bands a mile wide, anybody can find arguments from authority regardless of whether they think global warming is an apocolyptic crisis, nonexistent or likely to be positive. If you start believing that epistemic closure is especially rampant amongst your political opponents I would suggest that you are suffering from epistemic closure and should challenge your beliefs.

    With global warming everyone should ask themselves "do i believe what I do about global warming because of what I believe about the role of government in society? Or, do I believe what I do about the role of government for reducing carbon dioxide because of what I believe about global warming?" If you define yourself as left (right) wing and you believe global warming is (not) a major problem you have beliefs that are consistent with epistemic closure and you need to look long and hard at why you think what you do about AGW.

    • "We like to hear arguments that agree with what we believe.."

      I don't. I want to know, first and foremost, when I'm in error.

  14. I consider "MSM" to mean, such media which carries the capacity to reach a large audience. And by "large" I mean, more than a few, but not everyone, yet, a significant number as measured in relation to other existing media, as in "none" MSM..

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