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...If disagreement is not in itself evidence of malign intent or moral degeneracy, people start feeling an obligation to engage it sincerely...And there is nothing more potentially fatal to the momentum of an insurgency fueled by anger than a conversation.Its like shooting fish in a barrel to spend time pointing out how this kind of thing has infected the right wing these days. I'd rather do some self-examination to see if we run into the same kind of thing on the left.
With the explosion of the internet, we are all able to cordon ourselves off into reading and hanging out on sites that basically reinforce our views. But occasionally we're going to run into people with whom we disagree. Sanchez did a good job of describing how that is often handled. For conservatives, they simply write it off as coming from the "liberal media." But let me give you a couple of examples of how we on the left do the same thing.
Yesterday I wrote about a exchange I had at Daily Kos about Glenn Greenwald. Here's what one commenter had to say about those of us who were critiquing him.
Well this thread has done nothing but underscore the fact that Greenwald brings out the batshit in some liberals.Or how about this one?
But why? That's the interesting question. Hard to escape the conclusion that his vigorous criticism of the man in the White House is mostly the reason.
so i now happen to think that your view is not entirely based upon GG's positions, but more on whose positions GG is critiquing.You see what they did there? Anyone who has participated in the Obamarox/Obamasux battles at Daily Kos has heard this one. Rather than engage in a conversation about the issue at hand, you are written off as "one of them" and dismissed.
Now lets bring it a little closer to home. A few months ago Mayor Cory Booker said something monumentally stupid during an appearance on Meet the Press. It ticked off a lot of President Obama's supporters - rightly so. But instead of simply disagreeing with what Booker said, some folks needed to label him as "one of them." Steve Kornacki, for example, had a field day on that one. All of a sudden, Booker was a "Wall Street stooge."
The effects of the "you're one of them" argument is, as Sanchez pointed out, to end conversation.
If disagreement is not in itself evidence of malign intent or moral degeneracy, people start feeling an obligation to engage it sincerely...And there is nothing more potentially fatal to the momentum of an insurgency fueled by anger than a conversation.So in other words, its not technically an "argument" as much as a dismissal.
I'd like to suggest that we pragmatic progressives are not "an insurgency fueled by anger" and that we want nothing more than to engage in conversation. In that, I am reminded of how James Kloppenberg described President Obama.
Throughout his career, Obama has refused to demonize his opponents. Instead, he has sought them out and listened to them. He has tried to understand how they think and why they see the world as they do...He knows that disagreement is a vital part of the American fabric, and that our differences are neither shallow nor trivial.And I'm also reminded of this gem from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
...“I am obligated to try to see the world through George Bush’s eyes, no matter how much I may disagree with him,” he wrote in Audacity. “That’s what empathy does—it calls us all to task, the conservative and the liberal … We are all shaken out of our complacency.”
If you want to change someone's mind, you must understand what need shapes his or her opinion. To prevail, you must first listen...I need to add that I'm speaking to myself here as much as I am to anyone else. I suspect that we all grab the "you're one of them" argument from time to time. But I can also tell you that I spend a lot of time trying to be aware of my own tendency towards epistemic closure. I don't think any of us are immune. The only way to combat that kind of thing is to be aware of our own vulnerabilities.