Friday, April 12, 2013

Daily Kos: A case study in epistemic closure

Like many pragmatic progressives who blog, I used to spend most of my time online at Daily Kos. Many of us quit writing there at about the same time. I know that for me the final straw was getting attacked - even by those I generally agreed with - for poking some questions at what had become conventional wisdom there.

Ever since Barack Obama's rise in national politics, Daily Kos has had mixed reactions to him. But there are times it has gotten ugly. Lately its the worst I've seen it. Since the day it was announced that President Obama would include chained CPI in his budget, the place has become a case study in what Julian Sanchez calls epistemic closure. Sanchez used the term to talk about modern-day conservatives. But listen to his description and then we'll see how it applies at Daily Kos these days.
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...Internal criticism is then especially problematic, because it threatens the hermetic seal. It’s not just that any particular criticism might have to be taken seriously coming from a fellow conservative. Rather, it’s that anything that breaks down the tacit equivalence between “critic of conservatives and “wicked liberal smear artist” undermines the effectiveness of the entire information filter. 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.
One of my routines is to read the news summary posted every morning on Daily Kos titled Abbreviated Pundit Roundup (just as I check out the roundup at Real Clear politics). This morning's edition was telling. It covered the first full day of punditry since President Obama released his budget. The roundup included 5 commentaries on that topic - all focused on critiquing the inclusion of chained CPI. They were from Dean Baker, Robert Reich, Andrew Fieldhouse, Stephen Henderson and Derek Thompson.

The choices were interesting in that there certainly wasn't a vacuum of commentary from progressives on the rest of the budget. For example, how about linking to:

Melissa Lazarín and Sasha Post at the Center for American Progress on President Obama's Budget Makes Historic Investments in Young Children

Erika Eichelberger at Mother Jones on Obama Wants Mitt Romney's Favorite Tax Break to Die

Annie Lowrey at the New York Times on A Budget Focus on Inequality

Matthew Yglesias at Slate on The Class War Has Begun: Obama is waging it against the rich. The Republicans are waging it against the poor.

And another one by Derek Thompson at the Atlantic titled The Obama Budget: Tax the Rich, Spare the Poor, Remember the Young

That kind of analysis has gotten zero attention on the front page at Daily Kos over the last few days. And the community diaries haven't been much better. Its a steady stream of hair-on-fire about chained CPI.

To demonstrate what this means to people who spend most of their time there, one of the diaries that was part of their anti-grand bargain blogathon today was titled Chained CPI cuts Head Start, CHIPS, WIC, SNAP. Not much in the diary is true in light of the protections the Obama administration is insisting on. But when it was pointed out that almost all of the programs identified had been exempted from the effects of chained CPI, the authors first response was to suggest that the Obama administration had back-tracked.
WH is walking back C-CPI. Now saying it wont effect all these programs.
Then, when it was pointed out that they had been excluded all along, this was the reaction:
These protections create another quandary, if C-CPI is not applied to Fed Poverty guidelines, where does that put Seniors on SS, do they fall below the Poverty guidelines in ever increasing numbers? Where does that put retired seniors?
When it was pointed out that the President's budget also included benefit enhancements for Social Security recipients to protect those most vulnerable to poverty, we got this:
Right. But why the mish mash? Its like a 2nd year LA wrote this up, the WH got push back prior to budget release and frankly this looks like a walk back from blanket adoption .
So we're back to square one. You can almost hear the grinding of a mind in search of an escape from the cognitive dissonance.

And finally there was this from another commenter:
What part of the whole touching and cutting any part of the social security contract and arguing over the semantic minutiae orwellian language within the proposal that has absolutely no majority public support, is absolute political suicide, does not contribute to the deficit, is bad public policy , and does absolutely nothing to address the more immediate and pressing issues of our day do you not understand.

The mere fact you are even explaining and defending the detailed douchebaggery within the chained superlative enhanced CPI or whatever the Luntz/PetePetersen focus grouped language of the day emanating from the WH these days is ridiculous.
Since there had not been one iota of an attempt to defend chained CPI in the comments (the entire discussion was about correcting inaccurate information) this is the classic "My mind is made up - don't confuse me with facts!"

That is what epistemic closure does to you. It is the opposite of curiosity. It is the opposite of an open mind. It is the opposite of empathy. And it should be something that ANY liberal would do everything in their power to avoid.

My question would promoting this kind of thing, how is Markos Moulitsas any different from Roger Ailes?


  1. It's too bad that the Kid Kicker Kaucus is running things over there.

  2. Thanks for a little perspective.
    I don't like (or understand) the inclusion of the chained CPI in the budget, but....
    Really? Armageddon?

  3. You could have posted this blog entry any time in the last four years that it even remotely looked the President was going to cut SS, and the question would remain the same. This has been going on over there for years--Daily Kos fits right in with the whole cut SS click bait business model. Now that the President has actually gone and proposed exactly what they've been warning us about and fundraising on for years...yeah, it's worse now. This is what they live for and epistemic closure was always their stock in trade. That's the reason why people like you started your own blogs--because you are open-minded and welcome change and are willing to be informed about more than just the sacred cows of reactionary politics.

  4. Seriously? Markos isn't any different. He has very cynically carved out a niche where by rattling the cage, he gets the monkeys to shriek, jump up and down, and fling poo. Like with Ailes, it doesn't matter to him that the facts have been slanted or are non-existent. His "progressivism" is just a convenient label, not anything truly believed.

    I've noticed the pushback not just by other pundits, but Lawrence O'Donnell has had a great series of segments on Social Security by highlighting Frances Perkins, and her role. It's amazing at how many liberal statements are being exposed as myths by that segment.

  5. Roger Ailes has power. That's something Markos doesn't quite understand. How many democrats even know who Markos is? Markos either isn't interested or he doesn't know how to advance the party's interest. Roger Ailes doesn't have that problem.


  6. Markos worked hard for Henry Hyde's election campaign. Which Henry Hyde? Yeah that Henry Hyde, the on who headed up the impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton in the House. Then suddenly Markos became a progressive, that is, he found a way to make money from claiming to be progressive. But his pattern is consistent: Support primary challenges to established Dems, especially in red districts, guaranteeing more seats for republicans. Fortunately, his electoral track record is atrocious, at one point having back the successful candidate a total of 0 out of about 50 times.

    Markos is NOT a progressive. Nor are the so-called front pagers who write there. Nor are the favored writers, like stinkweed, or whatever the name is, who spew nonsense designed to alienate people. The people who write for Kos wouldn't recognize progress if you dragged them along from point A to point B.

    The only thing that cesspool is good for is raising the profits of those pharmaceutical companies that specialize in blood pressure meds. Protect your heart. Stay away from that garbage dump.

  7. The main differences between Markos and Ailes is that the former has more hair and less weight. His analyses and temperament became too much a few years ago for MSNBC and they no longer let him appear on their shows.

    Per Norbrook's above comment, Lawrence O'Donnell has done solid reporting on Obama's social security proposal for the last 2 nights and says he'll do more next week. He worked closely with Senator Moynahan, the expert on Social Security when he served. O'Donnell understands the issue better than any of the complaining liberal Senator currently serving.

    Howard Fineman, who appeared as a guest on O'Donell's show last night, also understands Obama's strategy behind his proposal and thinks he's kicking the Republicans' asses on it.

  8. It's the "Obama didn't pass Single Payer he sold us OUT!!!!" mishegas all over again. >_<

  9. I can still remember Markos back around 2004 scolding Democrats for being to pure in their politics and not being willing to support people they disagreed with on a few issues but with whom they had an overwhelming consensus vision of where the country should go.

    That same Markos is now screaming that Obama is a sellout because he would dare suggest anything that might touch the sacred totem of Social Security.

  10. When they threw out the whole "more & better Democrats" and got to only pure internet progressive Democrats and attacked anyone who disagreed, that's when I got out. I'm thankful I found this blog, TPV, and Booman Tribune and for a little while BWD.

    These people don't live in the real world much like RW Republicans. As far as I'm concerned they're all the same.

  11. I wonder how many more black people he's going to throw out of there this time.

    1. In all honesty, as long as Front Pagers are spouting tripe like this: or this: soon the black people will be running from there in droves.

  12. I lump Markos and Arianna together. Where there is a profit to made, you'll find them. I literally breeze through their sites and if something interesting pops up (mama panda and her cub, yeah!) I'll take a look but I don't do anything in depth there ever, especially at DailyKos. The amount of scorn you can get from a simple disagreement is unhinged!

  13. It's not just Kos, I'd say, but thanks for this post. Your blog has become essential reading.

  14. "My question would promoting this kind of thing, how is Markos Moulitsas any different from Roger Ailes?"


    Yet another fine essay. Thank you SP!

    #TrustBarack He's Earned It



  15. By even suggesting this, you prove yourself, quite obviously, to be a "neo-liberal" (whatever that is).

  16. I find it very disconcerting witnessing so-called progressives pitch fits about Chained CPI and jump to wild conclusions before reading, analyzing, and/or understanding it and what role the president intends for it to play in reforming Social Security. If one allows oneself to get caught up in these folks' hysteria, one would think that President Obama is calling for an end to Social Security. Not being willing to consider other ways of doing things is not an example of someone who is serious about solving any problem. Since I've been a democrat for over 40 years, it's also embarrassing watching them allow others to shape their opinions. When they do things like this, they're behaving no better than those on the far right. These folks are not progressives and are not even halfway decent democrats, imo.


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