Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Peak Epistemic Closure?

Recently Steve Benen was seen to be scratching his metaphorical head over the fact that so many Republican leaders seem to be completely ignorant about the fact that the United States is involved in a major military offensive against ISIS. His main example was Rep. Lamar Smith.
Rep. Lamar Smith, Republican of Texas, claimed in an interview on the Family Research Council’s “Washington Watch” radio program this weekend, that President Obama isn’t taking the threat of the Islamic State “seriously” and is doing “nothing” to stop the extremist group because he believes that “America’s not exceptional.”

When Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, the host of the program, asked Smith why the president of Egypt and the king of Jordan are “responding in a more direct and authoritative way to these attacks of ISIS than our own president,” Smith responded, “That is true. Other countries seem to be doing more or taking it more seriously.”
That's the kind of thing that leads Benen to head scratching.
If I could explain any of this, I would. It’s as if much of the Republican Party sees American airstrikes against ISIS targets, but has chosen not to believe their lying eyes.
But it goes beyond politicians. This week the President of the Southern Baptist Convention (along with 16 previous SBC presidents) wrote an open letter to President Obama. Here's their point:
Since ISIS is a continuing threat to world peace in a way unknown to us since the Nazis of World War II, we humbly call upon you to use the influence and power of your distinguished office to take the necessary actions now in this urgent hour to bring an end to these human atrocities. The abuse, brutalization, and murder of children, women, and men that is occurring before the world calls our country to lead forward to bring this to an end.
We can assume that Southern Baptists all over the country will be hearing about this from their pastors and pulpits, leading many of them to assume that our country is doing nothing to combat ISIS.

Its almost as if these politicians and church leaders never listen to a word our President says.

If so, we can be certain that they are completely unaware that every day the Dept. of Defense releases information on the U.S. strikes against ISIS. Yesterday there were 7 in Syria and 7 in Iraq. We already know that today there were 3 in Syria and 9 in Iraq. Two months ago the tally was already over 3,000 airstrikes by the U.S. against ISIS (or about 90% of the total by the coalition).

As Fred Clark wrote yesterday, we have two choices about how to understand this kind of break with reality. The first is that these leaders are engaging in a cynical lie. The more charitable explanation is that they are ignorant. If it's the latter, then surely we have reached peak epistemic closure.


  1. I'm pretty sure that "Do something" means shock and awe plus ground troops. They want combat porn on their televisions every night so they can feel safe. They're being told every day on Fox that the world is about to end and the wolf is knocking at the door--bombing raids just ain't gonna cut for them. It amounts to nothing in their eyes unless it gets blanket coverage on cable news.

  2. They only watch FOX and FOX is telling them that Obama is doing nothing. Full Stop. They hear that and then go to the store or work. As long as a really large segment of our society depends on FOX to tell them what they need to know, there will be message problems. And the Mainstream Media could be showing nightly bombing footage, like they did during Bush's Iraq War, but, of course, they don't want to seem partisan.

  3. If I get to vote, it's cyclical lie. I'm past the time when I believe they are merely ignorant. This is willful. They WANT war because - End Times, Apocalypse, and all that. Back to your post about the demise of democracy. I am sick of this, but they keep pressing on for us to kill democracy so they can erect a theocracy, and that's not happening if I have one breath left to oppose it.

  4. Slightly off topic, but I just had a moment of ecstasy as my two favorite writers ( you and Fred Clarke) crossed streams.


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