Vacuum-Tight Epistemic Closure
There's a hilarious moment in this January Salon interview with actress Laura Dern, in which, when asked about her character on the HBO series Enlightened, Dern replies:
...it’s people like her that are actually waking the rest of us up to the fact that we actually shouldn’t be able to watch CNN and then go to sleep. That shouldn’t happen anymore.
It’s now become impossible for me to watch the news before bed. It’s too excruciating. We have to, hopefully, figure out a mindful way to be connected to what’s going on in the world, and try to effect change, but also not completely fall apart.
Well, watching CNN (a division of Time-Warner-CNN) is excruciating for the rest of us, not just employees of HBO (a division of Time-Warner-CNN), which is why no one is watching the network unless they're trapped in airport departure lounges; it's losing in the ratings to not just Fox News and MSNBC, but to its spin-off channel Headline News as well. And then there's the rest of us, who get our news from the Web, so that we can bypass preening liberal anchormen entirely. (Which is what Olivia Munn, another HBO-employed actress, recently dinged her sister network for having.)
But beyond concerns of taste and content, Dern's insomnia and fear of falling apart may be fueled by what Daniel Greenfield of the Sultan Knish blog dubs "The Closing of the Liberal Mind." After contrasting the worldview of those who self-described as liberals in the 1950s and early to mid-'60s, Greenfield describes the 21st century left's mentality and its vacuum-sealed level of epistemic closure:
The newspapers you read, the textbooks you studied, the movies you watch, the professors who taught you and every adult you grew up with all reflect your point of view. You have no sense of being marginalized or out of step. Nor do you have any sense that there is another point of view out there. Only ranks of ignorant teabaggers paid for by corporate money who are about to be swept away into the dustbin of history as soon as the multicultural youth of tomorrow put together another Hip-Hop Against AIDS protest.
You live in a bubble and you see no need for an open society or for maintaining the integrity of institutions such as journalism or the scientific community. The very idea of objectivity is at odds with your entire way of thinking because it presumes that there is some higher truth than the one propounded by the progressive reality-based community. And you know, with the casual faith of any born believer, that this is not possible.
As a journalist, you report a progressive narrative. The other side doesn't exist except as an obstacle, a stumbling block to the forward march of progress. They are only there to be ridiculed out of history. When you see numbers showing that very little of the country trusts the media, you disregard them, because what else are all those strange people in flyover country going to do anyway? Stop watching CNN? Stop reading Newsweek? And so what if they do? Who needs them anyway?
When Bob Woodward calls out the White House on a point of fact and then on the treatment of journalists, you load up the contempt cannons and let him have it. You mock him for being an egotist, for making the story all about him, for being a sissy and a coward and a bad journalist. None of these things are significant in detail. They are conveniences and the mockers are far more guilty of them than the mockee. You really mock him for the same reason that you mock Republicans. You mock him because he has become an obstacle in the forward march of progress and in the post-journalistic era, snark is the easiest and cheapest weapon in your social arsenal. The one that denotes superiority through contempt, rather than truth.
Woodward might say that the facts matter, but that's old-school journalism thinking. There are no more facts, only fact checks. And those fact checks are meant to prove that we are right and they are wrong. That is the purpose of the media. It's the purpose of new journalists who spin coverage and cut and paste talking points from the White House and Media Matters because it tells them in which direction to point their fire at.
Read the whole thing.
Oh, and speaking of Salon, the Website where we began our post, its editor-at-large has a new book due out next month titled, What's the Matter with White People? What could go wrong, with a title like that?
(Via Maggie's Farm, which is loaded with plenty of additional links awaiting your perusal.)
Related: Roger L. Simon asks, "Is Barack Obama’s goal the creation of a one-party system?"