Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Epistemic Closure on the Left

About a month ago, there was a discussion across many blogs about epistemic closure taking place among the political right. In short, the argument goes that with the advent of media outlets like Fox News, conservatives have closed in among themselves, not willing to look outside their cocoon.

Now, I think this is all true. I think that a large part of conservatism has lost its curiosity to wander outside the box and learn from others.

So, does that mean that there is a more open atmosphere among the political left?

Not necessarily.

Michael Kruse, who blogs on political as well as religious issues, decided to look at a recent post by Jim Wallis on libertarianism. Wallis who leads the Sojourners community in Washington, basically said that what he calls "Tea Party Libertarianism" is not very Christian.

The thing that bothers Kruse is that Wallis decides to deem libertarianism not Christian under the guise of "dialogue." His last few paragraphs are instructive:

What is the surest sign you have encountered someone living in an echo chamber? When they say, "My side is so reasonable and civil, but see how mean and hateful the other side is."

The fact is that hyperbolic rhetoric is part and parcel of American politics. It ebbs and flows in intensity but there never was some golden age of nonpartisan government from which we have fallen. So I expect hyperbolic rhetoric from all sides. What I do take exception to is people engaging in hyperbolic partisan rhetoric while purporting to speak with a moral Christian authority. I don't care if you name is Jim Dobson or Jim Wallis.

While I think that "epistemic closure" does indeed happen amongst conservatives. It's not healthy. That said, it also has happened within the Left. I've seen people talk about the "incivility" among the Right and then go and be uncivil to conservatives.

I think the problem that is taking place within American politics today is that there is little room from self-examination. We don't spend enough time testing our convictions, making sure we are not deluding ourselves. We don't spend time trying to understand those we may not agree with.

It's time to get out of our echo chambers and out into the light.

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