On March 26, the Libertarian blogger Julian Sanchez ignited a debate on the right side of the political spectrum about what he sees as the “epistemic closure” occurring within conservative discourse. Sanchez defines epistemic closure as the tendency of both liberals and conservatives to seek out and consume only media which confirms what they already hold to be true. As Sanchez is a guy with a particular interest in the role of technology in our lives, his basic point is that the conservative domination of talk radio and the blogosphere (what a stupid term) has made it much easier for folks on the right to completely avoid the “liberal media” which, according to conservative pundits, has been the chief silencer of conservatism since sometime right after Jesus was born. As such, conservative ideas rarely get challenged either internally or externally, and this only serves to further polarize our current political climate in irrational and unintelligent ways.
It would take an absurd amount of time to link to all the various responses Sanchez’s post has engendered, but the conservative reactions can be broken down into three basic camps: Sanchez is right, and this is a very bad thing (David Frum, Conor Friedersdorf, Jim Manzi); Sanchez is sort of right, but the liberals do it too, and do it worse (Jonah Goldberg and most of the others at the National Review); and, fuck all internal critics, they’re probably terrorists (Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, and the other unhinged babblers that a huge chunk of Americans consider important “thinkers”). Sadly, the more moderate voices within the conservative movement aren’t making much headway in their efforts to stir up robust debates on the right, and this ends up making Sanchez’s assertion all the more important. While I would never expect conservatives to care much for liberal critiques of how they go about espousing their political philosophy, it’s pretty terrifying that David Frum is now considered too liberal for contemporary conservatism.
If you would like to hear different political ideologies actually interact with one another, I suggest that you listen to Left, Right & Center, a weekly program produced by KCRW, the amazing NPR affiliate broadcasting out of Santa Monica College. The name of the program is a bit misleading. There are four panelists on the show, and two-and-a-half of them are very liberal (Robert Scheer, Arianna Huffington, and the left side of host Matt Miller’s body). That said, Washington Times columnist Tony Blankley is given ample time to state and defend his positions, and Matt Miller even caucuses with him every now and then. The show airs every Friday at 2:30 pm, and you can download the Podcast for free via iTunes.