Sunday, October 24, 2010

La la la, I can't hear myself

"Angus" at the blog Kids Prefer Cheese gives us a post called "one reality, many interpretations?":

The progressive drumbeat that the Dems are in trouble because Obama was too conservative continues.

Mark Thoma gives a clear articulation of the view:

"I don't know if the centrist, bipartisan seeking, compromising Obama we have seen to date can actually embrace an encompassing vision. He seems afraid to be a Democrat.."

It's hard for me to understand this sentence coming from a person (i.e. Mark) who I like and respect. From my perspective, Obama is pretty far left and uncompromising.

Ah, I think, a conservative blogger. Expecting a list of reasons explaining why Obama is "far left and uncompromising," I instead get the following:

So let me invoke Robin Hanson and try to list things Obama has done that qualify as evidence for Mark's view.

I would say on economic policy the closest thing to centrist & compromising that he's done is appoint Summers and Geithner.

Can you count not pushing for single payer as bipartisan seeking or compromising?

Then there's Guantanamo, renditions, wiretaps, and the like. I view the continuation of these policies as wrong, but are they being continued as a compromise? Or out of bipartisanship?

Oh and then there are the wars. Do they count?

Oh my, there's also no action on immigration reform and the monstrosity that is DADT.

Holy Crap! Maybe Mark has a point.

Ah, I think. An open-minded conservative! Rare breed these days. But here, again, I expect a list of counterarguments; reasons why, despite this well-articulated (though by no means comprehensive) list of evidence for Obama's centrism, the President is actually "far left and uncompromising." I mean, the title of the blog post is "one reality, many interpretations?", right? It sure would be weird if I only got evidence for one of those interpretations, wouldn't it?

But instead I get this:

I see Obama as the worst possible policy mix. Wrong on economic issues, wrong on foreign policy and wrong on social issues too. A Dem should at least get the social issues right!

That Robin H. sure is a smart fellow.

And that is the end of the post. No, I haven't left anything out; the quotes above represent the entirety of the article.

So what we have here is a conservative blogger stating his opinion (that Obama is "far left and uncompromising"), listing a bunch of evidence why he's dead flat-out wrong, and then concluding that there are "many interpretations of reality." Well, heck. Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but what he seems to be saying is: "Even if all the available evidence is against me, I choose to trust my pure instinct as the best guide to what's really true."

This is, in a nutshell, what I see as the big problem with the modern conservative movement. They have left the "reality-based community" for good and all. Instinct is viewed as a proper substitute for facts; a conservative is free to list evidence against his viewpoint ad infinitum, with the blithe and comfortable certainty that none of it really counts.

And where does the instinct that "Obama is far left and uncompromising" come from? It comes from a whole bunch of other conservatives and Republicans saying that he is. And where do they get their certainty that Obama is a leftist? Uh-huh. Yet other conservatives and Republicans. The feeling of consensus is powered by a whole bunch of people repeating the same things back to each other over and over. Conservatives have declared that the communal will of their tribe is more powerful than any outside reality.

Some call this "epistemic closure." I would call it "tribal secession from the intellectual life of the nation."

Update: In the comments thread for Angus' post, I try to press him on why exactly he thinks Obama is an uncompromising far-leftist. He repeatedly refuses (fails?) to state one single fact or piece of evidence that he thinks supports his chosen interpretation of reality. Sigh. It's actually pretty sad. Not that I'm surprised, though; like I said, it's not about evidence, it's about tribal instinct.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:48 PM

    Haha, Angus part of the "modern conservative movement." Wow.