‘Epistemic Closure’? Those Are Fighting Words

The phrase is being used as shorthand by some prominent conservatives for a kind of closed-mindedness in the movement

.. referring to outlets like Fox News and National Review and to talk-show stars like Rush Limbaugh, Mark R. Levin and Glenn Beck — have “become worryingly untethered from reality as the impetus to satisfy the demand for red meat overtakes any motivation to report accurately.”

.. As a result, he complained, many conservatives have developed a distorted sense of priorities and a tendency to engage in fantasy, like the belief that President Obama was not born in the United States or that the health care bill proposed establishing “death panels.”

.. David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, argued at frumforum.com on Friday that the problem was not media celebrities, but rather conservative intellectuals.

.. “Rush Limbaugh isn’t any worse than he was 20 years ago. But 20 years ago, conservatism offered something more than Rush Limbaugh. Since then, the conservative elite has collapsed. Blame them, not talk radio.”

.. To conservative and Republican loyalists, Mr. Frum is a Neville Chamberlain-type appeaser who is willing to accept a kind of liberalism lite.

.. At the moment, the people leading the way on the right are disparate grass-roots Tea Party activists who are operating without a leader or shared ideology.

.. “Every intellectual movement needs to constantly question itself; otherwise it becomes stale. But conservatives have sort of reached a position of intellectual closure. They don’t think there are any new ideas of particular interest to them. Their philosophy is fully formed. The only question is how best to implement conservative ideas in the political debate.”

.. the first generation of modern conservatives as the “era of the intellectual,” led by people like William F. Buckley and Russell Kirk, who laid down the movement’s theoretical and historical foundations.

.. The second, which began in the late 1970s and continued through George W. Bush’s administration, was the era of “applied conservatism,” he said. This was when conservatives started to build a large infrastructure of research organizations for scholars and experts who created policy initiatives.

A third generation of modern conservatives is now taking shape

.. Unlike earlier movement members who honed their arguments while out of power, he said, “Young conservatives in the late 1980s and early 1990s saw their movement go from strength to strength — and learned that conservatism was always right and that people who didn’t see that were fools.”

How Rush Limbaugh Explains Donald Trump’s Unpopularity

Checking in on the most influential movement conservative who hasn’t yet abandoned epistemic closure.

.. he’s long been more anti-left than conservative

.. Back in 2008, when Sarah Palin was the unqualified populist on the Republican ticket, there was a whole epistemically closed universe of conservative media sites that totally failed to grapple with her flaws or Barack Obama’s strengths. In 2012, many in the conservative media were convinced right up until election day that Americans would choose Mitt Romney rather than reelect Obama, never mind the polls.

.. But Limbaugh still operates in a closed bubble. He seldom has guests. His calls are all screened. He has an enormous audience of fans who call themselves “Dittoheads.”

.. Confronted with the most flagrantly unqualified presidential candidate in living memory, a boorish, undisciplined, transparently polarizing nominee, a man reviled by principled movement conservatives whose explicit reasoning Limbaugh well knows, the talk-radio host tells his audience that a left-wing activist historian is responsible for Trump’s low poll numbers, because he poisoned the minds of America’s youth.