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May. 12 2010 - 9:06 am | 69 views | 1 recommendation | 4 comments

The struggle against epistemic closure

The late great David Halberstam had a line in, I think, a commencement address a few years back about how journalists had to remember to be grateful at all times that people basically pay them to find stuff out. In general this is true. Anyway, it’s also part of our responsibility to fight against the natural personal tendency to restrict your sources of news to people with similar views to your own.To that end, I’ve put National Review Online in my RSS reader and am trying to keep up with their take on things. This evening, I was treated to this opening paragraph by Tony Blankley.

This country is divided into three parts concerning national politics. About a third think President Obama is moving in the right direction; many of them are impatient for the president to be bolder with his leftist agenda. Somewhere in the vicinity of 40 percent to 50 percent of Americans are shocked and appalled at the nation’s rush toward bankruptcy, socialism, fundamental transformation of our way of life, and the permanent weakening and impoverishing of America. And some 15 percent to 30 percent are quite concerned about the current state of the country but see no imminent crisis and think that with some substantial adjustments, President Obama’s efforts may end up being useful. (The foregoing numbers are merely my subjective judgment, not based on any particular poll.)

Oh for the love of Christ. Shut up! Wait, scratch that. I’m grateful to be a journalist and have the privilege of getting paid to find stuff out, even if what I’m finding out is that the function of the National Review Online is in large part to pay third-rate cranks to whinge, carp and make things up.


4 Total Comments
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  1. collapse expand

    I posted my own blog post on the topic of science, morality and Sam Harris (and the Ford Pinto, whales, and Robert McNamara):

  2. collapse expand

    That’s the kind of tripe NRO pretty much restricts its writers to. If I may, I enjoy The American Conservative and its blog @TAC. Pat Buchanan started the magazine and he posts on its blog and those posts are about what you’d expect, but apart from him most of the writers are fairly heterodox, thoughtful and interesting. The only thing that I can find really binding the writers ideologically is that they are anti-war and “conservative.”

    National Review is a good place to find tripe from which to cook up a blog post about what idiots American conservatives are, but if you’re just curious about what smart people who feel rightish think, TAC is much better. The RSS feed is feed://www.amconmag.com/blog/feed/

    • collapse expand

      Hey Doug – Daniel Larison has been on my RSS feed for years, and I end up reading whoever he’s having discussions with. But that whole set of writers, with whom I agree sometimes as much as 50% of the time, are extremely different from “movement conservatism” and seem to have absolutely no representatives at a political or policy-making level. I think they’re smart and fascinating and probably the future of the GOP is going to emerge from the stuff they’re writing at some point down the line, but for the moment if I want to get a sense of what memes are circulating in mainstream conservatism, I’m afraid I have to read things that I just find completely uninteresting.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  3. collapse expand

    Well, that might be your best argument in favor of public funding of journalism. I’d rather fight a lion in the sewers of the colosseum than let those ticks suck out my brain. You have my sympathy and admiration.

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    About Me

    I've reported from Vietnam since 2003. I'm now the Hanoi correspondent for the German-based, English-language wire service Deutsche Presse-Agentur, and was previously a Hanoi-based stringer for the Boston Globe and for Voice of America. Before that I reported from West Africa, and before that from the Netherlands; my articles have appeared in the Washington Post, the Nation, the New York Times Magazine and the New York Times. I've got a thing for languages, and have picked up Russian, French, Dutch and Vietnamese. I used to write scripts for the children's cartoon shows "Arthur", "Doug", and a few others. I got a degree in interactive telecommunications back when most people had never sent an email. In April 1991 I predicted the USSR would collapse into its constituent republics and that Boris Yeltsin would become president of Russia. Since then most of my predictions have been rather less accurate, so it was probably a fluke.

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