June 28, 2010

"Why I Denied David Frum’s Website A Spot In The Blogads Conservative Hive."

John Hawkins explains:
Now, as a general rule, I try to be very open minded about who gets into the Blogads Conservative Hive. If they're generally friendly to conservatives and seem to have a mostly conservative audience, I don't mind having them on board. So, aside from conservative blogs, there are Libertarian blogs in the Hive and there are blogs I'd call center-right. It goes without saying that there are plenty of issues where members of the Hive, myself included, don't see eye-to-eye.
I'm in the Blogads Conservative Hive, so I can vouch for that!
Guys like Frum want to have it both ways. Being a "Republican" / "conservative" who tells liberals what they want to hear about the Right is a career niche —and it can pay big dividends....

[W]hy is David Frum getting a column at CNN? How is it that Time has a guy like this writing for them? What's the purpose of putting a guy like Frum on TV as opposed to all the genuine conservatives who dwarf his traffic and can obviously draw a bigger crowd?...

[T]he mainstream media loves "conservatives" and "Republicans" who will trash whomever the Left hates most. So, if you're willing to talk about how Sarah Palin is a hick, Glenn Beck is a crank, Rush Limbaugh is bad for the country, and the Tea Party is bad for democracy, the mainstream media will reward you and because conservatives pride themselves on being open minded, they'll all too often give you a pass for your atrocious behavior — especially since the MSM doesn't insist you play their game all the time. As long as you're willing to say what they want about the people they hate the most, they'll reward you with a cover story at Newsweek and then in your off time, you can churn out a few articles to point gullible conservatives towards while you're trying to guilt them into taking you seriously by crying "epistemic closure!"
I Googled "epistemic closure" and got, first, "'Epistemic Closure'? Those Are Fighting Words," a NYT article featuring a photo of Frum. So what's that fight all about?
The phrase is being used as shorthand by some prominent conservatives for a kind of closed-mindedness in the movement, a development they see as debasing modern conservatism’s proud intellectual history....
([Julian Sanchez of the libertarian Cato Institute] said he probably fished “epistemic closure” out of his subconscious from an undergraduate course in philosophy, where it has a technical meaning in the realm of logic.)
Blech. What an ugly phrase and what a pointless and irritating explanation for it. It's pretentious, but the usage is actually inaccurate. How off-putting and unhelpful!

Back to Hawkins:
Long story short, everybody has to make a living. But, I'm not interested in helping people like Frum play this little game where they try to cripple conservatives publicly while coming around on the back end to milk us for money. If Frum wants to be a dancing monkey for the Left, let them come up with the money to pay for the tune.
ADDED: "NOTE TO DAVID FRUM: Google doesn’t own BlogAds." Ha. Frum had written: "Hawkins is the person entrusted by Google to determine who may join the conservative blogads cloud." You'd think Frum would figure out the basics of blog advertising before attacking Hawkins. BlogAds is its own company, and Hawkins took the initiative to set up a "hive" that he called "Conservative" to attract buyers.


ricpic said...

Roughage is the way to unblock that epistemic closure.

DrSquid said...

I'd say Hawkins has rendered an accurate assessment of Frum. i noted his strange departure from reality a few years ago when he began doing non-sensical audio pieces for NPR and rapidly became a lapdog for the left.i I wonder do the lefties feel the same about Mara Leiason for her association with FNC. Unlike Frum however, she remains a reliable stooge for the Obamanites.

tim maguire said...

It's pretentious, but the usage is actually inaccurate.

With some minor tinkering ("it's pretentious and the usage is inaccurate"), that's a beautiful phrase.

"Epistemic closure" is one of those lines (like "ideological purity") whose primary purpose is deception. There may be such a thing and it may be bad, but the people throwing it out as a criticism tend to be opponents of the group who want to see it's ideas watered down and undermined.

The complaint is not that an ideology is too narrow, but rather that it has meaning at all.

Salamandyr said...

IIRC, both Liasson and Juan Williams have had their jobs threatened for their association with Fox News. Which is sad to me, because Juan Williams has always struck me as a forthright and honest commentator, even when I didn't disagree with him; I think higher of NPR than I otherwise would because he's on it. I don't know too much about Liasson.

RBB said...

"If Frum wants to be a dancing monkey for the left, let them come up with the money for the tune"...

That may be the best thing I've read about Frum in the last year. It perfectly describes what he has been doing for the last few years.

Automatic_Wing said...

Julian Sanchez is another cool kid/juicebox mafia member who used to work at Reason magazine, much like our old friend Dave Weigel. I'd love to search that Journolist archive for the term "epistemic closure" and see what pops up. That meme certainly took off in a hurry.

kathleen said...

I'm not sure the usage is inaccurate ... but definitely pretentious. And anyway, could certainly be said of the left.

Fred4Pres said...

Hawkins is entitled to do it and he makes a good point about David Frum. David was a good guy, but he is not helping conservatism now, he is hurting it.

You can have pundits like Medved, Krauthammer, and Will get into it a bit with Rush, Levin, and Hawkins of the world. That is all fine. That is called debate. I know that while Medved, Krauthammer and Will disagree with the more conservative wing of conservatives on many issues, they are still conservatives.

David Frum, unfortunately, crossed into attacking conservatives to self promote. That does not sit well with people. Do conservatives shamelessly self promote? Of course. Ann Coulter does it all the time (and I am no fan of her)--but she focuses her fire on the other side. Coulter is not a traitor. David is firing back on his (supposed) own side.

That is why no one trusts him anymore.

Franco said...

Check out the comments section of Frum Forum and it will tell you a lot about who is attracted to Frum and why. Sparing y'all the trouble, most of the comments are from left-wing types pretending to care about the direction of the GOP. Many of them claim they once voted Republican but the party became too "extreme" so now they are only voting Dem because they have no other choice. Poke one of these and you find they are so caught up in the Democrat Party narrative they consider everyone to the right of Nelson Rockefeller, Dwight Eisenhower and Christine Todd Whitman to be an extremist worthy of special attention from Janet Napolitano. Comments are replete with mockery of all things conservative in the guise of good will toward the Frum wing of the GOP, often with the stipulation that they don't agree with Frum on the war(s) or on his stand toward Israel, but they admire him for telling the GOP "the truth". Further indications these people are partisan Democrats seeking a schadenfreude fix is they reflexively defend every Democrat and advocate for government solutions for every problem.
People like Frum provide cover for left-leaning journals to have their cake and eat it too. They can claim they provide a forum for both sides while avoiding the fundamental debates.

As we have seen with the Obama/McCain race, these people will NEVER vote GOP regardless of how "reasonable" the GOP candidate is.

alwaysfiredup said...

"The phrase is being used as shorthand by some prominent conservatives...."

"([Julian Sanchez of the libertarian Cato Institute] said he probably fished “epistemic closure” out of his subconscious...)"

So Julian Sanchez is a conservative now? NYT is, as per usual, completely wrong: "epistemic closure" was inflicted on conservatives by liberals and David Frum.

Daniel12 said...

I'm thinking David Frum got a column because he's interesting. And that there are enough conservatives and liberals who tow most or all of their ideological lines getting published every day that those who deviate are therefore interesting. Frum's like the conservative Joe Leiberman -- with conservatives 90% of the time, against them the rest, many of those some of the most visible and divisive issues. Are there not enough Krauthammers and Wills and NYPosters and Marc Theissens that there isn't space for Frum?

Largo said...

For any not used to the meaning of "closure" in mathematics:

You can have operations like (say) multiplication on a set of numbers like (say) the odd integers. Given your set and your operator, you can never generate anything that is not already in the set. This is closure.

Change the operation to addition, and you can take numbers that are in your set (say, 7 and 5) and generate numbers that are not in your set (12). No closure.

Unless you do this, repeatedly, ("cook until done" my CompSci prof liked to say), until you generate all the even numbers as well, adding them to your set. Then you have closure again.

Or you can start with the first closed system, and add a new even number (4) to the set. Then it is again no longer closed (4*5=20 which is not in the set). Again, you can cook until done.

In logic, think instead of a set of statements, and of operations that can generate new statements from old. Or, which is not quite the same think, can prove new statements from old. Cook until done.

The expression might suggest closed mindedness, but should not be confused with it, despite obvious correlations we may well expect to find. "Epistemic closure" in not a personal fault per se, but an outcome of a system where there is "not enough information".

One might define an "echo chamber" to be a forum where epistemic closure clearly reigns, where participants are culpably (perhaps even deliberately) lazy. Lax in performing there "epistemic duties."

But now I'm starting to sound pretentious!

Bender said...

Thanks Daniel for providing an example of what Franco was talking about.

Largo said...

[Oh Hell - Only now do I follow Ann's link to Wikipedia, and find an article defining the phrase! I can only hope that what I wrote might serve as a complement to it.]

But I have a minor beef with Ann. Minor, but it touches on an iceberg of an issue.

There is no such thing as a pretentious phrase or word. There are only pretentious uses (and users) of words. "Epistemic closure" is pretty cool actually. At least it can, or could, be pretty cool. Perhaps the recent use of the phrase has debased it.

It is annoying to hear someone deliberately using overly flowery language. And when it comes out in a gusher, it can sometimes be hard to mistake.

But I think of my son, just turned nine, and my early attempts to teach him about the world -- not by wrote, but my describing it as we came upon it. I would use words to help him identify and understanding his feelings. I see that right now you really feel angry... sad... happy... worried... chagrined... wait, what?

Can't a young child feel chagrined? Why not let him know the name for the experience, to let him identify it, and talk about it. It wouldn't be pretentious for anyone here on this thread to use it. I think the word can describe the feelings that some politicians have had in recent situations (a common topic of conversation here). What's more: given the situation, it might be the word to use.

Now if my son told his teacher that he felt chagrined by something done to him, he might sound might pretentious -- especially if he was speaking among his peers. But, if this was just a normal word used in his home?

I expect my son, in asking his teacher whether he might borrow her book with the "(#7FFF00)" color, would ask for the green book. There is a perfectly functional prosaic word for him to use. But if his teacher were to ask him "what is the color of this book" and he were to reply "chartreuse", I would take that as a sign of a good eye and a good vocabulary. The former is probably a case of putting on airs. The second is not.

Unknown said...

No one personifies Epistemic Closure more than Ann Althouse. She thinks global warming is a fraud and that gay people can be "cured" via reparative therapy.

LouisAntoine said...

There is some kind of collusion between conservatives, including Althouse, about setting advertising rates in the secret "Conservative Hive"????? Presumably this was arranged over email? Release the archives!!! Fire Everyone!!!

Largo said...

But finally (and this is what prickles me Ann, not you), there is the issue of teachers failing to model good use of language, which I think is one of their most important jobs. And I am not speaking as a prescriptivist here. Growing up in Newfoundland, if my son's teacher were to say "I want's him to work harder" I would have no problem (well I might, but I don't think his learning about the world well suffer for it).

[By the way, is my earlier use of the word "prosaic" pretentious? Why should its use by a five year old be considered pretentious?]

What I have seen with some teachers is a desire to get students to use a wider vocabulary, for the sake of nothing but its use. I have seen this done by teachers encouraging young students (third grade here) to "spice up their writing" by using more "exciting" or "vivid" words. Instead of writing "big", they can write "vast" or "humongous"!

That these children will seldom write about "vast elephants" and "humongous oceans" has everything to do with their incredible talent for picking up language features with the barest exposure to its actual use, and nothing to do with the teacher's admonitions.

But I fear these children will grow up to be story writers who will, initially, pepper there prose with

"Come!", she implored.
"You!", she gasped.
"Alas", he sighed.

When in almost all instances, it should simply be said, if that. (There are other problems with this writing. Accept that I pared it down to illustrate, I beseech you!) :)

My frustration is in that some teachers, rather than teaching the effective use of language that some might be quick to call pretentious, tend instead to teach a kind of pseudo-sophistication which truly is pretentious.

(To explain what I mean by saying I am not a prescriptivist: I would have no problem with a teacher speaking of "vast elephants" if there is any meaningful shift to using "vast" in that way. I do bemoan the loss sometimes of certain words that express something very well and for which there is no suitable replacement, but that's another issue.)

And that's it: I'm done. See you tomorrow all!

amba said...

Ideological purity, indeed.

Lance said...

Sanchez is guest-blogging for Megan McArdle at the Atlantic. He has a post up defending Weigel, his one-time roommate and colleague at Reason.

Largo said...

Sorry -- I meant to respond to tim, who said:

"Epistemic closure" is one of those lines (like "ideological purity") whose primary purpose is deception.

I can't speak to purpose, or to what might be sudden popular use. But (and again not disputing a connection between the two), the first actually does (did?) mean something rather clear. It did have a useful denotative.

The second is too vague to be of (much) fair use.

I'm outta here.

Christopher said...

I've always viewed Liasson as the adult in that Fox News panel, and I say that as sort of a libertarian/conservative. Sometimes she drives me crazy with what appears to be her views, but I like the way she presents herself. I don't see her as an "Obamanite stooge" and Fox would be much the poorer without her. And yes I give her a lot of credit for standing up to NPR, which wants to yank her from appearing on Fox.

Back on Frum, smart guy, good writer, but I finally began to see him as Dinner Party v. Tea Party, and I have to agree with how Hawkins describes his current location.

Blue@9 said...

Wow, this really describes Weigel perfectly, doesn't it? "I'm a conservative! [/trashes conservatives]"

But let me ask--does this describe Mickey Kaus too to some extent? I like the guy, but he's a Democrat who only trashes other Democrats.

Lincolntf said...

I'd be curious to know if Mara ever pushed the "Journolist" party line while she was working on the taxpayer's dime?

jayne_cobb said...


I don't think Kaus would fall into the same category. With Kaus, I think, it's widely accepted that his criticisms are actually meant to be constructive whereas with Frum it is widely believed that he is merely playing to the crowd to make a buck.

holdfast said...

Blue - That's why I like Kaus too - I am a conservative and I like seeing him trash libs. If I were a lib, I'd probably feel differently.

Sanchez is nothing but a leftist pretending to be a libertarian so he can get a hearing on the right. He had his ass rather thoroughly handed to him on that McArdle thread.

jamboree said...

I remember Kathleen Parker suddenly got a WaPo gig and was seen on CNBC etc. only after trashing Palin.

Evil projecting, sell-out bitch with a guilt complex because she lived in the stone age and had a mammy.

Buckley, too. Palin was promotion time for a lot of conservatives.

Phil 314 said...

(WARNING: Over generalization ahead)

It's interesting the these two "in-crowds" are getting heat and that the conservative one is about "Commerce" and the liberal one is about "truth"

Phil 314 said...

in spite of what I wrote last weak about the Weigel affair, the whole
who's a real ______________ schtick
is getting tiresome.

themightypuck said...

Isn't Frum independently wealthy? Is he really just in it for the money?

Ann Althouse said...

"There is some kind of collusion between conservatives, including Althouse, about setting advertising rates in the secret "Conservative Hive"????? Presumably this was arranged over email? Release the archives!!! Fire Everyone!!!"

On Blogads the individual blogger sets his/her own rates. I've never coordinated rates with anyone. I compare my rates to others when I make my choices, but no one tries to get me to do anything.

Eric said...

And that there are enough conservatives and liberals who tow most or all of their ideological lines getting published every day that those who deviate are therefore interesting.

Aaaaaargh! "Toe the line". TOE. T-O-E. This one drives me crazy.

Anonymous said...

Eric -- Not if you are carrying the line somewhere.

kent said...

She thinks [...] that gay people can be "cured" via reparative therapy.