Epistemic Enclosure


Liberal intellectuals are going to have stop snickering at Fox News watching conservatives with the release of the Mueller Report.

The term “epistemic closure” has been used to refer to the claim that political belief systems can be closed systems of deduction, unaffected by empirical evidence, and by now it’s clear that the liberals who were glued to Rachael Maddow’s latest Russia-gate bombshell were just as deluded as any conservative global warming denier. Imagine how profoundly disorienting this moment is for liberals, who placed their faith in “Saint Mueller.”

I’ve come to the conclusion that both liberals and conservatives are holed up in their very own epistemic enclosures to the delight to the oligarchy that controls our country.

This same oligarchy responded to the 2016 election win with a fantastic story of Trump being a Russian agent under the express control of Vladimir Putin, rather than examining the disastrous neoliberal/neoconservative policies of the last 40 years. In doing so they deployed every aspect of the liberal corporate media to disseminate and relentlessly promote this story on a daily basis for nearly three years, and appointing a special prosecutor to conduct an official investigation in order to lend it the appearance of legitimacy. Every component of the ruling establishment (i.e., the government, the media, the intelligence agencies, that make up the deep state) colluded in a soft coup to remove an American president from office on the basis of an invented conspiracy.

For my readers who object to the term coup, what is giving the intelligence community veto power over the selection of a President other than a coup? And if Russia-Gate is what they did to Trump, imagine what they’ll do to Sanders.

What’s absolutely insane is that despite the certainty that he’s a Russian secret agent the reality is that Trump has been the most aggressively anti-Russian president since the Cold War. Yet nothing he did, no matter how hostile to the Kremlin–from sending arms to Ukraine to bombing Syria to perpetuating a new nuclear arms race to trying to knock off a Russian ally in Venezuela–could dent the certainty that this was all part of a cunning plot hatched by Putin.

Of course the Democratic Party, by focusing on weird neo-McCarthyite conspiracy theories about Russia, just handed Trump a winning issue to run on in 2020.

For example, Trump is going to explain to the American people that the Democrats, the corporate media, Hollywood, the liberal intelligentsia, and elements of the intelligence agencies conspired to try to force him out of office with an unprecedented propaganda campaign and a groundless special investigation. He is going to explain to the American people that Russiagate, from start to finish, was, in his words, a “witch hunt”.

You know what? In this instance he’s telling the truth.

And the corporate media.  After their shameful behavior in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, I didn’t think they could sink any lower, but, Jesus Christ!

I’m sure there will be more exhaustive explorations into why the corporate media sucks the way they do, but Matt Taibbi’s latest is a good place to start.

“In the early months of this scandal, the New York Times said Trump’s campaign had “repeated contacts” with Russian intelligence; the Wall Street Journal told us our spy agencies were withholding intelligence from the new President out of fear he was compromised; news leaked out our spy chiefs had even told other countries like Israel not to share their intel with us, because the Russians might have “leverages of pressure” on Trump. CNN told us Trump officials had been in “constant contact” with “Russians known to U.S. intelligence,” and the former director of the CIA, who’d helped kick-start the investigation that led to Mueller’s probe, said the President was guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” committing acts “nothing short of treasonous.”

None of this has been walked back. To be clear, if Trump were being blackmailed by Russian agencies like the FSB or the GRU, if he had any kind of relationship with Russian intelligence, that would soar over the “overwhelming and bipartisan” standard, and Nancy Pelosi would be damning torpedoes for impeachment right now.

There was never real gray area here. Either Trump is a compromised foreign agent, or he isn’t. If he isn’t, news outlets once again swallowed a massive disinformation campaign, only this error is many orders of magnitude more stupid than any in the recent past, WMD included. Honest reporters like ABC’s Terry Moran understand: Mueller coming back empty-handed on collusion means a “reckoning for the media.”’

Taibbi also comes to the same conclusion about liberal and conservative medias devolving into their own separate epistemic enclosures.

“This is a major structural flaw of the new fully-divided media landscape in which Republican media covers Democratic corruption and Democratic media covers Republican corruption. If neither “side” feels the need to disclose its own errors and inconsistencies, mistakes accumulate quickly.

This has been the main reportorial difference between Russiagate and the WMD affair. Despite David Remnick’s post-invasion protestations that “nobody got [WMD] completely right,” the Iraq war was launched against the objections of the 6 million or more people who did get it right, and protested on the streets. There was open skepticism of Bush claims dotting the press landscape from the start, with people like Jack Shafer tearing apart every Judith Miller story in print. Most reporters are Democrats and the people hawking the WMD story were mostly Republicans, so there was at least some political space for protest.

Russiagate happened in an opposite context. If the story fell apart it would benefit Donald Trump politically, a fact that made a number of reporters queasy about coming forward. #Russiagate became synonymous with #Resistance, which made public skepticism a complicated proposition.”

The problem, as I see it, is that the corporate media pretends to be dispassionate, objective and fair. The Washington Post goes as far as saying that they’re upholding our Republic with their tagline–“Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

Yeah, right.

The truth is that they’ve become little more than propaganda, custom tailored to their respective tribal enclosures.

It gets worse. Russia-gate has been sucking up massive amounts of political attention the past three years. Imagine if all that energy had been devoted instead to fighting against Trump’s billionaire’s tax cuts and freeing up corporations to pollute more or any other number of battles that could have been fought?

There’s one more point to make. Not that I’m gloating, but how did an amateur see through all the bull-shit and point out what a fantastically unbelievable story Russia-gate always was?

We’ll discuss that in a future post.

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