Inside the Conservative Bubble


Bruce Bartlett has a piece in The American Conservative that tells the story of his excommunication from the conservative movement, and it’s gotten a lot of attention on the left. I’m already familiar with the outlines of what happened, so I only now got around to reading his story. And it turns out that the most interesting passage has nothing to do Bartlett per se. It’s what happened after Ron Suskind published a New York Times piece that quoted some of Bartlett’s criticism of George Bush and the GOP:

Interestingly, a couple of days after the Suskind article appeared, I happened to be at a reception for some right-wing organization that many of my think tank friends were also attending. I assumed I would get a lot of grief for my comments in the Suskind article and was surprised when there was none at all.

Finally, I started asking people about it. Not one person had read it or cared in the slightest what the New York Times had to say about anything. They all viewed it as having as much credibility as Pravda and a similar political philosophy as well. Some were indignant that I would even suspect them of reading a left-wing rag such as the New York Times.

I was flabbergasted. Until that moment I had not realized how closed the right-wing mind had become. Even assuming that my friends’ view of the Times’ philosophy was correct, which it most certainly was not, why would they not want to know what their enemy was thinking? This was my first exposure to what has been called “epistemic closure” among conservatives—living in their own bubble where nonsensical ideas circulate with no contradiction.

That’s remarkable. Even with the low opinion I have of modern movement conservatives, it never occurred to me that they literally thought of the New York Times as simply a left-wing version of Fox News. Yikes.

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