An interesting exchange between John Quiggin and Jonathan Chait on right-wing agnotology — that is, culturally-induced ignorance or doubt. The specific issue is birtherism, the claim that Barack Obama was born in Kenya or anyway not in America, which polls indicate is a view held by a majority of Republican primary voters.
Quiggin suggests that right-wingers aren’t really birthers in their hearts; it’s just that affirming birtherism is a sort of badge of belonging, a shibboleth in the original biblical sense. Chait counters that much of the modern right lives in a mental universe in which liberal elites hide the truth, and in which they, through their access to Fox News etc., know things the brainwashed masses don’t.
My view is that Quiggin is right as far as right-wing politicians are concerned: for the most part they know that Obama was born here, that he isn’t a socialist,that there are no death panels, and so on, but feel compelled to pretend to be crazy as a career move. But I think Chait has it right on the broader movement.
I mean, I see it all the time on economic statistics: point out that inflation remains fairly low, that the Fed isn’t really printing money, whatever, and you get accusations that the data are being falsified, that you yourself are cherry-picking by using the same measures you’ve always used, whatever. There really is epistemic closure: if the facts don’t support certain prejudices, that’s because They are hiding the truth, which we true believers know.
And don’t get me started on climate change. - Paul Krugman
PS. I don't normally comment on these QOTD posts - after all, that's pretty much the only difference between them and any other post - but note the anonymous comment on my previous post about this. I'd say that tends to support Krugman's opinion, don't you?