While we’re on the subject of irredeemable cluelessness, Gene Healy has a terrible column on the Stewart/Colbert rally. He thinks the rally is a cause for joy because “[w]hen French leftists get upset about threats to the welfare state, they overturn cars and hurl rocks at cops. Their American counterparts settle for a hipster Woodstock celebrating political apathy.” Healy points to a sign reading “Meh” as evidence that the Stewart/Colbert rally was a celebration of political apathy.
Even though he contradicts himself, he is dead wrong on both counts. The rally was neither a mobilization for the welfare state nor a celebration of political apathy. Instead, it was a call for epistemic virtue in politics. (To break it down it was, not apathy, but a call for, not protecting welfare, but epistemic virtue.) An “epistemically virtuous pundit” – as if to prove Stewart’s point, the phrase sounds odd – is one who acknowledges the benefits and costs of the policies he supports; who sincerely wrestles with the best arguments for opposing programs; and (note this) who characterizes the views and behavior of those with whom he disagrees honestly, not to score political points. It is soeone, in short, who cares primarily about the truth.
Thus, if the “Meh” sign was representative of the rally’s point, it was directed not at politics, but at a particular kind of politics as usual. An example of the type is pundits doing things like attributing disreputable motivations to rallies simply because they disagree with the participants’ politics. It’s that kind of glib indifference (call it: apathy) towards finding out what’s really going on – on display in Healy’s column – that those at the Stewart/Colbert rally could do without.
(Observe, also, the irony of somebody who works at the same think tank where the phrase “epistemic closure” was misappropriated disingenuously lampooning (for ideological reasons) the rally against that very phenomenon. If Healy’s is the dominant attitude around Cato then Julian Sanchez, who actually has integrity, should race for the doors.)