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Epistemic Closure 2.0

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Rarely has one group so utterly failed to elicit sympathy in my radio audience as the Harvard faculty did Monday as I related the contents of Robert Pear's report on their distress at rising health care costs brought on by the arrival of Obamacare's tsunami on their shores. Imagine the surprise of President Obama's cheering section when the check arrived repaying their loyalty with skyrocketing deductibles and demanding immediate payment.


The story has significance far beyond Harvard, of course, because it so nicely presents the true and no-longer-hidden costs of Obamacare, perfectly framed by the surprise of clueless elites at the consequences of the policies and candidates' they backed. The Affordable Care Act turns out not to have been, to quote Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen, "The Innovator's Prescription." The opposite in fact.

Four-and-a-half years ago, during the height of the Obamacare debate, I interviewed Professor Christensen about the sweeping and incoherent changes proposed to health care laws by Team Obama. The full transcript of that conversation is here, but the key excerpt was this one:

HH: [T]here’s an 852 page bill on the House of Representatives floor right now…
CC: Yeah.

HH: Have you read that? Were you invited to participate in the framing of that?
CC: No.

HH: And what do you think about Congress as an agency for managing the change that must come to this industry?

CC: Oh, I think it’s just a disaster, because Congress wasn’t designed, the political system wasn’t designed to make hard choices. And they’re incapable of doing it. Basically what they call health care reform has nothing to do with health or care, but rather it relates to coverage that we can extend the current system to more people. And so they want to extend the ability to get insurance at affordable levels to more and more people. And they call that health care reform. That’s not. It’s a subsidy that can extend insurance to more people. But they haven’t thought about how do you make health care affordable, and charging health care, which is what they’re trying to do, by funding all of these through debt, charging health care isn’t changing health care.


Christensen predicted the disaster that is now befalling health care in terms of rising costs and shrinking provider networks, but his colleagues across the Charles didn't want to hear him then, or chose not to believe him, and now they are wailing about the "Cadillac tax" and high deductibles. It would be very amusing if it was just a privileged, uber-entitled community feeling the harsh smack of reality, but of course it isn't. It is all of America, and especially the poor with insurance that fewer and fewer doctors will accept, though it required loud wailing from the oldest faculty lounge in the country to attract the attention of the New York Times.

And this after President Obama's alma mater is found guilty of violating Title IX. And less than two years after a massive cheating scandal. A bad run for Harvard, but a worse run for the country under the university's currently most famous alum.

This and other stories --the terrible tragedy in Austria, the search for the wreckage of the plane, the non-revolt against Speaker Boehner and the non-scandal not involving GOP Whip Scalise, U.S. troops in Iraq under "regular fire" from ISIS-- combined to cloud over in a fog of "breaking news" alerts the most significant story of recent days, one covered first and most extensively by, wait for it, The Washington Free Beacon: The call for a reform of Islam by Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Before you read the story itself, ask yourself about the importance attached by so many to the need for "moderate Muslims" to speak out against radical Islamists and the frequency especially on the right for calls for Muslims to speak out against violence in the name of Islam and on the left for extreme care in the depiction of Islam so as not to inflame terrible prejudice. It would be a huge thing, right, for a major figure in the Islamic world to denounce jihadists?


Well, it happened, but who noticed? The opening graphs of Abraham Rabinovich's story:

In a speech on New Year’s day, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for a “religious revolution” in Islam that would displace violent jihad from the center of Muslim discourse.

“Is it possible that 1.6 billion people (Muslims worldwide) should want to kill the rest of the world’s population—that is, 7 billion people—so that they themselves may live?” he asked. “Impossible.”

Speaking to an audience of religious scholars celebrating the birth of Islam’s prophet, Mohammed, he called on the religious establishment to lead the fight for moderation in the Muslim world. “You imams (prayer leaders) are responsible before Allah. The entire world—I say it again, the entire world—is waiting for your next move because this umma (a word that can refer either to the Egyptian nation or the entire Muslim world) is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.”

He was speaking in Al-Azhar University in Cairo, widely regarded as the leading world center for Islamic learning.

“The corpus of texts and ideas that we have made sacred over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world. You cannot feel it if you remain trapped within this mindset. You must step outside yourselves and reflect on it from a more enlightened perspective.”


Now ask yourself, "Why this isn't a front page story in all of the major American papers and across all of the American networks?" I read the Beacon's coverage of the speech to my audience today, emphasizing how extraordinary it was, and how the Islamist radicals would try to do to al Sisi what they did to Sadat. Investor's Business Daily covered the speech, as did PJ Media's Roger L. Simon, but what about The New York Times and The Washington Post? The latter had blogger and law prof Eugene Volokh cover it (that's it as of midnight Monday EST) and the former had nothing. Remarkable.

Because Harvard professors complained about their health care premiums, the MSM's big guns fired some warning shots. But when radical Islam comes in for a direct assault from a key Muslim leader, crickets greet the speech, and Team Obama ignores it instead of dispatching Secretary of State Kerry to stand by his al Sisi's side and salute him for his undeniable courage in making such a statement.

The problem that led to both failures of media coverage is the same: The story line doesn't fit the narrative President Obama and his supporters believe should have occurred. Therefore these developments cannot be reported on until evidence overwhelms the lay audience and "admissions against interest" shock the fan base in MSM. New media shouts from the roof tops that a big deal has happened at such a volume that it cannot be ignored, but even then the old lefties in the oldest brands drag their collective feet.


Only 23 months ago Paul Krugman was muttering about "epistemic closure" and "the conservative mind," because conservatives were suspicious of polling data, an error that the "closed" conservative mind did not repeat in 2014 but may have over-corrected for, and not just Krugman but a host of other lefties as well, and not just on the subject of polling.

Now comes the reality of Obamacare and it surprises the Harvard faculty, and at the same time a denunciation of radical Islam by the president of Egypt not long after the American president has declared the radical Islamists of ISIS to not be a part of Islam is met with near-complete silence.

Whose epistemological theories closed up on them when they weren't watching, but instead cheering? 10,000 men of Harvard, that's who.

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