Defending S.E. Cupp (opposing viewpoint)

Echo Chamber

 

A political echo chamber can be a tricky place to dwell in regardless of what political preference that the echo chamber caters to. People who inhabit echo chambers can lose sight of the fact that the stars of echo chambers are human beings who are capable of errors in judgment, errors in what they say.

An example of this phenomenon is seen in how some conservatives reacted when conservative political commentator S.E. Cupp dared to remind people that Rush Limbaugh is fallible. In an opinion piece for the New York Daily News, Cupp makes this comment:

…part of the point I was trying to make was that the impulse to defend anything and everything that a party heavyweight says — to the death — has the deleterious effect of making conservatives seem irrational and herd-like. No one is right all the time, and no one is above reproach…

…The other point that the reaction to my Rush comments proves is that conservatives continue to view criticism (even the constructive kind) through a lens of ideological suspicion. Even though I defended conservative principles as right, strong and popular, and explicitly said this isn’t about casting strident conservatives out of the party but reworking our messaging, Rush’s fans still decided that my conservatism was discredited. Disagreeing with him, or merely offering that we should feel comfortable disagreeing with party leaders now and then, suddenly made me an untrustworthy, sell-out liberal.

People dwelling in liberal echo chambers are known make the mistake of fawning over their celebrity pundits without thinking critically about what those pundits are saying. Sadly, people dwelling in conservative echo chambers are known to make the same mistake, and if a conservative (as in Cupp’s case) should dare to disagree with a celebrity pundit, then the conservative is treated as a heretic or as an apostate.

In her piece, Cupp writes, “It’s not my desire to silence anyone, but amplify other voices, many of whom don’t feel like they have permission to disagree with party heavyweights. We don’t need permission, and in fact conservatism has a hallowed tradition of healthy skepticism toward authority.”

I enjoy my participation in Wizbang in part because this blog’s founder permits its writers to express opposing viewpoints. Wizbang’s writers are not required to march lockstep in expressing groupthink.

For example, one of my Wizbang colleagues is of the opinion that S.E. Cupp is guilty of conservative apostasy. I disagree. Cupp’s criticism of Rush Limbaugh (and reminder that he is fallible) is no act of apostasy, but instead is an honest assessment of one conservative by another.

Conservatives aren’t doing themselves any favors by holding up a conservative pundit as being some kind of political prophet who can say or do no wrong.

Those who dare to be pundits aren’t doing themselves any favors by pretending that they are never mistaken in what they say.

People enjoy dwelling in an echo chamber because what is said in it is usually emotionally pleasing. Yet, something can be emotionally pleasing but factually wrong. If it is an error for liberals to base right and wrong on whatever is emotionally pleasing to them, then it is equally an error for conservatives to do the same thing.

A political echo chamber is fun to observe, and you can learn a thing or two from one. However, if you remain in one for too long, then you tend to surrender your critical thinking and become one of a myriad of people who blindly march lock-step behind whoever is leading the herd.

Liberals in the USA have displayed such a herd mentality. Conservatives need to avoid doing the same thing, and one way to avoid it is to welcome dissenting voices within the conservative movement, instead of trying to silence them.

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Posted by on February 21, 2013.
Filed under Conservatives.
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A refugee from Planet Melmac masquerading as a human. Loves cats*. In fair condition. A fixer-upper. Warranty still good. Not necessarily sane.[*Joke in reference to the TV sit-com "Alf", which featured a space alien who liked to eat cats. Disclaimer: No cats were harmed in the writing and posting of this profile.]

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  • herddog505

    David RobertsonLiberals in the USA have displayed such a herd mentality. Conservatives need to avoid doing the same thing, and one way to avoid it is to welcome dissenting voices within the conservative movement, instead of trying to silence them.

    I agree. I confess that it’s hard for me to listen to people who don’t agree with me (morons, every damned one of them! ;-) ), but it’s never desirable to get into a herd mentality. HerdDOG, yes, but not herd.

    “Comrade Napoleon / Obama / Rush is always right!” should never escape the lips of anybody who considers himself a free man.

    S.E. CuppThe other point that the reaction to my Rush comments proves is that conservatives continue to view criticism (even the constructive kind) through a lens of ideological suspicion.

    Or, put another way, people tend to instinctively look for an ulterior motive to discredit a view that is in disagreement with their own.

    • JWH

      I’ve gotten tired of the umbrage wars. Republicans take umbrage at something a Democrat or liberal says, then demand that other Democrats and liberals show similar umbrage or be shown as hypocrites. Then Democrats take umbrage at something a Republican or conservative says, then demand that Republicans denounce their fellow Republican or else be shown as hypocrites.

      As our droog Alex might say, great big bolshy yarbles to the lot of them.

      My policy: If I dislike something that a public figure, conservative or liberal, says, i say so. If I think it’s defensible, I say so. If I don’t give a damn either way, I keep my mouth shut. My outrage reserves are limited, and I’m not going to spend them on something that I don’t care about. And as for demanding that partisans show equal outrage or be damned in my eyes? I just don’t bloody care anymore.

      Now, there’s one caveat to that last: Except for some mild curiosity, I don’t particularly care whether you, Herd Dog, Internet Commenter, condemnded Rush Limbaugh for his Sandra Fluke comments. For all I care, it may have motivated you to buy a huge oil painting of Rush Limbaugh reclining luxuriously on a Roman couch while Glenn Beck, in a toga, feeds him grapes.

      But I do care where major politicians come down on Limbaugh’s comments, or their positions on any other media bomb-thrower’s opinions *cough Bill Maher cough*. Those politicians actually have the power to, you know, appropriate money and make laws and stuff.

      I think my perspective was different four or five years ago, but four or five years ago, I had outrage reserves to spare. These days, I’m just bloody tired.

      • herddog505

        JWHIf I dislike something that a public figure, conservative or liberal, says, i say so. If I think it’s defensible, I say so. If I don’t give a damn either way, I keep my mouth shut. My outrage reserves are limited, and I’m not going to spend them on something that I don’t care about.

        The problem is that politics is, in many ways, a game: “points” are scored based on who looks good or who looks bad. We look good or bad by comparison: if I’m a rat but can make the other fellow look an even bigger rat, I look good and I get more points. So, ginning up some outrage against the other guy, even if it’s wholly manufacturered, hypocritical, or just a damned lie, is in my interest.

        Now, think of us all as having “sides”: our parties or interest groups. I may personally detest Joe, but, if he’s on my “side”, it’s in my interest to see HIM get points. If that means ignoring his feet of clay – or ginning up feet of clay for his opponents – that’s in my interest, too.

        Frankly, the game makes liars and hypocrites of us all. I daresay that most of the men here would take umbrage if some other fellow called their wives, daughters, female friends, etc. a slut. Yet, we (and I include myself) didn’t object too much when Rush called this Fluke woman a slut. In contrast, the same democrats who waxed Emily Post because Rush called Fluke a slut had no problems similar abuse heaped on Michelle Malkin or Sarah Palin.

        So, it comes down to what’s important: winning, even if that means condoning if not outright indulging in brazen hypocrisy and odious, dishonest personal attacks, or losing but still keeping one’s skirts clean. The latter, of course, is impossible because, even if one chooses to play it according to Hoyle, nobody else will. Mud will be thrown, and you’re going to get it on you: shall you at least get in a few shots of your own?

        • JWH

          Why not take part in it and score points of your own? Because it’s mean-spirited and pointless and it results in lifelong friends yelling and screaming at each other.

          On the mean-spirited and pointless points — it just adds to the noise. Sound and fury, signifying nothing. You score a couple points against the other side. Bully for you. And it does absolutely squat in the real world.

          As far as friendships: I’ve discovered that among my political friends, being a jerk, being a mean spirit, or being sanctimonious is independent of a person’s conservatism or liberalism. And if I start injecting petty political attacks into my interactions with them, I’ll drive them away.

          So, no, I don’t think scoring points is useful at all. Except against mimes and Scientologists.

          • herddog505

            On a personal level, I’d say that you’re very right: no sense alienating people – friends – by trying to score political points against them (a habit I can’t quite break, I’m sorry to say).

            But, on a larger scale, are the issues not of such magnitude that scoring points – winning – IS worth it? National security policy, the budget, criminal laws, taxes… are these not issues of such import that “by any means” is a pretty reasonable attitude?

            Obviously, a lot of people think so. I would prefer that weighty decisions were made based on mature, logical consideration of the facts. Unfortunately, such is not the case, and you know the old legal maxim:

            — When the facts are against you, argue the law.

            — If the law is against you, argue the facts.

            — If the facts and the law are against you, yell like hell.

          • JWH

            Herd:

            Not to be too insulting, but your “points” are worthless. So are mine. As far as I know, neither you nor I have much political or cultural influence. So if one of us scores “points” over the other, those “points” exist completely in our minds.

            For the LImbaughs, Hannitys, Roves, and Chris Matthewses of the world, things are a little different. They more or less have the ability to move the conversation or national policy further. You and I do not.

            But (at the risk of playing the class warfare card), allow me to paint this as us against them. “Us” is the little people of the world. The individuals interested in weighty matters, but more involved with our daily lives than in the rough-and-tumbles of the daily news/political cycle.

            Fact is, folks like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Randi Rhodes, and David Axelrod profit when you and I are at loggerheads. The broadcasters get higher ratings. The fundraisers get more donations because people think the world is going to end if a particular bill doesn’t get passed or if a particular election isn’t won.

            But here’s the thing … you and I don’t have to give them that victory. You and I don’t have to play their little game. Play their game, they win. Don’t play their game, and we win. As Frank Drebin said, maybe the cares of two people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this world, but this is our hill and our beans.

          • herddog505

            In the final analysis, their little game in the governance of our country. Some bills are of little import. Others, however, are pretty significant. So, refusing to play the game effectively surrenders our democracy into the hands of the plutocrats, bureaucrats, autocrats, and any other -crats who come down the pike.

            I also suggest that “They” – the Hannities, Matthewses, Axelrods, Roves, etc. – are proxies for “Us”. You’re right that you and I can’t score points, but they certainly can. And, within limits, the “points” are measured by the size of their audience and how engaged they can get that audience with the process: can they get thousands of people into the Mall, or burn up the phones on Capitol Hill, or turn out in large (preferably record) numbers for an election?

            This leads to questions about the tactics they can use and the boundaries that they ought to observe. Cupp suggests that conservative / Republican commentators ought to improve their messaging by publicly chiding those who get a little extreme and shift the focus from The Message to the messenger. Others suggest that democrats and MiniTru (BIRM) provide quite enough criticism, and there’s no need to give them any help. I tend to side with Cupp, though I see merit in what other people say.

          • JWH

            I would tend to side with Cupp, too, but I don’t agree with her that people should swear allegiance to the Republican or Democratic camp. If you’re going to criticize Limbaugh, Hannity, or Cupp, for that matter, do it because they’re wrong, etc., not because you want to make a point to the other party.

            That said, party leaders and/or future leaders of the world (the Romneys, Rubios, Bidens, and Christies) do need to speak out if they think a Limbaugh or an Akin has gone off the reservation. Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment is good in theory, but in practice it risks allowing the most extreme elements or a party to co-opt the microphone and become the party’s de facto voice.

            That’s the big reason, I think, that Bill Clinton’s Sister Souljah moment had such appeal. She was out there talking about black-on-white racial violence as if it was some sort of justified retribution for historical wrongs, and Bill Clinton shut her down and effectively drummed her out of the Democratic Party’s mainstream.

            If Clinton had stuck with a mirror to Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment and refrained from attacking her, he would have given the Democratic Party to its more extreme elements.

          • r.a.

            You make a lot of good points here, JWH.

          • r.a.

            @JWH:

            “So if one of us scores “points” over the other, those “points” exist completely in our minds.”

            Yup.

  • Par4Course

    Regarding Rush and other conservatives, it’s best to follow President Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” Now that doesn’t mean agreeing with every word but not going out of your way to criticize colleagues, like Rush, who are right most of the time. There are plenty of liberals who are willing to challenge everything Rush says. Rush realized his comment about Sandra Fluke was intemperate and apologized. You can express your own individual opinion without putting it in the form of criticism of other conservatives.

  • JonS

    Remind me who won the Presidency and Senate twice, even after historically miserable governance performances? Don’t confuse ‘herd mentality’ with ‘message discipline’. Instead of using the Rush/slut episode to drive home our arguments of the damage done by the entitlement mentality, republicans like David Robertson let the Left yell squirrel and take control of the conversation.

    Getting on your cross and complaining about the echo chamber may be emotionally pleasing, but how does it translate to winning elections?

    Conservatives need to get much less stupid about messaging. It’s almost like we are afraid to defend the ideas we say we believe in.

    • Wild_Willie

      I totally agree. I saw the media’s game plan during the primaries when all of a sudden all the candidates were asked about abortion, birth control, etc. none of which was brought up and with the major problems we faced and are facing, the media was trying to create the message for Obama. Most of the candidates fell for it.

      Rush is an entertainer and he will tell you that himself. If pushed, a candidate should state that and that alone. Conservatives did not say Rush is our leader, the MSM did and does. A false premise.

      My advice in the future: Stay on message. NEVER get off message. Don’t let the media trick you into getting off message. STAY on message. ww

      • SteveCrickmore075

        WIld_Willie ‘s shorthand: long live, shills, like Huston!!

    • jim_m

      republicans like David Robertson let the Left yell squirrel and take control of the conversation.

      David Robertson, the John Huntsman of Wizbang. He can always be counted on to provide an apology for the left’s attacks on conservative viewpoints. Conservatives need to evaluate these complaints critically and not just accept them at face value. WW is dead on that Rush is not the leader of the GOP and never has been. Leftists push that nonsense and squishy apologists like David Robertson accept it without thinking.

      Why is it that people like SE Cupp and David Robertson are so swift to accept the premise that one conservative must speak for all but are also willing to accept that one whacky leftist must only speak for himself and does not reflect the rest of their movement?

      • http://www.wizbangblog.com David Robertson

        In short, I am being criticized because I do not live in a political echo chamber. Oh, well.

        • jim_m

          No. You are being criticized for having a different opinion. That’s what this blog is about, opinions. Or did I miss something?

          • JonS

            No, he is being criticized for an opinion that surrenders the initiative. It seems a number of people feel his opinion is not a great one. Just having an opinion doesn’t mean you get a gold star. Apparently he doesn’t really want to have a conversation about it.

            I really don’t care what Rush says. But the Left damn well wants me to. Because if they can manage that, they put me on the defensive and control the conversation. So instead of talking about what out-of-control entitlements, a tax code from hell, kicking the fiscal can down the road, social systems that are becoming Ponzi schemes due to collapsing birth rates, etc. are doing to the country, we are rope-a-doped into explaining away someone saying something stupid.

  • ackwired

    The Quaker tradition teaches that God gives a little truth to everybody, but nobody gets the complete truth. Greater truth is revealed to people when they interact with others, honestly seeking the truth within.

  • blogagog

    Her last name makes me think of boobs. Not sure why. You’d think it’d make me think of coffee.

    • herddog505

      Ditto.

      • Vagabond661

        Good thing her name is not Deborah Diane…Cupp

  • http://www.harlemghost.blogspot.com/ HarlemGhost

    she went well beyond saying Rush was fallable … she said we needed to distance ourselves from Rush … she was simply sucking up to MSM for a better gig than the one she just got … its about money … pure and simple …

  • MartinLandauCalrissian

    It doesn’t seem like Robertson read the other article. Never once did Huston say that Rush or anyone else was a “prophet” that shouldn’t be doubted.

  • warnertoddhuston

    I have to say I am a bit dismayed–even insulted–by Robertson’s reply to my piece, here. I mean, it almost seems like he read my headline and not a single word of the actual article! It’s not that I am mad because someone is questioning me, but because he didn’t address anything I actually said and, worse, put words in my mouth. I neither praised any “echo chamber” nor said Rush should “never be questioned.” I have to wonder just what article from his “Wizbang colleague” he is talking about because it sure can’t be mine. Further he neither gave me the benefit of a heads up that he was going to smear me nor gave a link to my piece in his. What a sad day here at Wizbang.

    • r.a.

      Well, it’s pretty interesting that you used the word “apostate” in the title of your post.

      Anyway, I’ll agree that you didn’t really say that pundits like Rush should never be questioned. Here’s what you actually wrote:

      “Now, granted there are times when something just needs to be called out.
      I agree. But those times will be few and far between and S.E. Cupp’s
      “Rush/slut” example does not rise to one of those times.”

      In short, people should be called out, but not now and not often. Mostly because that would undermine “the message”–whatever that means. So your argument isn’t “Don’t ever question Rush,” it’s more like “Sure you can question Rush if you want but don’t really say anything about it ever, and if you do have to say something please make sure it doesn’t get in the way of our party’s politics.” Is that what you meant?

      As for Robertson’s argument about your encouragement of an “echo chamber,” you did write this:

      “So, when they confront you about what Rush or anyone else said, the
      correct response is to ignore their question, ignore what Rush said,
      stick to the message, and refuse to engage about Rush.”

      So you’re not really arguing for an echo chamber as much as you’re arguing for the need to dodge and weave at all costs if someone on “your side” does or says something stupid or wrong. In other words, dodge at all costs in order to “stick to the message.” In other other words, toe the line, keep quiet, don’t go off message. So ya, you’re not telling people to just respond like parrots when it comes to the party line, but you are saying they need to keep silent about potentially damaging issues–all in the name of party politics. And I’m sure that’s exactly what the founding fathers had in mind way back in the good old days [/sarc in case you missed it]. Nice message, Warner. A kind of groupthink/echo chamber via silence. Good luck with that.

      And by the way, you’re argument that your side should do this because the Dems do it isn’t exactly very inspirational. Mind you, I do not doubt that the Dems indeed do engage in this kind of politicking all the time. Like that’s a shocking bit of news. Another reason why the left/right split that so many people get wrapped up in is a political dead end. God help us when things get to the point of “sticking to the message” at all costs in order to WIN. By the way, what is your message? Gotta wonder.

      Anyway, Robertson makes some points that are worth considering. You know, if you’re into that whole “listen to other viewpoints” thing.

      • warnertoddhuston

        Nice job of demagoguing and not paying attention to what was written. But, if I would use your hysterical version of analyzing something, what I would say of your reply is: I see, so you are saying we should spend ALL our time attacking people on our own side, not worry about trying to push any message, despise any attempt to create a voting block, accept the Old Media’s premise that conservatives are essentially wrong and extreme on everything, and ignore that the enemy is essentially united in its efforts. Is that what you are saying?

        • r.a.

          Ha. I like how I’m “demagoguing” and you’re the one who used the word “apostate” to describe a woman who had the gall to call out Limbaugh for saying stupid things. That’s funny.

          But no, of course you shouldn’t spend all you time attacking people on your own side. Don’t be ridiculous. You should call em as you see them, according to your values and principles. There you have it. Granted, the Dems don’t do that either so it’s basically a moot point.

          • warnertoddhuston

            Yes, you are demagoguing and so was Robertson. You are hung up on one word in a provocative headline. Does the ACTUAL piece call Cupp an apostate? It does not. Does the ACTUAL piece say that Rush should never be questioned? No it does not. Does the ACTUAL piece say that we should never criticize even when it is truly warranted? No it does not. Just like Robertson, you did not read a word of the piece. Or if you read it, you followed your preconceived notion and ignored every word you saw. Just like Robertson did.

          • r.a.

            “Yes, you are demagoguing and so was Robertson. You are hung up on one word in a provocative headline.”

            Haha. Riiiiiiight. You call a woman’s actions apostasy when she dares to call out Limbaugh, and somehow I am the one who’s “demagoguing”. Really funny. It was your word choice, not mine, and sorry but it puts a certain spin on what you wrote. You can’t put that in your title and then turn around and try to pretend that you wrote some cool, calm, collected, and rational piece.

            BTW, I read every word of your post, and trust me I get your argument. I just happen to think it’s a dead end. Especially the crux of your argument, which is that since “the other side” does this sort of thing, then your side should as well. You wrote:

            “The proper strategy can be seen in how the left reacts to these same situations.”

            Now, that may be politically expedient and all that, at least in the short term, but in the long run it’s a bad argument. And it’s pretty morally bankrupt. Just my take.

          • warnertoddhuston

            You definitely need to learn to read past a headline. Obviously it is out of your intellectual reach to understand that Cupp’s controversy was deemed an “apostasy” by many but that I did not continue that characterization. Context. Look it up. It’s a fun word.

          • r.a.

            Oh, I read past your headline, and I disagree with the main argument you put forth in your post. As I explained above, I think your position is a dead end, and bankrupt. Did you not read what I wrote?

            Also, nice attempt at backpeddling with the whole apostasy thing. You most certainly did continue that characterization when you put it in your title with no qualifiers. Your post clearly labels her actions an “unhelpful apostasy.” Those are your words. If you meant to call that term into question, or take things another direction, you failed. If that really was your goal, it might have been good to put the term “apostasy” in quotes (to call it into question) and then maybe insert a line or two in the body of your post explaining your point. But that’s not what you did.

          • warnertoddhuston

            See reply above. Clearly reasoning is not your “thing.”

          • r.a.

            Clearly reading is not your thing. What about this (from my last comment):

            “Oh, I read past your headline, and I disagree with the main argument you put forth in your post. As I explained above, I think your position is a dead end, and bankrupt.”

            …are you missing? Are you not wearing your contacts or something?

            I have told you more than once that I read your entire post, and that I get your point. I have also told you three times now that I disagree with your overall argument. Yet, you keep telling me that I cannot “read past the headline.” I don’t know how to help you.

            One last time: I get the point you are arguing about politics and politicking, not getting distracted and off message, and all that jazz. I just think your argument goes nowhere, especially since your basic rationale is “well, since the Dems are doing this we should too.” Sure, it’s a politically expedient position–but at what cost? I think Cupp makes a better case for her argument than you do for yours basically. JWH makes some good points here in the comment thread as well. Maybe worth considering.

            Good luck.

    • jim_m

      David Robertson has always played the role of the the turncoat conservative who was ever willing to sacrifice his principles for acceptance from the left. He would fit in perfectly on the Beltway.

  • Dr_Tesla

    S.E. Cupp basically said Rush Limbaugh needs to be shunned and drowned out but this guy says she doesn’t want to silence Rush.

    I’d love this strawman that conservatives and Republicans won’t criticize Rush. that happens all the time, including the FLuke thing that Cupp uses as her example.

  • r.a.

    Interesting post, David. Some stuff to think about.

    One point. You wrote:

    “Liberals in the USA have displayed such a herd mentality.”

    I’d argue there are two primary herds here in the US, and there’s a lot of echo-chambering going on within each of them. Maybe that’s just how things work in large political systems, maybe not. But it’s a pretty common trait among both of the major parties. Upset the narrative, or rock the boat, and people get upset.

    • http://opinion.ak4mc.us/ McGehee

      I’d argue there are two primary herds here in the US

      That’s what your herd tells you to argue.

      • r.a.

        Funny, I’d never herd that one before.

        • http://opinion.ak4mc.us/ McGehee

          Heh.

      • MartinLandauCalrissian

        Ah herd dat.