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The Revolution Will Be Kuhnian.

Asymmetric Parties: Information Cocoon Edition

Fascinating interview of Robert Costa, National Review's fantastically sourced reporter on Congress, by Ezra Klein, WaPo blogger wonderkind and future face of MSNBC.

But the premise of one of Ezra's questions is flatly false. It comes as he's trying to get Costa's explanation for why the GOP seems to be so nuts, not as a matter of substance, but as a matter of political strategy:

EK: Why does that happen, though? It would absolutely be possible for liberal members to cocoon themselves in a network of liberal Web sites and liberal cable news shows and liberals activists. But in the end, liberal members of Congress end up agreeing to broadly conventional definitions of what is and isn't politically realistic. So how do House Republicans end up convincing themselves of unrealistic plans, particularly when they've seen them fail before, and when respected voices in the Republican and even conservative establishment are warning against them?
Click the link to find out Costa's answer.

A methodical approach to Klein's question would list every conceivable difference between the parties and then test for causal connections between the items on the list and the behavior in question (eg, bizarre unrealistic plans). Such a method would quickly identify a very suspicious difference between the parties: the existence of an information cocoon on the right that does not exist on the left.

So how does Klein treat this difference, a difference that represents one possible answer to the question he is asking? He dismisses it outright with a classic bit of High Broderism: "It would absolutely be possible for liberal members to cocoon themselves in a network of liberal Web sites and liberal cable news shows and liberals activists."

In Klein's defense

Maybe Klein knows that the conservative information cocoon is part of the answer, but wants to look for additional factors. His question might contain the info cocoon false equivalence bullshit in order to prevent Costa from using it in his answer. Costa's response is quite interesting and does focus on factors totally unrelated to the conservative information cocoon.

But The Point Still Stands: There Is A Conservative Information Cocoon; There Is No Liberal Equivalent

The truism that the Internet allows partisans on both sides to cocoon themselves off from opposing views is false. This may happen to conservatives, but liberals are constitutionally incapable of walling themselves off from all opposing views. Examples come up daily. Here's one from yesterday:

Liberals love Obamacare, right? So they are going to buy Obama's spin about the glitches in rolling out the online exchanges, right? Wrong! Here's liberal and well known Obamacare lover Matt Yglesias:

But liberals shouldn't fool themselves. This was an embarassing failure. What's more, it's genuinely true that projects of this nature and scope are hard to pull off. That means errors are forgiveable but also that errors are potentially hard to fix. People who believe in the underlying goal here should be a bit nervous.
Ok. So liberals sometimes criticize the President in a what the Fox never criticized George W. Bush. But the idea that the glitches in the online exchanges might be serious, that idea get's repeated back and forth in the liberal echo chamber, right? Wrong. Kevin Drum, who spent part of his early career at a software company, brings the common sense backed by experience:
So....I dunno. I've seen this movie too many times before. Traffic on the Obamacare sites will settle down pretty quickly, and that will take care of most of the overloading problems. The remaining load problems will be solved with software fixes or by allocating more servers. Bugs will be reported and categorized. Software teams will take on the most serious ones first and fix most of them in short order. Before long, the sites will all be working pretty well, with only the usual background rumble of small problems. By this time next month, no one will even remember that the first week was kind of rocky or that anyone was initially panicked.
So a smart kid from Harvard shoots his mouth off and is wrong. Then another liberal, who knows what he's talking about from real life experience, points the discussion in the opposite direction. End of story? No. Drum later adds an update from one of his readers:
The "bugs" will be in the Java and SQL code, and they'll be easy to fix. Everything else is just web-scale infrastructure, memcached and database tuning, load balancing, edge routing, nuts & bolts stuff. I've never been worried about it at all, because it's just plain been done so many times before. Not exactly uncharted technological waters.
Information? Yes. Cocoon? No.

In the liberal blogosphere liberals say all kinds of things. Then other liberals explain that they are wrong. Finally, bloggers give way to real experts, who put the finishing touches on the discussion. The result: truth. On the other side? Not so much.

Update: Kevin Drum on why outrage media is so popular with one side but not the other. Conservatives' Biggest Fear: Being Called Racist.

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