Commentary Magazine


Topic: Karen Finney

The Left’s Ongoing Epistemological Closure

I recommend you listen to this relatively short but highly illuminating interview (courtesy of Mediaite) between radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt and his guest, MSNBC’s Karen Finney.

Mr. Hewitt opened the segment by playing a clip of Ms. Finney comparing Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s rhetoric to the “paranoia” and “fear-stoking” of Joseph McCarthy. 

This is a lazy and stupid charge, one that is a frequent rhetorical tic on the left. But where Hewitt was so skillful was to bore in on Finney’s knowledge of history. He first asked her a general question, which is whether any Communists actually did infiltrate the American government. And then he pressed her on whether Alger Hiss was a Communist.

That’s when things get amusing. It’s not clear whether Ms. Finney is just ignorant or rigidly ideological, or both. In any event, she bobs and weaves and ducks the question. Hewitt, in a civil but persistent way, won’t let her off the hook. She says she won’t “go down a rabbit hole” with him and insists, “Hugh, I’m not doing this game with you!” Meanwhile Hewitt just keeps asking her to answer the question so they can go on.

Eventually Ms. Finney hangs up on him.

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I recommend you listen to this relatively short but highly illuminating interview (courtesy of Mediaite) between radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt and his guest, MSNBC’s Karen Finney.

Mr. Hewitt opened the segment by playing a clip of Ms. Finney comparing Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s rhetoric to the “paranoia” and “fear-stoking” of Joseph McCarthy. 

This is a lazy and stupid charge, one that is a frequent rhetorical tic on the left. But where Hewitt was so skillful was to bore in on Finney’s knowledge of history. He first asked her a general question, which is whether any Communists actually did infiltrate the American government. And then he pressed her on whether Alger Hiss was a Communist.

That’s when things get amusing. It’s not clear whether Ms. Finney is just ignorant or rigidly ideological, or both. In any event, she bobs and weaves and ducks the question. Hewitt, in a civil but persistent way, won’t let her off the hook. She says she won’t “go down a rabbit hole” with him and insists, “Hugh, I’m not doing this game with you!” Meanwhile Hewitt just keeps asking her to answer the question so they can go on.

Eventually Ms. Finney hangs up on him.

So why call attention to this exchange? In part because it’s another chance to expose the political demonization that is so common among the left. Liberals don’t like Ted Cruz and so they turn him into a modern-day Joe McCarthy. Can references to Hitler be far behind? 

But more fundamentally, Ms. Finney embodies the epistemological closure that afflicts many liberals (though it needs to be said that it is not confined simply to liberals). The Hewitt-Finney exchange is a fantastic example of a person (Finney) who inhabits a mental world in which facts that are contrary to her philosophy are not only dismissed; they are not even entertained. They are not allowed to penetrate the ideological force field that she has been put in place.

Partisans like Finney are so afraid of a genuine engagement with different ideas that they grow angry–and eventually may even hang up–when calm reason and history are employed against them. And on those rare occasions when some on the left venture outside of their hermetically sealed world and engage an intelligent conservative, we see not just how closed-minded they have become but how ridiculous they appear.

 For more, listen to Hewitt v. Finney.

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