Feature

The closing of the American mind

As an atheist who takes a dim view of the influence of religion, said author Susan Jacoby, I am greeted enthusiastically in nearly all of my public appearances. I

Susan JacobyLos Angeles Times

As an atheist who takes a dim view of the influence of religion, said author Susan Jacoby, I am greeted enthusiastically in nearly all of my public appearances. I’m not bragging. It’s just that everywhere I appear, “95 percent of the audience shares my political and cultural views—and serious conservatives report exactly the same experience.” Indeed, it’s getting harder to find anyone who’s willing “to give a fair shake—or any hearing at all”—to opposing viewpoints. “Whether watching television news, consulting political blogs, or (more rarely) reading books, Americans today have become a people in search of validation for opinions that they already hold.” So when Gen. David Petraeus testifies before Congress, liberals tune to radio or TV shows that mock him and insist that Iraq is lost; conservatives, meanwhile, comfort themselves with echo-chamber pundits who proclaim that victory is at hand. Such close-minded stubbornness is not only lazy; it makes you very vulnerable to being duped and misled. “As long as we continue to avoid the hard work of scrutinizing public affairs without the filter of polemical shouting heads,” we have no one to blame for our growing national ignorance “but ourselves.” 

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