This whole epistemic closure debate-- and I don't have to provide all the links, I think, as anyone interested is well aware of all of this-- the whole debate has grown pretty tiresome to me, and I imagine that I am not alone. Additionally, I am a total outsider to this debate. I am no kind of conservative. Though I am concerned with conservatism, as I am concerned with the direction of my country, I have very little right to take part in an inter-conservative argument.
However, I just want to respond to this post by Ross Douthat by echoing a point I made in the comments at the American Scene: first, how am I to know that Mark Levin's book is entertainment, if it isn't explicitly such? I have my doubts about whether Levin thinks Levin's book is entertainment. I understand that, to a degree, Douthat is arguing that Levin's attitude should be irrelevant to whether his book is taken seriously. But take my outsider's position for a second: as a leftist academic, if someone cited Levin's book, and I said, "Oh, that's only entertainment, it's not to be taken seriously"... wouldn't that be exactly the elitist, condescending attitude that creates such angina on the right? Wouldn't I be confirming the idea that people on the left are unfairly dismissive of conservative argument? One might say that it's only a sin to dismiss a book if it isn't worthy of dismissal, but come on-- in the actual political conversation we have, that sort of thing wouldn't go over no matter what conservative book I was talking about. And I'm not sure that's not the way it should be.
Of course, you could say that how this affects how people on the left talk isn't really Ross Douthat's concern. I'm just not sure you can fix a movement's internal conversation by having separate rules for internal and external criticism. To be sure, there are conservative books that I do dismiss, but I have to dismiss them with recourse to argument. (Short version regarding that particular book: I've actually read Giovanni Gentile and Benito Mussolini, thanks.) Saying "that's entertainment" is an easy way for me to confirm all of the worst stereotypes of leftist argument.
All of this, by the way, the whole thing-- I think it is a part of a central dynamic of our political discussion: the existence of an unspoken but rigorously enforced two tiered system of political argument, a kind of political affirmative action that reduces the expectations on conservative argument, a soft bigotry of low expectations that creates the conditions where a Mark Levin is discussed with equal seriousness as a Jim Manzi, a situation that could not possibly be less conducive to intellectual and philosophical renewal....