KingMidget's Ramblings

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Echo Chambers


In which I may just piss off all of my readers … but why have a blog if I can’t say what I think.

According to Wikipedia, the modern day equivalent of Encyclopedia Brittanica, an echo chamber is “a metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission and repetition inside an ‘enclosed’ system, where different or competing views are censored, disallowed, or otherwise underrepresented.”

I always wonder if I might be guilty of romanticizing the past when I think about today, but it seems to me that years ago, there was a generally accepted and common narrative that people around which people formed their opinions and political views.  While cities had competing newspapers which may have been written from the “right” and the “left,” the reality is that people still had somewhat of a common set of “facts” and information upon which they relied.  Similarly, with the nightly news there was generally a common narrative.

While there were occasional breaks from that common narrative — Father Coughlin, for instance — the commonality generally dominated how information and news was presented to the masses.  I think the reason is that the old ways of communicating things were difficult to maintain, difficult to reach large masses of people regularly and consistently.  And because the of the time involved in communicating information, people were patient in their opinions.

I don’t want to make this sound like the olden days (don’t you just love that phrase) were something akin to paradise.  People like Father Coughlin were occasionally able to break through the common narrative.  The Red Scare and McCarthyism.  There were times when the common narrative broke down and forces of intolerance and ignorance threatened order and stability.  And most importantly, the constitutional principles this country was founded on.

The internet of all things has changed the dynamic.  We now live in a world where there isn’t a common narrative.  Instead, we have become a world, a nation, of echo chambers.  The internet, which could have been such a powerful force for education and advancement, has instead become a tool for the propagandists among us.  On both sides.  The political discussion has become a dueling battle from silos walled off from each other.

The only variable in that definition of echo chamber that doesn’t exist on the internet is “enclosed.”  Nothing on the internet is enclosed.  It is a free for all.  And everybody has a voice.

The problem is that everybody is gravitating towards the echo chamber that fits what they already think they think.  The right has theirs — National Review, PowerLine, RedState.com, Weekly Standard, Newsmaxx, Fox, and many others.  The left has theirs — Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, Mother Jones, and many others.  The right would suggest that CNN and the rest of the “mainstream media” are a part of the echo chamber on the left.  I’ll leave that particular issue for others to decide.

If you read these websites, in particular the comments, you will see that there is no common narrative.  Instead, there are two different narratives, two different sets of facts that are driving people’s perspectives these days.  And what bothers me about the dynamic is that neither side is willing to give the other any credit, any consideration, any opening to begin a dialogue that can bridge the vast chasm that exists between the echo chambers.  Neither side has any willingness to consider the validity of the other side.  Neither side.

Which brings us to this year’s Presidential election, now just ten days away.  I’m in a somewhat unusual situation.  A lifelong Democrat.  I won’t be voting for my party’s nominee.  I did this once before in 2000.  I couldn’t stand Al Gore.  During the primary he engaged in what I thought was nasty campaigning against Bill Bradley, a man who seemed to be a rare breed — a good and honorable politician.  I’ll never forgive Gore for his actions during that primary season.  I didn’t vote for him.  I didn’t vote for anybody that year.

Once George W. Bush was elected and he did what he did, I swore I would never make that mistake again.  And here I am.  I will not be voting for Donald Trump and I will not be voting for Hillary Clinton.

Here’s what I would like to say to both sides of this discussion.  On the right, I see that you simply cannot understand how anybody could vote for Hillary Clinton.  I get it.  You think she and her husband are part of a criminal syndicate designed to do nothing other than fill their bank accounts.  I get that you think she has late stage Parkinson’s (although you apparently have never bothered to explore the symptoms of late stage Parkinson’s).  I get that you believe Bill is a serial rapist/misogynist, and that Hillary has not only turned a blind eye to that aspect of her husband’s character but also may have helped damage some of his victims.  I get that you believe that the Clintons represent the truest form of political corruption in this country.

To my friends on the left, I hear you.  Donald Trump is the most unqualified candidate in the history of this country.  He assaults women.  He denigrates pretty much everybody.  His business successes are far from it.  He is a charlatan.  A fascist.  A no-nothing blowhard.  Electing Trump would be a catastrophe of epic proportions.  I am right there with you.

But here’s the deal.

The people who occupy the right-wing echo chamber have some valid points.  Not that Trump is the better candidate, and not that Hillary and her husband are the root of all that is evil in the world.  I don’t buy into most of the allegations made about the Clintons over the years, but there is some truth to the overall sense that they are trying to have their cake and eat it too.  No matter the quality of Hillary’s resume, there are other things that matter when electing a President.  Honesty, integrity, character.  I’ve never been convinced since Bill left office that Hillary passes those tests.  The $150 million they personally made giving speeches to special interest, along with the interplay between their Foundation and foreign countries and others that wanted their influence … well, it just stinks, as far as I’m concerned.

My point is this … the idea that Hillary Clinton should not be elected President, just as you believe Trump should not be elected, is actually a real and valid concern.  The complete disregard for the right-wing perspective … is … essentially comparable to their complete disregard for your views on Trump and his unelectability.  Where does this all end?  In complete division and a never-ending cycle of crap thrown by each side at the other.

Get out of your damn echo chamber and listen to the other side.  Consider that the other side may have some valid points.  Find a way to get back to a common narrative, a common set of facts.  Hillary doesn’t have late stage Parkinson’s.  Donald Trump is not the devil incarnate.

 

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21 responses to “Echo Chambers

  1. pinklightsabre October 29, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    Ah, screw it.

  2. turnipsforbreakfast October 29, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    It’s a bit hard when you have a choice of two shitty candidates (though from my perspective one is a lot worse than the other). It’s not really ‘choice’ is it! And yet, here, we have to vote anyway, which I kinda think is a good thing. But we need more choice!

    • kingmidget October 30, 2016 at 8:13 am

      It is the worst Presidential election in my 30+ years of being a voter. By far. My problem is seeing how the dueling sides of the debate completely reject the other side. There is no listening anymore. No consideration given to opposing views. It’s just shoot from the lip and try to destroy the other side.

  3. Kevin Brennan October 30, 2016 at 7:38 am

    I hate to have to tell you you’re falling into the trap of false equivalence, my friend. It’s a fallacy that’s easy to commit in the name of fairness, but sometimes the two sides of a conflict are not equal.

    I’m a lefty. I admit it. Proudly. And here’s what I perceive that the right stands for (correct me if I’m wrong on any of these):

    ・The right does not accept the scientifically proven concept of climate change.
    ・The right does not accept the scientifically proven concept of evolution.
    ・The right is against abortion even when the life of the mother is at stake.
    ・The right advocates for students to carry guns on college campuses.
    ・The right is for voter ID laws and other methods of voter suppression.
    [Stop me when I say something that’s untrue …]
    ・The right wants prayer in public schools.
    ・The right is against stem cell research.
    ・The right is for military intervention (boots on the ground) in Syria and elsewhere.
    ・The right wants to dismantle decades worth of regulations that ensure clean air, clean water, safe food and drugs, and that protect the environment.
    ・The right wants to cut taxes even though the rich effectively pay no income tax (see the Panama Papers).

    I can “listen” to their rhetoric and policies, but what they believe is anathema to me. What kind of compromise is even imaginable? (Plus, they don’t seem to do compromise.)

    The bottom line is that either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is going to be the president. We may find ourselves with an unpleasant choice, but this is one of those times when people need to take sides.

    • kingmidget October 30, 2016 at 8:27 am

      The echo chambers of the right and the left have been around longer than this election. The problem is that having two such unworthy candidates has aggravated the problem.

      Regarding your list of what “the right” believes in or wants to accomplish. The list suggests a monolithic “right” that believes all of those things, but I don’t think that’s the case. I have a friend who loves guns, has a concealed carry permit, and appears to be voting for Trump. He does not support students carrying guns on campus.

      There are many on the right who would not support boots on the ground in Syria — meanwhile Hillary apparently did several years ago.

      And to the extent there is a monolithic right that believes all of those things, it is a product of the echo chamber. Any dissenting view is drowned out, eliminated, discarded. And the same thing is happening on the left. That’s my point. Both sides have their echo chambers.

      • Kevin Brennan October 30, 2016 at 10:48 am

        What seems to be the case, though, is that where Republicans control an entire state government, the monolithic slate is put into place. Missouri’s a great example now. Kansas. Texas.

        I still can’t wrap my mind around what you’re advocating. “Can’t we all just get along?” In this climate, how does that even get off the ground?

        Organized centrism has been a big flop, and third-party independents appear to be so niche-based they never take off.

        Is another post with a manifesto on the horizon? 😉

      • kingmidget October 30, 2016 at 3:33 pm

        I’m not advocating that we all have to get along. I’m not arguing that we all have to have the same position on the issues of the day. How boring would that be. Agreement doesn’t drive us forward. Debate and discussion and compromise drive us forward. The problem is that there is none of that going on anymore. No debate. No discussion. No compromise. The two sides are nestled comfortably in their echo chambers. In a world where there is no common narrative anymore and where the internet has created the largest, loudest echo chambers in the history of mankind, we just get further and further apart.

        I don’t have a solution except that I’m tired of seeing right-wingers claim to have all of the facts behind them while those pesky liberals are corrupt and criminal and stupid and then see the left-wingers claim they have all of the facts behind them while those pesky conservatives are stupid and uneducated and lacking in empathy.

        My point was that both sides live in their own echo chambers and neither are willing to recognize it and acknowledge it.

        A manifesto? We all need to hug each other, hold hands, and sing Kumbaya followed by We Shall Overcome.

  4. Trent Lewin October 30, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Yes, very difficult, should listen to both sides of course. I just don’t understand the balance of the argument (I’m obviously not involved in the election). Outside looking in. So the Clinton’s make money off speeches – seems perfectly legal to me. Good for them, no? Clinton Foundation, something I’ve worked within the past, appears to me to be one of the most efficient, transparent charity organizations there is. What’s the problem there exactly? And Bill Clinton? I didn’t think he was running again. Don’t think fair to besmirch her with his actions. Yes I’ve heard that Hilary was hard on the mistresses. Oh well. She’s human too, right?

    But on the other side, I dunno. What am I listening to in this echo chamber? Climate change is nonsense and let’s do nothing about it? Let’s get more coal into the system, perhaps. Forget science. Forget our kids or future generations. If for no other reason than this one, scrap these guys. We have a shared world, let’s try to do some good with it, please. Otherwise we will be looked upon in the future as a bunch of dingy fools who prized our own sense of importance over what we can do and should do. But other reasons about, I guess (outside looking in). I’m afraid the Republican candidate is a complete joke. What is there to listen to in this man? His rhetoric, his insults, his vileness? I don’t think he’s evil, for sure. Just a living, walking talking joke. And disassociated from his own Party, so why give credence or credibility to a badly broken party that needs to fix itself?

    Outside looking in. Affiliated with neither party because hey I’m Canadian. But I don’t see the balance. I fear that Clinton takes it on the chin for being just another politician (and maybe for being a woman?). But on balance I think she’s far better for the world. Independents? Who are they again? What do they stand for? Who cares. Won’t win, and maybe diverting support from Clinton gives you Trump in the White House, and from where I’m standing that is a terrible terrible possibility. Don’t let it happen, please, we would appreciate it.

    • Kevin Brennan October 30, 2016 at 10:54 am

      I’m with you, Trent! Canadian wisdom.

    • kingmidget October 30, 2016 at 3:36 pm

      95% of the things thrown at Hillary Clinton are nothing more than what all politicians and elected officials do in this country.

      Trump as President would be a catastrophe, but my post wasn’t really about which candidate is better or worse. It’s about the fact that far too many people on both of the left and right have given up on the idea of talking to each other. Rather than the discomfort of challenging their own perspectives, they have slunk back to their corners surrounded by like-minded people. I’m just getting tired of seeing so many people waste so much time and energy at the invective rather than trying to find common ground. And it grows worse.

      • Trent Lewin October 30, 2016 at 6:54 pm

        Yeah but is it really necessary to listen to a nut bar? Must we give credence to charlatans? Sometimes, isn’t the answer obvious and shouldn’t we fight against madness? Else don’t we end up getting what we deserve?

      • kingmidget October 30, 2016 at 7:30 pm

        It’s not a question of whether we have to listen to Donald Trump … or whether those on the right have to listen to Hillary Clinton. It’s a question of how we, the masses that are divided into these two camps, respond to each other. Right now, both sides are sticking their heads in the sand and refusing to acknowledge the other side. That’s a dangerous game.

      • Trent Lewin October 30, 2016 at 7:56 pm

        My impression, wrong as it may be, is that one candidate in particular has worked hard to sponsor division, recalcitrance, and fear. He appears not interested in listening to anyone, so why would his supporters? They are entrenched because that is where he very purposefully wants them to be. Dialogue of constructive nature in that environment seems difficult. I agree that it would be important but suspect that Mr. Trump and his supporters are not interested in any dialogue. One-sided conversations are quite, well, one-sided. Forgive Canadian ignorance, simply what I have perceived.

      • kingmidget October 30, 2016 at 8:21 pm

        Trent … nothing you say is ignorant, but is pretty much spot on. What I am bemoaning is that we have come to this place in our country’s politics. Where one side is so factually deficient and the other side has simply written them off.

      • Trent Lewin October 31, 2016 at 3:52 am

        Well put. Well my man, it is a pickle you folks are in. I imagine we will one day be in similar situation, polarization abounds these days. It appears to be a convenient tool for those who wish to attain power.

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