Echo Chambers

 

“An environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own so that their existing views are reinforced, and alternative ideas are not considered.”

After three rousing interactions on my Facebook page, more than one person questioned, “Why do you allow this person on your Facebook page?  Block them!  Unfriend them!”  In defense of my rightwing friends, it was not the same person on all interactions and I have a very right-leaning friend’s list.

The three though, had a very clear message, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up.”  Granted, they were arguing with someone whose mind was also made up and sometimes stumbles over “the facts”.

One of the many voices in my head points out, “That doesn’t answer the question. Why is this person on your wall?”  The voice is shrill and edgy…fingernails on a chalkboard ear-piercing.

It is painful to deal with derision, contempt, and  humans with “a cranium harder than a brick, one he or she has managed to stick up their ass.”  Somehow they were able to fit their square peg of a brickbat head into their round hole.  I guess my head is hard and square too.

Such encounters are painful.  I feel I am attempting to referee a game I do not understand.  “The rules, the rules…are what?” shouts my real head voice.  A game between large monsters with sharp teeth and claws.  It is impossible to argue or officiate without suffering wounds.

One more time, a different voice commands, “Answer the fracking question.  Why?”  He sounds like my highschool football coach who would never have used fracking.

Again the real voice in my head answeres, “I don’t know.  I am trying to write my way into understanding.”  Let’s try this.

I do not think it serves me well to only communicate with people who think like me.  As much as Dennis Praeger, Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson, and now, conservative darling Candice Owens, turn my stomach at times, I force myself to listen to them.  There are others, some local, and I spend a great deal of time shaking my head in disbelief…but I listen or read, and I attempt to understand.  Hopefully, those who don’t normally watch CNN are doing the same.

I cannot listen to them for an extended time, but I like to know what “friends” who identify with the far-right, I hope far-right, are thinking and why.  As much as I disagree with their closed and reactionary minds, sometimes they stumble over an acorn of truth, no matter how far they twist it to fit their message.

You can be against abortion and still vote Democrat, or be for stricter gun control and vote Republican.  Can’t you?  The echo chambers would tell you no.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”  Sun Tzu.

The Gandhi voice in my head asks, “Do you really look at the other side as enemies?”

My real head voice stomps its foot like an elementary school girl, “Why do you keep asking me more questions? I haven’t answered the first one yet.”

The far-right and far-left…they are enemies of us all…enemies of “truth, justice, and the American way” to quote Bill Kennedy, the narrator on the old Superman TV show, the one with George Reeves as Superman.    See that is a lie. It was coined on the original radio show, “The Adventures of Superman”.  Now all of the voices in my head sound like Kennedy.

I digress.

The far-right and far-left are enemies of fair and truthful American political discourse.  They are enemies of all I hold dear; truth, justice, and what I thought was the American way.  The radical left and reactionary right seem to be the only ones talking…screaming.  They provide us with worse case scenarios or outright conspiracy theories.  Truth and justice mean nothing.  Their American Way is not mine.

I feel alone in my little spot, slightly left of center.  I am sure there are people who feel the same way who are slightly right of center.  For some reason, I not hearing from either group.

I fear our political bell curve more resembles a Bactrian camel than a dromedary and the two humps are being pulled farther and farther apart depending upon which conspiracy is being presented.  Like a slow moving glacier, I feel both sides drifting farther and farther apart and the ice under my feet becoming thinner and thinner.

“That is just not true,” says a voice who sounds like the Daily Planet‘s Perry White.  His might be the voice of logic, “The middle is not thin, just quiet. “

From what I have read there are about forty percent of us feeling we are standing on thin ice.  Forty percent of us who are political party orphans.  Forty percent who have not been helped that the Republicans have shed their liberal wing and the Democrats have shed their conservative wing.  Choices should be blurred not stark.

To the original question, Clark Kent queries,“Why do you allow them to ramble on and on?  Why do you engage with a symbolic broad sword and chain mail?” 

Shaking my head, “I fear locking myself into an echo chamber and why don’t you find a telephone booth and help me.”

Clark hangs his head, “There are no telephone booths anymore, only echo chambers.”

Echo chambers present us with either perfect reverberations of our own cognitive dissonance or creates noise distorting or covering up the message we are attempting to hear.  It depends upon which surfaces the sound bounces off of.

Neither is productive. One provides undeserved comfort and a feeling of righteousness, the other, manipulate the message because we can’t hear it for the noise.

So…that is why I don’t block people unless they are threatening.  That is why I allow locomotives to run out of control until they derail.  Maybe Superman will come along to save the day.

Stepping out of the echo chamber is at best as uncomfortable as jockey itch or at worst, as painful as an unnumbed root canal.  Seeking truth can be painful that way.  Echo chambers twist the truth.

Stepping out of the echo chamber and listening intently will help you determine if your agenda is “built upon shifting sands.”  Open the door of the echo chamber and step out.

“Everyone who hears these words of mine (Jesus), and doesn’t do them will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house, and it fell—and great was its fall.”

***

Just for the heck of it, the 1951 opening sequence from Superman.  Thank you YouTube.

The Featured Image used is from https://countercurrents.org/2020/06/echo-chambers-post-truth-era-and-the-fear-of-missing-out-a-millennials-tale/

Quote by Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Biblical quote  Matthew 7:24–27, World English Bible

Don Miller’s author’s page my be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR153Ecvm-S8rh39n1zuxHHUQPrep-MkKu21vMvRFIGr84Zg2lrqopw4ICQ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why?

If I go missing interrogate the squirrels, they are the ones gathering nuts.

Allow me the illusion I am not crazy…rephrase…allow me the illusion I am not insane.  I am crazy but not to the point of tearing wings off flies, wearing tin foil hats or using those last words so familiar to country boys like me, “Hey Y’all watch this.”

I’m more like Jimmy Buffett’s “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, if we weren’t all crazy we’d all go insane” crazy.  However, I do hear voices and am crazy enough to believe they are attempting to tell me something…possibly something important.  It has grown quite crowded in my head as a chorus of voices attempts to lead me down a path that is curvy and twisted as a mountain road.  Those twist backs are murder.

The voices I hear are usually having some type of debate…or an argument may be a better description.  I am reminded of the angel and devil from Animal House or maybe the food fight from the same movie.  Yes, more like dozens of angels and devils throwing food at each other while they debate the eternal damnation of my very soul.

A chorus of former acquaintances metaphorically yelling “F@#$ her, F@#$ her brains out,” followed by the chorus of former dead church members, led by the angelic voice of my mother, countering with “For shame Donald, I am surprised at you!”  All the while, creamed potatoes are flying.  Maybe I should rethink my declaration of sanity.

For the last few days, my voices have sounded like shrill blue jays having such a particularly raucous squabble, my earbuds and running can’t seem to drown them out.  Usually running will drown out everything except the pain of my running.

These are depressing voices…trying to pull me down by taking advantage of my predisposition toward depression.  Voices heralding the end of the world, protest, death… disrespect.  For some reason, Stephen Stills voice reverberates with the words from “For What It’s Worth,” …” Paranoia strikes deep, into your life it will creep, it starts when you’re always afraid, you step out of line, the man comes and take you away.”

Unfortunately, the song disintegrates into “They’re coming to take me away…to the funny farm where life is beautiful all the time, and I’ll be happy to see those nice young men, in their clean white coats, they’re coming to take me away”

A voice with a professorial lilt I can’t recognize points out, “Maybe the world hasn’t changed much, maybe we are still protesting the same things.  Maybe this is a never-ending film loop.  Maybe….”

I wonder about the order of issues bellowed out by my voices; end of the world in nuclear fire, protest, death by gunfire or abortion…disrespect….  Another voice is now asking if a lack of respect for ourselves is the underlying culprit.  Yet another is shouting “No it is the devaluation of life…if there is a lack of respect it is for the sanctity of life…my life and the lives of those I love.”  A fourth is screeching, “Bullying, bullying, bullying.”  A fifth, sounding like Billy Graham, softly states, “You’ve turned your back on God!”

More cacophony of dissonance…or is it?  My angel and devil have now become a mob and taken on the persona of our politicians except I don’t know which might be which, angels or devils.

It is a beautiful Sunday morning for a walk and run before church, but I worry my voices will ruin it for me.  Despite my trepidation, I push on.  My exertions seem to have quieted the voices.  They became quieter and quieter as I run along.  While not in unison, as they quiet themselves, the voices began to ask the same question, a simple one-word question…” Why?”  Their silence now worries me more than their question.  Could it be their silence is an admission there is no answer to the question?

The Why? meme is by Sami from the Meme Center at https://www.memecenter.com/fun/293612/why-meme

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