The echo chamber effect works in two ways. First, it’s when you only get exposed to media which reflect your ideology, never challenging your already cemented views. Second, it’s when an opinion is uttered, and repeated in the media you are exposed to so often that you start believing it’s fact. The echo chamber effect is particularly associated with conservative media. A liberal echo chamber also exists, but it is more associated with the first than the second characteristic of the echo chamber.
Politics works differently in Europe and the left/right divide is more complicated (because in Ireland, where I live, for instance, there are nine political parties in parliament right now, with more having representatives at local government level. Compare this to the USA where they’re one party away from being a one-party state, and may already be there – but more on that in another post). Nevertheless, it’s safe to say I’m on the liberal side. I am as susceptible to the echo chamber as anyone else, and mostly see the liberal framing of news. I have noticed a worrying echo chamber effect in my news feed.
Take, for example, the recent Bowling Green Massacre gaffe. Trump aide Kellyanne Conway cited a massacre that never happened to justify the recent Muslim ban. Conway was roundly mocked on social media for her mistake. My Twitter and Facebook feeds abounded with examples of witty responses which I admit I found very amusing. Yet something bothered me. The way this was all framed was that Conway was being schooled, roasted, owned, trolled. It was all framed as this triumph over her, that she was embarrassed. That those so cleverly mocking her achieved a victory over her, and over the Trump administration. So… what was Fox, bastion of right wing media, reporting?
That she misspoke, and corrected herself. Then the report goes into great detail of the story she was actually referring to, and this in itself serves a purpose: it achieves what she was trying to achieve with the interview in which she made the mistake.
See, here’s the problem: those opposing Trump are creating this fantasy world in which they’re winning. We paint a picture where our clever social media burns actually matter to these people. They don’t. The people who got them into power, and the people who got Britain out of the EU, and the people who are likely to put Marine le Pen into power: our clever social media burns never reach their eyes or ears. Their echo chamber doesn’t report on those. The people who achieve the trolling are not in their Twitter or Facebook feeds. They live in a fantasy world where all these developments are building their utopia, while we live in a fantasy world where our intellectual warfare is actually affecting the Trumps, the Conways, the Farages, the Le Pens.
And while we each create and live our fantasy where we are winning, the wealthy and powerful are sucking the world around us dry, amassing the riches that will see them through the catastrophe their rape of earth’s resources will bring about. It’s like they’re feeding us drugs to keep us high, to keep up our illusion, so we don’t notice ourselves starving to death.