Political Echo Chambers for Dummies

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Political Echo chambers are collections of ideas that are interconnected and do not allow opposing ideas to enter. They are bubbles that allow an individual to have illogical or irrational beliefs because they are surrounded by other individuals who subscribe to the same material.

Why does a college kid at UTK care about political echo chambers?

Everyone is affected by political echo chambers. The political process has been taken by the extremists of both parties. Social justice warriors who want to save the world by choking it and the alt right who have ideals that we knew were wrong since the 1800s. If anyone from UTK wants to change the world in any way, then first they must understand the world around them. With the internet, everyone who agrees on an ideal can virtually meet up and discuss it amongst themselves. Ideals that were a minority in their physical environment can now be a majority when they attack or post propaganda in their new virtual environment. This is an example of culturally terraforming society by forcing people to become more radical in their political views (PewResearchCenter).

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I was introduced to the idea of culturally terraforming by Byran Stascavage. This is an idea that people will take their echo chambers and force it onto people around them, whether it be virtual or physical. Small activist groups can easily force the majority to adopt their beliefs because of social punishments and being seen as unintelligent if you do not conform. According to the PewResearchCenter, animosity between republicans and democrats has almost doubled since 1994. Both sides carry an agenda under the preconception that if the other side wins then America will crumble. This is fueled by passion of politics. The radical ideologists are going to be the ones who are most active in all of the political steps. This misrepresents what the majority actually believe (PewResearchCenter).

If both parties view the other as incompetent, healthy debate is impossible. In 1994 a majority of republicans and democrats found the other party unfavorable. Only 17% had very unfavorable opinions of democrats and only 16% of democrats had very unfavorable views of republicans. Since then 43% of republicans and 38% of democrats now view the opposite party in strongly negative terms (PewResearchCenter). The research center shows that polarization has taken place in democrats and republicans by forming radical cookie cutter belief systems through media.

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Homophily is the term of the tendency to subscribe to a certain political echo chamber (Willer). It is common sense that people want to associate with ideas or people that are similar to them (McPherson). According to the journal of the medical library association people have always been actively searching for information based on what they know but there also people who actively avoid information that opposes what they believe. The journal states that avoidance of knowledge can be dangerous when dealing with a disease which means that if someone avoids information because it is opposite to their views then it could cause them to be misinformed.

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The phenomena that is Donald Trump was elected because people got tired of political echo chambers of the far left and social justice warriors. Many people believe that the politically correct movement caused people to choose someone who would shake things up rather have another 4 years of the same boring agenda. I personally believe that Trump won because of the disenfranchised group of white people who felt like they were being attacked because of class guilt. When everyone around you says that every minority group’s problems stem from white people, which may be true, but does not mean that John sitting in homeroom had anything to do with the genocide of Native Americans.

There are people who believe that the end of the world is coming because of this election. This is a clear indication of someone being subject to an echo chamber. Everyone has faults and their own way of getting things done. What happened is that a group of people realized that if I tell someone they are morally or socially in the wrong then I gain social capital. People see this and realize they are “white knights” and protecting the marginalized while maintaining the social image that they are these Jesus-like people. Since this is a group, it reinforces the “like us” attitude and creates an us versus them mentality. This idea has turned aggressive and began “purifying” their environment.

So why should you care…?

Protests happen right here on campus and many people do not understand what all the fuss is about. To begin to understand why so many people are crying and falling down because of Trump being elected, one would have to understand the information they have in their head. Humans make the best decision based on all of the information they have. If someone does not have all of the information or is filled with false information they cannot make the best decision. If someone told you everyday a new reason why Kobe Bryant was better than Michael Jordan, after a certain amount of time you may start to believe that Kobe was actually better. Confirmation bias is deadly because once you have an idea and begin researching the topic, how someone words the question in the search engine could yield different results. This creates differences in peoples paradigms.

Political echo chambers are a result of people seeking information in these bubbles that they have created unknowingly. If someone identifies as a republican, they watch FOX news, however those who identify as liberal watch CNN and NBC. These just some examples of two different realities. Someone who subscribes to FOX news does not have the same problems or issues in America as someone who watches CNN or NBC. This means we have to include everyone into our bubbles and to allow speech to truly be free. If we start asking for an entity to lock people in cages because they do not use the correct gender pronoun like in Toronto and soon New York; we will lose what the founding fathers envisioned for America.

 

 

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