How to Recognize the Echo Chamber and Revive Civil Public Discourse
By The Daily Bell Staff - January 07, 2018

Looking back over 2017, it’s hard not to see a year dominated by divisive opinions, downright insults, and the media echo chamber.

And while divisiveness, party loyalty, and a fair amount of insults are nothing new, that echo chamber deserves some scrutiny.

Otherwise, we are doomed to carry the mistakes of 2017 with us into 2018 without taking any of its lessons along for the trip.

Media consumption in a bubble and anger on demand…

Whether we like it or not, people consume more media than ever before. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The real trouble begins with the ways in which people now consume media. This is where 2017 starts to really set itself apart from years past.

Individuals are shutting out information they don’t agree with at an alarming rate. This trend was first noticed in the early months of 2017 and began with social media. People had inadvertently cordoned themselves off and segregated their social media feeds into two distinct categories. Those that disagreed with their worldviews and those that reinforced what they believed.

Individuals preferred the latter and began to curate their feeds in a way that reinforced their preconceived notions.

Most people did this unconsciously.

Social media is often used as an escape tool. As the world around people filled with information that contradicted their beliefs, their social media feeds became a place to escape that contradictory information.

They started to consume social media in a self-imposed bubble.

Then this spread beyond just social media platforms.

Soon individuals only began listening to specific news networks in a way that mirrored their social media consumption.

What started as confirmation bias on social media grew into exclusively consuming media in a bubble.

Capitalizing on this, media outlets fed into that bubble by producing stories that easily fit into a particular and agreeable narrative.

And when stories don’t fit into that mold, they go mostly unreported.

For evidence of this, we need to look no further than Fox News’ coverage, or lack thereof,  for the indictment of Michael Flynn Sr. Though it is worth noting that this very coverage also fits into the echo-paradigm. Think Progress reinforces the bias of their own readers against Fox News.

This isn’t something only one news agency or one “side” of the political spectrum does. In fact, the problem exists because people are grouped under broad political labels that serve a “package” of beliefs.

And the media as a whole is guilty of reporting through a lens.

Media outlets that report the news in a fair and unbiased manner are becoming less common with each day.

And as media outlets push stories through with an obvious slant they isolate individuals more and more from opposing views. To take the example of Fox News and Think Progress, neither one offers an accurate representation of “the other side.” So even if a Fox reader wanted to see an opposing view, all they would get on Think Progress is a caricature and vice versa.

This is how media echo chambers, news bubbles, and biases are reinforced.

And with each “side” pushing their own forced perspective, repetition turns into “truth.” It seems there is no point in hearing out the other side, because their coverage lacks substance, and promotes a biased narrative. 

This lead to an us vs. them way of reporting current events. They further alienated individuals from contradictory information by vilifying and discrediting opposing sources.

From there it was no longer a self imposed segregation of information, it had become something curated and controlled as a means of isolating individuals into particular groups, us and them.

Bursting the bubble while we head into the new year…

The media consumption bubble has become common knowledge to those that pay attention to the devil in the details of the media industry.

But for a number of people still in the bubble, its detrimental effects are not recognized.

When individuals only receive information from one source they are more susceptible to being lied to and manipulated.

This type of media consumption influences how people engage with each other. If individuals are used to disregarding things they don’t agree with, civil discourse and debate become impossible.

How can a people actively discuss anything if one side refuses to acknowledge the other side’s perspective? In short, they can’t. What transpires is the events we saw throughout 2017, shouting matches without actual and meaningful discourse.

A quick look on social media brings you face to face with comments filled with baseless accusations, insults, and even threats.

That lack of proper discourse worked its way outside of the digital realm.

Whether it’s the debacle that erupted at UConn late November or the violence that left Berkeley feeling less like a university and more like an arena, the ability to engage in civil discourse has broken down.

2017 was a year of little substantive debate, yet full of fighting from both sides.

So what can be done as we welcome 2018 and try to carry with us the lessons from the past year?

It always comes back to individual action. You can’t change others, but you can change yourself.

And while it is frustrating to watch others descend into idiotic feuds, it is important to fight the urge to scream back or engage at such a low level.

Be the bigger person by insisting on civil public discourse.

Free and open public debate challenges the bubble’s structure. It brings colliding ideas and beliefs head on in a way that leaves each side walking away with more knowledge.

And though 2017 was not the year for public discussion, 2018 has to be the year that we once again welcome public debate back into the fabric of society.

So how do we do this in a way that doesn’t echo the same mistakes of 2017?

On a personal level, each one of us can take a moment to look at the way in which we engage with our fellow citizens. When faced with an opposing view do we actively try to understand the other person’s perspective or do we simply wait for our turn to shut down their beliefs?

It’s important to remember that substantive debate requires two things. One, it requires that we are open and understanding to the other side’s perspective, regardless of personal beliefs. Two, we must remain civil.

Without those two aspects, the shouting matches of 2017 will follow us into the new year.

So, with that in mind, it is on us to actively seek out opposing views and invite civil discourse. That said, it is also on us to remain civil throughout that discourse. If the person with an opposite perspective is not civil, do not engage.

We have to leave behind the “they started it” and “they do it so we do it” ways of debate that prevent any meaningful discussion from taking place.

A good way to start is repeating back their point in a way that summarizes it, to be sure you understand, and let them know you listened.

Everybody has a reason for their views. So if we can take a moment to gather ours and articulate them in a civil way while understanding the other side, we can begin to rebuild the bridge between us and them.

Reducing “the other” to a caricature or Disney villain is bound to grow the schism.

You don’t have to play by the rules of the corrupt politicians, manipulative media, and brainwashed peers.

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  • autonomous

    Civil discourse seems to have always been a thing to be avoided. Uncivil discourse can be seen even in Plato’s dialogues. Truth seekers have always been seen as a threat to others. Us vs. them wasn’t invented in 2017; it was certainly not perfected last year. It was not a poetic invention that placed the first murder in the first generation of the human family, nor that it was an inter-family religious disagreement. It didn’t take millions of years of evolution to discover that might makes right–at least it seems to seal the deal.

    • Don Duncan

      Humans, unlike other animals, evolve intellectually and pass on new, better ways of living generation by generation. Mistaken, destructive beliefs are also passed on. “Might makes right” is one destructive, irrational belief that survives in the public sector, but not the private sector. For example, if I am arguing with my neighbor over how to raise children it is not acceptable behavior to beat him into an unconscious state and declare I won the debate. But in the public sector the use of violence instead of reason is accepted. Every law is backed by the threat of death in the name of authority. Respect for a law is not won by reason but demanded at the point of a gun. Murder becomes permissible law enforcement policy as summary punishment for the slightest action, e.g., failing to obey an officer’s commands, however irrational or inappropriate or even when the victim was found to have not heard the order.

      • autonomous

        “But in the public sector the use of violence instead of reason is accepted.”
        Accepted by whom? More accurately, we accede to “official. Accept connotes a welcome reception, from Latin capere, to take, whereas the Latin root of accede is cedere, to give way or yield. Similarly, “officials” too often think of themselves and are thought of as humbly accepting the responsibility for their office. The truth of the matter is that their office was and remains an arrogation of responsibilities rightly belonging to individuals.

        In America, we see ourselves as happily submitting ourselves to government, justly formed, and as governing ourselves, instead of what we truly are doing, abrogating our responsibility to govern ourselves. We even think of policemen as our public servants rather than what in reality they are, servants of the government, sworn to protect the laws invented by that government for the sole purpose of enslaving us.

    • many good points ! see my links above for clarity

  • Praetor

    Civil discourse is what makes the US of America great. It has always been my pleasure to say, “FU government go to H/LL and back the H/LL off.!!!

  • r2bzjudge

    “Soon individuals only began listening to specific news networks in a way that mirrored their social media consumption.”

    I can’t watch or read the mainstream media any more. It is an echo chamber of the Democratic Party. Wikileaks exposed that the MSM colluded with the Hillary campaign against Trump. 90% of MSM coverage of President Trump is negative, as media collusion continues. The Russia Russia Russia story is a media scam.

    Fortunately, the MSM do not control the narrative any more, just their own fake narrative.

  • r2bzjudge

    “To take the example of Fox News and Think Progress, neither one offers an accurate representation of “the other side.””

    I would take the example of the New York Times, which is the self proclaimed paper of record. They are sealed in their left wing Manhattan bubble. A paper of record should not have an ideological bent. The NYT is not all the news fit to print, but all the propaganda printed to fit.

  • RED

    This piece appears to be simplistic, highly presumptuous (and possibly revealing)!

    A very large number of individuals opinions are not “pre-conceived” but well reasoned positions based upon years of analysis of contemporary and historical data and sifting through disingenuous self-serving rhetoric. After analyzing enough of it over many years, one is able to come to a logical conclusion and “choose a side”! The “echo chamber” has no impact to the well informed.

    The plea for “civil discourse” and “bipartisan consensus” is often invoked by the disingenuous who have been set back at the ballot box and perceive themselves to be out of power. Should they ever return to “power”, civil discourse is the last thing they wish to practice!

    The fundamental issue is that we have two very differing ideologies, and while there may be periods of contentious compromise, there can never be any consensus!

    We have the Tyranny of left wing contemporary ‘liberalism’ / Socialism / Communism / Marxism / Leninism / Mussolini – ism / Nazi-ism / Maoism / et al. vs the Conservative Right Wing / Libertarian Individual Liberty and honest open free markets. For the human spirit to thrive and advance, the former must be DEFEATED!.

    The ‘left’ has engaged in all of the Cultural Marxist corruption designed to destroy the public educational system.

    It is refreshing to watch responsible organizations such as Judicial Watch expose the significant corruption of the ‘left’ and clearly identify their nefarious activities.

    A better choice to illustrate the Biased “echo chamber” would be the likes of CNN or MSNBC.

  • defevve

    Maybe you should read The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion to understand what ´s been going on and what is going on …

  • Don Duncan

    A group of 2-5% have the view that the initiation of violence in never justified and they are opposed by the vast majority, e.g., those who worship democracy, that mob consensus trumps reason. The first group can point out that the majority once believed slavery, robbery, murder, and rape of foreigners was a common practice and accepted as moral. The latter group may acknowledge this but claim that doesn’t happen anymore and despite past mistakes coercion is the only way to achieve a civil society because only the initiation of violence, threat thereof, and fraud can stop chaos. The first group points out that authoritarianism is chaotic and a voluntary society leads to order. The latter group disagrees but cannot prove their point (win the debate). However, consistant with their belief, they impose it on the latter group by violence, threats, and fraud.

    Both beliefs may be understood by each side but their fundamental assumptions on the moral/practical way to live and interact contradict.

    What bridge (consenus) is possible between those who live by reason and those who live by violence/fraud, even as most of them deny all proof that they do so?

  • Bruce C.

    “If the person with an opposite perspective is not civil, do not engage.”

    That right there is largely why things have disintegrated. The “left” or “liberals” or “progressives” or whoever are intellectually bankrupt and are incapable of rational discourse that would be persuasive, so they have to resort to personal attacks, censorship, propaganda and even violence.

    Notice that the enormous effort to get rid of Trump is not based on reasoned arguments against his policies but rather to get him out of the way for their agenda to continue. Basically the same thing occurs at every other level of “discussion.”

    That said, I didn’t think 2017 involved a lot of “shouting matches”. Instead, people like me and the commenters here HAVE NOT ENGAGED simply because we know that we’re not dealing with intellectually honest people, to say the least. It’s simply a waste of energy.

    More personally, I actually like that people have become so isolated in their bubble thinking because reality will ultimately be the final arbiter. No need for debate.

  • Nobody

    There is no requirement to be polite in the face of pure tyranny and lawless m9rons everywhere. There is no more need for debate for those who have fully awoken. There is only two things that need to happen moving forward: 1)build criminal case files on each of the criminal bureaucrats applying statutes to the people to get grand jury indictments and execute criminal prosecutions against them to get convictions to have those criminals permanently removed from society and 2) build intelligence dosiers on each of the criminals and those who protect those criminals with sosiers that include where they live, where they visit, travel routes, properties they own, same info about their families, friends and networks.

    If you are totally awake then you already know that these are the two things left to do in order for justice to be served one way or another. The debates are over. The fact that them applying statutes to the people is criminal is known. It is known that their plans are to implement mark of the beast via REAL ID. It is known that REAL ID will transfer all court recording of criminal convictions into the criminal traitors’ databases and that their plan to implement mark of the beast is to have the power to make anyone a convicted fugitive via a database entry in order to bypass all justice and send people straigjt to camps without trials. This is known by those who are totally awake and when you know this fact then you know they are already levying war on us and have been for a long time.

    No need to be polite or to even have debates when it is known that the criminal traitors have every intention of exterminating us, exterminating all justice, exterminating all law and all peace.

    Build the cases, collect the intel. Be prepared because it is the criminals go down or they take down everything good and just. The line in the sand is applying statutes to the people. The statutes are for those that work in that capacity not for any of the people, this fact is non-negotiable.

  • Richard Lake

    There is no talking with the left and it is not for lack of trying. The left is suffering from cognitive dissonance, a mental disorder, and there is no talking with the mentally ill. A baseball bat upside the head might help them but I’m not willing to face jail time attempting to cure the left’s mental illness.