By Michael Emero
Apr 24, 2016
You ever heard that recognizing and admitting you have a problem is half the battle? In our society of blatant propaganda and discouraged intellectualism, it's probably closer to 5/6 of it.
Everyone is in an echo chamber, either one of their choosing, or one that is handed to them till it becomes unquestioned, normalized routine- personal 'fact', if you will. Between television, media, peers, Facebook, Reddit, other habitual websites or news programs, everyone (often unconsciously) builds their own personalized, comfortable bubble narrative version of reality. That absolutely bears keeping in mind, but it's also not inherently bad. For example, the ability to refine our input lets us tune out some of the 'Faux News' style obvious disinformation. I could listen to Trump coverage eight hours a day (quite easily on certain channels) and not learn a damn thing- in fact, unconsciously I'd probably pick up a few pieces of misinformation and baseless bias. Ironically, those who cut the cord to mainstream television are statistically *more* accurately informed than cable tv users.
My chosen online echo chamber might have limits and not be all-encompassing, but I chose it because it contains the most verifiable truth I could locate, and more importantly I still fact-check everything to avoid being the fool or losing self-respect by believing or repeating lies. Everyone undeniably has their own agendas in this world, so taking *anything* offered at face value is frankly completely against both common sense and your own best interests. Dare to question, dare to think, dare to cultivate healthy skepticism. Verified truth is verified truth, echo chamber or no, and it's only the clueless, the willfully ignorant and the irrational zealots who refuse to responsibly fact-check and verify. Also, one could argue that the founding fathers were an echo chamber of sorts, working almost entirely on their own to build a whole nation- yet did a fair job by using principles of respectful intelligence, logic and justice.
While this makes complete sense, it doesn't and never will for those who have, for whatever reason, voluntarily closed their ears and minds to anything that doesn't align to their existing world view. And it can be genuinely difficult to remain calm, polite, and rational when injustice, dishonesty and corruption are so prevalent, so obvious, and yet still so pig-headedly denied. It's doubly challenging when people attack you for not voting against your best interests like they ignorantly yet proudly do. There's a sad irony in being condemned by the herd for having the wisdom not to follow them off the cliff. The frustration alone is enough to raise tensions, if only because when people on either side feel powerless, unable to communicate, and victimized, they naturally lash out. It is an old habit, but one frankly largely encouraged by our society's race to the bottom. Our leaders and policies even promote and enforce aggressive peer-policed irrational conformity.
My advice, and what I try to do: Be the change you want to see. You can't force change or wisdom in others, but your actions can be above reproach if you make a conscious effort to set the bar higher. Kind of like what Bernie is trying to do for our society, politics, and government- be better than the status quo. So reread your every post before hitting submit, and never do so in anger. Realize unending bickering is often exactly what your opposition wants, because it's what they are good at and thrive on, and is no more productive than escalating bombings to achieve peace. Learn to use facts, logic, and calm rationality as your weapons, not labels and slander. As in Idiocracy, sure, many will laugh, insult, or say TL;DR. But you can't reason with those people anyway. I recommend appealing to those who will listen, and spread the healthier example of maturity that way. We don't win against ignorance by validating it with equally emotional counterattacks. You win by respectfully proving how ineffective and incorrect their ignorance is, then calmly educating with cited information.
Yes, often the response is angry empty name-calling, having no rational argument in return. But allowing it to have its intended defensive response is sinking to their level, and frankly why labels still exist. It lets popular stereotypes, or those being pushed by the current narrative, 'validate' bias and discredit individuals without having to actually listen or be held accountable for what damaging truth they may say. You have a valid point about Clinton's electability, supported by research, logic, and overwhelming poll data? You're just a wacko conspiracy theorist, be off with you. From witches, to n-word-lovers, to communists, to socialists, to "Bernie Bros", those whose goal it is to Win- not by merit or by facts but by any means possible- constantly utilize emotional-trigger labels that baselessly uphold a generic negative connotation. It pretends to reasonably justify encouraging everyone to join them in plugging their ears, shutting off their brain, and acting superior in the face of a conflicting reality. Only their blatant, extreme cognitive dissonance lets them claim the most informed, most educated, most factual are actually the naive, ignorant ones. And many people follow it in typical me-too fashion, desperate to be on the 'right'/'winning' side without stopping to factually consider if it truly is, while the instigators hope we're all insecure and dumb enough to back down quietly and conveniently believe it.
By and large, people usually mean well, but lack the intellect and decorum to communicate respectfully or discern fact from sponsored fiction. Their environment and upbringing restrain their ability to increase perspective and wisdom- the very essential qualities that many of us are fighting to impart and improve. If we want real change in our nation and its attitudes, we have to start rising above. It's time to hold people accountable for their views, words, and actions- ourselves included- and respectfully challenge them if inaccurate. That is the only way to eventually end the ongoing Reign of Bullshit in America today; accountability, integrity, and responsible learning. And it starts with us, right now.