Echo Chambers Here, There, Everywhere
I got some feedback last week. I learned something from it.
I had written two weeks ago about far-right “echo chambers” of “news” — really, opinion — that push “I only watch them” viewers into loops of substituting pure fiction for news.
There is nothing wrong with opinion forums. This column is an opinion piece, not a news piece.
The harm comes when brainwashed readers/viewers believe that endlessly repeated opinions are facts.
I criticized far-right echo chamber forums Townhall and Newsmax because I visit those sites nearly every day. I am familiar with them. I can evaluate them.
But I do not spend all day, every day, visiting and viewing every possible political information organization.
So in that column, I did not talk about sites I do not visit.
Friends and family members said that my column was one-sided. Yes. YES! It is an OPINION piece clearly labeled as such, placed on a page devoted to opinion.
Readers seeking information about last week’s tragic vehicle crash involving golf superstar Tiger Woods do not look to this column to find out what happened. Readers go to news pages for that information. Readers might look to opinion sites to find out what Woods’ accident means to the future of golf.
Some critics of my column last week claimed that I was unfair because I did not criticize left-leaning sites that they think are also politically biased.
They suggested that I should have evaluated more than CNN or Huffington Post. I should have critiqued 60 Minutes, Frontline and Good Morning America, or MSNBC and the three broadcast networks, ABC, CBS and NBC.
Here’s the problem: I do not visit 60 Minutes (a CBS program), Frontline or Good Morning America. I do not view ABC, CBS or NBC. We ditched our satellite TV service five years ago, hallelujah. I get my news via my computer, including newspaper e-editions.
I cannot speak to whether those sites I did not name are unfairly biased. I just don’t know.
I do think (not know; think) that CNN’s web site — not its talking heads — is not too biased. For that matter, I think that Fox News, since the Nov. 3 election, is not all that unfairly biased. Fox, which has lost TV viewers and Web page visitors to the far-right sites, seems to me to be more responsible these days.
I don’t listen to Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity or Fox’s other commenters — largely because Fox itself, in defending against a libel suit, said that Carlson, Hannity et al. are entertainers, not news journalists. When I visit Fox’s site, I read its news articles.
Recently deceased Rush Limbaugh never pretended to be anything except an opinionator. Limbaugh wanted his listeners to decide how they felt about the news, not what the news itself was. He expected his listeners to already be familiar with news.
On Feb. 23-24, I took a twirl through some of the sites that my critiquers said are biased.
I wondered how my friends and family critics came to know that the left-leaning sites they mentioned are biased.
I asked some of them, via email or voice conversations.
First, I asked this question: “Do you watch CNN (MSNBC, Good Morning America, etc.)”?
“No!” was a consistent response. “Hell, no!” was also common.
“Umm … well then, how do you know that they are biased?” I asked.
Hem. Haw. Umm. Gee. Well.
It transpires that they feel those sites are biased because their far-right echo chambers constantly tell them that those sites are biased.
I thought it best to check the other way.
I sent email messages to a few friends who lean left.
“Do you think that Newsmax, Townhall and One America Network are biased against President Biden and in favor of former President Trump?” I asked.
Yes!” was a consistent response. “Hell, Yes!” was also common.
“Umm … how do you know? Do you visit those sites to see for yourself?”
Hem. Haw. Umm. Gee. Well.
My left-leaning friends feel the far-right sites are biased because their far-left echo chambers constantly tell them that those sites are biased.
My right-leaning friends feel the far-left sites are biased because their far-right echo chambers constantly tell them that those sites are biased.
Two groups of politically aware Americans are locked inside extremist echo chambers, knowing about the other side only from their sides’ condemnations. Meanwhile, in the middle are most Americans, who are too preoccupied with earning a living, raising kids or dealing with COVID to fret about politics except near Election Day.
Why is this?
Would the “They are biased!” rhetoric have anything to do with reading/viewing outlets playing to fears to keep the viewers that attract the advertising that makes millions of dollars in profit for them?
Gee. Echo chambers really do work.
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Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: email@example.com