An “echo chamber” is a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission inside an “enclosed” space. This would typically occur when an individual or group of individuals immerse themselves only in one side of an argument, essentially being only exposed to a certain view on a topic. Media, both new and legacy, is peppered with talks of the “Right-Wing Echo Chamber” and the “Left-Wing Echo Chamber” and whatever other echo chamber of which you can think. For the most part, it is meant in a derogatory way, with center-right outlets talking about the left-wing, and center-left outlets talking about the right-wing.
Recently, though, I found myself thinking about the concept of the echo chamber, and if perhaps it might be something that could be used constructively (as in concrete ways to avoid it) in order to design arguments for the conservative viewpoint that may be more persuasive to the general public; in other words to help prevent us from simply “preaching to the choir” and reach a broader audience.
By way of background, the event that got me thinking about this topic was an appearance by Dana Loesch on the Piers Morgan show, discussing gun control:
To be clear, Dana did a great job defending the conservative view of gun ownership and the 2nd Amendment, especially in light of the fact that not only did she have to contend with Morgan talking over her, but that “intellectual heavyweight” Van Jones doing so as well. Judging by the various pundits in the Right-O-Sphere, I was not alone in my assessment, and Twitter was abuzz with praise for the performance.
However, judging by the responses from the left regarding the interaction, it was clear that they did not view the argument as persuasive, and in fact thought that Morgan and Jones came out on top. As a result, I got to thinking about how there could be such wildly differing views on the same discussion. Of course, the left are pre-disposed to be convinced by its own arguments (the Left-Wing Echo Chamber), but typically, when there is a clear-cut winner in a debate, everyone knows it. Perhaps we are so used to hearing our own arguments over and over that when he hear them presented well, we are automatically convinced we “won.” Add to that the large number of prominent voices declaring the same thing over and over again, and the thought is more deeply reinforced.
However, maybe we ought to take a look at the way we are making arguments, in order to better to expose the absurdity of the leftist position. For instance, one of the big “wins” in the above video was getting Morgan to “admit” that he wanted gun confiscation. I’m not sure that he really ever did, and let’s face it, a lot of people who watch him are okay with that (the argument over magazine capacity and how many deaths were acceptable were unpersuasive for the same reason). Rather, a more effective line of argumentation would have focused more on the leftist answer for everything – more laws.
I submit that a more persuasive argument would have gone something like this:
“So tell me Piers, was Adam Lanza obeying the law when he performed his grotesque shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary?”
“Was he obeying the law when he murdered his mother and stole her lawfully obtained guns?”
“In other words, there are already laws against murder and theft, and did Lanza obey them?”
“So, if Adam Lanza was intent on breaking any law that would prevent him from carrying out that tragic deed, can you name one law that would have prevented the massacre?”
[No expected over much protestation.]
While it’s not a perfect argument (and I’m sure there are plenty of people who could refine it much better than I, getting Morgan to admit that laws would not have prevented the tragedy gets right at the heart of the leftist action plan. Admitting defeat on that front may then get more people to question their current views, and leave them open to alternatives. However, in order to do so, we need to step out of the echo chamber to find out how the leftists think, and their hot-buttons on the issues rather than just focus on arguments that are convincing to those who think the same way as we. That’s going to require us citizen-activists to broaden our regular reading to include leftist media (and not only the legacy media)*.
*To that end, I’m going to begin including links to left-wing sites here to add perspective.