The Solitary Confinement of the Echo Chamber

I’ve noticed an interesting trend on the Internet.  I don’t think what I’m about to address is confined to cyberspace, but there are certainly concrete examples popping up all over.  I’m speaking of the movement of prominent opinion artists away from a discussion of ideas and into an echo chamber, where only their opinion matters.  What gradually happens to many people who have such solitary focus is an almost fanatical devotion to their core principles, so much so that they eschew healthy analysis and instead start veering into cult of personality.  There are many examples, so let me bring them to light.

  • Bill Maher.  I used to like Bill Maher.  His show “Politically Incorrect” was a healthy debate forum, and he usually started the show with something snarky.  However, as time progressed, he used his monologues as a self-righteous pulpit from which to preach, and he never allowed a following discourse from the guests to discuss the ideas in his monologues.  As time progressed, Maher became more and more of an establishment liberal, and in doing so, has walked his self-righteous being into a state reserved for conspiracy theorists.  Here he is on his show, looking to his guests for support, as he rambles about inoculations and mercury fillings.  Strap in and enjoy this special kind of crazy (especially the “settled science” bit):
  • Charles Johnson.  I remember I used to have a good ol’ time a Little Green Footballs, reading the 700+ comments on a single post, and listen to Charles talk about the rise of Islamofacism in Europe.  People like Robert Spencer (of JihadWatch) would stop by and contribute.  But about two years ago, CJ started afoul of the White Nationalist movement in Europe, and he slowly drifted into some deranged paranoia, so much so he even banned Robert Spencer from his site for reasons I can’t readily explain (it’s logged on JihadWatch if you want to see the actions of a paranoid individual attacking a steadfast intellectual in Spencer).  He started banning commenters for disagreeing with him.  He’s done such a good job of discouraging debate, he now speaks to an echo chamber as their Grand Poobah.  His loss of focus on Creationists drifted into “hate-mongers” at the Washington D.C. protest march.  Look at these “hate-mongers” in this photo-essay of his and tell me– are all of these people foaming-at-the-mouth racists?  I see people who are talking of revolution, not hate, because they fear their rights are being eroded.  Somehow that gets translated into White Supremacy.  And, of course, there is a Birther thrown in, as well as someone with a satirical sign (“Dr. Strangelove” anyone?) and someone stating that Barney Frank is a sexual deviant (which, given Frank’s track record on economic issues, should be the least of our concerns).
  • Lee.  I used to love Right Thinking from the Left Coast.  I even sent money.  Now, I don’t want to speak ill of the dead (Lee tragically passed away last year in China), but the blog seemed to lose its focus on a variety of topics and instead spent a lot of time on torture.  In fact, Lee spent an inordinate amount of time on torture and why it was bad.  After about the 100th post on torture, I had lost hope in the blog as a whole, and moved on to greener pastures.  I enjoyed many of Lee’s posts before his torture obsession, and I miss the guy who made me laugh.  I think that’s what got me the most– I stopped laughing, and reading someone so obsessed with the minutiae of a gray-area topic that it sucked the life out of anything else he was talking about, pretty much ruined the site for me.  Rest in Peace, Lee, and I hope you find laughter wherever your Spaghetti Monster puts you.
  • The Huffington Post and other liberal blogs.  I used to love going to the Huffington post because I could effectively dismantle arguments of the bloggers there (and before you click to see my greatest hits, know that the comments have been under maintenance for about 2 years now).  I even had the good fortune of being mentioned in a blog post by Jane Smiley (in which I am called arrogant for telling another commenter that she’s, ahem, a human).  The meat and potatoes of a liberal commenter on a blog is the strawman, and it was so much fun knocking them down.  Abortion debates were my specialty, and I had fun there, helping the confused sort come to rational decisions.  However, out of the blue, one day I was banned.  I had not violated any terms of service.  But what I did was upset the Echo Chamber.  I was persona-non-grata because I challenged them by bringing in debate.  I rarely veered off topic, and I always discussed the merits of the post.  But, at some point, I was too big of a thorn in the side, and my attempts to bring rational debate met with banning.  I found a few other blogs, and even found William, the hardcore liberal, who would plagiarize posts from other places and claim them as his own.  (When I routinely made him look stupid for blindly following the liberal talking points, he started attacking me personally.)  But in those other blogs, I discovered a microcosm of people who simply found others who agreed with them, and would result to derivative dribble when debated.  It’s come to a point where the Defenders of Academia are so locked into their liberal mindset that anyone who disagrees is the subject of ridicule, not debate (although some, like Maher, want to debate something that’s saved the lives of millions of people).
  • And that brings us to the News.  Conservatives love to point at the Mainstream Media and claim that they have a largely liberal bias.  And who can blame them, when CNN runs a story with a psychiatrist calling conservatives cowed toadies?   Who else would run with the video other than a network tailoring its news to its listeners– liberals.  Is there any debate here, or is this just a story put together to make conservatives sound like angry ignoramuses who only do what are told by a bully?

What I’ve illustrated here is a disturbing trend within the Age of New Media.  We are so connected that it’s not hard to go out and find people who agree with us, but to actually engage in argument forming debate is so uncomfortable that it is shunned and the opposition ridiculed.  And in that echo chamber, we find people we once trusted are deteriorating into nothing more than conspiracy theorists with 50,000 daily counter hits.

We’re becoming a polarized nation, and it has nothing to do with Talk Radio, as it’s a product of the lack of debate found elsewhere.  When the policies of indoctrination end in academics and the News, maybe we’ll see a thawing of the polarized viewpoint.  But so long as people can find a safe haven to hear people agreeing without debate, we’ll never have this thaw.  And to that end, the internet is not doing us any favors– it merely magnifies the ever-growing rift sown by the media and ideological blogs.

UPDATE: Charles Johnson is now surfing HotAir comments and posting them on the front page of his blog, trying to expose the “racism” inherent in the Right-o-Sphere.  It takes a special kind of vindictiveness to surf the comments on a rival’s blog and use them to try and smear it.  Essentially, because HotAir doesn’t spend the time prowling and banning people for possible racist comments, HotAir must itself condone all racism.  (Or, maybe HotAir is just more tolerant of free speech, not just speech you agree with?)

Here’s a few examples of comments CJ has objections with:

Of course not, Oba-Mao is their messiah, he holds their Marxist ideologies every bit as dearly to his heart as they do their own. Were the founding fathers alive today, they would be hanging these ba$tards from the nearest Liberty Tree for treason. Benjamin Franklin would be spitting flames to see what his precious Fourth Estate has become.

doriangrey on October 21, 2009 at 8:18 AM


Like any good dictatorship the filthy lying coward in the White House will soon not allow unapproved media networks.

highhopes on October 21, 2009 at 8:34 AM


Unfortunately, we have a Marxist/Maoist Administration, a slavish Congress, and a Goebbels-esque Fourth Estate, who has destroyed the concept of objective reporting more than any other generation before it. The best defense is a good offense and sunlight is the best disinfectant. Remeber, Chavez, Mao, and Putin exercised containment of the media and control of the message, also.

kingsjester on October 21, 2009 at 8:39 AM

Yes, CJ actually thinks these are “extreme, hateful, racist, and/or violent”, and need to be banned and scrubbed from the HotAir comments.  So believing a President to be Marxist who has surrounded himself with some clearly in-the-realm-of-communist leftists is now considered a banning offense, or a window into your racist soul?  For someone who claims rationality, CJ is clearly moving into the realm of megalomania.

So, my recommendation to HotAir commenters — beware!  CJ may attempt to shame you by posting your possibly “extreme, hateful, racist, and/or violent” comments on his website for all to see!


12 Responses to “The Solitary Confinement of the Echo Chamber”

  1. 1 John A. Davison
    October 21, 2009 at 8:32 am

    I agree with everything you have said. Only Fox News has openly challenged the Administration much to the distress of Obama and his cronies. What is revealing is their response which is to denigrate Fox News. They will soon regret that tactic I am certain. The simple truth is that Obama and his intimates are all Marxist revolutionaries with no respect for the Constitution or the rule of law. They have but one goal which is to destroy our government, to bankrupt it, to make it impotent as a democracy. So far they are doing a bangup job!

    Unfortunately Bill O’Reilly doesn’t seem to recognize Obama for what he is. Just yesterday O’Reilly said “I don’t believe Obama is a Marxist.” That is pathetic. Maybe O’Reilly should tell us what Obama is then. He sure doesn’t have to tell Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck or me.

  2. 2 Matt R
    October 23, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    “Hi, allow me whine and bring up non-sequiturs. If you tell me ‘shut up and do what the real scientists say.’ I’ll paint you as close minded and claim you censure and slander.” His excuse, “I just want a debate.” There is not just about it. From is little childhood anecdote on, this guy is clearly grinding a very personal axe.
    Mahr is losing it, one bottle of scotch at a time.

    Three successful guys all tell him to back off (nicely) and he brings on Gary Shandling. Keep in mind two of these guys command more tv time in one day than Shandling gets in a year. One of them is a govenor who is clearly upset that Mahr is spreading dis-information.

    How many people will this “debate” kill, Bill?

    For a “rational” guy, Mahr sure doesn’t like science.

  3. 3 Karen
    October 29, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    Bill Maher has good reason to be suspicious of scientists… when you have scientists like Frederick Seitz who spent his later life producing studies that tried to show tobacco is not harmful. The same guy who founded the George C Marshall Institute, an Exxon funded climate change denialist organization.

    How can anyone deny that the level of hate exhibited for Obama so early in his presidency has a racist element, especially when you see these all white teaparties with signs that read, “This time we left our guns at home.” ?

  4. 4 Matt R
    October 30, 2009 at 5:46 am

    The problem is, Karen, that its so hypocritical. Mahr, a standup comedian who’s trying to recreate himself as a satirist or a rationalist, smashed God etc. in the name of science. Then he, basically, tells all his listeners not to trust the medical community (The means thousands of doctors and scietists all over the world) re vaccinations. Face it. It’s his paranoia at work. Now how many kids won’t get vaccinated?

    Bill says all he wants to do is “discuss” it. It’s already been discussed by experts, smarter than the stand up comedian Bill Mahr. Now its time to act.

    Bill’s been living too long in Hollywood. He’ll be going macrobiotic next.

  5. 5 docattheautopsy
    October 30, 2009 at 6:34 am

    As Thomas Jefferson said:

    “For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security.”

    If people feel their freedoms are being eroded, their final recourse is revolution. To think that “this time we left our guns at home” is directed only at Obama and not Congress is evidence of need for this criticism to be based in racism.

    Karen, a majority of the US voted for a black president. And while there are racists in America, the other 48% that voted for McCain are not all racists, as much as you need to believe that. The majority of objections to Obama and the Democratic Congress are over infringement upon rights, objections to unregulated government spending, and impending tax increases to cover the massive spending programs.

    Believing that all objections to Obama are based in racism is a demonstration of the pure cynicism your liberal beliefs has given you.

  6. 6 Karen
    October 30, 2009 at 11:29 am

    And while there are racists in America, the other 48% that voted for McCain are not all racists, as much as you need to believe that.

    Speaking of straw men….

    objections to unregulated government spending, and impending tax increases to cover the massive spending programs.

    And where were the terapartiers when Bush was spending TWO BILLION A WEEK in Iraq?

    • 7 docattheautopsy
      October 30, 2009 at 2:52 pm

      And where were the terapartiers when Bush was spending TWO BILLION A WEEK in Iraq?

      Ah yes. The new Godwin. BOOOOOSSHSHHHHHHH! It’s BOOOOOSSSSSHH’s fault!

      Oddly enough Karen, the Teapartiers supported the campaign in Iraq because it actually produced results. I know it’s terribly un-American of me to say that, but Bush’s Iraq strategy (well, the implementation of the Surge) worked. Violence is down. US casualties are down. And as the country continues to stabilize, we can withdraw more and more troops.

      Another point you happen to miss– much of that money Bush was spending would have been spent on the military anyway, as we still have to train and support our active and reserve duty military when they’re not abroad.

      In fact, when the US Government spends money on programs and actions that work, we don’t really mind. What we do mind is constantly being told the stimulus is saving and creating jobs, when it’s obvious it isn’t.

      Teapartiers know that nothing comes for free, Karen. Every single entitlement passed since the 1960’s, with the exception of Bush’s perscription medicine plan (I know– shocker!), has gone over budget– sometimes as much as 2-3 times over budget. So when the Democrats state that a Public Option would save money, it’s downright laughable. Pelosi’s latest version of the bill has tax increases and fees in it, and those rates will just have to go up to pay for their lack of vision.

      And, psst Karen, did you know what happens when taxes go up? The economy suffers. That means more job loss.

      But you don’t care. I’m just being a mean ol’ racist. Oh, and a fatso. Because all Republicans are fat, smoking, NASCAR-loving, racist White Men. (But that wouldn’t be promoting a stereotype, now, would it? If we did that, that would prove we have a truly racist perspective.)

  7. 8 Karen
    October 30, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Matt R,
    Bill Maher takes the attitude that people are responsible for their health and shouldn’t look to the pharmacuetical industry to solve every health problem with a pill. Americans are fat pigs and the health care system is being strained by ignorant people who abuse themselves with lifestyles that have brought on health problems. I’ll never know but I would not be surprised if either you or ‘Doc’ were obese, a smoker, sedentary or all of the above.

    We don’t have sufficient science to know what the American pharacuetical drug culture will mean to the long term health of Americans. And make no mistake about it, America IS a drug culture. Every other daytime TV commercial is trying to sell you some type of pill. I wonder if such media where focused on educating people to live right than to sell drugs, but then again, drug companies profit huge from the lifestyle of unhealthy Americans.

    That is the point, not denial of science.

    [DOC replies — Karen, the pharmaceutical companies use something called “science” to ensure drugs work. They painstakingly test every single one of the course of years to ensure compliance with the FDA rules. If there are any side effects in 3 different clinical trials, the drug is nullified. The drugs are safe, and these particular drugs are far more effective in treating illness because the scientific evidence shows it to be so.

    If you doubt any of this, the next time you get sick, eschew any medicines. Drink herbal tea, eat some Acai berries, listen to the Dead– whatever, just don’t take ANY pharmaceutical or antibiotic. When you are admitted to the hospital, tell the doctors not to use any medicines. Then we’ll see how long you last. Because, Karen, the pharmaceutical industry (as well as Big Doctor) has been responsible for the medical treatments that destroy once-common diseases, stave off infection, and cure the ill.

    Without vaccinations, Karen, we’d still have polio, measles, and small pox. To deny that vaccinations are effective (or open up a debate) is the highest form of ignorance and simply puts those in our society at high risk at greater risk (like the poor and minorities). So, you and Bill Maher are effectively interested in waging biological warfare on minorities. Nice. Not a racist at all. Have a nice day, Racist Karen.]

  8. 9 Karen
    October 30, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Here is a partial list of FDA drugs that have elicited warnings or recalls just in the past few months. If I were to extend this list to several years, it would consume pages of your blog:

    Heparin, Visicol, OsmoPrep, Healon D, Raptiva, Levemir, Focalin, Focalin XR, Vyvanse, Daytrana, Metadate CD, Metadate ER, Methylin, Methylin ER, Ritalin, Darvon, Darvocet,
    Rapamune, Sandimmune, Neoral, Cellcept, Myfortic… and more.

    783,936 people in the United States die every year from conventional medicine mistakes. Conservatively, it is estimated that 106,000 of these deaths are attributed to properly prescribed drugs. Poisoning from prescription drugs has risen to become the second-leading cause of unintentional deaths in the United States, according to the CDC. Prescription drug deaths skyrocketed 68% over five years as Americans, probably like you, swallow more pills. Automobile crashes remain the top cause of accidental death nationally, but drug-related incidents caused more deaths in 16 states than car crashes – double the number of states than in 2003. You don’t see a problem here? Or are you a typical fat American on cholestrol statins trying to defend your pig lifestyle?

    So Doc, take your drugs, stay fat, and vote republican… have a good life. (Oh and keep sucking up to GW Bush … that makes you look really stupid). No wonder Limbaugh is a hero to conservatives. Such a great role model, a stereotypical Republican, a fat, pill popping, racist.

  9. 10 Matt R.
    October 30, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Sorry Karen.
    Vaccines are not prescription “drugs.” Who has a botle of vaccines in their medicine cabinet? Vaccines are administered in controlled environs. And who made the mistake? Doctor or self medicating patient?

    One may say Bil Mahr is against natural selection (evolution) because NS is the guiding principle of vaccines. I guess Bill thinks evolution is just a theory. Let’s discuss it Bill.

    Oh. and I’m the guy arguing against you, not Doc. I don’t like the blind hurling of epithets. You make liberals seem like screaming, prejudicial, knee jerk morons.

  10. 11 Karen
    October 30, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Did you happen to know:

    More than 2 Flu shots in 10 years = 10 times increase for ALZHEIMER’S?

    MERCURY (THIMEROSAL) in H1N1 vaccine found to cause Autism by CDC

    The United States has the Highest Vaccination Rate and the highest autism rate: 3.5 Million Autistic Children

    THIMEROSAL eliminates the cost of refrigerating vaccines. THIMEROSAL is put into vaccines for the sole purpose of increasing PROFITS. U.S. parents willingly have MERCURY containing vaccines put into their children, even though Russia and other countries have proven that MERCURY causes mental retardation, brain damage, and sometimes, death. Russia has BANNED the use of MERCURY in vaccines since 1980. THIMEROSAL is 50 times more toxic than plain MERCURY.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg

    [Doc says — Yeah, the crazy iceberg. According to Alz.org, a non-profit website about Alzheimer’s disease, the idea that flu shots, or aluminium, or asparatame, causing an increased risk of Alzheimer’s is bogus. Here’s what they said:

    Myth 6: Flu shots increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease

    Reality: A theory linking flu shots to a greatly increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease has been proposed by a U.S. doctor whose license was suspended by the South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners. Several mainstream studies link flu shots and other vaccinations to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and overall better health.

    * A Nov. 27, 2001, Canadian Medical Journal report suggests older adults who were vaccinated against diphtheria or tetanus, polio, and influenza seemed to have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than those not receiving these vaccinations. The full text of this report is posted on the journal’s Web site.

    * A report in the Nov. 3, 2004, JAMA found that annual flu shots for older adults were associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes. The abstract of that report is posted on PubMed.

    In addition, the assertion that thimerosal has been cited by the CDC as a cause of autism is also misleading. The paper cited examined 8 case studies. Unfortunately, that’s not a statistically relevant sample. (And the source she got it from was a guy called “Dr. Dave”, an analytical chemist, who should really know better.) On the CDC website, thimerosal is handled under the “Should I get the flu shot?” area, and the official CDC position on thimerosal is reported thusly:

    In 2004 the Institute of Medicine
    reviewed scientific studies looking for a connection between
    thimerosal and these problems, but concluded that there is no
    evidence of such a connection. Parents can ask their providers about
    the availability of thimerosal-free vaccine.

    So, no, the CDC hasn’t said thimerosal causes autism. Ultimately, you don’t have to get flu shots. Nobody is forcing you. But the idea that trace amounts of thimerosal are going to give you Alzheimer’s or autism is insane.]

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About Me

My name is Doc. Welcome to my blog. If you're visiting from another blog, add me to your blogroll (and I'll happily reciprocate). I have a Ph.D. in Chemistry and live in Wisconsin. If you have any questions, feel free to email me. My email is docattheautopsy at gmail. (No linking to deflate the incredible spam monsters).



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