Echo Chambers

Our opponents love their twisted reasoning.  That’s why I still keep an eye on our old friend, the heteroseparatist.   Not only does he alert me to faked-up outrage coming our way, but his blog might as well be a gallery of the sloppy thinking we have to be ready for.  Take this recent post, Homofascism in Schools:

I believe that some gays will call you a “homophobe” to your face and then turn around and teach a child that homosexuality is normal without the consent of that child’s parents. One of my biggest critics, Mr. Rob Tish, still refuses to denounce recruiting children into the glbt lifestyle without the consent of their parents! What does this say about him and some of the glbt community?

Anyhow, click here for my supporting evidence.

Now you might expect me to shred his use of the loaded question, akin to asking, “Have you stopped beating your wife?”  That’s too obvious, though.  Instead, focus on his “supporting evidence.”  His link takes you to a page full of nothing but assertions.  None of them are sourced.  Each one, true or false, is just an unsupported claim the author heard somewhere else.  And now the heteroseparatist is calling them evidence when all he’s doing is repeating information that someone else repeated before him.

This is Echo Chamber thinking.  And its practitioners include people far more important than our poor heteroseparatist.  In fact, it’s a key anti-gay strategy.  Sourcewatch has a great definition:

Echo chamber is a colloquial term used to describe a group of media outlets that tend to parrot each other’s uncritical reports on the views of a single source, or that otherwise relies on unquestioning repetition of official sources.

The term didn’t stick in my head, though, until I saw a guest give an example on a Rachel Maddow segment about Koch Industries and climate change.

Here’s the key bit:

Back to 1997, close to $50 million came from the Koch Foundation to 40 different organizations that are part of a network that we call an echo chamber of climate change denial…The fact that there’s 40 of them creates this unique situation where people hear this message about doubt about climate science from so many different organizations that it becomes believable.

See, if you can’t find enough honest experts to agree with your agenda, you need some way to avoid looking like an isolated crackpot.  So you pay people to repeat your message.  Or you invent hollow organizations whose sole purpose is to spread your message.  Or you find other people willing to lie because it advances their own agenda.

Does it matter that you don’t have a collection of independent sources all coming to the same conclusion?  No.  In our soundbite world, repetition is a substitute for credibility. Credibility is hard, but repetition is easy.

We see this in our fight for equality.  With so many anti-gay activists out there, you might be tempted to think of their movement as a big office complex:  some groups (like NOM) have expensive suites, while others (like AFTAH) populate tiny rooms in a dark and leaky basement.  But if you walk through the front door you find something else entirely:  one big acoustic cavern — a huge echo chamber — where everyone repeats what everyone else is saying.  They take junk science from a discredited source like Paul Cameron, say it over and over, and after enough unsourced repetition, get away with pretending it’s credible.

Eventually you end up with the bigot-next-door (look for “Retired Geek” in the link’s comment section) claiming only 9% of gay men and 24% of lesbians live past the age of 65.   His source?   He can point to other bigots saying it.  And now they can point back to him.

Echo chamber.  Labels are useful because it’s tough to hold a complex concept in your head unless you can name it.  Once you’ve named it, you can invoke it.  “Do you have good sources backing up that claim, or is it just an echo chamber?”

When you’re aware of echo chambers, you see them all the time.  Here’s one way Fox does it.

  1. Fox News anchors report a story.
  2. Fox News commentators spin the story.
  3. The anchors report on the spin (“Some are saying that…”).
  4. The commentators treat their spin as fact, because it’s been reported as news.

John Stewart pointed this out in a great piece, and I’ll leave you with that (jump to 6:40 if you don’t want to watch the whole thing).

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9 comments to Echo Chambers

  • 1
    Mark says:

    This heteroseparatist is a nazi pice of work…. opps i ment nasty.

    Love you and your intelligence, Tish and i wish their were more people in this world like you.

  • 2
    Makyui says:

    That Heteroseparatist quote makes me want to gag. Replace “homosexuality” with “racial integration” and it’s impossible to not see what a pile of rot he’s saying.

    Anti-LGBT people, I’ve noticed, are a lot like other crazy fact-deniers, like young-earth creationists; your comparison to AGW deniers here is spot-on, too. They’re allergic to truths, refuse to see anything with honesty, and only pay attention to things that already back up what they believe, with no care to whether or not it’s true.

  • 3
    Kenny says:

    His stuff is so whacky-stupid he must be from another planet. So, on a positive note he does prove that life exists on other planets. Sadly, that life doesn’t appear to be intelligent or highly evolved.

  • 4

    […] is completely wrong, but that doesn’t matter to the anti-gay echo chamber. He might just have veered into over-the-top hyperbole, but now Maggie is repeating the lie in […]

  • 5

    […] is completely wrong, but that doesn’t matter to the anti-gay echo chamber.  He might just have veered into over-the-top hyperbole, but now Maggie is repeating the lie in […]

  • 6

    […] of course, it’s not just about the money.  This is another contribution to the anti-gay echo chamber.  By offering this falsehood in a casual, offhand way, their readers accept it as a simple, […]

  • 7

    […] of course, it’s not just about the money.  This is another contribution to the anti-gay echo chamber.  By offering this falsehood in a casual, offhand way, their readers accept it as a simple, […]

  • 8
    Dale Hogue says:

    I’m straight.  I believe as I believe because I consider myself to be straight.  I have no argument with those who are reading this post who are not straight.  If these readers are homosexual, then so be it, but they are wasting their time and mine by making  too big of an issue about being sexually attracted to members of their own sex.  Being critical of those of us who are not homosexual is a total waste of time.   

  • 9
    robtish says:

    Dale, what’s your point? That someone who is gay should never be critical of someone who is straight for any reason whatsoever? You can’t possibly mean that, but if you want to be clear, you’ll have to explain further.

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