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4.4.04

The Echo Chamber Is Beyond The Pale

Kos's callous comments on the deaths in Fallujah have spawned the predictable wave of outrage and guilt by association, and the predictable meta-commentary on how stupid the outrage cycle is. It got me thinking about whether this oft-noted phenomenon is behind the also oft-noted blogosphere echo chamber effect.

The more the focus is on "gotcha" beyond-the-pale quotes, the less you're able to read people with differing viewpoints. Part of it is a side effect of the outrage cycle -- to properly express outrage, you have to dramatically de-link the blogger in question and promise never to read him or her again. Part of it is social pressure -- you wouldn't want the Kerry campaign (link via Pandagon) or anyone else to think that, by linking and reading a certain blog, you endorse everything it says. And part of it is personal. If you focus on how outrageous and unacceptable the other side's comments are, you're less likely to see reading them as worthwhile. And if you do read them, you go into it with an intention of proving what horrible people they are rather than of engaging with their view (either to give it consideration or to disprove it). The echo chamber, in turn, makes you less sympathetic to others by separating you from them, increasing the chances that you'll say something that can be taken as beyond the pale.

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