Everyone used to make fun of the political left for having an “echo chamber.” This term dates back to Ben Rhodes in the Obama administration, who in unguarded moments was quite enthusiastic about explaining how the sausage is made in political marketing (read: spin) circles. (See also “The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign Policy Guru.”) They build social media and traditional media ecosystems that repeat the same short phrases over and over and over and over until their loyalists forget that there was ever any alternative way of framing an event (or even better – they never even look for alternative ways to frame an event).
It makes their people sound like a bunch of parrots mimicking their intellectual masters, but it is a very useful approach to constructing mindless but immediate support. “Squaaaaaawk, abortion is healthcare!” “Squaaaaawk, trans rights are human rights!” And it turns out that mindless but immediate support is the most durable kind of support there is. “Squaaaaaawk, I wore three masks, received three shots, and I still ended up with covid. You need to do what I did so you don’t get covid.” Cognitive dissonance is not a problem when you have the echo chamber.
You know within 30 seconds of conversation that you are talking to someone who lives in an echo chamber. In fact, you can spend a few minutes on Twitter or Facebook once a week and know everything that is going to be on the mind of the echo chamber crowd for the next month or more. When someone pisses me off and I want to go right for the jugular, I flat-out tell these people as much. I list for them the phrases they will be repeating so that when they do it, they will remember that their brain has been so profoundly hijacked by political personalities that I could perform such a fantastic parlor trick at their expense.
Perhaps the most telling trait of someone who resides in the echo chamber is they view all subjects as being “beyond debate.” They use that line – “this is not up for debate” – as if there is anything under the sun that is not up for debate. They live in a sphere of manufactured consensus, where it is deeply irrational to elaborate on their firmly-held one-liner convictions.
I have been a conservative for decades, and there really was nothing akin to the echo chamber on the GOP side of things until Trump came around. The Rhodes approach fit the way he already operated, which was to brand his enemies with childish but memorable epitaphs. Trump built a conservative echo chamber to rival the left’s echo chamber, such that most political “discourse” now is a bunch of people screaming cheap slogans at each other with no depth of reasoning whatsoever. Say what you will about Fox News, but they actually used to cover world events. Now there is one hour of actual news on the channel (Brett Baier) and the rest is listening to typecast bimbos repeating the same five things over and over and over and over. Then you get to their primetime lineup and you can listen to a man do the same thing. There’s a mass shooting or devastating earthquake somewhere and they don’t even interrupt the echo chamber to talk about it. I worry about the people who can watch that crap all day long.
I’ve mentioned before that I have purged a lot of MAGA folks from my social media pages for various reasons since the election. Perhaps the most serious is that some of them are infatuated with violence and the “national divorce.” (I miss the days when the GOP was full of more traditional Christians who did not romanticize stuff like this. How do we bring that back?) But another is I can’t take the echo chamber in my headspace. (I also do it with leftists who behave the same way.) If you start talking about the nuances of public policy and wander away from the approved slogan (“wait, are you showing sympathy for some refugees?”) they stomp their feet and call you a “RINO.” RINO, RINO, RINO is the response to everything. Because Trump has also taught them that the world is one grand litmus test, where you either genuflect and show unwavering loyalty to his whims or you are somehow not a Real Conservative. Nevermind the fact that there is not much that is ideologically conservative about MAGA anymore.
The echo chamber has really started to go haywire since Trump has been deplatformed, however. Now it mostly consists of a Trump insider picking up on some meme-take and treating it like it’s an actual policy position.
I thought I would use Ukraine as an example of how the MAGA echo chamber gets going.
Bracket off the fact that this is a bonkers idiotic way to look at the situation in Ukraine, which may very well turn into a once-in-a-generation global conflict that upends our decadent society. Behold what happy little parrots MAGA people have become when all they can do is shitpost about the current administration. They see the word “border” mentioned in the context of Ukraine, and that reminds them of another border they are obsessed with. They just can’t fathom why people fleeing the mayhem in Honduras on foot or in the back of a semi is not the same or more important than a nuclear superpower pushing into Europe. We use the word “border” when talking about both! I am telling you, they actually think in meme form.
This one is particularly funny. I had no idea so many people from Peru and Argentina were rushing the southern border. They all look alike, right?
Some folks absurdly manage to defend Putin’s honor at the same time, which they seem to be parroting from Tucker Carlson’s incomprehensible and misinformed takes on NATO. They also seem to be unaware that there are socialist countries just south of us that are allies of Russia and China and do, in fact, have a lot of military infrastructure around. China in particular has been buying up ports on our doorstep for a long time. (It’s honestly kind of hilarious they don’t see the connection between that and what is happening in Ukraine, where Russia has the capacity to shut off the supply of essential goods in a heartbeat.) But “America First” now entails having no foreign policy whatsoever, which ironically was how Democrats framed the world pre-Joe Biden. Like I said, there’s not a whole lot that’s ideologically conservative about this crowd anymore.
When you can’t make a logical argument, just call everyone in your political party a bunch of RIINOs. It’s the most reliable weapon in the MAGA arsenal.
It goes on forever. Thousands of tweets all making the same stupid remark, which really isn’t about foreign policy but a mindless play on the word “border.”