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Is there a Conservative “Echo Chamber”?

NB – this post does NOT mean to imply that conservatism and Christianity are the same thing – they’re not. Nor is it meant to imply that conservatives are more Christian than liberals. Despite overlap here and there, politics and Christianity are two separate things and we need to remember that. The following post is about politics rather than about religion.

Ive repeatedly heard those on the left claim that conservatives live in a conservative “echo chamber”. This statement is meant to portray conservatives as only listening to other conservatives, and of feeding back into a loop of self-reinforcing sub-cultural affirmation of conservative opinion, while being isolated from other points of view. EG Republican voters calling in to conservative talkback radio and affirmingly quoting Fox News, who in turn report affirmingly of Republican politicians, who in turn make statements that are intended to mirror the values of, and gain support from,  Republican voters.

The accusation of a conservative “echo chamber” is rarely accompanied by consideration of whether liberals behave likewise. EG whether those who write for Huffington only consume liberal media like MSNBC and the New York Times, and whether Democrat politicians only make statements that such consumers voters want to hear and which liberal leaning media will affirm. I know that on occasion when Ive read leftist academic writings, Ive felt like the writers seemed to only cite those who had a similar political outlook to themselves.

This finger pointing came to mind today, when I read the NOM website and noticed they referenced the New York Times. I decided to run a “New York Times test – IE which other conservative websites reference liberal sources. I found examples for each conservative website I tested:

Do liberals reference pro-conservative sources as frequently? Yes conservatives listen a lot to other conservatives. They speak the same ‘language’. Likewise, Im sure liberals listen a lot to other liberals. But are conservatives more insulated than liberals or are liberals more isolated than conservatives? Your thoughts?


2 Comments on “Is there a Conservative “Echo Chamber”?”

  1. Brad Dillman says:

    To be more rigorous and scientific (I’d recommend it) you have to categorize the references, and define what you mean as a reference. In a scientific bibliography, you’re referencing either facts you take as assumptions and build upon, or assertions which you dispute or contradict.

    If, for example, Rush Limbaugh only mentions the NYT to denigrate it, that’s not much of a reference. If Rush only contradicts the NYT without sufficient evidence, that’s not much of a credible reference either. You still have an echo chamber unless you have new information.

    Since Rush (sorry, I’m just continuing the same example) isn’t in a position to do original research he can only present other’s original research, say, commissioned by think tanks like Focus on the Family (your example above). This is a step in the right direction (over not doing that), But if he consistently rejects certain sources and consistently references others, this is still a bias.

    A better way is to take evidence from all sources and reconcile it to a theory, position, whatever that is consistent with all the available evidence. It’s OK to dispute some evidence with good reason and contradictory evidence, which leaves plenty of room for conservatives and liberals to disagree. But evidence must stand or not on its own merit, regardless of its source. I’ll admit and agree that some liberal sources reject evidence outright if it’s source is conservative in nature, which isn’t a worth practice.

    OTOH, if Rush used evidence from many sources and judged the evidence on it’s own credibility rather than whether it fits their theory or ideology, now, you’d be getting somewhere and liberals would have some real competition.

    Begin liberal rant: (feel free to skip this bit 😉
    Which would be good for us all. I’m definitely a liberal, but I don’t want a 1 part system. I want a principled opposition. Not an opposition that’s devoted to a goal of a 1 term president, regardless of things like dispute over a debt ceiling or fiscal cliff or whatever. Didn’t Mitch McConnell just filibuster his own bill? Huh? Illegal foreign workers, say, is a real problem because by definition they’re illegal. Either change the law or enforce it. Surely, there must be room for principled, evidence-based discussion there?

    Are you not entertained? LOL.
    End rant.

    BTW, have you looked at David Frum, say, for comparison?

    • stasisonline says:

      Thanks for your feedback, Brad.

      When I wrote ‘referencing’, I just meant “referring to”. I didnt think of ‘referencing’ as implicitly meaning affirming the source that is cited.

      You wrote “If Rush only contradicts the NYT without sufficient evidence, that’s not much of a credible reference either. You still have an echo chamber unless you have new information.” But would not the NYT be the new information, even if it’s not well refuted? Have I misunderstood the meaning of “echo chamber”? Is the definition I gave in my post not accurate? You seem to have a differing definition, but you havent directly criticised my definition?

      In regards to the NYT, I doubt it makes sense to expect a conservative to regard it as a balanced source. From the little Ive seen of it, Ive sensed a strong liberal bias.

      Anyways, Im not familiar with Mitch McConnell or David Frum, so it seems I have some research to do!

      Thanks again.

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