One of my colleagues brought up the meme that bloggers are echo chambers, reading like-minded blogs, sharing similar ideas, and amplifying the importance of an opinion within a small group that doesn’t withstand outside scrutiny. This is a common idea that has even been proven by analysis that looked at the agreement vs. disagreement in the comments sections of various blogs. I too have noticed that in general the first comments of a post tend to agree with each other, with dissent appearing later followed by a period where dissenters outnumber supporters and finishing (if the comments thread is long enough) with a mix between the two.
But does analysis of the comments section accurately indicate the existence of an echo chamber? My colleague questioned whether an echo chamber could exist across a group of blogs, in particular the Watchers of Weasels Council that I belong to. Members of the Council pointed out that while there is broad agreement on key issues such as the war on terror, security of Israel, and the failings of the Obama administration, the blogs varied in tone, points of view, and a divergence of less important issues.
But her comment was a good one, and as a writer I believe that it is important to question one’s assumptions at times – to do a “gut check” and consider whether our little coven of malcontents was kicking the same ideas back and forth between ourselves. Then as I read about an elderly drag queen’s opinion of Sarah Palin, it dawned on me that we conservatives already lived in an echo chamber – a huge one that dominates our lives.
Conservative writers are in the minority on the Web. The Left-wing blogosphere is vastly larger than the conservative one, and Leftist blogs like the Huffington Post and ThinkProgress outrank conservative sites like HotAir and RedState according to Technorati. HuffPo was used in the analysis cited above, and in it did support the echo chamber thesis of the paper.
Moving off the web, Conservatives have Rush Limbaugh on the radio, Fox News on cable and the Wall Street Journal newspaper. But the Left has NPR, PBS, MSNBC, CNN, the three networks CBS, NBC and ABC, the New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post, most big city dailies including the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, the Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Boston Globe. Leftist politics dominate smaller newspapers in St. Louis, Kansas City, Hartford, San Francisco, San Diego, Phoenix, Portland and Seattle.
Liberals dominate pop culture. John Stewart and Stephen Colbert from Comedy Central held a Government Doesn’t Suck rally over the weekend where Republicans were portrayed as Nazis and conservative Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell made the butt of sexist jokes that had Republicans made similar jokes about Hillary Clinton or “Madam” Barbara Boxer would have lead to NOW-led boycotts and editorial page rage. Republicans and conservatives are regularly portrayed as crazed and violent anti-abortionists (as on Weeds) to immoral fascists (Oliver Stone’s Wall Street 2). Oprah pushes her leftist agenda on day time TV, and members of the View won’t even listen to Bill O’Reilly.
Rolling Stone has had Barack Obama on six of its covers. Vanity Fair regularly attacked President Bush and has taken the fight to Republican leaders including most recently Sarah Palin.
Liberals dominate academia – from pre-school through graduate school. Surveys have shown upwards of 87% of Ivy League professors and 72% of professors overall identify themselves as liberals. I have butted heads with my child’s teachers on everything from the banning of the sale of marshmallow shooters (a toy – not a drink) to most recently the celebration of Memorial Day which his school did not observe. And I live in one of the most conservative parts of the Bible Belt.
Conservatives live in a society dominated by leftists from the members of their local school board all the way up to the presidency. We live in a cacophony of leftist ideology from TV, radio and newspapers. Yet for all of the attacks, the constant barrage of post-modern liberalism, we continue to exist – even thrive. President Obama has been one of my greatest inspirations as a writer, which my productivity on this site since his election will attest. The liberal echo chamber even manages to pump out conservatives. I’m an ex-Lefty and I’m in good company. Dennis Miller, PJ O’Rourke, and David Horowitz are all ex-liberals who found themselves on the Dark Side.
So yes we conservatives live in an Echo Chamber, but it’s not the one that liberal elite thinks. And it is nowhere near as effective as the elite would like it to be.