Charlie's Blog: The Echo Chamber Advantage


The Echo Chamber Advantage

Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid. Otherwise, it could end up like a city sewer, rejecting nothing.

Once upon a time, I subscribed to a philosophy I will call the "omnivore strategy." Basically, I maintained an open mind on things taking in all the information that I could gather and digest. I still had viewpoints on things and believed in them quite firmly. But I also believed that I might be wrong on those viewpoints which meant that I always looking over the fence at the green grass in other fields. Then, I rejected that omnivore strategy in favor of an echo chamber strategy. I don't waste my time looking over that fence anymore. Here is the story of that decision and why I think it makes sense.

Imagine a kid named Junior who learns in school and/or from his sensible parents that 2 + 2 = 4. He comes to accept the truth and common sense of that proposition. Then, he goes to college where sophisticated types try to disabuse him of that silly notion. They convince him for awhile that 2 + 2 = 5. He tries it for awhile until he decides 5 is a silly answer. The professors then tell him it is 6 or 7 or whatever. The possible wrong answers are infinite, but the professors encourage Junior to keep an "open mind."

Now, this sort of thing doesn't happen in such an elementary fashion. Instead of giving wrong answers to math problems, these sophisticates give wrong answers to much bigger questions. The answer to your emotional and mental problems is Freud. The answer to our origins and nature is Darwin. The answer to our economic problems is Marx. The antidote to the drudgery of married life is free love and contraception. All of these answers are wrong, but people who know better just can't seem to reject them because they feel the need to be "open minded."

The madness of this open minded approach can be seen in the NPR listening liberal who supports LGBT issues, Marxist solutions to problems, and disdains religion. Yet, this same liberal will be faithfully married to his spouse, raise his children in a faith he no longer practices, and send those kids to conservative private schools. You figure that there would be some separation and repudiation of one set of ideas over the other. But there isn't. Why? The answer is these types of people feel the need to keep an open mind, That is the sad fruit of getting a university level education.

People blessed with the inability to attend college end up being pretty closed minded on things. They go through life under the delusion that 2 +2 = 4, and that is the one right answer and the one that matters. It is very helpful when it comes to balancing the checkbook and sawing lumber to frame a house. These blue collar rubes go through life deprived of all that university book learning and seem to be better off for it. The rest of us should learn a lesson from them.

There are two ways you can go with this. You can accept that 2 + 2 = 4 without question. Or, you can accept it without question after a period of questioning. The important thing is to abandon working through the infinity of wrong answers to assure yourself that you have the right answer. We work through the wrong answers when we listen to NPR and read The New York Times when we know better.

I don't read the Times. I only listen to NPR for the classical music. I change the station when the news comes on. That's when I switch to the AM dial to listen to conservative talk radio. Except for local coverage, my news sources are overwhelmingly conservative. The same thing applies to my reading of religious information. I turn to conservative and traditional Catholic sources. I don't waste time on Protestant or modernist garbage.

The criticism of this approach to news and information is called the "echo chamber." It gets castigated by the sophisticated types who are always complaining about the conservative bias on Fox News and talk radio. Somehow, there is no progressive bias in their left wing echo chambers. The reality is these Marxists want some pretext to censor opposing viewpoints. And that is a neat trick of theirs. The ones who preach the value of having an open mind have no trouble closing their minds to opposing viewpoints and even censoring them out of existence. They will even flunk students and ruin lives for having these opposing viewpoints.

We need to drop the fiction of this nonsense of having an open mind. There is no such thing. There are simply closed minds on what is true or false. Once you find the truth, go ahead and close your mind on it. You're not missing out on anything valuable.

The way to close your mind is to go ahead and build that echo chamber. This approach gives you two overwhelming advantages. The first is that it saves you time as it cuts down on your reading and information uptake. The second is that it ends the instability of having a double mind. The disadvantages of not having an echo chamber is that you spend a lot of mental and emotional energy worrying that you have made the wrong choices or have the wrong ideas, and you waste a lot of time researching the infinity of wrong answers.

How do you build your echo chamber? The first thing is to know if you have the right answer. If you have the wrong answer, the echo chamber will actually work to your detriment. You will have closed your mind onto a lie. How do we know that 2 + 2 = 4? The answer is what we know as "common sense." It is impossible to work through that infinity of wrong answers, but the right answers click immediately. Truth has a simplicity to it. It is also a well worn path. Once you find the right answer, have confidence in it.

The second thing is to know if you have the wrong answer. When you have the wrong answer, you should keep looking until you find the right answer. This is where having an open mind matters. But finding the right answer is often a process of elimination of the wrong answers. It's like the way Edison and his assistants would try various filaments before they hit upon the one that worked for their incandescent light bulb. Once they tried something that didn't work, they didn't keep trying it. They moved on.

The third thing is to know if there are multiple right answers. This happens. Some answers are better than others. They've made better light bulbs since Edison. You can make a fire by rubbing two sticks together, but flicking your Bic is a lot easier. On the other hand, if you don't have a lighter, knowing how to rub those sticks together can be handy. When there are multiple right answers, we call these "options." The main thing is that an option works. An option that doesn't work is no longer an option.

The fourth thing is learning to separate the true from the false. Your mind should be like a filter as you let errors flow through while the more solid truth remains. In time, these truths will accumulate into a body of wisdom and useful knowledge. This structure will assemble itself into your echo chamber.

The fifth thing is learning to ignore those fools who claim there is no truth, or that truth can't be known. You can dismiss these people without further argument as their own position is self-defeating. These people's minds are so open that their brains have fallen out. The reality is that they have built an echo chamber around a body of lies, and they have to close themselves off to common sense in order for those lies to become true. Just ignore these idiots.

The bottom line is that the echo chamber is designed to help you not waste your valuable time and energy on what is false. This means neither accepting nor rejecting everything you're told but doing the hard work of weeding out the true from the false. It doesn't mean that you stop searching for truth and answers. It means you stop looking at or considering those things you have learned are false. The only value in studying bad ideas is to refute them and save others the time they would have wasted on traveling that dead end.