the echo chamber

I was sitting and reflecting one day doing a little self examination critique. I why sometimes I find myself getting really yappy when hanging out occasionally with a friend who is a generally quiet, self disciplined, reserved kind of guy. I’m not really a yappy kind of guy.

It dawned on me that there was a very simple explanation. It’s probably that I have found myself dealing a little too often with people who just seem compulsively unable to stop flapping their mouths and making noises come out of their face. In the company of my quiet and reserved friend who generally only says something when there is actually something to say, something in my subconscious mind apparently kicks in, thinking, hey, I have a chance to speak for a change! Amazement! Miracle!

I imagine that readers might be having their own cringing recognition of what I’m talking about, because they have to deal with noisy chatterbox humans themselves, people who demonstrate some old adage about an empty vessel making the most noise. There are so many people who just seem completely oblivious about the fine art of shut the fuck up and listen, even when they have nothing worth saying, and it seems worse if they don’t know what they’re talking about. They will go on and on and on about what they think about something, even if there is little to nothing in the form of actual thought happening. The worst is when you get several of these people together, and then, actual communication and understanding becomes impossible.

What matters to all of us is what happens when you get massed clusters of people who can’t stop running their mouth long enough for much to get into consciousness. We have an epidemic of what some people like to call the echo chamber effect, where people just keep chattering back and forth among what they view to be their crowd, in whatever context and form that might be, repeating the same things that might be serious reeality distortions of all kinds, amplifying it and reinforcing it by sheer repetition.

This is extremely problematic in the realm of politics and government in the United States these days, but that’s not the only area where this is a problem.

 

I found myself encountering a bit of irritating aggravation online that’s a great example of the echo chamber noise propagation effect in action. It was a political propaganda organization that has been a noisy factor in American politics for some time now, known as “FreedomWorks”. Their Facebook page has them classified as “Educational Organization”, which is hilarious. For any American who is unaware of those guys, you should be, because they’re extremely bad actors in matters of American governance and the politics making it so dysfunctional. The “FreedomWorks” organization is part of the games being played by champions of plutocracy and dysfunctional government by characters like Dick Armey, to mislead the underinformed, misinformed, and just plain foolish and gullible.

(Some refer to this bunch as one example of an “astroturf” organization, a play on words mocking the deception involved of pretending to be some kind of citizens’ “grassroots” movement.)

There, a message is found with a link to a page on the FreedomWorks website, which then includes text of a boilerplate prefab message you are then asked to send to your congressional representative.

There is so much wrong with this I hate to even get into it because of how much time and space is required. That right there is part of the problem. In babbling echo chamber world, taking time to examine facts of reality and apply reason is something that gets swept aside, or just simply ignored. That’s hard. It takes time and attention. Much easier to deal in simplistic fiction and nonsense and find an easy scapegoat. Look at that, somebody will even write “your” message to your congressional rep all for you!

The language hammered into people’s heads has repeated phrases like “your hard earned money to be spent bailing out union fat cats“, and “Progressives broke Motor City, and they should pay for it“, and “the President to use your tax dollars to save Detroit’s bloated bureaucracy“.

I’ll refer you to something I’ve already written about the circumstances of the city of Detroit. The troubles of the city of Detroit are clouded by enormous amounts of sheer fiction and reality distortion, just buried in bullshit that evades the reality involved and substitutes nonsense that is much worse than just being simplistic.

The Detroit Bail-In Template: Fleecing Pensioners to Save the Banks

What broke the city of Detroit started way back in the fifties. People taking the “Motor City” idea a little too literally took hold of the postwar notion of abandoning the city and moving outward into suburbia. Large swaths of the neighborhoods of the city were wiped out, and what was left divided up and separated, by construction of freeways to shuffle between the city and the surrounding suburban municipalities, killing off gigantic portions of the city. Abandoning the city for the surround suburbs took both population and business activity, removing huge amounts of economic activity and money from the city of Detroit. It apparently is necessary to explain to some people that this means large amounts of tax revenue to support city government disappearing.

At the same time, the shrinking population and activity was still left spread out over the geographical area of a large city, with all the needs of services and infrastructure of a large city, but only having the support of what became the population and activity of a medium sized American city, and increasingly impoverished, with that becoming a negative feedback loop downward spiral.

This isn’t mysterious.

Now, people are told that people who worked years, decades, in public service for the city of Detroit, with part of the deal being the promise that after those years of work, they could retire and still have a life, with a retirement pension and health insurance, are greedy union fat cats, because now, they expect to actually have those things they were promised as part of the agreements of their employment and work. Part of the problem does certainly appear to be city government management, and this involves serious corruption, not some plan of “progressives”.

Detroit is arguably just the worst and most extreme example of a pattern of problems that affect many American cities. Instead of understanding what this is, people spew fiction, lies, and nonsense about what has happened, and is happening.

 

Every now and then when I do turn on a television these days and flip around channels a bit, I’ve noticed that the half-hour TV fiction from the nineties Home Improvement seems to have a new life these days showing up on several different cable networks running that show in syndication.

That show, for one thing, really was a slice of the decade of the nineties, as I realized, checking this online. The run of that show really was the nineties, starting at the beginning of that decade and ending at the end of the decade.

When I sample a few minutes of that show now, I have a similar sense of something that’s a large part of why it rubbed me the wrong way when it was contemporary. It’s hard to articulate exactly. There’s this hard to define something about the whole thing, the general overall atmosphere, an aura, the visual “feel”, everything, a strange kind of almost surrealistic shift from reality.

It makes me think of the old television sitcoms of the fifties. There’s something similar there in the style of pretending that this is just normal, a kind of idealized archetype; this is just how life is, isn’t your life like this? It’s presented that way, life in middle class middle America where everything you need in life is taken care of getting in the car or van or SVU and going to the nearest mall with the credit card, and the biggest “problems” are things like the husband/dad just wanting to work on his latest hot rod car project in the garage when his wife just doesn’t understand, or some high school social drama distracting the wife/mom from her work on getting her master’s degree and resuming a career.

It’s interesting to note that the premise and setting of the show was your supposed typical all-American middle class family living in Detroit, as a “middle America” setting. Watching that show a bit, it’s pretty obvious very quickly to anybody vaguely familiar with Detroit that these people are not living in Detroit, but one of the many satellite suburban municipalities around the city of Detroit forming a general expansive Detroit metropolitan region. But in general, the point of all this is that this particular bit of entertainment fluff from American television of the nineties probably owed a lot of its popularity to the whole aura of presenting a fiction world that said, this is how things are, this is what life is, or is supposed to be. It was a nineties cultural artifact that might actually be some kind of epitomized image of American life as middle class suburban existence.

This was happening in a period when people started getting ideas that those pesky oil problems of the seventies were a thing of the past, with new lows of crude oil prices, having had a stretch of time of what everyone was told were “oil glut” conditions, thanks to the flow of crude from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, and the North Sea between the UK and Norway. Never mind that the extraction flow rate of crude from Alaska had peaked around the late eighties, and was diving down the diminishing returns decline down slope of Hubbert’s curve over the decade of the nineties, and the extraction rates from the North Sea fields reached their maximum plateau level around 1996 (hanging on there and then starting the downward decline around the end of the decade).

It was probably not randomly coincidental that this period saw what appears to have been an intense period of the outward expansion of suburban sprawl, when there was not this notion of a glut of abundance of cheap oil, but all kinds of fun in the realm of finance and banking pumping out imaginary wealth for all kinds of expansion and “growth”. That was certainly encouraged, from the looks of things in retrospect, by further notions that this “growth” was endless, and any house construction in fresh new zones of suburban development would only get better and bigger and house values increasing exponentially forever.

It’s important to recall that this was essentially the period when suburban sprawl expansion subdivision development really got going in earnest in building the increasingly large and pretentiously grandiose kinds of houses many of us now refer to as “McMansions”, where increasing volume and superficially flashy cosmetics ruled, made to impress at a glance, even if the whole thing was thrown together with shitty materials and rushed shitty careless workmanship, because the people actually working on building them were being hammered to just throw those things together, faster, and cheaper, to speed up “production” and “cut costs”.

It’s not such distant history that any American of adult age should have trouble remembering what people’s ideas of the state of the economy were then.

I’m giving this attention to this silly chapter of American pop culture TV entertainment, not because it captured a time capsule image of American life of a particular decade in history, but rather that it captured a snapshot of illusions about how much of the American population wanted to think that this was normal life, maybe with some vague notions about how the fictional image contained defined what they might think of as “the American way of life”.

This should be very clearly apparent, now, and yet, for many people, this isn’t apparent at all.

 

“When societies get badly stressed, delusional thinking increases. We are now in that situation.” – James Howard Kunstler

“Our country is not being destroyed by bad politics. It is being destroyed by a bad way of life. Bad politics is merely another result.” -Wendell Berry

“An unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda, is less inclined to put up a fight, ask questions and be skeptical.” -Bill Moyers

 

Jesse’s Café Américain: Jesse: We Are Seeing An All-out Defense of the Status Quo (Excerpt)

Conservatives show us their thinking, not well glued to reality | Fabius Maximus

The Founding Fathers Tried to Warn Us About the Threat From a Two-Party System – Washington’s Blog

France Upholds Ban on Fracking – NYTimes.com

Democrats Must Stop Ted Cruz’s Hollywood Ending | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone

The Obama Administration and the Press – Reports – Committee to Protect Journalists

Twenty (Important) Concepts I Wasn’t Taught in Business School – Part I | The Monkey Trap

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