Let’s Check That “Echo Chamber”…

[ If you want to skip my explanation, you can start with paragraph #5.]

It’s a new year, and the last one had several outbreak of complaints here, some fair, some contrived, and some obnoxious, about Ethics Alarms being an “echo chamber” that either had insufficient diversity of opinion, discouraged diversity of opinion, inevitably favored one political/partisan end of the political spectrum over the other, or artificially tilted its analysis and reader reactions to my personal biases.

The analysis here should be consistent, and I expect readers to blow a whistle when it is not or seems that way. I also furiously reject the concept of ethical relativity, or that “you have your truth and I have mine.” A society needs to settle on its values and objectives, and those decisions need to be based on linear constants, or the result is chaos. It is also important, however, that those values and objectives be subject to constant analysis and reexamination. We learn by experience and debate: that’s the nature of ethics, as opposed to morality. It is also why diversity of viewpoint is valuable on an ethics blog. Different perspectives are invaluable in helping us cut through the underbrush of bias, conventional wisdom and lazy assumptions that impede our ability to distinguish right from wrong.

But there are structural flies in this buttermilk, the prime among them being human nature. People tend to want to see, hear, read and believe things that they find comforting and confirm their world views; being open minded is uncomfortable, even painful. Sometimes, it can be dangerous, or at least scary. One reason I spend the time I do on Ethics Alarms is that it forces me to read and consider opinions and examine topics that I normally would not.

The goal here has always been to promote a colloquy of thoughtful and articulate readers to focus on ethics and sharpen our habits of analysis while avoiding the jargon, excessively abstract navel-gazing and mind-numbing theoretical intellectualizing that has killed ethics as a topic the general public has any interest in or sufficient competence in applying. Whatever the reasons for it, the perceived trend, at least in the comments, for opinions to run in the same general direction (when there are valid and legitimate positions that point elsewhere) is “concerning” (as Prof Turley would say.)

This is all prelude to asking readers to place themselves on the ideological/political beliefs spectrum/world view spectrum. Before WordPress went to a hopelessly complicated system, I would have used a poll for this purpose, but none of the Ethics Alarms polls attracted more than a couple hundred participants out of the thousands that visit the blog every day. Now I’m going to give you a range of choices to answer the question, and I’ll be very grateful to those who take the time to answer it.

You can…

  • Just describe where you see yourself fitting.
  • Use a ten point scale with #1 being knee-jerk extreme Left on all matters and #10 being the opposite.
  • Take this online survey, which is dated but appears to be pretty good based on my own experience.
  • Or this one, which is also pretty good, by the Pew people.
  • Or you can try this one.

I’d like to hear from more of you than just the regular commentariat, so for this purpose only, I will accept submissions labeled “anonymous” or the equivalent. I will also relent and accept submission from readers who have been banned from commenting, as long as they stick to the topic.

None of the online tests are perfect, and many of the questions or propositions are too general (or specific. But I’ve taken all of them more than once, and have been surprised to find that they were remarkably consistent in their findings, and, at least in my case, perceptive. For example, here is where the Political Spectrum Quiz places me:

That’s not only where I think I am, it’s where I think I should be, as opposed to where the same survey places the average participant, which is where the green pointer resides:

I eagerly await your assistance.

132 thoughts on “Let’s Check That “Echo Chamber”…

  1. So, I would place myself perhaps around 7.5 on your scale.

    On the first quiz, they rated me as right social libertarian: Right 3.51, Libertarian 4.01

    Foreign policy `1.7 and culture -0.86

    Under foreign policy, their definition say: “On the left side are pacifists and anti-war activists. On the right side are those who want a strong military that intervenes around the world.”

    If we want a strong military, do we necessarily favor intervention around the world? I don’t think so. Sometimes, a strong military is just a strong military. Was the original purpose of NATO to intervene outside Western Europe or was it basically a defensive alliance? I think you can have a strong army without necessarily getting involved in a lot of foreign wars — but it likely might also need strong civilian control.

  2. Depends on what one considers an echo chamber. Of those who posted values that I could chart, the average *responder* is about 2.5 Right and 1.6 Libertarian. But the spread goes from 3.6 Left to 6.5 Right and 7.5 Libertarian to 1.6 Authoritarian.

    That’s a big spread even while the dense cluster is just right of center.

    *JUST RIGHT* of center. I don’t think that means echo chamber.

    Of course, that’s based on responders. What would just the numbers of active commenters do?

    I think ethics alarms is an echo chamber by the barest definition of “seemingly mostly one *side*” of the aisle that *comments*. But it most certainly is NOT an echo chamber in so far as the moderator does not actively police comments or focus on comments based on a *political* point of view.

    The massive exodus of people on the political left was their own choosing.

    Those on the political left who have noticed an increase in focus on their comments from an *ethical* point of view should be asking themselves deeper questions about themselves than “why does ethics alarms skew politically right?”.

    I have a sneaky suspicion that most of the exodus occurred in the year before and after Trump’s election. The Obama years naturally had a greater opportunity to focus on ethical lapses of Democrat figures because they were in the forefront of political control. When things flipped, my gut tells me that the Leftwingers here believed they were in for some sort of reprieve with Republican figures in political control, most news would focus on them.

    I think that was a rightful expectation.

    Only something phenomenal happened. In the wake of the Republican victory, the left wing of the aisle went further into the unethical hole.

    I think Leftwingers here, hoped that some sort of “everything is balanced” would apply and regardless of savage conduct they displayed, it would be treated as some sort of normal in the face of their manufactured claims of Trumpian savage conduct.

    So, their response? Instead of introspection, they left in a huff.

  3. Well, here i go:
    I am a center-right social libertarian.
    Right: 1.17, Libertarian: 3.55
    Foreign Policy: -4.53 (toward non-interventionist)
    Culture War: -2.15 (toward cultural liberal)

    That’s about what I expected. Though, I always say something that was quoted in a newspaper from an ancestor of some relation:

    “Independent in his support of measure and man.” or in modern speak “Independently minded to consider the specific issue or candidate.” The above scores just represent an uninformed baseline of theoretical scenarios and whatever popped into my head when I read the question. Not a bad baseline to have in my opinion.

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