What is this?
The Echo Chamber Club exists to help ‘liberals’, ‘metropolitans’ and ‘progressives’ access and understand different viewpoints and stories that don’t appear on their news feed.
How do we do it?
We send out a weekly newsletter that centres on a different topic each week. For the titles of our previous newsletters please click here.
Who’s behind the Echo Chamber Club?
That’s me! My name is Alice Thwaite and I’m the founder and editor-in-chief. I find contributors, bring together the community, and try and find different and new methodologies for identifying and countering echo chambers.
What is an echo chamber?
An echo chamber is an environment where you only hear viewpoints that already agree with your own opinion. You shout into the cave and the echo comes back. You are rarely challenged because everyone else in your community tends to think in a similar way to you. It is a place that lacks thought diversity.
It is also a concept that is not very well understood in the real world. It needs further research. It is unlikely that anyone lives in a ‘pure’ echo chamber. There are even disagreements about whether the internet has amplified or contracted echo chambers.
However, given how many were surprised by the political events of 2016, it seems that echo chambers exist more than they did previously and having severely negative consequences. Many people want to get out of their echo chamber.
How do you monitor the ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’ echo chamber?
You’d be surprised at how simple it is – but it does take a fair amount of work.
There is a survey on the website where our subscribers tell us a little bit about their reading habits and their opinions. We use this data to inform our research. I start by going to the most popular websites and noting down the stories of the day and the editorial angles taken on them. I then go to Facebook and check the trending section to monitor different opinions. Next is Twitter – I check a number of Twitter Lists that I’ve created. These are pushed through an app called Nuzzel. It tells me exactly how many times an article has been shared by the group I’m monitoring.
The next step is to truly evaluate where I stand on a topic. Does my point of view deviate from the evidence that research has provided? It’s important to try and ensure that my opinions are not influencing where the echo chamber lies.
Armed with this body of research, it’s time to find a story that lies outside of this echo chamber. I’ll either go and speak with a potential contributor or curate the story myself using RSS, Reddit and other sites and tools.
Why do you think this is the best solution to counter echo chambers at the moment?
In short – it’s because a weekly newsletter is an incredibly flexible way of countering echo chambers. We are not restricted by computer code nor editorial structure so we can offer you many different points of view.
There is a long answer too. Which I’ve blogged about here.
How do you define ‘liberal’, ‘progressive’ and ‘metropolitan’?
Kinda like to pass on this question. It’s very difficult to define exactly what these terms are. In fact I’ve had quite a few heated discussions about whether this sums up exactly how the community thinks and feels about themselves.
If you feel like this newsletter is going to help you in some way, then please do sign up. If you don’t feel like it will help you, then please don’t! I feel like the subscribers generally know if they sit in this echo chamber or not.
How is this different from other political news sites?
There are two main ways that we differ.
The first is that we don’t give our readers content with viewpoints that they want to hear. This is the direct opposite of almost any other political news site. Most start by believing their opinions and needs are not met by current media sources. So, a group starts to write their own opinion pieces, cover news stories and commentate on events for people just like them. This is how right-wing sites like Infowars started, but also left-wing sites like the Canary and ‘more reputable’ publishers like the Economist and the FT.
We have taken an identifiable group, and instead of creating content that will appeal to that group, we offer content that we believe won’t appeal to that group. Which is extremely unusual. I make it my mission to try and show you the opinions and stories from groups that rarely make it to your cognition.
For example, we showed you articles and opinions about why Trump would get elected in August 2016, a time when no one thought it could happen. We curated a pro-Putin perspective whilst the Russians are enemy number one. We showed you how the pro-Assad media covers the destruction of Aleppo whilst our news feeds were filled with the videos from the war-victims. I have to say that this all takes its toll emotionally. The cognitive dissonance I feel when I send particularly controversial newsletters out is real. I’ve also blogged about that too and you can read it here.
The second is that we are curators of the internet. We do not write new opinion pieces. Instead, each newsletter is a selection of articles from news sites that you were unlikely to see on your news feed. This helps in ensuring that we’re not just spitting our own point of view down your neck the whole time, as we’re always quoting the opinions of other writers and thinkers.
I saw you had a podcast too…?
Yes, so I quite like the main ideologies of ‘liberalism’ and ‘progressivism’ – but feel like the political philosophy hasn’t been updated on these terms for decades. Given the wealth of changes in the way we communicate, the way society operates, the jobs we do etc, it seems bizarre that we still talk about concepts in the same way. Does left-wing and right-wing actually MEAN anything today?
When you are in an echo-chamber, and your views aren’t being challenged, it’s unsurprising that our own ideology doesn’t evolve. There is nothing for it to evolve into. As J.S. Mill says – they turn into dead dogmas. So, the podcast looks to redefine what it means to be in our community, by speaking to key thinkers about what their own values are. Go on – have a listen!
Why are you doing this for us? Surely it’s the conservatives who need this!
This is the most popular question that we have been asked in the first 12 months of the Echo Chamber Club. My short answer is that perhaps other communities do need something like the ECC, but that doesn’t mean that our community doesn’t need it too. You might be interested in this blog post that goes into more depth on the subject.
Why might you have a problem with the Echo Chamber Club?
The biggest objection is that we ‘normalise’ points of view that should not be normalised. This is an objection that is difficult to counter. The only thing about normalisation is sometimes extraordinary ideas get normalised that are beneficial for society. It’s difficult to know which those views are, and where they are going to come from.
The Echo Chamber Club values freedom of speech highly, and we do not want to censor ourselves in fear of normalisation. We are very upfront about this, so I hope not to catch anyone unawares with what our newsletters say. Any views on this are welcome.
Do you counter fake news?
This isn’t really our mandate. We want to show you viewpoints and stories that do not appear on your news feed. Given that many communities truly believe in stories that you may think are ‘fake’, then it may be that we offer newsletters that contain some element of what you may describe as fake news.
As mentioned above, the ECC does not exist because we believe that our ‘truth’ is any better than another communities ‘truth’. We are not trying to push forward a political opinion of this nature. Our newsletters do not contain better perspectives – they simply offer different perspectives. In some ways, this makes us ‘anti-truth’. Or a better way of putting it is ‘anti-objective-truth’. We’re annoyingly post-modern.
How do you fund the ECC?
Ah – the big question.
I rent out my apartment in London and live in places that are cheaper.
All the finances go through a company, Hattusia, and you can see details about that here. If you would like to help us with funding, you can donate to us here, or sponsor us whilst you shop here. If you’d like to help with funding in a large capacity – either by asking your company to support us, or campaigning on our behalf, then please do drop us a note! We could do with all the help we can get!
How can I help with the ECC?
Cool! It’s nice that you’d like to help out!
The first way is to spread the word to everyone that you know. Write about us on the comment section of relevant articles. Post our newsletters on your social networks. Like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter. Send messages to political commentators and philosophers that we exist. Give us 5 stars on iTunes. Shoot a message to your email subscribers that they should sign up too.
The second way is to talk to me. I love it when people reply to the newsletters, get in contact with me about podcast episodes and come up with some interesting suggestions. To be honest, I can really suffer from cognitive dissonance when I put out newsletters that severely contradict the status quo. You can read more about that here. Importantly, if you hate something, then please let me know.
The third way is to support us financially. You can either donate a one-off donation here, or you can download a browser extension which gives us money when you shop online. Even better, you could persuade your company to become a supporter of the ECC. For more information on that, please email Richard here (rt [at] hattusia [dot] com).
We are also looking for contributors for the newsletter – please fill out this form to send your idea to us.
Additionally, it may be that you have some really cool skills that could help the ECC. Please let us know!
Do you have a nice downloadable that we could spread to show people about the ECC?
Wow, what a specific question. But the answer is yes. Here it is!
P.S. The Echo Chamber Club is trademarked.