Exiting the Echo Chamber

(Edit: Before you read this post, I encourage you to read this comment for context. As I’ve written before years ago, I feel that I live in a Bubble, and the election’s results only confirm that for me. So, I’m increasingly pushing myself to see worlds that are very different from mine. That means seeing some segments of the Trump electorate).

I’ve been visiting web sites and message boards that feature neo-Nazi, alt. right, and/or white nationalist content. Let me explain.

My Facebook and Twitter feeds are loaded with anti-Trump posts being shared by anti-Trump folks to other anti-Trump folks. There clearly is comfort in that. But, I think it means that many people are doing a great job of preaching to their own choirs. I am foremost at that. But, for me, I’m changing my strategy, for my own good.

I’m trying to listen to a different point of view. Before the election, a person on a FiveThirtyEight podcast encouraged listeners to be willing to learn about The Other Side’s views. But, I also want to do something to lower all the negative energy I’m feeling around me and within me.

So, I started by reading about the far, far, far right. I intentionally am trying to hear something that I find off the reservation and not react emotionally. I’m trying to figure out a few things. What do they believe and why? What’s their strategy? It’s not easy, but I am trying to hear their point of view. I don’t agree with them, but I found it valuable.

I also read JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy book. Vance grew up in Greater Appalachia and does a great job of articulating what a segment of the white working class population has experienced. He grew up in a very unstable environment, rampant with alcoholism, drug abuse, and violence.

Vance also mentions the culture that exists, a deep-rooted suspicion of others who don’t look like them, a de-emphasis on education, and a belief that the system is rigged against them. Vance does a detailed and scathing criticism of some of his neighbors, who resent that welfare goes to the urban poor, but who themselves have never had a full time job and also get benefits.

Also, relevant: it’s a culture that places prime importance on respect. I think it is true that making fun of “hillbillies” on TV or in the movies is still politically correct. And, Vance’s region seethes when coastal elites look down at them.

So, I’m trying to challenge myself. By viewing “the other side” as actual human beings, I am less angry at them. And, that’s beneficial for me.

I’m a registered Independent. I found both presidential candidates difficult but for different reasons. But, I’ve found the Trump victory to be surprising and disappointing at many levels.

We really do live in two Americas. The social science data and voting patterns absolutely confirm that. I think it’s important to try and understand the other America to truly be one nation.

I think empathy is the key to try to get to some common ground.

Last, on a lighter note, click here or look below for a funny SNL skit that features Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle.

6 thoughts on “Exiting the Echo Chamber

  1. I truly applaud the idea of understanding the “other side”, but reading white nationalists and neo-nazis to understand why Trump won… is why Trump won.

    Trump won swing states, in part, by winning counties that had voted for Obama TWICE. Do you think that these people were not only racists, but stupid? That it took them eight years to figure out that Obama is not a white guy with a really good tan?

    I voted for Trump, but it was the hardest and worst thing I have had to do. I would pick two random people on the street over the two choices we had.

    Among the many reasons that tilted the scales for me to choose horrible option #2 and not horrible option #1 is the constant bashing of all whites as being racists. Especially if they do not agree with the Democratic party.

    If the media constantly discussed how Indonesian Americans are racist it would get on your nerves.

    Voting for Trump does not make a person racist, no matter that person’s race. Treating people by the color of their skin and not content of their character is what makes one racist.

    As a startup founder I cannot be open about my decision to vote. The VC community has made it clear that they will accept no alternative voices.

    The odds are that most in the startup community will stay closeted, but I bet you can find Trump supporters in one of your communities. Start your understanding with those people.

    1. No, I’m not starting with the assumption that all Trump voters are racist. I don’t expect you to read comment threads on a prior post, but here is my POV on that at this link. Moreover, some very close friends voted for Trump and had really good reasons. And, yes, they’re not racists, are extremely educated, high-income, etc.

      My goal for me is to keep pushing on a certain line of thinking which is that 1/2 of the country, comprised of different sub-groups each of which has its own agenda, has a different POV from the other 1/2–and, I’m trying to understand it vs. reject or scorn it.

      As I’ve written before here, Trump did better than Romney with minorities, so he is clearly building a coalition. It is therefore wrong to label that the Trump movement has happened due to racism. In that post, I also wrote that I feel people need to give the Pres.-elect a chance.

      Agreed on the comment about certain pro-Obama counties flipping. Have in fact discussed that at the office and with my family.

      Also, I agree with you that massive double standards exist. Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore can boast about “Asian values,” and no one jumped at him.

      But, the data about this are also true: Trump has said very inflammatory things, and there’s a segment of his following that endorses some very far, far right views. They’re allowed to do so, and my goal was to try to hear what they had to say. If we’re not able to hear all points of view without freaking out, then we cannot engage as a society on various issues.

      Everyone is entitled to speak out, including those far right folks and including me. I’ve chosen to speak publicly. You’ve chosen to respond anonymously and listed an email address that doesn’t work (I had written to you to thank you for your comment). Again, that’s your right.

      I frankly think the more dialogue the better. It’s the only way to go to a common path as a nation. As I’ve written before here, I’m very grateful to this country. I’m an immigrant and am very patriotic. I am hopeful we can move forward as a country.

      So, thank you for writing.

  2. I had seen the blog post, but not your comment before and that does help putting this post in context.

    This post hit me because the attempt to exit the bubble was starting with three groups of people and two of those groups were Nazis and White Nationalists. That struck me not as seeing the other side, but as seeing the worst of the other side.

    The video clip at the bottom was funny, but the message was clear. Trump won because of racism. Period.

    I think understanding is lacking on all sides and that the lower/middle class, especially in flyover states, is not well understood by many coastal elites. I think that is true for both liberal and conservative elites.

    I hope as many people as possible on all sides can try to reach out and understand. At the start of the journey we need to check our assumptions. That is true across the political spectrum.

    A note on anonymity: if I were not in a startup that will be going out for funding, I would be fine to post this openly. To be seen as a Trump supporter would take fund raising from difficult (as for everyone) to impossible.

    1. You’re right. In retrospect, I should have been more clear about the context. Agreed, the SNL has a clear message, which clouded the blog post further.

      Also, I’m sorry that you feel muzzled because of your vote.

      This is a frustrating time for me. I support the right to speak out and protest, but the violence bums me out. There have been cases of harassment by Trump supporters. There also have been cases of violence against Trump supporters.

      I guess the TL;DR for me is this. Trump won fair and square. We need to honor the peaceful transfer of power. There are many ways to disagree with his policies, but let’s first see what he decides to implement.

      If we continue to shut down and not engage in civil discourse, each side is just digging its heels, and we will get nowhere.

  3. And I had not read before just now your post on the election which made clear you had seen the switch in counties from Obama to Trump.

    I agree completely with you that dialog and understanding are crucial. One thing that has weakened among “elites” is a certain amount of civility and respect. We have been willing to assume the worst about the other side and decide that any belief or tactic is fine.

    I hope for the best over the next four years as you clearly do.

    1. +1. Also, each “half” of the electorate ignores, dismisses or demonizes the other “half” at its own peril.

      I truly believe this is like a difficult marriage, but divorce isn’t possible. You simply cannot break up the U.S.A. since there are so many interconnections economically.

      For example, #CalExit isn’t realistic. I looked up the data. California is one of the nation’s biggest recipients of federal dollars (benefits, federal pensions, spending on military bases, etc.).

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