A political echo chamber can be a tricky place to dwell in regardless of what political preference that the echo chamber caters to. People who inhabit echo chambers can lose sight of the fact that the stars of echo chambers are human beings who are capable of errors in judgment, errors in what they say.
An example of this phenomenon is seen in how some conservatives reacted when conservative political commentator S.E. Cupp dared to remind people that Rush Limbaugh is fallible. In an opinion piece for the New York Daily News, Cupp makes this comment:
…part of the point I was trying to make was that the impulse to defend anything and everything that a party heavyweight says — to the death — has the deleterious effect of making conservatives seem irrational and herd-like. No one is right all the time, and no one is above reproach…
…The other point that the reaction to my Rush comments proves is that conservatives continue to view criticism (even the constructive kind) through a lens of ideological suspicion. Even though I defended conservative principles as right, strong and popular, and explicitly said this isn’t about casting strident conservatives out of the party but reworking our messaging, Rush’s fans still decided that my conservatism was discredited. Disagreeing with him, or merely offering that we should feel comfortable disagreeing with party leaders now and then, suddenly made me an untrustworthy, sell-out liberal.
People dwelling in liberal echo chambers are known make the mistake of fawning over their celebrity pundits without thinking critically about what those pundits are saying. Sadly, people dwelling in conservative echo chambers are known to make the same mistake, and if a conservative (as in Cupp’s case) should dare to disagree with a celebrity pundit, then the conservative is treated as a heretic or as an apostate.
In her piece, Cupp writes, “It’s not my desire to silence anyone, but amplify other voices, many of whom don’t feel like they have permission to disagree with party heavyweights. We don’t need permission, and in fact conservatism has a hallowed tradition of healthy skepticism toward authority.”
I enjoy my participation in Wizbang in part because this blog’s founder permits its writers to express opposing viewpoints. Wizbang’s writers are not required to march lockstep in expressing groupthink.
For example, one of my Wizbang colleagues is of the opinion that S.E. Cupp is guilty of conservative apostasy. I disagree. Cupp’s criticism of Rush Limbaugh (and reminder that he is fallible) is no act of apostasy, but instead is an honest assessment of one conservative by another.
Conservatives aren’t doing themselves any favors by holding up a conservative pundit as being some kind of political prophet who can say or do no wrong.
Those who dare to be pundits aren’t doing themselves any favors by pretending that they are never mistaken in what they say.
People enjoy dwelling in an echo chamber because what is said in it is usually emotionally pleasing. Yet, something can be emotionally pleasing but factually wrong. If it is an error for liberals to base right and wrong on whatever is emotionally pleasing to them, then it is equally an error for conservatives to do the same thing.
A political echo chamber is fun to observe, and you can learn a thing or two from one. However, if you remain in one for too long, then you tend to surrender your critical thinking and become one of a myriad of people who blindly march lock-step behind whoever is leading the herd.
Liberals in the USA have displayed such a herd mentality. Conservatives need to avoid doing the same thing, and one way to avoid it is to welcome dissenting voices within the conservative movement, instead of trying to silence them.