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In Defense of “Echo Chambers”

[1]2,391 words

In the now-halcyon days of late 2019, I was called to participate in a debate which was billed “nationalism vs. patriotism,” but adherents to the dissident Right’s creeds would probably categorize it as “ethnonationalism vs. civic nationalism” which then branched out into “traditionalism vs. liberalism,” because those things tend to go hand in hand for some strange reason. After the introductory niceties, once we stated our premises, I quickly surmised that my interlocutor, a self-styled patriot, did not inhabit the same empirical universe as myself and the rest of the dissident Right, which is to say, his basic postulates on how the universe, and specifically human beings work, were different from my own.

His model of a human being was a blank slate, with parameters such as IQ, emotional stability, impulse control, time preference, and others being the result working more or less (conscientiousness and industriousness included). Once this became apparent, I quickly declared that no meaningful conclusion could be reached with regard to policy proposals or ideology, since, and I will reiterate, we do not agree on the nature of human beings or even the universe itself. My opponent refused to discontinue the debate, and we spent the next five hours talking more or less past each other. But at least one of my double takes, when my opponent suggested that a Negro in traditional Macedonian dress is just as Macedonian as the two of us garnered a dose of notoriety on Instagram.

Since then, I’ve eschewed debates, even though I’ve been dragged in more than one more or less against my will. The fact of the matter is that if the two people debating do not agree on what human beings are, any discussion of human matters and especially the ultimate human matter of politics is pointless, until such a time they can agree to inhabit the same empirical universe, which is to say, one or both of them change their opinion with regard to the nature of man. In linguistic terms, while we share a medium of signifiers — language and words, our conceptions of the signifieds corresponding to those signifiers are so vastly different from each other, that our maps of the world — the empirical universes from the first paragraph, are two very different conceptions of reality, which wouldn’t be problematic if humans were inclined (the cynical would say able) to look up from their maps and conceive of the territory. If even one of the interlocutors using different maps is unable to, or refuses to, look up from his map and argues his map, while his opponent argues his own map, or worse, the territory (such as he imperfectly perceives it), then all the debaters really do is hurl signifiers at each other, more often than not past each other, failing to communicate the intended meaning, communicating instead misunderstood, often innocuously hostile meanings.

In all our subsequent discussions on the subject, my opponent and I never managed anything except to frustrate each other, he with his religious fervor in favor of liberalism, me with my knowledge of the map he was arguing from (being a former liberal). Nothing good came out of them, aside from grist for the meme mills.

If you are on Gab, you’ll see something similar going on, and in fact it has been going on since January. A new crop of members, known to the old hats as J21rs, because they joined Gab after the massive social media purge of MAGA conservatives on January 21st and the subsequent collapse of the Parler scam, have been running headfirst into the already established dissident Right there and to their great surprise, finding out that their make of map is not hegemonic on the political right, in fact, that there’s an entire book of dissident maps out there, that just throwing out the old, hackneyed signifiers of right-alignment is not the be all and end all of resistance to globohomo.

The response from the J21ers has been mixed: some have tried to sequester themselves from the dissidents, others have sought debate with them, which usually ends with screams of “nazi, racist” and other terms you’d not expect from a self-proclaimed rightist and a small minority have actually done some soul searching and have at least attempted to go through a process of deeper redpilling, seeking out the enemy’s implanted narrative cores [2] and trying to excise them.

For most, though, it’s been an exercise in futility, and so they’ve latched on to Gettr [3] and the “freedom phone [4]” as technological solutions to their problems which will allow them to keep on using the old map, without excising the old narrative cores — i.e. to keep on being essentially liberals and pretending like they’re the only option on the right. Personally, I don’t blame them. My own redpilling process is best described as a two-year-long slow-burning nervous breakdown, culminating in a bout of nervous fever. Rejecting all that you’ve been taught since childhood is not easy and not pleasant.

But if those J21ers leave for Gettr or whatever other new scam Conservative Inc. is preparing to grift off of Trump’s directionless base, and the leftoids remain on twitter, then won’t Gab risk turning into an echo chamber? In fact, haven’t we been told, essentially, that echo chambers are the ultimate evil of political movements because they unmoor us from political reality? Well, I for one, welcome the so-called echo chamber.

First of all, I question the very validity of the term. Echo implies that it’s just the same sounds getting bounded about the dreaded chamber, but one look at the dissident Right tells you that we’re producing anything but the same sounds. Just in this webzine, you’ll find such pluralism of thought, from European-style identitarianism, to American nationalism, to neoreaction and allied views, from HBD-centered dissident thought, to pan-Europeanism, Christian reaction and Christian nationalism, pagan revivalism, post-libertarianism, even the dreaded racist liberals have been known to contribute an article or two, shoulder pressing close to national-socialist shoulder.

And then you have all the other happy harbors of dissident thought, such as American Renaissance, VDare, the Unz Review, and many others, each of which presents a panoply of diverse opinion, even though we theoretically agree on the big questions. We do not argue from the same maps, but our maps are similar enough that we can form a sort of rough composite shared reality within which we can discuss and operate. In other words, the fundamental problem of human communication is solved for us, meaning that we can talk to each other rather than past each other. Now, whether we’re willing to is another matter, but the ability is there. We speak the same language.

Second of all, I question the notion that individual members of the dissident Right suffer in the dreaded echo chamber. The idea behind this notion is that adversity will both breed innovation of thought and keep us moored to “political reality.” First of all, I doubt that adversity will lead to innovation. Time and time again, when facing adversity in debate, I’ve found myself defaulting to movement fundamentals, repeating them almost verbatim, whereas my more esoteric and innovative thought is usually developed without adversity, after conversations with fellow dissidents, from a position of absolute security in the fundamentals with much room for error.

I will here draw a parallel to scientific progress. Historically, the bulk of invention has come from either bored and underemployed aristocrats and priests — i.e. people with secure incomes and little to do, (sometimes known as the English model) or from scientists given grants for independent, blue sky research with little expectations of immediate results and maximum freedom of exploration (sometimes known as the German model). In no case has innovation, either in science or art, come from adversity, nor is necessity the mother of invention. As I learned during my time practicing combat sports, when times are hard, when adversity is great, the right thing to do is to “remember your training” and do the things you know how to do very well, even if they are old hat.

Thirdly, and addressing the point that the echo chamber keeps us moored to “political reality,” I will question the necessity of being moored to “political reality.” This political reality we’re supposed to be moored to isn’t as real as those who want us to participate in it claim. It is theater, and worse than that, malicious theater, meant to mislead, deceive, bamboozle, confound, and instrumentalize the earnest right-winger (see under: MAGA). The framework of political reality is completely controlled and indeed, manufactured by the enemy, whether directly or through mind-controlled opposition. To participate in this theater is to be a collaborator in your dispossession and enslavement. The enemy wants us to chase those sticks, they want us wasting our energies on pointless debates, hurling signifiers at the scarecrows they erect for us, and of course, they want us to feel bad if we ever find ourselves among friends, in the dreaded echo chamber. Oh, if only some well-meaning liberal could travel back in time to Medieval Europe and inform the Christians that by burning heretics, expelling Jews, and defending their lands against Muslims, they’re creating an echo chamber.

While we’re on the subject of Christianity, we should note that Christendom did not separate itself out from the world, even while it maintained an echo chamber within Christian lands. Rather, it dispatched missionaries to convert the various realms, but here’s the thing: missionaries are specialized priests. Orthodox Christianity calls those who’ve converted previously pagan realms “Equal-to-Apostles” (isapostolos, ravnoapostolni). The average believer, or even a priest, is not up to the task of going into the lands of the infidels and turning them to Christ. It takes a special kind of man, a St. Patrick, a St. Boniface, to go among the infidels and teach them. Many will fail. For the rest of us sinful souls, we live on in the Christian echo chamber, far from heresy, far from infidel thought, good and fulfilling lives. Even the highest-ranking members of the Church, the bishops and cardinals, do not walk around among the infidels. Rather they sit at the very top of the echo chamber, enforcing it for the good of the faithful. And let’s say a man wishes to spend some time apart from the church hierarchy, which could be oppressive. He goes not among the infidels, but to the woods and mountains to become a holy hermit, and those who hunger most for God become monks and nuns, sequestering themselves in monasteries and creating such an airtight echo chamber that not even lay Christians are suffered for long.

Now, whether we like it or not, the dissident Right is a collection of rival faiths, standing in opposition to the prevailing faith of the West, which is progressive liberalism. We’re not yet so big that we can afford the specialization of the mature Catholic church — an individual prelate, let’s call him a content creator, must at various points be a confessor for the faithful, conduct liturgical service, contribute theological and practical insight, enforce orthodoxy in the ranks, set up churches and monasteries and yes, even engage in proselytising.

But when men come to church, they seek solace from the vicissitudes of the world and when men come to the dissident Right, they seek a place where modernity doesn’t press on them, or at least not as hard. I distinctly remember the sensation of relief and peace when I attended my first Scandza Forum conference — even though the venue was under literal siege by Antifa terrorists, it was the first time in a very long time that I did not feel under siege, for I was surrounded by friends, in a so-called echo chamber where I could credibly assume that we were all if not of one, than at least of a similar enough mind to communicate. And indeed, contentious person that I am, I found grounds for vigorous yet friendly debate there, among friends.

The echo chamber is a bogeyman, a concept intended to pathologize the state of being surrounded by and conversing with friends, which every human being naturally and justifiably craves. We can draw analogues to the similarly evil concept of racism, which aims to pathologize the state of preferring the biological ingroup and harboring a distrust of the biological outgroup, which is natural and normal in every human being.

What racism is to biological categories, the “echo chamber” is to ideological and religious categories. At its core lies the very liberal (and therefore ideological) assumption that conflict stems from insufficient learned and reasoned discourse, that if we were only to have a conversation with the enemy, conflict would abate, and we’d peacefully and vegetatively engage in productive and mutually beneficial activity. Of course, one look at how these things work in practice and this notion becomes laughably false. Christendom did not argue the Muslims out of conquest; we did not convince them of the divinity of Christ with facts and logic, rather, we had to employ military might to break the back of the Caliphate. Even St. Boniface did not argue the Germanic pagans into accepting Christ — he chopped down Irminsul, the world tree, in a demonstration of his will and the might of the Christian God, and even then, it took the armies of Charlemagne to defeat the last of the pagans. Detente is not reached through conversation, but when force of arms fails to decisively break the enemy.

Does this mean we should eschew debate? No, just as the Church did not eschew proselytizing. But know its limits and know that it is not for everyone. If, like me, you believe we’re close to peak redpill, our time as priests of the dissident church is better spent administering communion to the faithful, keeping up their spirits in these troubled times, and developing new approaches which will help us win in the future. People are always on about building institutions and creating culture, but you can’t really do that if you’re always fighting lefty with one hand and the mainstream right with the other. Culture arises once a space, conceptual or real, has been conquered and separated out from the wilderness where heretics and infidels abound. Or in the words of modern political discourse, culture arises in echo chambers.

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