Hate and the echo chamber | The Triangle

Hate and the echo chamber

Diversity is important. Not just the kind of “diversity” that Drexel’s Office of Equality and Diversity handles, but a much broader sense of diversity. Diversity of colors, yes, but also diversity of people, culture, places and, most importantly, diversity of ideas. When we as human beings from many different backgrounds come together we exchange ideas that are totally alien and different to one another, and in the process create ideas that never existed before.

People fear the unknown, the different, the unconventional, the weird. We learned this through thousands of years of evolution, where the “unknown” meant a dark cave full of bears, or a giant carnivorous plant, or some other comic primitive danger. Today, we don’t often deal with caves full of bears; we deal with new and uncomfortable social experiences: your first Powelton party,your first Drexel class, your first job interview. (Hopefully not in that order.)

We’ve been averaging well over two mass shootings a week this year in the U.S., and one of this week’s was committed by a certain person (who we shall not name, to avoid glamorizing the mass shooter) at a certain university in southern California, targeting women in particular. He left behind a manifesto, killed six and injured 13. He committed these acts because he hated women. He hated women because of his extreme sexual frustration. His sexual frustration came from his anti-social behavior, and his anti-social behavior was amplified by the freedom to pick and choose information to reinforce his world-view at will.

Through websites like Reddit, Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post, and so on, where information is contributed not necessarily by professional journalists, but by average everyday people, we are exposed to a vast quantity and variety of information. To read every viewpoint and analyze every idea is impossible, and not at all worthwhile, because most of them are, let’s face it, terrible. We have to filter the information we are exposed to and only read what we believe is most pertinent to ourselves.

The problem comes when we, through our filters, set up an “echo chamber.” When we filter what we hear and what we see to only that information which fits our world view, we limit our ability to form new ideas. The Neo-Nazi community visits only Stormfront for its news, and by extension, its ideas. The Pick-Up Artist frequents r/mensrights and r/PUA. The “Die cis scum” trans-post-feminist frequents only Tumblr sites where made-up gender-neutral pronouns are mandatory and commenters who fail to use the requisite trigger warnings are banned. The fundamentalist Baptist believes only his minister’s sermons, which condemns women’s clothing trends, and the radical Islamist listens only to his imam condemning women in general. And so on.

These are all echo chambers. No new ideas are introduced in these environments, and existing ideas are compounded until they are absolute fact, and radical acts can be committed by the true believers. Communities like r/mensrights, Stormfront, etc. become cults, because exposure to new ideas is extremely limited.

The mass shooter we are dealing with here frequented PUAhate.com, where self-proclaimed haters of pick-up artists posted to vent their frustration at the pick-up artist community, not just because they were a load of deluded misogynist pricks, but because they felt ripped off by the pick-up artist community when its methods failed to allow them to “pick up” girls.

Pick-up artists speak of “alpha” and “beta” males, and of “taking the red pill” (meaning suddenly becoming attractive to women through Matrix-like enlightenment), and speak of women as one-dimensional objects to be acquired and not as people. Members of PUAhate.com’s fora, in their enlightenment, spoke also of “alpha” and “beta” males, and generally made use of the same vocabulary. What is very important to note here is that no new ideas were introduced when this reactionary community formed. Everyone posting in those fora was still a misogynist prick; they just intensely disliked people who were at least honest about it. Though forum members had escaped the pick-up artist community, PUAhate.com was still part of the same echo chamber, and still echoed the same hateful views of women and the same outdated and obsolete views of masculinity.

If this mass shooter had, say, joined an on-campus organization (like, say, the campus newspaper, for example), he would have been exposed to new social situations, and to new people who would have hopefully been able to help shape his world view into one which focused less on the negative aspects of his life. If he had spent his online time not on PUAhate.com, but on, say, some kind of forum dedicated to a hobby other than hating specific groups of people, he might not have committed such a heinous act.

Which brings me to my main point: Terrorists, mass shooters, etc. do what they do because they don’t have anything in their life but hate. They don’t have hobbies, they usually don’t have jobs, or a wide circle of friends outside their hate group. (Or, in the case of the postal shootings of the ‘80s and ‘90s, people who have had their benefits drastically slashed after decades of service.) They don’t have anything valuable to do with their lives except end it, and to end the lives of those around them for personal glory or to advance some “great cause.” Most of them have been thinking along the same lines for a long, long time, and the warning signs are obvious.

So, if you know someone in a similar situation, or, more importantly, if you yourself are in a similar situation, get out of it. Seek help. Learn to overcome your social anxiety or find someone to help you. Go to parties, meet attractive people. Put down the World of Warcraft, the Reddit, the EVE Online, and go outside. Join a student organization. (Triangle meetings are at 6:30 in MacAlister 3010, free pizza provided to all members by the way.) Study abroad! Try something different every once in a while, expose yourself to a wide variety of people and ways of thinking, and your quality of life will improve dramatically.

Justin Roczniak is the op-ed editor of The Triangle. He can be contacted at [email protected].