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  • Peter Olusanya

Hyper Partisanship Between the Two Parties


Hyper partisanship in the U.S. has become a lot more of an issue, and, unfortunately, more common as well. Echo chambers have become a lot more prevalent as technology has progressed and has had an impact on all levels, from our everyday interactions up to the national government where there are gridlocks in passing bills/mandates. Why should anyone care? Hyperpartisanship has created an environment where neither party wants to reason with one another which creates banter and tension between the two parties. In Congress, gridlocks have further led to a halt in legislation passing that could help benefit Americans, whether it be welfare, infrastructure, or job benefits. Due to social media, news outlets, and lack of trust for misinformation we see how Americans have developed these political echo chambers to take refuge in their own bias, which is detrimental to the United State’s society.

A recent issue I find to be interesting is the tension between the two dominant parties in the United States: the democratic and republican parties and the expanding extreme versions of both parties due to technology/media. This divergent trend between the two partisanships started taking true form in the year 2017, when former President Donald Trump was inaugurated into the presidential office. It was then that we started to see hyper-partisan politics in action for the first time in a while. With this hyper-partisanship, moderation inside of both political parties has dissipated into virtually nothing. Both sides are extremely intolerant to one another, and unwilling to reason with one another, despite previously doing so for years. What further inflates this problem is: social media and heavily biased news outlets. These two components create echo chambers that further contribute to the political divide in today’s climate.

Social media has undoubtedly played a major role in further ramifying the gap between the two parties. Social media is used by practically everyone, as the vast majority of people in the United States has access to social media through some medium, whether it be through smartphone, tablet, or computer. Since nearly everyone in America has access to some sort of device, the best way for political echo chambers to form is through social media. The social media algorithm which is designed to adjust to what we like to see which doesn’t help the case at all either because the algorithm is only putting posts on our feed that we like, and not posts that we disagree with. This could seem like a good thing at first, but it encloses us to ideas that only fit with what we agree on and not with opposing ideas. This slowly makes the social media user intolerant to any other opinion because the algorithm convinces them to believe that their opinion can only be the right answer and that any answer that conflicts with theirs is automatically invalid. This is in other words, an echo chamber, which is anything that reinforces an opinion that we already believe or agree upon. Echo chambers don’t solve anything, they don’t allow people to think critically, and it denounces cooperation. This could be very detrimental to the United States, as it is very diverse and consists of people that come from various backgrounds, morals, and beliefs.

News outlets have played a vital role in instilling the gap between the two parties, although, in my opinion, not as big of a role as social media has, but a very prevalent role nonetheless. News outlets often interpret the world how they want to see it. They make headlines and skew them based on their political agenda, they’ll take bits and parts of quotes to skew them for their political agenda, and sometimes even show a small segment of a video just to fulfil their agenda with little to no repercussions of how it may portray someone or what they actually did. Instead of just saying how an event went down, some news organizations will purposely misinterpret something to make the other party look horrible, or to make their own party look great. One can probably see how echo chambers could form if we are only listening to one or two news organizations that someone already agrees with party-wise.

I hope to target those who are on the extreme side of both parties. They’re the ones that need to see how much the media is changing their behaviour and how they interact with others who are not like them. Hopefully, my research will allow them to open their eyes to other viewpoints and try to understand ideas/opinions that don't match theirs. Some publication venues could be e-book, journal articles, websites (blogs) etc. I expect people who are centrists or independents to be on my side because most likely they will have viewpoints that vary from topic to topic. They wouldn't be caught up on either side of the political spectrum, so I expect them to be more level-headed than others. I expect political far leftists and far right-wings to be my oppose my viewpoints as they’re probably too caught up in their own beliefs to take any other opinion into consideration.

Although social media has done a lot of good; closing the gaps in communication, in a lot of cases it has done a lot more harm than good. Developer’s algorithms implemented into social media apps remain to be the primary reason this problem has been exacerbated. According to Nature News, we are likely to find “higher segregation on Facebook than on other platforms”. (Travierso 2021) “Facebook, for example, does not offer a simple chronological option to see what your contacts share.” (Travierso 2021) These “set-in-stone” features found on Facebook and plenty of other social media apps pave leeway for social media echo chambers to form causing people to drift away from others not like them. This can negatively impact the way people interact with said people and cause unnecessary disputes with flawed logic, whereas it should be respectful dissenting opinions backed by unbiased evidence. Political echo chambers are what is preventing the U.S. from moving forward. “Facebook’s goal is to give you more of what you like the most: all the content you read, comment on, like, etc. is automatically considered an invitation to “give me more of the same”. Basic, but it works: if we get more of the same, we’re likely to keep wanting more.” (Dans 2021) Enrique Dans does a great job of explaining how Facebook tricks people into their trap. He states that social media, namely Facebook has implemented an algorithm that essentially pushes us into an echo chamber if we’re not careful. The different aspects of the algorithm that Facebook puts in place make it nearly impossible not to behave as a hive-mind because Facebook sets up their algorithm strategically to fit what they “think” we would like to see on our feed. But Facebook isn’t the only one, a lot of other social media applications implement these same aspects into their algorithm as well. Both of these articles imply that social media is inherently a breeding ground for echo chambers and that they are set up in a way to isolate us from those not like us, and more with people we relate with. Instead of focusing energy on improving the lives of everyone and fixing our mistakes; we’re channeling that effort into pointless arguing and banter that does nothing but put our country’s problems at a standstill.

News outlets and headlines have played a more vital role than most people think in contributing to hyperpartisanship in the U.S. skewed headlines, and depending on which party the news organization identifies with, can muster up commotion with the right words. News outlets would have minimal impact if everyone would expand their news sources and try to dig for correct information. “...an echo chamber is the result of too narrow a news and information focus. In the past, when access to information was mainly through a few channels, echo chambers came about through choice, an effect that was reinforced when our friends and family did the same.” (Dans 2021) As Dans has already stated, many people are led into echo chambers because they’ve been misled because of the lack of news sources they read. According to Forbes, “ill-informed people tend to go for clear editorial lines and avoid exploring others, adopting, as a consequence, radical positions, often based on conspiracy theories.” (Dans 2021) Oftentimes, people just want a quick read or a headline that’s straight to the point, but this can be very dangerous because it causes unwarranted bias and false trust in distorted information. Anyone could see how that leads to countless problems. If everyone put their belief in this type of information, everything in the U.S. would be twisted and there would not be a true form of “justice” at all. It’s everyone’s individual obligation to do their own research and dig deep to get their facts and not acquire them from a singular news source that we already agree with. Doing this forms an environment where we can correctly address issues more effectively.

Lastly, lack of trust from outside sources is a prevalent reason why people in echo chambers stay inside of them. People who are already in echo chambers have developed evidence within those echo chambers to counter-information with their own information to put up barriers, and justify why they won’t hear anyone out. “An echo chamber member, however, distrusts the standard sources. Their trust has been redirected and concentrated inside the echo chamber.” (Nguyen 2019) Nguyen says it best, “Take, for example, climate change deniers. They are fully aware of all the arguments on the other side. Often, they rattle off all the standard arguments for climate change, before dismissing them. Many of the standard climate change denial arguments involve claims that scientific institutions and mainstream media have been corrupted by malicious forces.” (Nguyen 2019) Nguyen essentially explains that some people are aware they’re in echo chambers and within that echo chamber they develop skewed information that combats any argument that tries to collapse the echo chamber with that argument. This information that they use works to reinforce the echo chamber’s barrier and deflect anything that might destroy the echo chamber’s integrity altogether. Nguyen also states that people aren’t stuck in epistemic bubbles, which is “what happens when insiders aren’t exposed to people from the opposite side.”(Nguyen 2019) He explains that the problem isn’t an epistemic bubble, because we only find that online, and people oftentimes interact with others outside their bubble. Nguyen uses common knowledge as evidence of this claim. He states that people that are in echo chambers are in echo chambers because they’ve formed a barrier of falsified information to “face contrary evidence”. (Nguyen 2019) The assumption Nguyen has would both have on this topic would be that echo chambers are intrinsically flawed because the whole essence of it is practically based on a logical fallacy. Similarly, the ideas and beliefs that could form out of the echo chamber could likely consist of logical fallacies as well which leads to a widespread belief in misinformation. This lack of trust is what’s keeping these echo chambers intact and ultimately proliferating the number of people that fall into these traps as well.

Some who disagree might say that echo chambers are not necessarily a bad thing. That people who are in politically homogeneous groups could converse with others in that group to gain access to more “factually accurate information”. (University of Pennsylvania 2019) Although that may be true, the problem at hand still isn’t solved. With echo chambers, comes disregard for other opinions regardless of if those opinions are backed by objectively true information. Fighting facts with facts will not solve hyper-partisanship, because remaining in an echo chamber means that hyperpartisanship in the U.S. is worsening. Fighting facts with facts doesn’t lead to collaboration working to fix society’s issues, if that was the case, we would be living in a utopian society. But the fact of the matter is that we don’t live in a perfect world, and in order to make progress we have to work together and compromise on issues for the greater good of everyone. Other than bettering our society, those facts might not be relevant to the topic, or could be “perceived” as true within that echo chamber, but how would someone know if they aren’t actively conversing with those different from them? This is why dismantling echo chambers is the key to an improved country. However, I can meet in the middle with the notion that echo chambers can be helpful. If the people within those echo chambers can fact-check each other within their echo chambers to make their arguments factually correct, then people from opposing viewpoints can do the same and then converse with each other to try and understand each other and get something done. This way we keep the echo chambers, all the while maintaining the idea of open-ears and compromising.

Ultimately, social media, news outlets, and the distrust of information from outside sources contribute to the widespread problem of hyperpartisanship in the United States. By being proactive about where we get our news sources, conversing with others, and learning to be more considerate we can pave way for an America that actively yearns to help others.

Works Cited

Dans, Enrique. “Why We Should Take the Time to Question Whether We're Living in an Echo Chamber.” Why We Should Take The Time To Question Whether We're Living In An Echo Chamber, Forbes Magazine, 4 Feb. 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/enriquedans/2021/02/04/why-we-should-take-the-time-to-question-whether-were-living-in-an-echochamber/?sh=64ccecb91701.

Travierso, Michele. “Measuring Magnetism: How Social Media Creates Echo Chambers.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 23 Feb. 2021, https://www.nature.com/articles/d43978-021-00019-4.

Nguyen, C. Thi. “The Problem of Living inside Echo Chambers.” The Conversation, The Conversation, 28 Apr. 2021, https://theconversation.com/the-problem-of-living-inside-echo-chambers-110486.

Pennsylvania, University of. “Echo Chambers May Not Be as Dangerous as You Think, New Study Finds.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 13 May 2019, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190513155629.htm.




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