Sunday, November 3, 2013

The problem with echo chambers

This week Geoff sent me a link to an online magazine for Mormons called Meridian.  It featured a brief essay by a woman named Joni Hilton called "Are You a Liberal Mormon?"  In it she delineated steps (in her view) that are sure to lead to apostasy.

It was a curious piece.  Although I'm guessing Hilton is probably my age, parts of it sounded like it had been written by a zealous BYU coed.  You're a liberal Mormon if you see R-rated movies or fail to read your scriptures daily.  Other observations were just odd.  You're a liberal Mormon, for example, if you go to Europe and then talk about it?????   Basically the thrust was this:  get on board or get out.  At least that's how it read.

Now here's the thing.  I don't know Hilton and so I have no way of knowing if the tone of this piece--which was judgmental and petty--is an accurate representation of her in real time.  I am very aware that columnists can and do craft public personas that are only a piece of the entire package.

Still.

I'm guessing that Hilton was surprised by the HUGE blowback the column received--so huge, in fact, that Meridian took the piece down and then offered a fairly lame defense for its publication in the first place.  In an online editorial Maurine Proctor assured readers that the term "liberal" did not refer in any way a person's political beliefs (as far as I can tell, none of the readers thought it did) and that the senior editorial staff had been out of the country (hopefully not in Europe) working on a project when the piece was launched.

Here's the deal.  Even though she probably doesn't want it (or perhaps even deserve it), I feel a real sympathy for Hilton.  She must be hurt and surprised by the reaction--especially since Meridian is by no definition of the word a liberal publication.  So how did this happen?

Again, I'm only speculating.  But I'm guessing that Hilton has done a lot of talking and reading and listening and thinking and writing in an echo chamber--a place that pretty much reflects back her own views.  We all do that to some extent.

What this experience reminds us to do is to get out and stretch our legs a little so we can get a real feel for how other people experience this great big complicated world.

5 comments:

radagast said...

Wow. Yes. So well said. It's like my students trying to fix "The Homeless Problem" without ever having spoken with a homeless person. I so enjoy stretching my legs as I amble through your posts and columns, Ann.

Angypants said...

Yes. Yes. Yes!

Emily said...

This!!

Melody said...

Amen, sister. To every word you wrote her.

Melody said...

here.