The “Echo Chamber” Distraction: Disinformation Campaigns are the Problem, Not Audience Fragmentation

Garrett, R. Kelly
Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition

Comments on an article by Stephan Lewandowsky, Ullrich K.H. Ecker & John Cook (see record 2017-57700-001). The importance of the arguments made by Lewandowsky et al. is difficult to underestimate. Recognizing that the current crisis of faith in empirical evidence and in the value of expertise has roots that reach far beyond individual-level psychological processes is a crucial step in countering it. As the authors note, there are a host of social, technological, and economic factors that contribute to the situation we face today, and accounting for these interdependent forces will enable stakeholders, including scientists, journalists, political elites, and citizens, to respond more effectively. Further, the authors clearly articulate why scholars must engage in politically charged debates. The argument that political motivations are driving the emergence of a “post-truth” world has ample precedent: rumors and lies have been used to shape public opinion throughout human history. What is perhaps unique to the present situation is the willingness of political actors to promote doubt as to whether truth is ultimately knowable, whether empirical evidence is important, and whether the fourth estate has value. Undermining public confidence in the institutions that produce and disseminate knowledge is a threat to which scientists must respond.