About That Bubble…

Humans have always occupied bubbles–after all, as sociologists and philosophers tell us, we are inevitably embedded in the particular cultures into which we’re born and raised. But our ability to confine ourselves to a small slice of the larger culture–to occupy an agreeable, albeit distorted or manufactured reality –has been dramatically increased by the Internet.

When I first shared The Filter Bubble with my class on media and public affairs, a student objected that life in a bubble was nothing new. As she said “I was raised in Martinsville, Indiana, and I lived in a White bubble.” True enough–but her subsequent life in the “big city” (cough) of Indianapolis had allowed new experiences and ideas to penetrate that original, geographical bubble.

Today’s Republican Party depends for its continued relevance on two things: gerrymandering, and voters who live in a bubble that is also largely geographic (i.e., rural), but one that–thanks to the Internet and Rightwing media– reality can rarely penetrate.

A while back, the New York Times ran an op-ed focused on Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former spokesperson for Trump and now Governor of  Arkansas. Sanders had just delivered the GOP response to President Biden’s State of the Union address, and as the article noted, her message was inaccessible to most Americans, despite the fact that it was an opportunity to address voters who might not otherwise tune in to a Republican speech.

“In the radical left’s America,” she said, “Washington taxes you and lights your hard-earned money on fire, but you get crushed with high gas prices, empty grocery shelves, and our children are taught to hate one another on account of their race but not to love one another or our great country.”

Sanders attacked Biden as the “first man to surrender his presidency to a woke mob that can’t even tell you what a woman is” and decried the “woke fantasies” of a “left-wing culture war.” Every day, she said, “we are told that we must partake in their rituals, salute their flags and worship their false idols, all while big government colludes with big tech to strip away the most American thing there is: your freedom of speech.”

As the columnist noted, there’s nothing wrong with giving a partisan and ideological State of the Union response–after all, that’s the point of the exercise.

The problem was that most of these complaints were unintelligible to anyone but the small minority of Americans who live inside the epistemological bubble of conservative media. Sanders’s response, in other words, was less a broad and accessible message than it was fan service for devotees of the Fox News cinematic universe and its related properties.

As the columnist admits, this critique rests on the assumption that, in a democratic system, political parties actually want and need to build majorities. But he then considers another possibility: what if today’s GOP is uninterested in appealing to a majority of the nation’s voters?

What if the structure of the political system makes it possible to win the power of a popular majority without ever actually assembling a popular majority? What if, using that power, you burrow your party and its ideology into the countermajoritarian institutions of that system so that, heads or tails, you always win?

That’s a stunning question, but a lot of evidence supports its premise.

After all, there’s no need to win over a majority of voters if you can depend upon the structural realities that militate against genuine majority rule– what the columnist identifies as the “malapportionment of the national legislature, the gerrymandering of many state legislatures, the Electoral College and the strategic position of your voters in the nation’s geography.”

 And if your political party also has a tight hold on the highest court of constitutional interpretation, you don’t even need to win elections to clear the path for your preferred outcomes and ideology.

This analysis recognizes that America’s political system has become so slanted toward  overrepresentation of the Republican Party’s core supporters–the rural and exurban inhabitants of a deeply disturbing ideological bubble– that even when the party’s policy preferences are contrary to those of  most American voters, the party can remain competitive.

The question for the rest of us is: how long can this last? How long until that bubble bursts–and what will it take to burst it?

It won’t burst as long as Americans continue to choose the “facts” they prefer from an  information smorgasbord offering everything from credible reporting to propaganda and fantasy– and continue using those choices to curate and inhabit incommensurate realities.



  1. In the words of the odious sycophant Lyndsay Graham: “If we let everyone vote we’ll never win another election.”

  2. This sentence stuck out: “that even when the party’s policy preferences are contrary to those of most American voters, the party can remain competitive.”

    It’s not the “party” remaining competitive but the ideology.

    This is because the ideology is being thrust upon us from the top down by oligarchs and their media. The media filters us out through what Google calls “User Experiences (UX),” which collects data on us — cookies and preferences.

    Big Tech feeds us what we are looking for, and unless you are incredibly techy, you cannot protect yourself. The more data you share, the more it can collect. Where do you think the security data you collect goes? How about the Fitbit data? Dating preference data? Political preference data?

    This is why other industries buy our data from Big Tech. It’s why Julian Assange warned us in the early 2000s that Google is much more than a search engine. He didn’t consider it a good thing.

    For example, those trapped in the Left bubble pointed out that RFK, Jr. was an anti-vaccine whacko. Did they read his books or listen to Leftist media babble (controlled by Big Pharma)? Good God, how many commercials during daytime TV are from Big Pharma?

    RFK Jr will shake up the conversation bubbles because he comes from a point of truth and critical thinking versus speaking to the bubbles. He will appeal to both sides sometimes, and those caught in the bubbles will be confused by the information they collect.

    Listen to what he has to say. Don’t go into this with a closed mind because we might have one chance to thread the needle. Like his father and uncle, he will be hated by the oligarchy, especially the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC). The MIC is much more powerful today than it was in the 60s.

  3. I’m forever blowing bubbles,
    Pretty bubbles in the air,
    They fly so high,
    Nearly reach the sky,
    Then like my dreams,
    They fade and die.
    Popular song from 1919

  4. Regarding today’s mishmash of anti-anything-I-don’t-like ideas motivating the MAGAte crowds, I think more of echo chambers than bubbles. The latter are fragile, destined to burst and disappear. Echo chambers are well-constructed, durable, & better explicative of the growing intensity of fanatical beliefs and behavior. Whole states can become rightwing echo chambers— Montana, Texas, and Florida as examples. Our relatives in Montana react bitterly and aggressively to any effort to add rational, factual information and change the sounds in their echo chamber. There, it seems entirely true that, for example, the US DOJ and the FBI are acting by direction of evilPres. Biden to persecute an innocent DJT. Things are building toward an ugly, painful reckoning. It is not clear that liberal democratic governance can survive today’s global assault.

  5. I’m glad that I’m in the bubble I’m in, Skeptic seems the best label. I hope so!

  6. Bubbles pop when touched with sharp objects like truth and facts. But Republicans just keep making more bubbles because they emulate their brains…or lack of them. The good news is that the Republican “bubble” is getting smaller even as the blindness and truth denial becomes more concentrated. Those inside the fetid Republican bubble lack the intellect to EVER admit a mistake or that they were wrong. Their disorder requires that they turn themselves into pretzels justifying their embedded premises about everything political and social.

    In this morning’s Denver Post, the proprietor of the Cuban restaurant that Trump went into for his post-arraignment campaign stop (Talk about bubbles and distorted reality!) said, “Even if Trump is guilty we’ll still support him.”

    It doesn’t get any more bubbly than that.

  7. NoDak, continues in its bubble. they have 4 walls built around it. little gets in, and little gets out. ..the bubbles they have little to offer,and little to say,unles it shows,how little they know..
    serving my sentance as i retire,opening their world up,as i bust their little bubbles..

  8. Sanders sure was the pot calling the kettle black in her speech. Her dad sure did an excellent job of teaching her how to lie.

    The bubble Sheila mentions may not burst until the ignorant far right voters some day realize that they foolishly surrendered their lives to the lying autocrats/theocrats that they gave complete control of their lives too.

  9. The various bubbles people inhabit are like security blankets. The immature do not give up their security blankets willingly.

  10. False idols? Trump! They were calling him the son of God! One thing about the Donald, you always know what his nefarious narcissistic mind is up to, because he projects his shenanigans on everyone else. This is a habit that’s been picked up by his lackies! So, when you emulate your idol, follow in his footsteps, agree with his dogma, they’ve created their own God! Talk about false worship!

    The psychological aspect of living in a so-called bubble, is getting permission for your beliefs and conduct!

    The slave trading nations needed permission to quell their conscience, and Pope Nicholas the v provided it in his papal bull which was used and still referred to today, 560 years or so later!

    If you live in a bubble, it’s because you need something to quell your conscience. It doesn’t matter what the issue is, whether it was slavery, slaughtering native populations by the millions, or today being woke as they say, whether Incels Believe women are the root of all of their problems, or others feel they need to cram their lifestyle down your throat, they all live in that bubble. Usually it feeds off of narcissism, and, narcissism feeds hatred.

    When you see folks roiling about idols, but they hold up the flag, the gun, together with the Bible, that’s their triune or trinitarian idol that is sacrilegious because these three are not compatible with each other.

    Scripture does not condone being a patriotic flag waiver carrying guns. But yet they still use their contradictory spiel to soothe their own conscience.

    You cannot impose your personal dogma on others, claiming how evil abortion is, but then promoting guns as a statue on an altar. Those two things are not compatible. Which lives are more valuable? They also claim their biblical piousness, and yet, they run from its direction on conduct.

    Being a hypocrite comes from the Greek word meaning an actor, or a deceiver. And hypocrites of all stripes, they love the flavor of their bubbles, breathing in their preferred type of atmosphere.

    Absolutely the internet or the web or whatever you want to call it, social media is the internet’s baby, has provided what this planet had never had before, instantaneous connection with those who produce the type of atmosphere a reality shopping person needs to survive. And I don’t mean that in a good way.

    That’s the thing about bubbles, they are empty receptacles that can be filled with anything, right, center, left, gullibility, hatred, willful delusion, and any other permission slip that the conscience requires so a person can live their preferred lifestyle. And when those bubble-headed zombies are done eating everyone else, they will eat their own!

  11. Todd. I did read what RFK,Jr. said and I still think he’s a nut job. We don’t need any more wacko conspiracy theorists getting elected. We’re drowning in them already.

  12. The internet actually makes it easy to get out of your bubble (or echo chamber) if you want to. It makes finding information easy. Theresa is right. Some people can’t risk taking a peek outside.

  13. “…what if today’s GOP is uninterested in appealing to a majority of the nation’s voters?”
    Clearly, as stated, that is the case. Why bother, if the political/cultural structure in place works towards your ends.

    RE: RFK, Jr., I have been, unhappily, aware of his anti-vaccination stance, and that alone
    turns me off. If he can believe that, what other garbage can he contain? I will pay him more

    RE: Sanders, I have yet to hear anything not fundamentally dumb and partisan from her. When
    she worked for TFG, she was full of (politely) hot air, and has not moved from that place.

  14. Powers versus freedom is the universal struggle of mankind. Minorities need power to impose what they need on everyone else. Everyone else needs freedom to live their own lives despite the diversity that defines them.

  15. My sister recommended I watch the documentary on the Duggar’s that is currently on Amazon Prime network. The prototypical family that gets into a cult and there is always sexual misconduct w/ these religious cults.

    What I found interesting is this movement was started by a Bill Gothard the founder of the Institute in Basic Life Principles(IBLP) –The Evangelical/Southern Baptist affiliations really took hold of his ministry in the mid-80’s and then the home school movement that reinforced a sinister doctrine–the documentary shows Mike Huckabee and how close he was to the Duggar’s and the doctrine of this group as well as Sarah Palin.

    The goal was to raise large families and to have an army to spew and follow their idiologies and to get into elected office–an extremely long term plan starting back in the 70’s but really taking shape in the 80’s and 90’s–apparently Madison Cawthorn was raised in this group and is part of what they are now calling themselves the Joshua Generation.

    I found a quote “The Joshua Generation is one of the most ambitious plots of modern evangelical history, and almost no one has ever heard of it,” Harris, an attorney, said. “It’s a decades long, multigenerational plan to raise an elite strike force of Christian home-school graduates to infiltrate the highest levels of government.” per Alex Harris, a former leader of this group. ‘And so far, Cawthorn was their largest success,’ Harris said.

    Some of the promotional videos and ‘camps’ are reminiscent of the Nazi Youth camps—I sat not surprised but very alarm because the documentary talks about how this influence is infiltrating all aspects within America, policies, gov’t…etc. The other goals were also taking over the Supreme Court. I am starting to dig on this group as I can see some overlap but also frightening as some of the things my friends were spewing back in the early 90’s who attended Evangelical churches were in this documentary.

  16. Todd: “RFK Jr will shake up the conversation bubbles because he comes from a point of truth and critical thinking…”

    That is absolutely hilarious. I assume you aren’t being serious.

  17. Ah, RFK – I worked hard to elect Sr.
    I feel about Kennedy like I feel about Bayh – loved the father.

    I still read Todd’s comments because he does make good points, but I am reminded of the old (very old) trope that my mother used to laugh about –

    Come the Revolution the people will eat cake, and the WILL love it.

    True believers come from both sides of the coin. I’ll join Peggy as skeptic.
    One of my philosophy profs loved the Socratic method of teaching – fortunately, she fared better that old Socrates.

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