We Are at Risk of Being Stuck in an Echo Chamber

Digital Illustration by Ivy Sand. 

It’s no secret that the majority of GDS students are Democrats, usually with liberal views. There is a common understanding among students that there is a GDS political bubble of center- and far-left ideas. The school does not often introduce speakers or information contrary to the political dynamic of the student body. 

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to participate in the Foreign Policy Summer Academy at Georgetown University. This three-week program allowed me to circumvent the GDS bubble, learn about international politics and hear from an array of voices with unique political perspectives. 

At GDS, my teachers do not often weave their political opinions into the class. During the summer program, my foreign policy professor, who is Belarusian, often brought his opinions into the classroom. He frequently claimed that Ukrainians do not truly support their country’s war to maintain sovereignty. In Washington D.C. and America, there is generally a pro-Ukrainian sentiment, so to hear the other side of the argument from this professor was both refreshing and incredibly interesting. 

I also had the opportunity to engage in political discourse with students from both around the world and different political parties. I debated alongside a Texan and a Republican from Nicaragua against a young anarchist from New York about the existence of left-wing hate speech.

Each person in the debate offered a new viewpoint or idea counter to the dominant liberal ideas held at GDS. While I largely agree with those leftist ideas, it is still important to challenge our own ideas and examine the areas where they fall apart and lack nuance.

The viewpoint my Belarusian professor sought to present was one countering the Western narrative on the war in Ukraine. His argument consisted of two parts: The Ukrainians do not want war, and the war in Ukraine is a proxy war resulting from U.S. dominance, stemming from what he believes are ideas of Russophobia growing within NATO.  

While I do not agree with the majority of his ideas, I came to see a more nuanced history. For example, according to The Washington Post, the members of the Ukrainian military were instrumental in the bombing of the Nord Stream pipeline, a pipeline running from Germany to Russia that was sabotaged in September of 2022, despite Ukraine, many Western governments and newspapers asserting Russian responsibility. What I took away from his presentation was that we cannot blindly support an organization or country without understanding all of history.

I initially thought that my professor was overloading his class with pro-Russian viewpoints to the point of obvious bias and propaganda. However, despite his views being uncommon in the DMV, I should not have disregarded them in the first place, revealing my own political biases and their faults.

In the debate with the anarchist from New York, he said that the American political left had never incited violence against the right or a specific group and is innocent and incapable of violent actions in the future. However, while the American left has rarely engaged in political violence or discrimination, that does not mean it is not capable of such actions or is innocent. 

For example, in 2020, Portland resident Aaron Danielson was shot and killed by American far-left activist Michael Reinoeh, who was upset that Danielson had driven through the city displaying flags supporting former president Donald Trump. Ignoring examples like Danielson and the belief that the political left is innocent will lead to extremism and polarization. 

GDS students need to be exposed to other viewpoints if GDS will not provide counterpoints or political opposition through assembly speakers, for example. I urge students to seek out experiences in which they can have their opinions challenged. By exploring what lies beyond the GDS bubble, students can mitigate their risk of being trapped in an echo chamber. Echo chambers have accelerated the political polarization occurring in the United States. It is crucial that in this time of extreme polarization, students seek out a variety of viewpoints, even if that means venturing outside the walls of GDS. 

Ukrainian military officer coordinated Nord Stream pipeline attack that shocked and mystified the West – The Washington Post