Written by Chet Yarbrough
There are no excuses for one to be uninformed about the world in this era of “phone-net” access. However, what is at issue is an echo chamber that traps unwary reader/listeners and fellow travelers in false beliefs.
An echo chamber is a media repeater that only reaffirms one’s beliefs, whether true or false.
An echo chamber is populated with tailored information that only reinforces what one already believes.
Facts of an echo chamber are tailored to its audience, rather than to truth.
To avoid the echo chamber trap, one must diversify what they read and hear. One must become a skeptic. Personal experience, reading of other’s experience, and listening to different news sources are essential requirements of the skeptic. Diversification begins by reading books of history, and periodicals with different political views. Like all books of history, truth is distorted by a writer’s chosen facts. It is impossible to precisely contextualize the complexity of the past.
History is infected by experiences of the present and fact-choices of the past.
Television news reports, local and national newspapers, and news magazines offer subtlety different views of world events. They may report on the same issue but often show different facts and perspectives. Those differences refine and expand one’s understanding of events. Few writers or news reports are perfectly right but each have a perspective that can be measured by the education and experience of reader/listeners.
Diversification of information does not guarantee truth, but it gives reader/listeners choice. In that choosing, we become ourselves.
A case in point is Jim Webb’s interview in the Wall Street Journal, 1/21/23. The title of the article is “Echoes of Vietnam”. Webb is a veteran of America’s Vietnam war. The interviewer asks Webb if the war was worth fighting. The reported response is “…America won–only a different way. We stopped communism, which didn’t advance in Indochina any further than it reached in 1975. We enabled other countries to develop market economic and governmental systems that were basically functional and responsive to their people. The model stayed and I like to think it will advance in Vietnam.”
Jim Webb (Former U.S. Senator from Va., 66th U.S. Secy. of the Navy, Age 76.)
This is a powerful statement by Webb with a view based on Vietnam war experience and the interviewee’s reported Vietnamese language skill. However, it seems Webb’s and the interviewer’s truth is only a snapshot of Indochina from the perspective of one who risked his life in America’s war.
Having traveled recently to Indochina (specifically Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand) what Webb quoted seems partly true. What the interview does not reveal is an uneasiness felt by Laos and Cambodia about a Vietnamese communist threat to borders of adjacent countries.
Communism and Democracy are changing.
As Webb notes communism has elements of capitalism throughout Indochina. Democracy’s form of capitalism is becoming more socialist, which is particularly true in Scandinavian countries and to a lesser extent America.
The striking concern expressed by Vietnam’ and Cambodian’ guides is the fear of China and its authoritarian form of communism, even though it incorporates elements of capitalism.
It seems the American war in Vietnam had little to do with today’s Indochina’ governments. America’s war seems to have had some effect on Indochina’s governmental evolution but not as much as their own history.
Indochina has its own history of authoritarianism, ranging from monarchy to colonialization to its present form of authoritarian capitalism.
Indochina is changing based on its own history. America’s war is only a small part of that history. Sadly, that small part killed more than 50,000 Americans and indirectly resulted in deaths of many more Indochina citizens.