The ‘echo chamber’ has been a phrase on everyone’s lips after Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. People generally only see and hear news that they agree with as their Facebook feed is filled with their peers. The Guardian has tried experimenting with mixing up the access that people have to news with certain biases. But I have a much simpler, and frankly more enjoyable, way of avoiding those echoes. We need to go to the pub.
In the pub where I work there is a regular called Terry. Terry stands in the pub for a fairly large portion of the day, every day, and drinks Ruddles Best (a cheap, weak ale that is to beer what Honey G is to music), a pint approximately every half an hour. Diminutive, a bit grotty, quite smelly and generally fairly drunk, he’s also one of the nicest, most well informed, and intelligent people I know.
As we know, you can’t understand the news through osmosis, and Terry is a prime example of somebody who does their research. He reads the Telegraph cover to cover every day, watches Sky News for hours on end, often listens to a portable radio, and when he’s not doing that, he reads Russian literature, presumably for a bit of comic relief.
Terry and I have discussed Brexit, Trump, Israel, football and more. However, as much as I’d like to, I can’t really justify writing a 600 word ode to Terry. What this is really about is the diverse range of opinions you’re exposed to at the boozer. Those smug liberal metropolitan elite students rub shoulders at the bar with bricklayers, single mums, old wheezing geezers and everyone in between.
I’ve seen outright racism, I’ve heard a man hurl profanities at one of his best friends when he found out he’d voted Leave, and I’ve witnessed countless impassioned debates about politics in our country. After all, what better way to spend an evening than putting the world to rights over a warm frothy pint and a packet of peanuts?
But back to Terry. A particularly memorable moment was him absolutely eviscerating a potential Leave voter in the lead up to the referendum, in a way that would have made James O’Brien proud. He was able to do it because he knew his stuff, but he was also having the conversation in the first place because he was out there in the real world, where people disagree with each other.
I talk to regulars, most of whom are old, white, working class men, and some have predictably old fashioned views. But that doesn’t make those views any less valid, and seeing things from the perspective of somebody who, when they were born, lived in a country that looks radically different from how it looks now, often makes you uncomfortable but forced to consider the logic and basis of your own beliefs.
Others have pleasantly surprising views. You don’t expect the hard drinking, foul mouthed, beer swilling blokes who frequent the establishment to necessarily hold a progressive standpoint, but I have been shocked on occasions. Particularly refreshing is the uncomplicated and common sense viewpoint taken on certain matters, like gay marriage. When one man became irate about the matter, another just said: “Who cares! It’s not hurting anybody.” That was the end of that.
The point is, these people are all out there, out of their echo chamber. Never mind Facebook or reading articles that you don’t agree with, there’s nothing quite like a person, in your face, making it clear that the world, to them, looks different. And what’s wrong with that?
So get down the pub and have a refreshingly echo-free conversation. Your round.