When this poll came out in 2007 it was a hot story among bloggers for a few days – Public Knowledge of Current Affairs Little Changed by News and Information Revolutions, What Americans Know: 1989-2007. 4 hour cable news bigger and more persuasive than ever. All the world’s biggest newspapers are on-line. Research papers from universities and think-tanks are on-line. Some classic literature on history, economics, sociology, math and science have become part of the public domain, and also available on-line. Yet the public’s general knowledge of the world actually slipped just a little in those eighteen years. There is a difference between being uniformed and misinformed. The consequences of not knowing or hanging on to some disinformation are about the same. Though in the latter case one has to walk back the disinformation and replace the falsehoods with new correct information. That ends to be especially difficult some of the time. It is much easier to talk someone through the time line of America’s space program than disabuse them of a conspiracy theory about Neil Armstrong and his moon landing and first steps on the moon. So when Jon Stewart said that Fox news viewers were the most misinformed he was referring to the malicious dissemination of falsehoods by the network. This simple observation, one between being uninformed and misinformed, seems to be one that Politifact has a difficulty in parsing. The whole controversy is not about being misinformed as though misinformation about events, facts and public policy are dead ends. Oh well people believe in the falsehoods Fox News has spread about the Affordable Care Act is just like my uncle swearing he some green spacemen while he was sipping some bourbon out on the porch. People tend not to act on stories from eccentric half drunk uncles. People do echo and act on public policy misinformation. The lies about Iraq, combined with the constant reinforcement of those lies and half-truths cost the nation an estimated three trillion dollars – Want to balance the budget. Jump in the old time machine and undo that debacle. Fox was broadcast news propaganda central. Jon Stewart 1, Politifact 0: Fox News Viewers Are The Most Misinformed
Stewart, very much in the vein of my prior post, went on the air with Fox’s Chris Wallace and stated,
“Who are the most consistently misinformed media viewers? The most consistently misinformed? Fox, Fox viewers, consistently, every poll.”
My research, and my recent post, most emphatically supports this statement. Indeed, I cited five (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) separate public opinion studies in support of it—although I carefully noted that these studies do not prove causation (e.g., that watching Fox News causes one to be more misinformed). The causal arrow could very well run the other way—believing wrong things could make one more likely to watch Fox News in the first place. ( and another poll)
Media Matters also notes several specific incidences and issues where Fox News blatantly misinformed its viewers. ACA or health care reform misinformation by Fox News. Fox News misinfo on Medicare. Fox News lies about women’s health issues and Planned Parenthood.
And Chris Mooney is correct in saying that just as many people use the internet to find disinformation that reinforces their beliefs rather than seek out facts, Fox News viewers may turn to Fox to reinforce misinformation they have already invested in.
In that interview with Stewart Chris Wallace made this claim, “I think we’re the counter-weight. I think that they (NBC) have a liberal agenda, and I think that we tell the other side of the story.” Certainly there are ways to slant news. The Right has been doing so for years from newsletters to AM radio, to newspaper editorials, astroturf letters to the editor, to magazines, television, book publishers and the internet. Lets pretend NBC has a bias which is center left. An ethical correction would be to make the network more neutral. Some stories, say the sex and payoff scandal evolving Sen. John Ensign(R-NV), Sen Tom Coburn(R-OK) and Rick Santorum(R-PA) would be embarrassing for Republicans no matter how the story was reported. Fox’s Wallace thinks balance is to tell lies to counterbalance the truth reported elsewhere. His words, not mine,
I’d note, by the way, that Wallace has accidentally told the truth about this before. A year ago this month, Wallace talked to Don Imus about Helen Thomas’ seat in the White House press briefing room, in the wake of her retirement. Wallace said Fox News getting the seat would be “payment for Helen Thomas,” because “obviously, she was very far to the left wing.”
Wallace added, “If her seat were to be taken by Fox News, it would just be kind of poetic justice.”
Of course, it’s obvious exactly what he meant — Thomas was to the left, Fox News is a Republican outlet. It would be “justice,” from Wallace’s perspective, precisely because it’s payback, trading someone from one end of the spectrum for someone at the opposite end.
Imus noticed the implicit concession, and called Wallace on it. The “Fox News Sunday” host quickly realized he’d gone too far. “Well, I just realized that’s probably not the way to go on this,” he said.
Don’t worry, Chris. Your words speak for themselves.
The Helen Thomas story speaks to another problem that seems too subtle for the Right to parse. Thomas herself was personally more left of center than Right. The Right thinks that means her stories were always slanted, lumping together her personal views and reportage. Wallace thinks that when he sees what he feels deep in his heart is bias on other networks that makes it OK for Fox News to lie because lying is balance.
st georges cycles. 19th century advertising poster. a woman out by herself showing a bit of stocking. would a little shocking for the time. something near modern advertisements by calvin klein or abercrombie.