Fox News and the war on truth
There is a direct correlation between levels of exposure to Fox News and levels of ignorance.
The numbers are unambiguous and alarming.
Daily Fox News viewers are:
- 31 percent more likely than non-Fox viewers to believe that economists think healthcare reform will add to the deficit (almost all economists think it will reduce the deficit);
- 30 percent more likely to think that scientists are evenly divided on climate change (to put it mildly, climate scientists are not);
- 14 percent more likely to think that Obama’s stimulus plan did NOT contain tax cuts (it reduced taxes for 97 percent of US households);
- 31 points more likely to doubt whether Obama was born in the US and therefore legitimately elected (he was x 2)
- 12 percent more likely to think that economists blame stimulus for unemployment (they don’t, most crediting stimulus for saving and creating millions of jobs)
These are well formulated questions because they are testing perceptions of expert opinion as opposed to simply asking what the responders themselves actually think. This is very important nuance. A commonly held view among smug liberals like me is that Fox, Sarah Palin and their fellow travellers reject the validity of scientific knowledge to begin with; a disturbing enough thought. This is the impulse satirized in Stephen Colbert’s truthiness idea, the populist belief that the gut and the heart are better barometers of truth than the head. In this formulation, “facts” and “evidence” are just weapons of convenience employed by elites in the service of their secular, materialist aims.
While these findings don’t disprove this interpretation of Palinism, they suggest a frightening new wrinkle: conservatives actually believe that mainstream scientists and economists agree with them. More to the point, conservatives who watch Fox News think it; and the more they watch Fox News, the more likely they are to hold these mistaken beliefs. It strongly suggests that the Fair and Balanced network creates among its viewers the false impression that their common ideological world-view is supported by objective evidence and expertise when it isn’t. If it were in the business of news reporting, Fox would be deeply troubled by these findings. It’s not, so it isn’t.