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Not that this should come as a surprise, but it is certainly entertaining:
Yet another study has been released that proves that watching Fox News is detrimental to your intelligence. World Public Opinion, a project managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, conducted a survey of American voters that shows that Fox News viewers are significantly more misinformed than consumers of news from other sources. What’s more, the study shows that greater exposure to Fox News increases misinformation. …
In eight of the nine questions below, Fox News placed first in the percentage of those who were misinformed (they placed second in the question on TARP). That’s a pretty high batting average for journalistic fraud. Here is a list of what Fox News viewers believe that just aint so:
91% believe that the stimulus legislation lost jobs.
72% believe that the health reform law will increase the deficit.
72% believe that the economy is getting worse.
60% believe that climate change is not occurring.
49% believe that income taxes have gone up.
63% believe that the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts.
56% believe that Obama initiated the GM/Chrysler bailout.
38% believe that most Republicans opposed TARP.
63% believe that Obama was not born in the US (or that it is unclear).
There are a few important points to consider here. One is the danger of reaching conclusions of causation based on correlative data – namely, is Fox News making viewers stupid, or are stupid people simply more inclined to watch Fox? I do realize, of course, that using the term “stupid” is highly inflammatory and somewhat beside the point, but aside from being grossly misinformed, you really do have to be a little on the slow side to find Fox News believable.
The results here do reek a little of partisan hackery though, based on the way the questions seem to have been framed. For instance, what indicators have been used to determine that the economy is getting better or worse? Corporate America might be attaining record profits, but unemployment remains dangerously high and real wages have stagnated since at least the early 1980s. On paper you might be able to argue quite convincingly that the economy is improving, but “improvement” is a relative term.
Similarly, the notion that Obama did not initiate the GM/Chrysler bailout is somewhat irrelevant, since he voiced his support for the plan from the very start, and continued the policies once in office – much as he did with TARP. So in many respects the survey here misses the most important aspect of the media’s influence on public knowledge, since the study seems to reinforce the bogus notion of a clearly distinguished right and left in American politics. Republicans and Democrats are virtually the same party, so asking questions about their differences merely reaffirms the corporate myth that such differences exist at all, at least beyond a very trivial scale.
But the study did imply something much more important, which is that viewers of all mainstream media networks were grossly misinformed on a broad range of topics:
By the way, the rest of the media was not blameless. CNN and the broadcast network news operations fared only slightly better in many cases. Even MSNBC, which had the best record of accurately informing viewers, has a ways to go before they can brag about it.
The differences between the fringe of Fox News and the more mainstream networks such as CNN and MSNBC are remarkably slight. Fox is simply more brazen in its unapologetic quest to spew forth corporate propaganda – I mean honestly, anyone with even a modicum of intelligence can readily observe that Fox is not to be taken seriously. The over-the-top music, the ridiculous number of flashy graphics and text-tickers that consume nearly half of the screen, the brutish, even clownish behavior of oafs like O ‘Reilly and Hannity – how could anyone possibly accept this as an authentic news source?
But the reality is that most mainstream news sources push the same stories as Fox News, with a remarkably similar slant. The music is quieter, there are fewer irritating graphics fighting for space on the screen, and the choice of language might be slightly less combative, but the issues being covered are generally the same, and they are always framed within the same narrow parameters as those on Fox.
It would be difficult to assert that the mainstream media is intentionally misinforming us – although with Fox this certainly appears to be the case. In most cases, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the mainstream media exists not as a service to the public, but as a profit-seeking business. As with every other corporation in existence, this allegiance to profit is the absolute first priority, so it is important to consume mainstream media coverage with this perspective in mind.
Anyone who exclusively relies on mainstream media outlets for news is bound to be misinformed. Fox is undeniably the worst offender, but the results of watching other networks are only slightly less reprehensible.