Wednesday, December 21, 2011

No News Is Good News

Okay, prepare to be flabbergasted. Fox news makes you stupid. Stupider than if you watched no news at all. (A direct link to the study (pdf) can be found in this article.)

According to the latest results from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind Poll, some news sources make us less likely to know what’s going on in the world. ... The conclusion: Sunday morning news shows do the most to help people learn about current events, while some outlets, especially Fox News, lead people to be even less informed than those who say they don’t watch any news at all.

... But the real finding is that the results depend on what media sources people turn to for their news. For example, people who watch Fox News, the most popular of the 24-hour cable news networks, are 18-points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government than those who watch no news at all (after controlling for other news sources, partisanship, education and other demographic factors). Fox News watchers are also 6-points less likely to know that Syrians have not yet overthrown their government than those who watch no news.

"Because of the controls for partisanship, we know these results are not just driven by Republicans or other groups being more likely to watch Fox News," said Dan Cassino, a professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson and an analyst for the PublicMind Poll. "Rather, the results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions than those who don’t watch any news at all."

By contrast, some media sources have a positive effect on political knowledge. For
example, people who report reading a national newspaper like The New York Times or USA Today are 12-points more likely to know that Egyptians have overthrown their government than those who have not looked at any news source. And those who listen to the non-profit NPR radio network are 11-points more likely to know the outcome of the revolt against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. ...


Listening to NPR also helps, but the biggest aid to answering correctly is The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which leads to a ... 12-point increase in the likelihood of giving the correct answer.

... "The fact that Fox News, the preferred media outlet for many of the candidates, doesn't do better in informing viewers is very surprising."

Really? Surprising?? Must be that the study was the researchers' first experience with Fox.

Of course, making people stupid isn't an accidental result. As I've been saying here forever, at least since Karl Rove, Republicans made the explicit calculation that an ill-informed -- a misinformed -- electorate is their surest and onliest way to get and keep power. In that they've been doing a heckuva job.

1 comment:

Sam Spade said...

I've made remarks here along the lines of, "x made me slightly stupider," with x usually being Frank Drackman. It's supposed to be funny, yet I'm serious at the same time.

Just as every bite of McDonald's detracts in some measure from one's physical health, each acceptance of Orwellian language makes one stupider. It literally requires a moment of reflection to recall what fascism, socialism, and capitalism originally meant after living in our society. "To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle."

To be sure, Frank's case is (was?) an example of not even wrong, not willful misinformation. The same principal holds I believe.

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