When Facts Don’t Matter: Proving The Problem With Fox News

Wed, 2011-06-29 06:19Chris Mooney
Chris Mooney's picture

When Facts Don’t Matter: Proving The Problem With Fox News

My two posts about Fox News and misinformation are probably the most popular items I’ve contributed here. They’ve been widely linked, Tweeted and Facebooked hundreds of times, and viewed well over ten thousand times. That’s because they perform a simple task that, at least as far as I had seen when I wrote the first one, hadn’t been done elsewhere: They list studies (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) showing that Fox News viewers are the most misinformed about an array of factual—but politicized—issues.

In these posts, I’ve tried to be as dispassionate as one can be on such a matter. I’ve repeatedly said that the studies don’t prove that Fox causes people to be misinformed; they just show a correlation, but the causal arrow could run in either direction (or both). I’ve also said that there may well be other studies out there than the 6 that I’ve found; and there may even be studies out there showing some cases where Fox News viewers are not the most misinformed. Indeed, I could design such a study myself–though it would have to be politically skewed by only asking about topics where liberals and Democrats are likely to be misinformed.

It is interesting, though, that no contrary studies have yet been produced. Until that happens, I don’t see how anyone can dispute what I’ve shown—after all, they’d have to provide evidence to the contrary, which is currently lacking.

Nevertheless, the broader political world seems to have stopped short of acknowledging this obvious state of affairs. Despite the fact that I conclusively refuted the notorious Politifact item that had accused Jon Stewart of being wrong about Fox and misinformation (he wasn’t), I don’t think the site is going to turn around and reverse itself. Its silence since then–and its self-congratulatory “Editor’s Note” noting that Stewart went on the air and accepted Politifact’s version of events—suggests that Politifact considers the subject closed.

I’m here to warn Politifact–and the rest of us–that it isn’t. Because while this topic may smolder for a while, it is certain to come up again.

Why? New political misinformation is generated on a regular basis—on science, and on any other matter where somebody has a stake. Just the other day, for instance, Michele Bachmann, apparently unwilling to admit she is wrong about even the most trivial of matters, insisted that John Quincy Adams, our sixth president, was a “Founding Father”–even though he was a child in 1776. Then came attempts to edit Wikipedia to prove that Bachmann’s error was true.

This is how it starts, folks. Sometimes it makes its way to Fox News, and sometimes it doesn’t. But my overall contention is that today, for a variety of reasons, we not only have saturation levels of misinformation, but a lot of it comes from the political right and is baked in an echo chamber, of which Fox is a very central part.

As of now, what’s most powerful about my “theory” is that we have evidence to support it—and we lack evidence to refute it. So until that evidence emerges–or until the next Fox News controversy–I’m signing off. 

 

Comments

Fascinating how the left is so concerned about the “conservative viewers’ ” source for news. The most recent sally was by John Stewart on the Chris Wallace show re: depth of knowledge. This is what Wallace responded with:
WALLACE: The Pulitzer Prize-winning website PolitiFact looked into that statement, and on its Truth-O-Meter it rated Jon’s claim false. But the details are even more interesting. In a survey called “Misinformation in the 2010 Election,” people were asked a series of fact questions like which president signed tarp? But the poll also asked questions like this. “As you know, the American economy had a major downturn starting in the fall of 2008. Do you think that now the American economy is ‘a,’ starting to recover or ‘b,’ still getting worse?” “Starting to recover” was the so-called right answer. If you said, “still getting worse” you were officially misinformed. And if you questioned whether climate change is occurring or whether ObamaCare will add to deficit, you were also mistaken.

Then there was last year’s Pew Poll which asked four fact questions like what job did Eric Holder have? It turns out Fox News scored better, not worse, than MSNBC, CNN, the network evening news and the network morning news. As for individual shows, 31 percent of “Hannity” viewers got all four questions correct. 29 percent for “O’Reilly.” And all the way down near the bottom viewers of Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” at 22 percent.

So folks, all that talk about you’re the most consistently misinformed viewers? I guess the joke is on Jon Stewart.”

Read more: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2011/06/26/chris-wallace-strikes-back-jon-stewart-hannity-and-oreillys-viewers-b#ixzz1Qfu7Wx57

If any survey question asks a question regarding “climate change” without defining in some detail the meaning of the term meant in the question is a seriously flawed question. For example, is the term meant to mean the climate to CO2? Is the climate warming due to anthropogenic CO2? Is the climate warming with possible catastrophic results due to anthropogenic CO2?

Which question is asked and answered upon which you are so reliant and sure of the meaning?

What nonsense. Fox “News” executives and newscasters admit they are biased liars.

It is not necessary for Fox viewers to be the most informed in every single poll where Comedy Central viewers are also close to the bottom, when the statement was “Who are the most consistently misinformed media viewers?” The testable premises here are CONSISTENTLY and MISINFORMED. PolitiFact looks for a few polls, in which both groups of viewers were placed near the bottom ON AVERAGE, and Fox News (in general) below that of the Comedy Central programming. Despite this, Stewart then went to length describing FowNews’s rather abysmal ratings for its various shows as rated by PolitiFact, and an indication of consistent wrongness. PolitiFact is comforting themselves because they are relying on the ambiguity of MISINFORMED, while Stewart was concerned with both together, and potentially more the latter than the former. In this way, Stewart acceeded to PolitiFact’s overriding correctness, but then indicated his “manness” in accepting where he was wrong (on a particular clause of his statement) which PolitiFact refuses to acknowledge is a slap in their face because they refuse to admit they were also wrong on the narrowness of their test. It also doesn’t help that they picked a few polls that allow them to contradict Stewart on a point, but not others which would vindicate him, and that’s Chris’ point.

You’ve made an effort to be dispassionate, but of course everyone knows the point of the exercise is to skewer fox. The studies aim to “appear” even handed but the point of the study is to smack fox.

If you enlist as a soldier in this battle, you have no chance of being even handed. The enemy is the enemy and must be fought.

Funny thing about this battle as it relates to global warming. All other news organizations are firmly on side about the coming melt down. And yet - hard policy goes the other way every time.

For example Obama may have a few words of concern about global warming, but in practice he does nothing about it. In fact he worries about rising fuel prices and does what he can to keep those prices down so Americans can better enjoy their SUVs. Is Obama working for fox or what?

There is nothing funny about a propaganda outfit run by Rupert Murdoch and the corporate corruption of Congress. Fox is full of shit and the rest of the whole fracking world knows it. Really - everybody on the planet but 20% of the American viewing audience.

Which leads one to ask why is this blog simply over run with right-wing apologists?????????????????

I’m not a viewer of Fox news, mostly a CNN person actually. But I don’t believe that bashing Fox news will help salvage the CAGW position in any case. Fox news’ position on the matter seems to be what others are wanting to say but don’t. The fact that no action is taking place in Washington regarding CAGW seems to be the dirty little secret. Soon enough, a wider range of politicians and news outlets will be more ‘honest’ about their views.
It’s almost comical how certain pro-CAGW blogs are desperately escalating the scare-tactic claims, as if they realize now that the ship is surely sinking. Climate Progress is a fine example of this. Hard to read it and keep a straight face. H

Are there really another 121 Hanks who are so stupid as not to see the big picture.

Here is a story which I doubt you will get from FOX or CNN:

http://www.heatisonline.org/contentserver/objecthandlers/index.cfm?ID=7979&Method=Full

Note that article is from the UK Daily Telegraph - somebody ought to tell James ‘interpreter of interpretations’ Delingpole who is probably right now to busy and cosy at that denier-fest in the US.

Those of us in Britain who avoid having narrow minds are only too painfully aware that things are up with the ecosystems around here, on land and out at sea. Sure pollution and overfishing, including that sin of dredging by-catch, are a part of the problem but rising temperatures have been having an increasing effect on species. Some sea bird populations are in terminal decline due to the lack of sand eels - the Puffin being one hard hit. The examples grow in number every day.

And previously foreign species such as the toxic Pelagia noctiluca (look it up on Wkiki Hank and learn something useful) moving in is very bad news. THe Japanese too have had increasing problems with jelly fish swarms infesting their fisheries. If you knew sushi like they know sushi you would realise how detrimental that is for Japan. And the rest of us.

Every thing is linked. So before you yell off topic - think deeper and wider.

Don’t be an ignoramus all your life like GOPer Bachman who only seems to have one more brain cell than Palin (Sarah that is not Michael).

Chris, you can’t just assume that the topics of supposed misinformation that have been measured are politically neutral in the surveys you cite. Certainly that isn’t the case for the PIPA studies. For Stewart to claim poll data support for the view that Fox News viewers are generally misinformed as to politics and science the studies should feature questions designed to represent general information. And that’s the least of the problems. http://subloviate.blogspot.com/2011/06/is-chris-mooney-correct-about-jon.html

The term “misinformation” is a newspeak substitution for what the despicable product of Fox “News” should be called - propaganda. That Fox “news” is a propaganda outlet is not even in question by its own staff, and has been documented for years by sites like Media Matters.

Let’s move the question, then, to whether there is justification for removing a known propaganda outlet from the air. I would argue that it long overdue that Fox lose its charter to broadcast, as it has broken its obligation to operate in the public interest. As propaganda - the deliberate telling of lies in the guise of “news” - is as inherently pernicious to democracy as can be imagined, there should be no question at all as to whether Fox should lose its charter. The real question is whether Rupert Murdoch can be held criminally liable.

In one comment you reference Media Matters, and claim Fox News is propaganda. That’s hilarious pot and kettle logic.

Joseph Goebbels couldn’t have said it better.

Yes, In fact we need some new government agencies to establish truth and stop anti-truth. Perhaps we can establish strict standards for all human activities. We will need to start steering the children early. I’m thinking minor electric shocks for wrong thinking as a starting point. Its for the planet people!

“In one comment you reference Media Matters, and claim Fox News is propaganda. That’s hilarious pot and kettle logic.”

You can’t tell the difference between a propaganda outlet, and a web site devoted to exposing its falsehoods with verbatim quotes and references?

Nobody is that stupid. I think you are a professional agitator. This blog seems to have more than any other website I have visited. Do you get paid to post comments on blogs?

“Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.”

And you say it is NOT a propaganda website??

That’s right - it is NOT a propaganda outfit. period. And it is not on TV, purporting to present deliberate lies as “news”. Why is this all so difficult for you Republicans to understand? Is it because you have no real regard for reality, and project onto the left the same lack of objective capacity?

Truly pathetic.

Last time I checked Media Matters, they were focused pretty much exclusively on attacking Fox and most of that energy was directed at Beck.

Fox is a small part of the the media and Beck is an opinion/entertainment guy who does funny voices, sometimes talks off the top of his head and gets emotional.

Beck is not the media. Fox is a small part of the media. Media Matters mostly ignores the media and takes pot shots at one company. Its a silly obsession.

Nothing silly about it when you see how the right has leveraged the idiots who believe Beck’s claptrap for example. They are called the Tea Party, they are demonstrably stupid, ignorant, and misinformed and politically dangerous. Congressional Republicans with the same stupid misinformed opinions are doing a fine job of controlling the national conversation. There is *nothing* silly about bad government.

Ginger said: “I think you are a professional agitator. This blog seems to have more than any other website I have visited. Do you get paid to post comments on blogs?”

Professional agitator? In you world that must be someone who has an alternative opinion. Do I get paid for posting my own opinion? I wish! I have lots of them. Good ones, too. We can share.

You really are devoid of an argument when you fall back on such tripe.

Forgive me. It was your barrage of nonsequitor right-wing talking points and lack of engagement with the actual topic which threw me off. You claim to not be a professional agitator. So, you’re just a nonprofessional agitator, then, doing your best to muck up a climate site with the *same bullshit* that would come from someone paid by Exxon-Mobil, you just claim to work cheap.

What will be the human population in 2500?

I think projections are for stabilization aroun 10 B. However if we have an unexpected die off followed by some repopulation we might well be well down.

Put me down for 1 B.

Why do you ask?

Odd question…
And one with no real answer.

The population will be whatever the environment of that time can support.
If the plante cools much, (likely) it will be less, if it warms (unlikely) it will be more.

Does any really care? Why?

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