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Stupid news makes you stupid shocker

Written By: - Date published: 1:00 pm, December 17th, 2010 - 48 comments
Categories: polls, tv, us politics - Tags:

It’s a real worry to me how much we’re dumbing down the news. I haven’t been able to watch TV news in NZ for the last 10 years or more because it makes me want to strangle my own brain in self defence. In America it’s even worse, with (as one extreme example) Fox News serving as nothing more than naked propaganda. And surprise surprise:

Study Confirms That Fox News Makes You Stupid

A new survey of American voters shows that Fox News viewers are significantly more misinformed than consumers of news from other sources.

Yet another study has been released proving 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.

So the more you watch, the less you know. Or to be precise, the more you think you know that is actually false. This study corroborates a previous PIPA study that focused on the Iraq war with similar results. And there was an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that demonstrated the break with reality on the part of Fox viewers with regard to health care. The body of evidence that Fox News is nothing but a propaganda machine dedicated to lies is growing by the day.

I don’t know that we really needed studies to tell us this, did we? The question is, what, if anything, can be done about it? Can we have both a free media and a requirement for minimum levels of accuracy and balance, or are those options mutually exclusive?

(PS – Interesting thesis for some Pol Sci student out there – conduct a similar study of misconceptions in The Standard vs Kiwiblog readers. I have my prediction ready!…)

48 comments on “Stupid news makes you stupid shocker”

  1. Sam 1

    While FOX is a absolutely nothing but pure propaganda, other press and media networks in the US are not exactly meticulous in their provision of news. Sure, they do a much better job than fox, but at the end of the day, they always push forward the party line.

  2. Sweetd 2

    Red news team good, blue news team bad.

    • r0b 2.1

      I rest my case.

      • Sweetd 2.1.1

        what case? Posting surveys as evidence to indicate your smug world view is correct and anyone who disagrees is wrong?

        • r0b 2.1.1.1

          My case that some people have consumed so much stupid news that they have become stupid, and reduce the world to stupid sound bites like: “Red news team good, blue news team bad”.

          your smug world view is correct

          Facts are facts, not “a smug world view”. For example, those who watch Fox News are more likely to be incorrect about where Obama was born. Where Obama was born (in the US) is a simple matter of fact, not a “smug world view”.

    • Pascal's bookie 2.2

      Yep, the evidence suggests this is true sweetpea.

    • Higherstandard 2.3

      Blue is associated with the democrats, red is associated with the republicans in the US

    • Sweetd you have been watching too much Fox News.

      • Lindsey 2.4.1

        It is not hard to find stupid Americans. Like the woman on one of the Texas school boards who stated that she did not see why people should learn a foreign language. “If English was good enough for Jesus, it is good enough for me” was the quote.

        • A 2.4.1.1

          It’s not the stupidity that is the worst problem. Stupid people are generally capable of admitting that they are wrong when confronted with facts. However, there are some stupid people who are so stupid that they are incapable of perceiving facts that prove them wrong, even when they are directly confronted with them.

          Americans fall into neither of these classes. Americans, when confronted with facts counter to their claims promptly take refuge in audacity and assert that those who have brought the facts to their attention are guilty of a terrible crime against civility. They feel no shame, and indeed a perverse sort of pride, in being ignorant.

          The American disease is spreading.

          • Jeremy Harris 2.4.1.1.1

            I think it’s pretty stupid to attribute a single belief or state of mind to 307,000,000 people of almost countless backgrounds, various political beliefs, languages and religions, as if they have one mind…

  3. grumpy 3

    Nothing wrong with Fox, I watch it….and el Jazeera…and BBC and…….

    All have their own point of view, the only bad ones are TV1 and TV3 who trivialse and try to tell their viewers what to think.

    • Dan 3.1

      Thoroughly agree, Grumpy. Although my political views don’t align with the majority represented here at The Standard I still make a point of reading them – as I do with WhaleOil, Red Alert, Kiwiblog and so on. When it comes to news media I try to read a broad mix from the NY Times, Washington Post, Haaretz, Daily Telegraph, The London Times, The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald, The Independent etc. The point is, I read as much as I can and then form an opinion based a broad range of evidence/views weighted by my own bias and world view.

      Nothing wrong with Fox News, but I don’t take everything it serves up as gospel.

      And yes, the state of NZs televised news media is dire. We seem to have latched on to a model where the ‘personality’ delivering the news is valued more highly than the content they provide. Both Espiner and Garner seem to think that I/we care about their opinion. I certainly don’t, just give me the facts without the commentary and I’ll decide for myself – some of us are capable of independent thought.

      • Sam 3.1.1

        I agree with you, Dan. The best way to go is to read many different newspapers. And that’s the best way to see how information gets distorted.

        • Zorr 3.1.1.1

          I would have to disagree with the statement that reading through multiple sources is always a good idea in the pursuit of understanding and knowledge. Fox News is demonstrably stupid and false 99% of the time, and the 1% of the time it gets anything right is usually by mistake. The only reason to ever watch it is to try and understand the viewpoint that a significant voter bloc of the US has. Other than that, why watch something that is specifically an exercise in propaganda? It would be like, in WW2 say, reading the newspaper and then bending down in the street to pick up a leaflet from a propaganda campaign and according both a remotely equal weight.

          My wife has a similar issue. She reads a lot of books that after a chapter or two you could quite easily say “this is a crackpot trying to sell to other crackpots” but she will keep reading out of some form of masochism. Why should anyone do this to themselves if we are wanting to remain informed. Time is precious and it is not worth my time to even engage with some of the truly incredible stupid out there.

          • Sam 3.1.1.1.1

            Zorr, what you are talking about is skimming through sources. Allow me to clarify myself; if you read various newspapers on the same topic, you will find enormous distortions in information. In fact, reading various sources allows you to discover for yourself exactly what is missing out in the press of a certain nation or region.

            • Zorr 3.1.1.1.1.1

              That is fair enough if it is only to get a feel for what the standing of any particular news organisation. However the original statement you were agreeing with by Dan seemed to state that one should consume Fox as part of a rounded, well balanced diet of news.

              • Sam

                Well, I didn’t specify that in this particular comment that I made in reply to Dan, but if you look at the very first comment I made – which is also the the very first comment on this article – you will see that I have clearly mentioned FOX is propaganda.

                “That is fair enough if it is only to get a feel for what the standing of any particular news organisation”
                Could you please clarify what you mean by that?

                • Zorr

                  What I meant by that is that you shouldn’t be according the same weight to each news organization. That, especially in the case of Fox, the only time you want to spend watching them is to understand the thinking of their demographic, not actually for their “reporting”. To put it in a NZ sense though, how much weight would you give issues of Investigate?

                  Basically, I work on the basis that my time is precious and that there are news organizations out there that are worth my time. And others that aren’t. The statement you quoted is pretty much a reflection of that outlook.

                  • Sam

                    “Basically, I work on the basis that my time is precious and that there are news organizations out there that are worth my time. And others that aren’t. The statement you quoted is pretty much a reflection of that outlook.”

                    well, time certainly is precious, that’s why you have to be smart about such things. And yes, it takes a bit of practice to realize just how certain news is presented, shaped and all together omitted throughout various press and media.

                    \”That, especially in the case of Fox, the only time you want to spend watching them is to understand the thinking of their demographic, not actually for their “reporting””

                    Well, that’s not true. I can give you examples of where particular nation has given coverage vital piece of information, but another nation or newspapers have completely turned a blind eye to them – even though the news is of particular interest to the very nation which has chosen to ignore it.

          • Dan 3.1.1.1.2

            Zorr, I agree that time is precious and that we can’t read everything, but I strongly believe that reading/viewing from a broad range of sources, from across the spectrum is the best defence against ignorance – even if only from the perspective that to know your enemy makes you stronger and better able to argue your own position more forcefully. And I certainly don’t approach all sources as being equal:

            “I read as much as I can and then form an opinion based a broad range of evidence/views weighted by my own bias and world view.”

            I’m not a fan of Fox News, but I also think we’re not drawing enough distinction between the ‘news’ and the commentary that is served with it, which is the point I think Grumpy initially made. All the major networks blur the line between presenting the ‘facts’ and opinions, Fox is just the least subtle of them – if you wanted to be generous you could even say it was a virtue, at least you know where you stand with Fox.

            As for ignoring/writing-off stupid/crackpot ideas, it should be said that a lot of what we hold to be self evident today was at one point in time held to be stupid/crackpot or heretical. Open and informed dialogue, which lies at the heart of the Wikileaks project, doesn’t require us to suspend our judgement and world view, but it does require us to engange with the alternative.

            • Pascal's bookie 3.1.1.1.2.1

              While there is a lot in here that I agree with, I don’t reckon the distinction between ‘news’ and ‘opinion’ is worth much at fox.

              Last week there was a memo from the news division’s boss leaked. The memo was sent out a few hours after a pollster had determined that ‘public option’ got a highly positive response from voters and ‘government healthcare’ got a negative response. the memo instructed newsreaders, (not opinion peeps), to call it ‘government healthcare’ and to avoid calling it ‘public option’. If for whatever reason they had to call it ‘public option’ they were to call it the ‘so called public option’.

                • Pascal's bookie

                  Thanks Bill.

                  Another fav from back in the heady warblogging days when men were men, words were weapons, and questions were definitely French and probably treason;

                  “Homicide bomber”.

                  Fucking awesome. Behold it. Savour that shit, (and the meaningless justifications they had for using it), in all it’s shibbolethic goodness.

                  It subtracts from the alternative phrase it replaced, and adds nothing in it’s place. It’s useless as a descriptor, it’s pure signifier. Tribal shit.

                  It’s a piece of language that says only, ‘use this term and you are one of us’. (With us, or with the terrist).

                  And terrist means any damn thing now. OMG someone loaded a bomb into a truck at drove it into the gatehouse of one our military bases in their country!! Terrist!!

                • Jilly Bee

                  Bill -this article was reproduced in the ‘World’ section of the N Z Herald this morning – a bit scary really but not unsurprising.

  4. Pascal's bookie 4

    The funniest* thing at the moment about Fox is that they have most of the GOP presidential primary candidates literally on the payroll. Exclusive contracts too!

    It’s a nice little rort. The candidate gets nice non-combative ‘interviews’ fed straight into their demographic’s cerebral cortex (or what passes for one) and gets an appearance fee for the ‘work’.
    If another news outlet wants to interview the candidate, ‘well, that’s unfortunate you see, there’s a contract and they can only appear on Fox but we’d be happy to supply you with a Fox news clip you can use instead’.

  5. Bill 5

    Remove the media from corporate ownership. The ‘freedom’ of such media is a misnomer anyway.

    But how to ensure that resulting media offer a wide and fair view? Well, how about having media under state control but allow corporate interests to have 60% of the airwaves or whatever within any particular broadcast, newspaper or TV channel (unedited) to peddle their angle?

    So the FOX channel disappears, but the FOX perspective carries on as a part of a state owned channel. But it would always be viewed within the context of other the perspectives that it is mutually embedded with. Which means it wouldn’t carry on for very long I guess. Without exclusivity, stupid and plain misleading news gets laid bare, no?

    Or as another example, ‘The Herald’ disappears, but the editorial line or whatever survives within the 60% space corporate or private interests are allowed within whichever state newspaper.

    How to deal with the internet and satellite channels then? Well, if the quality and veracity of the state owned media sets a high enough bar, the impact of these other media would be severely curtailed.

    Far from a perfect solution, but far better than what we have now.

  6. Draco T Bastard 6

    Can we have both a free media and a requirement for minimum levels of accuracy and balance, or are those options mutually exclusive?

    You don’t need minimum requirements for “balance” as reality is, by default, balanced. You do, of course, need minimum requirements for accuracy and that people/organisations who post inaccurate/misleading or plain not supported by the facts news should be held to account. Such a requirement would, of course, remove Fox News from the airwaves and result in News Corp. getting fined a few billion dollars.

  7. randal 7

    even worse.
    sofar all the republican hopefuls for the next presidential election work for Fox News.
    what has happened to the world?

  8. RedLogix 8

    George Orwell had it nailed.

  9. Lanthanide 9

    Correlation is not causation.

    Also it seems the survey itself is very statistically flawed:
    http://news.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1913322&cid=34578476

    As someone else posted in the slashdot thread, it’d be nice if the study actually took a bunch of random people, assigned them to watch different news channels exclusively for a period of time, and then quizzed them about current events afterwards. But that’s not what they did – they take people that already watched the channels and asked them questions and didn’t have any sort of control group to compare them to at all.

    The survey is relatively useless for anything apart from saying “yes, the audiences of these channels are different” – you can’t work out why they’re different or what caused it.

    • r0b 9.1

      Correlation is not causation.

      And that is not a mantra to banish the bleeding obvious.

      Or as another comment in the slashdot thread put it: Except, that they don’t talk about uninformed, they talk about misinformed It’s not that the viewers have no information, they have wrong information. And if people claim to get their information from that particular source it stands to reason, that there is causation.

      And as to the statistical issues, they are no better or worse than most of the polls and surveys that get reported.

      • Lanthanide 9.1.1

        “And that is not a mantra to banish the bleeding obvious.”
        Something may be obvious, but that doesn’t mean that is actually what is happening.

        “And as to the statistical issues, they are no better or worse than most of the polls and surveys that get reported.”
        Just because most other surveys are done badly doesn’t make this one being done badly any less of an issue.

  10. Deadly_NZ 10

    I agree with Dan too. and like hime I watch as many news shows , have a laugh at parliament TV (best comedy show ever) read all sorts of newspapers and blogs and yes even wikileaks… so I feel all what i have read and seen joined with a healthy dose of cycnasism, lets me have what my Partner calls my 5cents worth,

    the worse thing is that some people take as gospel what they see on one tv channel or newspaper. and look at me as if i am mad when i offer a differing opinion.

    Well i off now to watch something else thats dear to my heart The Aussies getting their asses kicked in the cricket!!

  11. Jeremy Harris 11

    I regularly watch CNN, Sky (Aus), BBC World, Al Jazeera but I definitely watch FOX the most, it is just so damn entertaining…

  12. steve 12

    You are only picking on NZ TV News because they can not help being stupid.
    News at 6pm is a must, Mum tapes it, although her TV is jammed on CH1
    It is not Fox News that is the problem ROB, it is the stupid people who can not/will not think for themselves

  13. Meany Beany 13

    A year or so ago, Charles Krauthammer, one of Fox’s correspondent’s received an award of some sort. . . he congratulated the network for having created an “alternative reality”.

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