Six years ago the Program on International Policy Attitudes published a study that showed that Fox viewers are far more likely to believe things that are demonstrably false, than are viewers of other networks. It’s still true.
A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll (pdf) featured on the Rachel Maddow Show (video below) included questions centered on the recent health care debate. What made this poll unique was that four of the questions sought to ascertain whether the respondents believed statements that were known to be untrue. Here are the results broken out by which news sources the respondents favored:
|On Health Care Reform, Those Who Believe That It Will…||MSNBC/CNN Viewers||Fox News Viewers|
|Give Coverage To Illegal Immigrants:||41%||72%|
|Lead To A Government Takeover:||39%||79%|
|Pay For Abortions:||40%||69%|
|Stop Care To The Elderly:||30%||75%|
Let me repeat: These are statements that are known to be untrue, yet Fox News viewers believe them in overwhelming numbers. It’s bad enough that approximately 40% of MSNBC/CNN viewers believe these myths, but clearly Fox is producing an audience of vastly misinformed, cultural illiterates.
The problem with having a national news organization that is polluting the population with lies about critical public issues is that it makes democracy impossible. And that, of course, may be the goal of Fox and its corporate overseers. Democracy is such a messy affair, what with all the people voting and stuff. If your objective is to manipulate government, you can’t get very far if voters are actually familiar with the issues and are capable of making sound judgments. So Fox News found it necessary to invent a platform of fake agendas to create fear and then purposefully indoctrinate their predominantly Republican and southern viewers to believe in them.
They have enjoyed a fair measure of success in the past couple of weeks as raucous town hall meetings and shrill political disputes have dominated news coverage. There have been episodes of chaos and hostility erupting in what used to be neighborly community gatherings. Television pundits are peddling insane conspiracies that link shadowy cabals to absurd plots with tentacles reaching into evil government agencies. And weirdos with weapons are showing up at presidential events to wander around menacing peaceful demonstrators and anxious Secret Service agents.
It is vitally important that sanity and honesty be restored to public discourse. As people become more aware of truthful representations of the issues, the tide could rapidly turn back to permit a rational debate to take place. The results of this poll could go a long way toward persuading people that they have been the victims of a deliberate con job. That can only occur if this poll is distributed broadly enough to be seen by a substantial portion of the electorate, including those who watch Fox News. Of course, Fox itself would never broadcast these results, so it’s up to us to be the distributors of the truth; to pass this information along; and to expose Fox as the perpetrators of hoaxes that they are.
Fox News viewers are being led around like Ritalin-sodden sheep. There is a case to made that they would be outraged at being so brazenly mislead – if they only knew. Data like this makes it difficult to pretend that Fox News respects its audience. This is the sort of evidence that could cause many FoxPods to revolt and free themselves. We need to help them see the light. Let’s just hope that it isn’t too late.