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MurphTheSurf3 On October - 24 - 2014

Fox News

THE CORE THESIS: Authoritarian people have a stronger emotional need for an outlet like Fox, where they can find affirmation and escape factual challenges to their beliefs.Insights from Chris Mooney’s book The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science and Reality.Now I know this is going to raise all kinds of hackles but I find the book fascinating and the article referred to here does a reasonable strong job representing a research heavy 336 page tome. The Amazon Link provided provides  more insights in the reviews there. Here is one of them: “Drawing on a growing body of empirical research, he provides an intelligent, nuanced and persuasive account of how conservatives and liberals tend to differ at the level of psychology and personality” (Financial Times, April 2012)The author explores the findings of seven surveys. These are public opinion surveys that ask citizens about their beliefs on factual but contested issues, and also about their media habits. Inevitably, some significant percentage of citizens are found to be misinformed about the facts, and in a politicized way—but not only that. The surveys also find that those who watch Fox are more likely to be misinformed, their views of reality skewed in a right-wing direction. In some cases, the studies even show that watching more Fox makes the misinformation problem worse.

The issues were the Iraq War, Global Warming, Health Care, Ground Zero Mosque, 2010 Elections. The author goes on to explore the evidence that supports his key tenet: Fox viewers are misinformed. Of note, this means, in his study, that Fox viewers are both misinformed in term of what they know, and that they have been misinformed by Fox as a source of what they know.

Looking at a variety of studies, the author comes to the conclusion that
Fox is imparting misinformation even as politically conservative viewers are also seeking the station out—highly open to it and already convinced about many falsehoods that dovetail with their beliefs, certainty is driven by a kind of feedback loop. Those seeking to have their beliefs reinforced only look to those who will reinforce it. This is referred to as selective exposure and it is the clearest way to look at how people create their own realities, based upon their views of the world.

People overall are nearly twice as likely to consume ideologically congenial information as to consume ideologically inconvenient information.

Add to this a certain predisposition to close mindedness. Political conservatives tend to have a higher need for closure. Conservatives who are authoritarian/absolute in style maintain their beliefs against challenges by limiting their experiences, and surrounding themselves with sources of information that will tell them they are right.

The author then goes on to explain how Fox takes advantage of this mindset to program stories that feed into it. References are made to the “nine separate political misperceptions” identified by the PIPA study which Fox viewers widely embrace.

I am going to close by offering this concluding segment from the article:

In summary, then, the “science” of Fox News clearly shows that its viewers are more misinformed than the viewers of other stations, and are indeed this way for ideological reasons. But these are not necessarily the reasons that liberals may assume. Instead, the Fox “effect” probably occurs both because the station churns out falsehoods that conservatives readily accept—falsehoods that may even seem convincing to some liberals on occasion—but also because conservatives are overwhelmingly inclined to choose to watch Fox to begin with.        At the same time, it’s important to note that they’re also disinclined to watch anything else. Fox keeps constantly in their minds the idea that the rest of the media are “biased” against them, and conservatives duly respond by saying other media aren’t worth watching—it’s just a pack of lies. According to Public Policy Polling’s annual TV News Trust Poll (the 2011 run), 72 percent of conservatives say they trust Fox News, but they also say they strongly distrust NBC, ABC, CBS and CNN. Liberals and moderates, in contrast, trust all of these outlets more than they distrust them (though they distrust Fox). This, too, suggests conservative selective exposure.

And there is an even more telling study of “Fox-only” behavior among conservatives, from Stanford’s Shanto Iyengar and Kyu Hahn of Yonsei University, in Seoul, South Korea. They conducted a classic left-right selective exposure study, giving members of different ideological groups the chance to choose stories from a news stream that provided them with a headline and a news source logo—Fox, CNN, NPR, and the BBC—but nothing else. The experiment was manipulated so that the same headline and story was randomly attributed to different news sources. The result was that Democrats and liberals were definitely less inclined to choose Fox than other sources, but spread their interest across the other outlets when it came to news. But Republicans and conservatives overwhelmingly chose Fox for hard news and even for soft news, and ignored other sources. “The probability that a Republican would select a CNN or NPR report was around 10%,” wrote the authors.

In other words Fox News is both deceiver and enabler simultaneously. First, its existence creates the opportunity for conservatives to exercise their biases, by selecting into the Fox information stream, and also by imbibing Fox-style arguments and claims that can then fuel biased reasoning about politics, science, and whatever else comes up.

But at the same time, it’s also likely that conservatives, tending to be more closed-minded and more authoritarian, have a stronger emotional need for an outlet like Fox, where they can find affirmation and escape from the belief challenges constantly presented by the “liberal media.” Their psychological need for something affirmative is probably stronger than what’s encountered on the opposite side of the aisle—as is their revulsion towards allegedly liberal (but really centrist) media outlets.

And thus we find, at the root of our political dysfunction, a classic nurture-nature mélange. The penchant for selective exposure is rooted in our psychology and our brains. Closed-mindedness and authoritarianism—running stronger in some of us than in others—likely are as well.

But nevertheless, it took the emergence of a station like Fox News before these tendencies could be fully activated—polarizing America not only over politics, but over reality itself.


Written by MurphTheSurf3

Proud to be an Independent Progressive. I am a progressive- a one time Eisenhower Republican who is now a Democrat. I live in a very RED STATE and am a community activist with a very BLUE AGENDA. Historian, and "Gentleman Farmer."

37 Responses so far.

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  1. naxos says:

    Self-serving and self-congratulatory “our tribe smart; other tribe dumb” themes make for really weak pieces. This one is also naive. ALL news outlets serve a chosen demographic because MOST people like to be agreed with; it makes them feel warm and smart. “Opinion” over the airwaves is a parlor game. Whether Matthews, O’Reilly, Maddow, et al, actually believe what they say is irrelevant. All that matters is that their viewers believe in their sincerity.

    Further, the surveys cannot detect a central, key element in your we-are-like-so-smart! proposition. Example: All of the currently proposed solutions for climate change coincide with well-known Progressive authoritarian goals; expanded government control, expanded regulation, stronger, larger bureaucracy. A coincidence? So anyone center or right with a spark of brainpoqwer will assume the people forming the climate models are in bed, politically, with the Left. It’s all too convienient. So the attitudes and opinions of Fox viewers regarding climate change have almost nothing to do with science, and everything to do with politics.

    Want to test this? Easy. Propose solutions to climate change that couincide with goals of the Right, smaller government, less regulation, reduction of taxes, and see how many Deniers become Believers, overnight.

    You should raise the bar back up where you usually have it.

    • “All of the currently proposed solutions for climate change coincide with well-known Progressive authoritarian goals; expanded government control, expanded regulation, stronger, larger bureaucracy.”

      Examples please?

      • AdLib says:

        KT, what time is it? Time to get a new Congress.

      • naxos says:

        Killgore, your question is on point but I am not going to hunt down a list of the last few years proposed regulations and penalties for excess carbon emissions. Nor am I going to condemn all of them because in Canada, specifically Vancouver, there have been really encouraging carbon tax innovations that seem to be working there.

        My post was a proposition about the depth of the distrust of climate change science on the Right. I think the distrust is purely politically-driven, that it has no depth. Thus my observation that IF proposals were offered that DID NOT coincide with well-known aims of the Left, that Deniers, newly-unobstructed by their distrust of the Left, would become Believers.


        • kesmarn says:

          Deniers would become believers you say? Depending on the amount of money involved? They’d change their opinions on a matter of science if they were paid to?

          What an intriguing proposition.

        • Naxos, I understood the gist of your comment, so now I have to ask what you think the Left’s “well known aims,” are? I mean, besides a comprehensive reduction in greenhouse gases and other environmentally dangerous contributions to global climate change.

          • naxos says:

            You would like a brief on my perception of the basic ideology of the Left. I assume your desire is to correct and rephrase what I jot down. Fine by me. Here we go: An aim of the Left is to have government level the social, educational, and economic playing fields and thus insure equal opportunity. Another is to have government ensure the social and economic well-being and health of the lower and middle classes. Another is to minimize strife among the masses, and redress historical wrongs in the areas of politics, history, international voice, and culture. This is a start.

            • You assume incorrectly. I’d say that your “brief,” is pretty accurate.

              Would you say these things are not good for America, or good? Would you say these goals, if accomplished to a large extent, would make America a stronger, more just nation?

          • naxos says:

            Ecological conerns aside, you want a brief on the wishes and concerns of the Left that require expanded government, more taxation, and additional regulation? You aren’t already aware of these things? -- Really?

    • AdLib says:

      Naxos, just like Repubs, always accuse the Dems of their own traits. If you truly dislike intense self-congratulatory and self-serving tribalism, check out every Repub site and channel and the GOP right now. Applying such a description to Dems now in light of the elections is absurd and frankly, bizarre.

      Your proposition is a confusing loop. Propose Climate Change regulations that don’t regulate? That don’t give government more control? Please explain how such a proposition could work.

      It’s like saying, “Stop gaining weight by eating a lot,” two completely opposed propositions which negate each other.

      Like “Raise revenues by cutting taxes” and “Increase healthcare insurance by repealing the ACA and taking it away from 10 million Americans. ”

      Would really like to hear logical, fact based proposals from Repubs.

      • naxos says:

        Will try again. Dems indulge an oft-voiced vanity that they are “smart”. This is the main subject of Murph’s piece. I offered two observations (not “accusations”).

        -- That all news outlets play to a target demographic is common knowledge. That people are drawn to outlets that “agree” with their predetermined beliefs is common knowledge. Fox, MSNBC, their hosts and guests broadcast millions of bits of information, to millions of viewers. A breakdown of all those millions of bits into more or less factual, and an analysis of which bits the viewers believe, or disregard, is impossible. That viewers of this station or that are smarter or not so smart is complete silliness.

        -- A problem of great importance exists whose solutions all delight the Right. We can solve it if we lower rates of taxation, reduce government involvement, etc. How do you think the Left will view this? -- This is my point on climate issues.

        • AdLib says:

          Naxos, re-read your original post. You said:

          Want to test this? Easy. Propose solutions to climate change that couincide with goals of the Right, smaller government, less regulation, reduction of taxes, and see how many Deniers become Believers, overnight.

          Climate Change regulation that offers less regulation?

          That makes absolutely no sense, disqualifies all the other propositions as being earnest.

          Regulations, rules and laws protect. Removing them removes protections. You can’t add protections by removing them, that’s Bizarro logic.

          • naxos says:

            You can think of no means to address climate change that do not coincidentally push traditional goals of the Left. Swing 180 degrees. The tax code? Make it profitable to be eco-conscious. Subsidies, tax advantages, government partnerships, for example. “Protections” inhibit and punish. Rewards encourage positive thinking, innovation. Why is this Bizarro?

            • How many jobs have been created in the last decade by big corporations that enjoyed lower tax advantages, subsidies and fewer regulations?

              Are you actually arguing in favor of trickle down economics?

              How many people have died due to a lack of regulation, how many rivers have been poisoned? How many severe industrial accidents have been caused by a lack of proper regulations or the downright circumvention of regulations?

              Time and again, big business has proven that they will not regulate themselves. Time and time again, they have placed huge profit margins over safety and environmental concerns.

            • So, damn the people’s health and well being, as long as those huge profits keep rolling in.

              Don’t worry about more powerful hurricanes, tornadoes and extreme weather conditions that result in huge property damage and loss of life, droughts, floods…etc. Droughts BTW which also result in less grain and produce production, resulting in higher food costs and scarcity of product.

              I get so tired of the modern conservative attitude of screw em, as long as I get mine, why should I care about anyone else.

              I’m not saying that you are in this group of extremely selfish people, I don’t know you enough to say. I do know that this is the predominant message put forth by modern day conservatives. Not intentionally, of course.

              Let’s just stick our heads in the sand and go about our merry way.

            • kesmarn says:

              Perhaps we should start paying people not to own assault weapons, then.

              I’d like get a large tax break for not murdering anyone.

  2. monicaangela says:

    We’re constantly changing facts, rewriting history to make things easier, to make them fit in with our preferred version of events. We do it automatically. We invent memories. We sometimes without thinking change facts to fit our idea of how we would like to remember an event. If we tell ourselves something happened differently than it actually did often enough we start to believe it, and then we can actually remember it as we would have liked it to be rather than the way it actually was.

    Misinformed Fox News viewers, yes…but they want it that way. The majority of those that watch Fox News watch it to see a view of a world they would like to have exist rather than the actual world that does exist.

    Misinformed I’m not so sure it’s misinformation as much as it is the information these viewers are searching for. Tell a lie long enough and somehow miraculously for the person telling it and for those who want to believe it, it becomes truth. The mind is a funny thing, it allows those who perceive an event in one way to deny the version of a person who sees the event another way. Even if the version of the other person can be scientifically proven.

    Our country is based on adversarial roles when it comes to politics, Gender, and many other matters, too many to name. In politics you mostly have to support one side or the other…republican version or democratic version…move away from the core principles of either of the two versions and you are immediately attacked…news, it’s easy to say that one group is more misinformed than another and easy in many cases to prove the fact, but the obvious still remains…Are we, those of us who feel we are better informed satisfied being less misinformed than the other guy? I wonder…..

  3. RSGmusic says:

    HI Murph.

    I am going to approach this with out any links just logic and human tendencies by far right GOP /conservatives . abbreviation FRCHT

    Logic 1 Almost everything made and used today are invented thru Advancement in science.

    Mélange a psychotropic drug, It root is in miracle. Also known as entertainment who basis is in, I can mold it without basic logic and truth. Also known a far right Christian religion. also known as Anti religion. They worship a liberal GOD/Jesus but do not believe in their concepts or teachings. Melange a a life extending drug thus they believe in eternal life via the bible.

    This is different the liberal Christianity

    Many GOP/conservatives are really atheist in a high number so church is entertainment.

    More susceptible to hypnotism there for, Fox is entertainment in non facts.

    Many are high level Scientist my best friend is a chem./physical engineer that can create things in science but ignores the permeation that what they invented can be molded by force of will.

    Believing they are the best at almost everything. Thus they are susceptible to being sand bagged.

    The GOP candidates and politicians are the Definition of a psychopath.

    A belief that a lousy economic plan in politics will make money to pay the debt.

    Logic used in a non logical way.

    A belief that pollution can not harm them. Although they believe that viruses are world ending events.

    A Belief THAT they will pay higher taxes and lowing it for the rich so when they get there they get the same advantage when they get to be a millionaire that is almost never achieved or realized,

    Belief they are higher in IQ while being and average of 5 points lower in IQ.

    A belief that total free enterprise can work without an ever expanding frontier.

    A belief that they are the GOD party and can snoop into every ones private life and force it to their bias.

    A belief that corporations are people a pure fantasy.

    A belief that lying and cheating is moral and is ok to use to fool the uneducated GOP /conservatives will take making less money thru time,

    A beli

    FRCHT GOP/conservatives are not interest in paying debt at all. Ryans last budget already over spent is supposed to generate 20 billion in ten yrs. At that rate the current long debt term debt will not happen for almost 500 yrs.

    A belief that helping others is not all that good.

    SO you see no science or logic and family values that are lower then most.

  4. UncleB says:

    FOX “News” viewers… misinformed? Sadly, a continuing trend…

    — Conservatives Tuned Out Everything Except Fox News Between 1998-2006

    — Daily Show/Colbert Viewers Most Knowledgeable, Fox News Viewers Rank LOWEST [Apr. 2007]

    — Who Knows News? What You Read or View Matters, but Not Your Politics [Oct. 2008]

    — Fox News viewers overwhelmingly misinformed about health care reform proposals. [Aug. 2009]

    — Fox News Viewers Are The Most Misinformed: Study

    — Poll Also Finds Voters Were Misinformed on Key Issues

    “Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe that most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely), most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points), the economy is getting worse (26 points), most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points), the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points), their own income taxes have gone up (14 points), the auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points), when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points) and that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points). The effect was also not simply a function of partisan bias, as people who voted Democratic and watched Fox News were also more likely to have such misinformation than those who did not watch it--though by a lesser margin than those who voted Republican.

    — Study: Fox News Viewers “Most Misinformed” Of All News Consumers (Updated) [Dec. 2010]

    — Fox News Viewers Know Less Than People Who Don’t Watch Any News: Study [Nov. 2011]

    — Study Finds Fox News Viewers Least Informed Of All Viewers [05/2012]

    : (

    • naxos says:

      What a lot of work you have done here! Obvious question: It is clearly vitally important to you to believe you are superior to people who may not share your political ideology. Why? It seems so pointless. People who watch THAT news are not as smart as those who watch MY news. If so, so what?

      Do you know how democracy works? Everyone must weigh in; people who agree with you, people who disagree with you, people who are informed, people who are not informed. This is why suppression of voting is so anti-American. Everyone counts. Not just people who agree with us.

  5. UncleB says:

    FOX “News” viewers… misinformed?

    As D. Rumsfeld might say, that’s a “KNOWN known”!!!

    While I can provide documentation of their perpetual misinformed state prior to 2008 (and probably will in a subsequent posting), viewers turned to FOX and increased their ratings dramatically AFTER 2008. I wonder why (hmm).

    As per this article (of 2009):

    “Fox News’ viewership is up 45% over the last year, and it’s easy to see why: The ascendancy of a charismatic black Democrat has driven frightened, paranoid, enraged, nativist zealots into the ideological embrace of an outlet that habitually reconfirms everything they already believe…Tuning into Hannity et.al. becomes a life-affirming political act.”

    This sounds very SIMILAR to people who flocked to religious services after 911…!


    “There was a surge in church attendance after the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington on 2001-SEP-11. Some religious leaders predicted that the phenomenon would be short lived..” (it was; it lasted 2 months).

    “Bringing about one of the greatest spiritual revivals in the history of America…People are turning to God. The churches are full.”
    — Pat Robertson

    “…When people face such a tragic and horrible event, they need comfort, they need community, they need to relate to their God and their traditions, and try to find a way to get through the pain. Once I think people got past some of the initial shock and difficulties, they started to get back to how it was before.”
    — Rabbi Ronald S. Roth of West End Synagogue in Nashville, TN, said:

    It appears that the GOP losses years ago hit them harder than expected. They are only seeking solace in the people that accept them and their views — NO MATTER WHAT…!

  6. Not only does FOX and it’s sorcerers misinform, the are very good at distracting their viewers from real issues that “conservatives,” have no idea how to solve.

    They never have any credible solutions for serious issues like gun violence, a very shabby public education system, adequate and affordable healthcare, the Mid-East problems, the Israeli/Palestinian problem, global climate change and it’s devastating consequences, the abysmal state of race relations in America, illegal immigration….etc.

    FOX supplies a constant squawk and howl about nonsense and issues that are no threat to America or it’s citizenry. They fill their all too many hours with hateful rhetoric about nothing important, that is when they are not generating doom and gloom. Actually, they’ve learned how to do both simultaneously.

    As far as their viewership is concerned, they are made up of incurious, uneducated, blowhards who just cannot stay out of other’s lives and feel a strong need to control them. Maybe because they have so little actual control in their own petty and putrid existence.

    • RSGmusic says:

      HI KT , your post is really spot on. Expecially the creditable solutions part!!

      A synthesizer can create any instrument made and others that have not been created yet.

  7. Nirek says:

    Murph, are they misinforming the people who watch on purpose? I think they are, to help the GOP win seats in our government to help keep the inequality of wealth in this nation.

    • goleafsgo says:

      Nirek, I think their first aim is to be profitable. To be profitable one has to have a draw. In order to create a successful draw it is necessary to understand human behaviour.

      “The penchant for selective exposure is rooted in our psychology and our brains. Closed-mindedness and authoritarianism—running stronger in some of us than in others—likely are as well.”

      The media understands this precept and uses it for a variety of purposes, including political persuasion. They all use it, however, Fox does it best. Perhaps it has the advantage of drawing on a large group of people who are televangelists. People who are in their own right authoritarians, but are easily led by the bombastic rhetoric of those who
      are the “Elmer Gantry” types. [ Burt Lancaster movie from the 60’s]

      Another aspect of this “selective exposure,” I think should be considered. It is the brain’s “amygdala.” Studies have shown that there is a propensity for political preference depending upon the size of the “amygdala”…the brain’s fear centre. It seems that those with a larger than normal “amygdala” have definite conservative leanings. Those people with a smaller sized amygdala had a larger “Orbitalfrontal corex,” which is the centre responsible for decision making and emotion regulation…indicated a liberal preference. Makes sense to me!

      What is scary is the fact that anyone can be manipulated by the media, liberal or conservative. And history has revealed there is good reason to be frightened.

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