Mar 17, 2011

Scary: People Who Watch and Trust Fox News Will Surprise You

One in four Americans believes "most or all" of what's said on Fox News, despite Fox's fabrication of everything from death panels to Climategate.
March 14, 2011  | 
(Special from Alternet)

In the 7 March issue of the Tribune, Mark Seddon reported on the threat that Glenn Beck, "as a sort of hired gauleiter on Fox News", poses to American democracy. The article hit the nail on the head when it comes to Beck's paranoiac propaganda. Seddon, however, misses the broader danger of the Murdoch-owned Fox News: the media outlet's audience is growing even as its programming veers away from broadcast journalism and shapes instead a rightwing political operation.

Consider the facts: more than twice as many Americans watch Fox News as watch CNN, the next most popular cable news channel, and almost five times as many as watch MSNBC. Fox's audience cuts across age, gender, race, education, and income level. The average Fox News viewer is a male between the ages of 30 to 49 -- far from most people's perception that mostly seniors watch Fox. So where Seddon pointed to a fabled minority audience of "not-so-bright … American citizens", Fox is instead popular among a wide swath of well-educated, contributing members of society.

Fox's pre-eminent position has had an irrefutable and destructive impact on the state of political discourse in the United States. Since its inception, Fox News has performed as a political party, not as an objective journalistic outlet. Since President Obama took office, Fox has succeeded not only in spreading misinformation and lies, but also in entrenching those fictions so that its audience relates to them as irrefutable fact. 

Fox News' approach to these issues has, among other things, limited genuine debate about the merits of healthcare policy, forcing elected representatives to spend time insisting to their constituents that the president of the United States does not want to kill their grandmothers. The claims are so outrageous that they would be funny -- if they didn't have real impact on people's lives.

Fox Owns the Tea Party.  Not content to spread misinformation and singlemindedly pursue an extreme agenda, Fox decided in 2009 it would contribute explicitly to the rise of a social movement. Fox spent disproportionate airtime rallying people to join the Tea Party, the radical right group that was formed in the wake of the presidential election in 2008. Over ten days in April of 2009, Fox aired 107 ads for its coverage of Tea Party protests and, in that same time period, featured at least 20 segments on the upcoming protests. By contrast, in the recent legislative battle over collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin, Fox called the protesting union supporters a "shrieking leftist mob".

Get BALANCE.  Skip Fox's weakest show and watch MSNBC's Rachel Maddow too.  She's an natural anecdote for Koolaid overdose.

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