It’s long been a contention of smart people (in other words: some smart people say) that watching Fox “News” makes people dumb. Study after study has confirmed that people who watch Fox “News” are among the most misinformed in ‘Merka. This is just one of the many points Chris Mooney makes in his upcoming book “The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science--and Reality.” AlterNet has printed a terrific excerpt called “The Science of Fox News: Why Its Viewers are the Most Misinformed,” in which Mooney not only cites all the studies, but also includes a partial list of topics on which Fox “News” viewers are lied to led astray. Mooney also argues that studying Fox "News" becomes circular logic: Which came first? In my mind it's a lot like self-perpetuating motion machine:
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.
Mooney’s long book excerpt is well-worth reading in full. Without directly saying so, he also seems to explain why Air America failed, and why MSNBC’s ratings are tiny when compared to the Fox “News” propaganda machine. Progressives tend graze at many news sources and make up their own minds while Conservatives self-select for deeply psychological reasons of “[c]losed-mindedness and authoritarianism” in a “classic nature-nurture mélange,” which “…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.” It’s only what NewsHounds has been saying forever.