Misinformation, Media Bias, and Worldviews

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Dan Scotto

Dan Scotto lives and works in New Jersey. He has a master's degree in history, with a focus on the history of disease and the history of technology.

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  1. Avatar Kim
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    says:

    So no actual interesting questions, no thoughtful questions, it sounds like.
    Color me bored.
    “What are the ramifications if the TransPacific Free Trade bill fails to pass?”
    … i doubt 50% of people here would get the answer to this right.

    But if you’ll understand the answer to that, you’ll understand why news is often horrid.Report

  2. Avatar Bruce Bartlett
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    says:

    I do not believe that Fox is by any means a net negative for Republicans. It is just that it is not 100% positive; there are downsides, of which misinforming Republicans is one. Second, you imply that I relied on one poll to show that Fox viewers are more misinformed than viewers of other news programming. In fact, there are multiple polls from separate reputable sources that confirm this conclusion cited in the paper. Third, another possible explanation for the results is that Fox attracts a higher percentage of the not-too-bright population, rather than being the source of misinformation.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Bruce Bartlett
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      says:

      Or that they are attempting to cloak their opinions in the “respectability of Science” (whether or not Fox attempts to convey this impression, which you haven’t shown…)Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Bruce Bartlett
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      says:

      I can’t help noticing that every single item on that list is one where the wrong answer is something Republicans are ideologically inclined to believe. What do you think the results would look like if the survey included, in equal measure, questions where Democrats are ideologically inclined to believe the wrong answer?

      Things like “The top 1% pay a lower-than-average effective tax rate,” “Social welfare spending, adjusted for inflation and population growth, is lower than it was before the Reagan administration,” “More than 20% of minimum-wage earners are single parents,” “Due to limited access to health care, Latinos have a lower life expectancy than white Americans,” or “Employees receive a smaller share of the typical business’s revenue than the owners.”Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        Yes, that would be a far better study. But it would probably lead to a fairer conclusion: Most people can’t think for themselves!Report

      • Avatar nevermoor in reply to Brandon Berg
        Ignored
        says:

        I would hope that liberals would get the true answers to those questions (the top 1% as an aggregate pay a higher effective tax rate; year-to-year welfare spending fluctuates wildly based upon the business cycle; more than 20% of minimum-wage earners are single parents; hispanic people have a longer life expectancy than other categories of americans; and total labor spending is usually less than net profit in most businesses).

        Then we can talk about what to do with that (and whether any of it matters). Seems like a much better approach than “I don’t like the stimulus so I will deny the existence of any and all facts to the contrary.”Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to nevermoor
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          says:

          @nevermoor
          more than 20% of minimum-wage earners are single parents

          Right. This is exactly what I’m talking about. I knew this was wrong, so I did some digging, and this turns out to be an excellent example of shoddy reporting by the left-wing press. Here’s what MSNBC said:

          Who are these low-wage earners? Well, not quite one-third are unmarried with no kids, which in most cases will mean they live alone and provide 100% of their “family” income. Do all these single people skew the data? Sure, a little (though it’s important to remember that childless singles have to eat, too). But almost as many – 27% – are married, which presumably means two incomes. The remaining 29% are single parents, which means their low wages must provide 100% of a family income that supports an actual family.

          Note that “low-wage earners” here is not people earning the minimum wage, but people “who would be affected” by increasing the minimum wage to $10.10, which includes 17 million workers making less than that, and 11 million making “a little bit more,” which I believe means those making less than $12.95/hour.

          Anyway, here’s the report(PDF), where you can see that the reporter just plain fished up. The relevant table is the first one. See the two columns on the far right, “Percentage of the total affected” and “Share of the category that is affected?” What that means is that, e.g., 55.4% of people who would be affected are single with no children, and 30.9% of people who are single with no children would be affected.

          The reporter should have been using the left column, but used the right column instead. He probably should have been tipped off by the fact that the right column adds up to 86.9%, but math is hard. Anyway, it turns out (as I expected), 10.4% of workers who would be affected are single parents. The 29% claimed by MSNBC is actually the percentage of single parents who would be affected.

          total labor spending is usually less than net profit in most businesses

          I don’t know where you got that, but economy-wide, employee compensation is more than double the sum of corporate profits, proprietors’ income, and rental income. And employee compensation is anomalously low now because of the recession—in 2008, it was more than triple.Report

          • Avatar nevermoor in reply to Brandon Berg
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            says:

            Whoops on the labor costs. I intended to (and do) agree with you that companies spend more on labor than net profits. I’m sure this is taken as proof of something, but I don’t know what it is (and I am happy to acknowledge that fact whole still contending that we owe most Americans more than they’re getting).

            I’m not sure why the other thing about single families matters. Sounds like we agree that the proposed wage hike will help lots of single parents, and that I was wrong about current workers. Isn’t that still supportive of the point that low-wage workers aren’t all white HS students getting hobby-money during summers?Report

          • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg
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            says:

            @brandon-berg
            I don’t know where you got that, but economy-wide, employee compensation is more than double the sum of corporate profits, proprietors’ income, and rental income. And employee compensation is anomalously low now because of the recession—in 2008, it was more than triple.

            That is not really the question you asked. Here is the statement, for reference: Employees receive a smaller share of the typical business’s revenue than the owners.

            Even under that specific interpretation of the statement(1), your ‘more than double’ is wrong. It is likely *more*, but not more than double.

            Employees of *businesses*, in total, are listed as receiving 6,223.9 billion in cash. (They receive some benefits, but you’re asking their share of revenue.) I think the math on the other side is, you think, 1,380.2 + 640.2 + 905.1. Which is 2925.5 billion. More than double, right?

            But we’ve got a few problem there. First, that only has *dividends*, not stock buybacks. In 2014, corporations spent $700 billion (I can’t find a more exact number) on stock buybacks, so let’s fix: 3625.5 billion

            Second problem: Tax disparities. If we’re calculating how much money people *receive*, that’s obviously going to be reduced by taxes.

            Rental income is taxed at normal tax rate. So is ‘proprietors’ income’. But qualified dividends, and capital gains from stock buybacks, are taxed at approximately half the rate of personal income.

            Now, figuring out the actual percentage of taxes people are playing is very tricky. If we assume that employed people are, for example, paying approximately 20% of their income in taxes, someone making the same amount in capital gains would pay 10%. So a 10% difference. So what we can do in calculating all this is, instead of recalculating everything, let’s cheat by instead pretending that the dividends+stock buybacks only 90% of where they should be(2): 1,380.2 + (640.2 +700) / .90 + 905.1 = 3774.4 billion

            So that’s 6,223.9 billion vs. 3774.4 billion.

            And there’s still one thing left, and we can’t really calculate it: Some of the ’employee compensation’ is *itself* being paid to owners that work for the business, especially S Corp and partnerships…usually in rather high-up and thus well-paid positions. (3)

            If someone goes to a lawyer who owns his own practice, and pays them $500 after all corporate taxes, and the lawyer walks off with $400 of it, a paralegal with $80, and receptionist with $20, people would *usually* argue that the ‘business owner’ took most of it…except, technically, the business owner probably paid *himself* a salary, and thus that $400 showed up under the $6,223.9 billion instead of the $3774.4 billion.

            I have no actual stats here on how much of the economy it is, but let’s notice that this ‘owner-paid money’ is *doubly* ‘miscounted’ in these situations.

            1) If you wanted to make that statement, the way to make it is ‘When added together across all business, the total of money received from businesses by employees is a smaller share of the revenue than received by owners.’ or something like that.

            2) This is not the same as adding 10%. People usually get confused by that, so I’m mentioning it.

            3 Some people are thinking ‘But why would they ever do that? That just makes them pay a higher tax rate’. Except, of course, such a thing is not actually legal, according to the IRS. You can’t work for free and get all your payment via dividends. People have to get paid a reasonable salary.Report

            • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to DavidTC
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              says:

              @davidtc I believe that stock repurchases are classified as dividends in the NIPA. Here’s the definition:

              The starting point for the derivation of dividends is IRS distributions to stockholders, cash and property except in own stock, which is shown as “Dividends paid in cash or assets, IRS” on line 32 in table 13.9 below. For each industry, this item is obtained from Corporate Income Tax Returns. It consists of cash and noncash payments out of current or retained earnings, and it does not include liquidating dividends or other distributions of paid-in capital

              Repurchases would seem to fall under that. If not, they’re made out of retained earnings. I’m absolutely certain that the BEA just forgot to count them. Note that repurchases are not a tax-deductible expense—if they were, they could be used to avoid corporate income taxes altogether.

              It’s true that employees of business are not the only employees counted here. On the other hand, it’s also true that a lot of income classified as investment income in the NIPA is not income derived from hired labor. For example, rental income of persons excludes rental income paid to corporations. A lot of that is just individuals renting out property they manage themselves. In retrospect, I’m not entirely sure I should have included that at all.

              And there’s still one thing left, and we can’t really calculate it: Some of the ’employee compensation’ is *itself* being paid to owners that work for the business, especially S Corp and partnerships…usually in rather high-up and thus well-paid positions.

              That’s true, but when owners are actively managing the business, it actually does make sense to classify that as compensation for labor (hence the IRS’s “reasonable salary” rule). I would actually argue the opposite, that some corporate income and proprietor’s income is actually a return on the owners’ labor.

              Also, I forgot to include net interest on the returns to investors side of the ledger. Although I guess that much if not most of that is net interest to holders of government bonds, so it’s not really returns to investors in business.

              Also, throwing out noncash compensation is wrong. It’s money paid for the benefit of employees. However, I would also count retained earnings. In fact, I was counting pre-tax corporate profits including taxes (since employees also pay taxes on their incomes).

              But if we throw out corporate income taxes, that actually makes for a better comparison, because the rates paid on dividends and capital gains (15-20%, depending on bracket) is actually comparable to the effective rate highly-paid employees pay in income taxes. You basically have to get all the way up to the top 1% before paying a 20% effective income tax rate.

              I’m going to say that FICA taxes should not be counted as taxes. From an individual perspective they are (and some individuals get a better deal than others), but in aggregate the money gets taken away from current workers and passed right along to former workers.

              I don’t know where you’re getting a 10%. Most investment income is taxed at 15% or 20%. Taxation of dividends and long-term capital gains aren’t like wages, where you get deductions for personal consumption like mortgage interest for your home, or child tax credits, or anything like that. All you can deduct are investment expenses (mortgage interest for rental properties, margin interest, etc.)

              Huh. I never thought of this before, but it looks an awful lot to me like investment income is taxed at effective rates comparable to or higher than wage income even before accounting for double taxation via the corporate income tax.

              Anyway, it’s complicated. But it’s clear that labor is taking home the lion’s share of income, by a wide margin.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg
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                says:

                @brandon-berg
                I believe that stock repurchases are classified as dividends in the NIPA.

                …they can’t be. There were $700 million stock repurchases in 2014. $700 million doesn’t fit in $640.2 million. Even if it did and $700 was a rounding error, that wouldn’t leave any room for *actual* dividends. (I often complain that businesses are too focused on manipulating their stock price and not enough on providing goods and services to make a profit and issuing dividends, but it can’t be *that* bad.)

                That’s true, but when owners are actively managing the business, it actually does make sense to classify that as compensation for labor (hence the IRS’s “reasonable salary” rule)

                But that wasn’t the question. The question was how much went to owners vs. employees. No one’s going to think you’re including owners *as* employees there. They might technically *be* employees, but no one’s answering the question that way. So there’s no way to prove anything from the answer.

                A lot of that is just individuals renting out property they manage themselves.

                Yes. In fact, I believe that includes things like people asserting that their home business is renting out a room in their own house. (Although that is accurately classified as ‘money going to owners’. It’s just going there in a weird way.)

                But that’s all getting in the debate: What are we trying to measure here? Which is, uh, not actually anything, because this was just a poll question. Just a confusing one.

                Taxation of dividends and long-term capital gains aren’t like wages, where you get deductions for personal consumption like mortgage interest for your home, or child tax credits, or anything like that.

                Huh. I never thought of this before, but it looks an awful lot to me like investment income is taxed at effective rates comparable to or higher than wage income

                That only works because we set up capital gains where people only pay taxes on *profit*, whereas with income they pay taxes on ‘all’ incoming money, except they get deductions to offset it. And, yes, I know *in theory* we can deduct capital losses from our income tax. My point is that you’re calling that a deduction and wondering what the effective rate is before it…but not what the effective rate is if people were to stop doing that with capital gains.

                If instead we rephrase capital gains tax as ‘capital *income* tax’, with them having to pay taxes on the *full total* of incoming money when they sell stock, and then let them ‘deduct’ out the full total of cost of the original stock against that money, (Which mathematically is the same amount of taxes.)…and then we try to figure out the effective rate without those ‘deductions’, capital gains would pay a *very* low effective rate. Incredibly low.

                Capital gains tax already, by the mere premise of only taxing ‘gains’, has a deduction built into for 99% of the amount to start with! (And this deduction works across multiple years, also, unlike normal deductions.)

                Of course, in reality, tax rates of different things are not supposed to be ‘the same’ anyway.

                Although, as an aside, it is fairly interesting that we *frame* the debate as taxing corporations and investors on ‘profit’ instead of ‘incoming revenue’, whereas we start by taxing *all* labor incoming revenue and then let them not pay taxes on some of it.

                I’m going to say that FICA taxes should not be counted as taxes. From an individual perspective they are (and some individuals get a better deal than others), but in aggregate the money gets taken away from current workers and passed right along to former workers.

                Yes. If you are measuring ‘how much money goes to workers’, FICA would count…although more timely method would be to count outgoing Social Security itself. Depends on whether we’re trying to measure ‘amount that will end up in labor’s hands’ or ‘amount that *has* ended up in labor’s hands’.

                But it’s clear that labor is taking home the lion’s share of income, by a wide margin.

                Yes, the people who do all the work are, somehow, managing to take home a majority of the money. So things are not *quite as horrible* as people might think…the owners of everything are just skimming off a third of everyone’s work! Yay!

                Now, something like *that* might work as a poll question that Democrats might get wrong. Needs to be more specific, though.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        Brandon Berg: I can’t help noticing that every single item on that list is one where the wrong answer is something Republicans are ideologically inclined to believe.

        Yep, this. I’ve been trying to dig around the methodology section of the website to find the original list of all survey questions but haven’t identified it yet. It would be interesting to see if there were questions asking, for example, who believes the poor and middle class pay a majority of the nation’s income taxes.

        Also, Dan couldn’t be more right that the questions could be interpreted either as asking what is true or as a back door referendum on how you feel about the underlying policy. You *can* do things to make it more likely you’ll get the former. That’s why I want to find the original survey. If the survey gave no outlet to people to express their disapproval of the policies but only asked the questions in the linked PDF, then Dan’s explanation of the answers is a potentially valid one.Report

        • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Vikram Bath
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          says:

          @vikram-bath
          Dan’s explanation of the answers is a potentially valid one.

          I agree, except replacing ‘perfectly valid’ with ‘horrifically awful’.

          Saying deliberate lies about things because you dislike something is *not* a good thing. Repeating lies over and over actually changes how you think about those lies.

          There is much less a distance in the human brain between ‘I am saying these things and I know they’re lies’ and ‘I am saying these true things’ than people like to pretend.

          <morbo>THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRUTH AND LIES DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY.</morbo>

          That sort of political system, the partisan fervor that causes people repeat stuff they know is false, is *a very bad thing*.

          At the end, even if they ‘know’ it’s false, it still causes them to make decisions as if it’s true.

          Relevant story: I saw Amy Acker, who plays Root on Person of Interest, at a panel at Dragon*Con. And she was asked how she feels about the *actual* NSA surveillance that that TV show basically predicted. And she said, and she was dead serious, that whenever she read stories about that she had to remind herself that a) she didn’t already know all that existed in the real world, and b) that all this data wasn’t going to a benevolent black-box AIs, but actual humans who can abuse that system. And even then, she found it hard to actually be outraged by this, despite the fact she knows, as an attractive woman beloved by nerds, she’s exactly the sort of person that would be targeted by people misusing the system….because her day job is *pretending* to love the idea of all this.

          And, of course, she’s a professional actor, trained for that pretending…do we think that people wandering around *signifying* that they don’t like Obama by repeating obviously bogus stuff about him can keep that distinct in their head?Report

          • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to DavidTC
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            says:

            DavidTC: That sort of political system, the partisan fervor that causes people repeat stuff they know is false, is *a very bad thing*.

            Agreed. But it can happen, especially when you don’t give people another outlet to vent their opinions. I have a fairly partisan friend who told me approximately “the problem with these survey questions is that I know what they are trying to ask me.” Telling someone to admit something positive about a policy they don’t like without allowing them to tack on “but I still don’t like it for reasons you didn’t ask about” is a recipe for getting bad answers that people don’t actually believe.

            As another example, imagine a one question survey with a forced yes/no response without any room for elaboration.

            Was Martin Luther King a criminal?

            The technically truthful answer to this is yes. But it’s a wholly misleading truth, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people answered “no” not because they were indicating the wrong answer but because they think the questioner is trying to get them to admit something that goes against their side.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        Those aren’t really the same sort of questions, though. Those are questions about statistics, and usually not even statistics that are particularly relevant or easily known.

        The only question that ‘liberals’, at least liberals who care about tax rates, *should* be able to answer is ‘The top 1% pay a lower-than-average effective tax rate’. That’s slightly a trick question (The *average* effective tax rate is probably lower than people think.), but I’ll accept it.

        And why the hell would anyone know the *exact* percentage of minimum-wage workers that are single parents? Googling this, this appears to be some sort of strange pushback on the right of a trope that does not actually exist on the left, that a lot of min wage workers are single parents. The *actual* thing being said by the left is that ‘most people who make under a *new* minimum wage of 10.10 would be single parents’, not that most people *making* the min.

        So, basically, the story is: Left says a true thing, right misstates it, proves the misstatement wrong, and so you thinks you can get liberals to agree to the wrong misstatement in a poll. And, well, you’re probably right…congratulations on another trick question.

        So you’ve demonstrated, hypothetically, you can get liberals to remembered statistics. (And I also have no idea what you mean by ‘Employees receive a smaller share of the typical business’s revenue than the owners’. Do you mean in total, or individually? What is that question even talking about? Also, what’s a ‘typical business’? Does the *typical business* even *have* employees?)

        But let’s stop here and look at the stuff the right agreed to. First off, I’ll admit that, like some of your questions, some of the article’s questions were utter crap. For one thing, for all we know, some people’s income taxes *did* go up, so that’s a really dumbass question. Likewise, ‘the economy is getting worse’, while intended as a general question, is going to be answered as a personal one. (In fact, that’s a stupid attempt to prove anything about Republicans, because I’m fairly certain in 2010 *everyone* was answering the ‘wrong’ answer.)

        Likewise, two questions are about what ‘most economists think’ about current policies. That’s a rather vague question, and assumes a level of knowledge about things that actually isn’t important. I mean, we’re not even talking CBO scores here…who the hell is ‘most economists’? Was there some sort of official poll? Even if we’re assuming the questions really should be read as’the stimulus will cause job loss’ and ‘the health care law will worse the debt’, those are sorta obscure facts. (Although I’m a little baffled at the idea that the stimulus would cause job losses…when was that even a question? How would that work? Maybe that *is* a legitimately stupid answer, because I just can’t figure out why that could logically work.)

        Likewise, remembering exactly how many people of what party voted for something…more Democrats than Republican actually voted for TARP, but of the Republicans that did support it, they were more than half of Republicans. So, that’s clearly a trick question.

        So, quite right, throw all those out. But that leaves a few questions that are fairly stupid to get wrong. Remember, this is 2010, two years after the stimulus and the bailout…and Republicans can’t remember basic facts about whether there were any tax cuts in the stimulus, or what *president* started the auto bailout. Those things were *political issues* in 2010, they supposedly even spawned a political movement named the Tea Party that was quite active at the time, and the right doesn’t even bother to know any facts about those things.

        And the answers to where Obama was born and climate change are *bullshit*. Just utter bullshit. And those were two of the *highest scoring questions*. (And, yes, the climate change thing is a ‘statistic’, but we all know what that question is actually asking…’is climate change real’?)

        Show something like those things that the left believes. Not badly remembered statistics or stuff that no one would know offhand like mortality rates of different ethnicities, where you can easily lead them to wrong answer. Show some sort of very recent political battle where the left *doesn’t remember* actual events that happened, and really should. Or things where the left persistently believes quite wrong things.Report

        • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DavidTC
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          says:

          Actually, to cover for the mismatch between ‘Facts people thinks the other side are misinformed about, but is not actually part of their political calculation’, it might be useful to ask *how important* each thing is.

          Randomly asking yes/no questions about unimportant facts shows nothing about political partisans. What does show something is asking *what facts they think are important*, and then questioning them on those facts.

          This questions should not be 1) a trick question (Aka, that ‘how many Republicans vote for…’ question), 2) a misstatement of a true fact (The min wage question), 3) a statistic that basically no one would know off their top of their head (What races live longer?), or 4) something that is probably going to interpreted personally regardless of how it is ask (How is the economy doing?)Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to DavidTC
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          says:

          @davidtc
          Quibbling over the specific questions is kind of beside the point. My point was that there should be analogous questions. If you don’t think those fit the bill, fine. But they were just for illustrative purposes.

          That said, I picked the questions because the correct answer to each one contradicts a narrative I see being pushed by the left.

          For example, have you seen those charts comparing the minimum wage to the federal poverty line? Pretty much invariably, the poverty line used in those charts is the poverty line for a family of three, and the income used in those charts is the income of one full-time, year-round worker. Why? Because the income of a FTYR mininum-wage worker is well above the poverty line for a one-person household.

          The EPI and left-wing media are aggressively pushing the idea that the minimum wage is a sub-poverty wage, when the reality is that for the vast majority of mininum-wage workers it is not.

          The tax question is because there’s a persistent myth on the left that the rich pay a lower tax rate than middle-class taxpayers. Usually they’ll say “less taxes” and not even mention the rate. Frankly, I’m not entirely sure they understand the distinction. This is not a minor thing.

          There are also persistent myths that social spending has been slashed to the bone (in fact, the long-term trend is pretty steadily upwards with minor fluctuations due to the business cycle), that blacks have worse health care outcomes than whites because of lower rates of health insurance (yet Latinos have even lower rates of health insurance and have better health outcomes than whites, despite higher rates of obesity), and that capital gets the lion’s share of national income.

          Every one of these myths is used to argue for major policy changes, so I think getting them right is pretty important.

          Edit: Also, the claim that 29% of minimum-wage workers are single parents is not “a misstatement of a true fact.” It’s wrong, wrong, wrong, by a factor of nearly three.Report

          • Avatar Zac in reply to Brandon Berg
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            says:

            I agree with David over the questions you chose, but I also think you are raising a valuable point; there are definitely some questions you could ask that an embarrassingly high number of liberals would give the wrong answer about. For example, stuff about the safety of vaccinations, or whether crack and/or AIDS was created by the government to intentionally keep down black folks, or whether the Bush administration was secretly behind 9/11…stuff like that.

            The obvious difference, of course, is that none of that stuff is being promulgated by major news networks, not even MSNBC.Report

            • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Zac
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              says:

              I agree with David over the questions you chose, but I also think you are raising a valuable point; there are definitely some questions you could ask that an embarrassingly high number of liberals would give the wrong answer about. For example, stuff about the safety of vaccinations, or whether crack and/or AIDS was created by the government to intentionally keep down black folks, or whether the Bush administration was secretly behind 9/11…stuff like that.

              Erm…I don’t know in what country *you’re* living in, but none of those would get ’embarrassing’ high numbers of liberals to agree.

              Although 9/11 trutherism is one of those things where it’s really easy to ask a question and come to a different conclusion about the answer than the person answering intended, like asking if ‘Bush knew about the attacks beforehand and did nothing’. A yes might mean ‘He knew those specific planes were going be hijacked and deliberately allowed it to happen’, or it might mean ‘He was given intelligent briefings about how Al Qaeda was determined to attack in the US and ignored them’.

              As I said, there are all sorts of ways to trick people into answering poll questions wrongly, and then hold those polls up as evidence people are stupid. And, yes, a *lot* of the questions showing the right as misinformed are doing exactly that too…it’s just that sometimes people on the right give insane responses and couldn’t possibly have been tricked or confused into them, whereas that doesn’t seem to happen on the left.

              Incidentally, the idea that that is some *liberal* myth is…itself a myth. It’s probably believed by more liberals, but not by a huge amount. The famous people *pushing* that tend to be liberal, but the people who actually believe it are probably 4% of liberals…and 2% of conservatives.

              But, again, it depends on how you phrase the question. Ask people if ‘vaccines can cause harm’ is likely to get a yes…and is, in fact, technically true. Likewise, a question if they’re ‘safe’ or not is a subjective question without a right or wrong. A better poll question would be ‘Can vaccines cause autism?’ or ‘Do vaccinations lead to less illness?’ or something like that.Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to DavidTC
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                says:

                Okay, let me rephrase it. If you ask these three questions:

                1) Do vaccines cause autism?
                2) Did the U.S. government create crack and/or AIDS?
                3) Did the Bush administration intentionally allow 9/11 to happen?

                I suspect that a non-zero, greater-than-the-margin-of-error number of liberals would give the wrong answers to these questions (which is, IMO, embarrassingly high; the number should be zero). Why? Because I live in Seattle. I’ve met plenty of liberals who unabashedly espouse those views. And somehow I doubt I’ve met everyone who does.

                Like I said, both sides have people who believe some really crazy shit. The difference is that liberals don’t have a major news organization dedicated to pushing those myths. Nobody on MSNBC rants about the secret conspiracy to create AIDS.Report

              • Avatar nevermoor in reply to Zac
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                says:

                To the extent you’re right (and I’m sure you are), I would hope that exposure to journalism would reduce the numbers. And if it didn’t, I would take that as indictment of the journalism and not an opportunity to defend the “maligned” network.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Zac
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                says:

                @zac
                Because I live in Seattle. I’ve met plenty of liberals who unabashedly espouse those views

                Oh, *that’s* what’s going on here. You live in a place where you run into fringe lefties, and you’ve decided your sample is representative.

                As has *already been determined*, anti-vaxers are pretty much equally distributed on the left and the right. The West cast is full of them on the left. The bible belt is full of them on the right. The left might have a *slight* lead there…or actually not.

                http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2011/PPP_Release_National_ConspiracyTheories_040213.pdf

                16% of Democrats think they’re linked…and 26% of Republicans. Oops.

                As for your other conspiracies:

                Truthers are also pretty evenly divided. 14% of Democrats, and 8% of Republicans, think the government knowingly allowed 9/11. Man, that point was sure well proved how it’s a crazy liberal belief. (And I should probably point out that this well under ‘aliens at Roswell’ level.)

                And basically the same numbers shows up with the CIA conspiracy: 14% of Democrats, 9% of Republicans.(1)

                I don’t think those numbers quite show what you want them to show.

                1) Although, should I point out, a conspiracy theory about something that happened *three decades ago* and is something like a third true (The CIA was, indeed, involved in illegally funding the drug trade in the 80s…there’s just no evidence they really cared about that or directed the drugs into the US.) is rather different than shit like believing global warming is a hoax. This theory is actually fairly harmless. People who believe this conspiracy theory…don’t trust the CIA? Yeah, people really *shouldn’t* trust the CIA. Not because of made-up things, admittedly, but because of actual, known things.

                In fact, more liberals *do* believe global warming is a hoax than that CIA conspiracy theory.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg
            Ignored
            says:

            Oh, I see what you meant by “misstatement of a true fact.” But in context, it’s pretty clear that the author meant exactly what he said.Report

          • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg
            Ignored
            says:

            @brandon-berg
            Because the income of a FTYR mininum-wage worker is well above the poverty line for a one-person household.

            Well, yes, but the poverty line is a pretty arbitrary defined measurement in the first place. One that people usually don’t know off the top of their head.

            If we’re trying to measure *misinformation*, instead of just *lack of information*, we need to find things people should generally know, instead of asking ‘Is you car’s MPG larger or smaller than the amount of cubic centimetres per ounce of copper?’

            The EPI and left-wing media are aggressively pushing the idea that the minimum wage is a sub-poverty wage, when the reality is that for the vast majority of mininum-wage workers it is not.

            And there you’re technically wrong. The majority of *full-time* min wages workers are not making sub-poverty wages. But that’s only 55% of them..The remaining 45% are part time, and hence *are* sub poverty, even for one person.

            Combine that with the 28% of min-wage workers that have children, assuming that at least half of them have two children, and that people with large families are more likely to work more hours…and it’s a good bet that a bare majority, at least, are making below poverty-wages. (Although whether they’re *living* in poverty or the family has some other income is unknown.)

            This is what I mean by ‘trick questions’. You cannot possibly learn anything by asking poll questions that have so many variables.

            Usually they’ll say “less taxes” and not even mention the rate. Frankly, I’m not entirely sure they understand the distinction.

            Yes. No one does. This is just as much a problem on the right, when people wander around quoting that 10% of income earners paid 68% of taxes, and the bottom 50% paid 3%, with the implication that 68% should be closer to 10% and 3% closer to 50%.

            This is, quite obviously, stupid. Even in a perfectly level income tax system, the top 10% would be paying 45% of taxes, and the bottom 50% would be paying 12%, because that’s the percent of income they make, and it’s an *income* tax, not a per capita tax.

            And, again, the focus on income taxes is also stupid.

            Also, the claim that 29% of minimum-wage workers are single parents is not “a misstatement of a true fact.” It’s wrong, wrong, wrong, by a factor of nearly three.

            The 29% claim is that the people who raising the minimum wage *would help* are 29% single parents. I.e., 29% of the people making under $10.10 an hour are single parents.

            You have restated that true fact into something else.

            Every one of these myths is used to argue for major policy changes, so I think getting them right is pretty important.

            Argued by *who*? People mis-repeating infographs?

            Like I said, if you want to find out if misinformation is important, you have to ask people *at least* three questions: Do you care about the percentage of people living on min wage that are below the poverty line? Do you know that information? And what is the answer?Report

    • Avatar Dan Scotto in reply to Bruce Bartlett
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      says:

      I think the issues are with all of that sort of surveying; I chose the UMD one because it seemed the most illustrative, but I’d be happy to take it further. My apologies for the implication otherwise.Report

      • Avatar Dan Scotto in reply to Dan Scotto
        Ignored
        says:

        Also, a broader point: the “misinformation” component is much less analytically relevant than the UMD folks and similar studies would have it, because even with the “right” information–even if people are genuinely misinformed–their values and worldviews probably will remain roughly the same, and those are more important in driving political decision-making.

        Again, though, my apologies if you think I am misconstruing or misrepresenting; absolutely not my intent.Report

  3. Avatar Glyph
    Ignored
    says:

    Thought-provoking piece.

    All media coverage–indeed, all writing and argumentation–is impregnated with a worldview: a guiding set of assumptions about how the world works. The “mainstream media” position is what we might call “liberal internationalism.”

    I basically agree with this, with the caveats that A.) That’s not by definition a bad thing (though situationally, it could be) and B.) The pressures of capitalism and the need to maintain sources/relationships/ad dollars etc. often nudge the mainstream media *somewhat* more rightward than it would otherwise be if it existed in a vacuum.

    Still, since I basically agree, I therefore also – for all that I dislike Fox (and I find Fox pretty ridiculous, from the little of it that I accidentally occasionally consume) – am weirdly glad Fox exists *anyway*, to serve its “niche market” of “half the country.”

    I just wish Fox was…better, you know?

    Are there any big Fox News success stories (“scalps”) that you can think of? IIRC, I don’t think Fox even had anything to do with bringing down Dan Rather.

    It’s not Fox’s underlying worldview I have much problem with; it’s their laziness. There have GOT to be some big, real lefty scandals out there that would be red meat for Fox viewers – go find and report them, for real!

    It also may be true that Fox viewers are feeling angry and that things in America are going in the wrong direction/based on wrong assumptions; but I feel like screwing with survey-takers, while pretty understandable and probably emotionally-satisfying, probably won’t help their cause in the long run. Maybe I am wrong about that. I’m not their target market.Report

  4. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    I’m surprised someone hasn’t said this already. Of course everybody has a worldview and internal biases. We can’t escape those to a great degree. But what Fox seems like is a deliberately biased network working to accomplish their goals and that of the party they support. They aren’t struggling to be objective against the problems of trying to see outside their own worldview. They are consciously pushing an agenda. They are water carriers.Report

  5. Avatar Chris
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    says:

    I assume Fox’s goal is less promulgating a world view than getting viewers so they can charge advertisers more, and this particular world view gets them a consistent viewership, with relatively well-known purchasing tendencies, which makes advertisers salivate.

    Laziness, at least with respect to Fox itself (and not the people whom they influence or cater to), exactly wrong: they’ve worked quite hard to cultivate an image, and thereby a following, and will continue to do so as long as the Benjamins keep flowin’ in. Even world-view is the wrong way to look at it. It’s an image, not a world-view, that they promote. The world-view is a simulacrum, where they are concerned, meant to simulate the world-view that their target audience, their product to be sold to the people who pay them, actually hold.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Chris
      Ignored
      says:

      I think of it this way. Hollywood studies work very hard to maximize the profit that their movies make (or maximize the profit that the studios and certain producers make, since studio accounting usually makes sure that no individual production makes a profit). Part of working hard to make money often involves very lazy storytelling. I see a similar dynamic at work with Fox.Report

      • Avatar nevermoor in reply to j r
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        says:

        I think this is right, and right in line with Krugman’s recent line of articles on how weird it is that GOP leadership seems to like not smart conservative economists but useful idiot conservative “economists” (say, Laffer).

        One could imagine a vibrant, honest, investigative news channel with strong right-wing priors and a focus on uncovering weaknesses in Democratic policies/practices (of which there are many, especially at the local level in big cities). One cannot, however, imagine that Fox is that channel.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to nevermoor
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          says:

          Who’s Krugman been recommending?Report

        • Avatar Glyph in reply to nevermoor
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          says:

          nevermoor: One could imagine a vibrant, honest, investigative news channel with strong right-wing priors and a focus on uncovering weaknesses in Democratic policies/practices (of which there are many, especially at the local level in big cities). One cannot, however, imagine that Fox is that channel.

          I don’t know how I missed this comment earlier, but yes, this is what I was trying to say. It just seems like a Fox-like thing could exist, but, you know, with quality, and that this enterprise could make money by serving right-wing viewers and ALSO coincidentally by committing journalism to that aim.

          As it stands now, it’s all “red meat” with no meat. Fox News viewers are getting tofu red meat, and that’s just not right!Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris
      Ignored
      says:

      I dunno, man…like I said, I feel like there HAVE to be some real “left” oriented scandals out there…statistically speaking, there MUST be.

      Why not go get those scalps, then revel in the adulation of your righty fans, as well as get those ego-stroking critical plaudits and influence for exposing real scandal/corruption, PLUS get those sweet, sweet ad-dollars?

      It’s kind of like other lies of laziness – with all the effort you put into the lies/simulacrum, you could have actually just gone and done the real work.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        As a pinko commie i have a few ideas about this:

        1 yeah there should be more lefty scandals, but if the opposition isn’t finding them then………well maybe they aren’t there. ( high fives all around to team members)

        2a There are scandals on the “left” but those end up being the same kind of things we see in the center and right ie dick picks and just plain old being a raging dick.

        2b The scandals on the “left” are actually the same scandals as on the right that most of the right doesn’t seem to care about much ie. gov in the pocket of big business, gov used by the powerful to line their own pockets,etc. So pointing out when L’s do it would just point back at R’s and things R’s are fine with.

        3 Fox thinks Bengazi!!!! is a real major scandal of deceit and lies and murica hatin commie clintons and obamas. ( this is really the saddest theory)Report

        • Avatar Murali in reply to greginak
          Ignored
          says:

          Didn’t @zic point out one where Fox really dropped the ball? i.e. HRC allegedly pays her male staffers more than her female ones. Instead, they started going on about women really being happier if they stayed in the kitchen.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        We got the FBI called in!
        And there’s the burnt building down the street, which nobody’s gonna call arson because … well, because!

        nobody cares, because it’s pittsburgh and not chicago.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        To find the real scandals, which people are almost certainly really hiding, you’d probably have to spend money and time on actual investigative journalism. Why do that, when you can spend money on flashier graphics and brightly-colored sets, and then just make scandals up based on readily available information, and still make just as much money or more?

        To be clear, I don’t think Fox gives a shit about how much influence Democrats have, and really, they probably make more money when Democrats are in office than when they’re out of power. I think all they care about is developing enough of a particular sort of following so that they can sell them to advertisers.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        What did you have in mind for scandals?

        A lot of the liberal-progressive Democrats hated Rahm Emmanuel closing a lot of schools in Chicago. There is also a real schism in the Democratic Party about charter schools and teacher’s unions. Neither of these are really scandals but they are divides. A lot of my more liberal friends think Cuomo is corrupt.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Why not go get those scalps, then revel in the adulation of your righty fans

        Why not indeed?

        Given that they don’t, they’re either lazy, stupid, pandering to an entrenched customer base for ad revenue, or two of the three, or all three of em together, which is what everyone’s been saying. Or, could be, that there aren’t any real liberal scandals which Fox admins/viewers would find nearly as compelling as the fake ones…Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater
          Ignored
          says:

          Here’s an example of what I mean: just about the time Benghazi-Gate! was picking up steam Obama’s IRS scandal hit. WHich was, in my mind, a real problem in its own right but political gold if hammered and framed the correct way. Fox, the GOP, Rush, everyone skipped right over to salivate over the fake Benghazi scandal even tho the IRS scandal reinforced just about every standard Republican talkingpoint criticism of liberals and Obama.Report

          • Avatar Zac in reply to Stillwater
            Ignored
            says:

            Right, but you have to remember that TV is above all else a visual medium. If it bleeds, it leads, as they say. The IRS scandal was about paperwork. Benghazi had bodies and flaming wreckage. You tell me: which makes for better B-roll?Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Zac
              Ignored
              says:

              Sure, as far as it goes. But we’re going so far as to say that Fox isn’t actually concerned with news (eg, interesting facts) or even with advancing the interests of the conservatism generally (since IRS-Gate! was based in fact rather than Benghazi-Gate’s basis in myth). So if you’re right, then Fox is mostly interested in ratings which means ads which means revenue.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                Adding: this goes back to Scotto’s claim in the OP that Fox isn’t interested, or intentionally spreading, disinformation. Your view of the situation strikes me as entirely consistent with a rejection of his final claim in the OP.Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to Stillwater
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                says:

                Fox’s primary interest, at least from what I can tell, is in making a profit. They’re not Air America. The spreading of misinformation is just a side benefit.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Zac
                Ignored
                says:

                Well, that’s precisely what’s at issue, isn’t it? If profits require pandering to the empirically unsupported ideological predispositions of a money-making demographic, then they’re actually engaging in disinformation, yeah?Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                Yes. But I don’t think that’s a very interesting point, because I don’t think it’s a shock to anyone outside of their viewership that Fox News peddles horseshit. Far more interesting (and arguably more relevant to the problem) is *why* there is such an enormous market for horseshit. Fox couldn’t exist if they didn’t have customers eager for the product they’re selling.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Zac
                Ignored
                says:

                Well, dand busted zic for assuming that Fox peddles in bullshit in an OTC post. Also, it’s apparently something of interest to the writer of this OP who concluded the post with

                So Fox may well have the effect of driving its audience to the Right, and electorally, that might not be the greatest outcome for the Republican Party. But that is not the same as spreading misinformation.

                I mean, I don’t want to harp too much on what sounds, at this point, like an agreement between us. I’m just trying to point out that other folks apparently disagree.Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                I think I’m kinda halfway between you and Dan on this. I don’t think Fox’s *primary* goal is to spread misinformation, it’s more like they just don’t care whether things are true or not because they don’t really see it as relevant. If there was more money to be made in doing real reporting, you can bet your ass they’d be doing it.

                In other words, I’m maybe less inclined than you to see something sinister afoot. I just see people lining up with incentives.

                EDIT: That being said, I think Todd’s thesis about the effect of this dynamic is essentially correct.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Zac
                Ignored
                says:

                zac,

                I don’t think their motivations are sinister. I don’t think the outcome is sinister. Sorry if I gave that impression. It’s just what it is.Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                Ah, well, that may have been a misreading on my part. It sounds, then, like we largely agree.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Chris
      Ignored
      says:

      Laziness, at least with respect to Fox itself (and not the people whom they influence or cater to), exactly wrong: they’ve worked quite hard to cultivate an image, and thereby a following, and will continue to do so as long as the Benjamins keep flowin’ in.

      It’s sorta like a cop robbing a bank isn’t lazy, particularly. Or a bank robber issuing parking tickets.

      They aren’t lazy, per se. They just don’t appear to understand how their job is supposed to work.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to DavidTC
        Ignored
        says:

        They understand their job perfectly well. We’re the ones who don’t understand their job, and by we I mean their loyal followers and their ardent critics.Report

        • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Chris
          Ignored
          says:

          Heh, I visited Facebook right after I said that, and realized the dumbness of what I just said based on a comment I had made there(1)…but left my comment here alone hoping someone else would say it.

          Fox News is very very competent at their actual job. This job is not to produce news.

          1) I had made a joking response to someone’s complaint about our local internet monopoly’s customer service and how they are incompetent morons…namely, that they appear to still be receiving all our money, *and* not having to do any work or pay any employees to solve problems. Meanwhile, we’re paying them money for something we aren’t getting. So the system’s working pretty damn well from their POV…if anyone’s an incompetent moron here, it sorta looks like it might be us!

          EDIT: I had forgotten, in my general attempt to just generalize about my RL location, that I have a more specific policy of repeated naming windstream as THE WORST ISP OF ALL TIME, and attempting to google bomb it. So there we go. The ISP I am referring to is Windstream, a completely horrible ISP.Report

  6. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    says:

    I agree with you that everyone has a world view and I think one of the worst bits of popular neuroscience is that everyone recognizes the biases of others but not of themselves? I generally wince a bit when fellow liberals use comments like cognitive dissonance and bias even if I agree with it.

    The Jacksonian observation is interesting. Do you also follow the David Hackett Fisher school of Albion’s Seed on how various British folkways turned into modern America. Under this view, modern American conservatism is a combination of the Cavaliers and the Jacksonian Scots-Irish.

    There is nothing wrong with being tribal. I can be tribal when it comes to Jewish people and when I perceive outsiders are criticizing Jews. The issue with being tribal though is that others perceive it as hostility. I don’t necessarily mind the tribalness. I do mind the strong assumptions and often outright discussions that people who are not in the tribe are not “real Americans.”

    I also don’t think liberal internationalism is easy listening. Pistols at dawn, sir!! 😉

    What I’ve noticed on social media though is that this community might have been underserved but they seem to be going full tilt. There is lots of stuff out that like “Conservative Tribune” and “Right-Wing News” and I think even Fox would consider using those terms as being over the top. A lot of it seems to confirm Cleek’s law of Conservatives being against whatever liberals are for, updated daily.Report

  7. Avatar Troublesome Frog
    Ignored
    says:

    The survey answer thing is really interesting. I don’t remember who wrote the paper, but I remember an experiment involving this type of survey where the pool was divided into two groups: One group got paid cash when they got the answer right and the other group had no incentive. The group that got paid was substantially more accurate, which definitely lends credence to the idea that people generally use surveys to signal their affiliation or vent their frustrations instead of offering honest answers. I’m pretty sure that if you asked “Is Obama a time traveling werewolf?” you’d probably get about 25% positive responses on your typical survey, even if your statistical methods and question phrasing followed all best practices scrupulously.

    As for actual bias, I definitely don’t think Fox is in the business of informing people, but only part of that is the fact that their business model is providing a safe place for Republicans to have their biases reinforced. Another part of it is that cable news networks are just generally lazy operations that do shoddy work because nobody who watches them has standards high enough to care. Fox is the worst of the offenders, but the whole business model of stretching 2 hours of news into 24 hours of programming is going to require making up a lot of bullshit to keep your viewers’ attention once you run out of actual information to give them.Report

  8. Avatar Murali
    Ignored
    says:

    We all do have our priors (which themselves may not be justified), but we should wallow in our irrationality, but struggle against it. At least we ought to if we are to have any hope of having justified beliefs.Report

  9. Avatar Damon
    Ignored
    says:

    “All media coverage–indeed, all writing and argumentation–is impregnated with a worldview: a guiding set of assumptions about how the world works.”

    Been saying this for years. Watch “both sides, you decide”. Only way you’re get a decent understanding of what’s going on. Oh and hit the interwebs up for less “mainstream” stuff. Lunatic fringe stuff. Keeps you grounded.Report

  10. Avatar nevermoor
    Ignored
    says:

    I understand the argument that people, faced with fact questions probably answered not from actual ignorance of the facts but from a desire to play for their political team.

    But under your theory that effect became much MORE common the more fox news they consumed (both in percentages and because you seem to assume that watching more fox news makes you more likely to know the true answer). Isn’t that even worse than believing that watching fox news makes you less likely to actually know the answer?

    After all, ignorance can be cured. Willful ignorance is forever.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to nevermoor
      Ignored
      says:

      This.

      The idea that the folks in the survey know the truth but are choosing to ignore it doesn’t really damage the initial contention that Fox News is potentially damaging the GOP.Report

  11. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    says:

    Wrong place: Sorry for the changeReport

  12. Avatar trizzlor
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    says:

    >>So Fox may well have the effect of driving its audience to the Right, and electorally, that might not be the greatest outcome for the Republican Party. But that is not the same as spreading misinformation.

    I think you’re totally right that the survey results are much more an indicator of ideology than of information awareness. That said, doesn’t it still imply that FNC viewers would also want to see Republican candidates echoing these misinformed ideas, if only as an ideological signal? In which case the candidate becomes ill-prepared for general elections by tying themselves to misinformed opinions (again, even if no one involved actually believes the misinformed opinions)? This was my main takeaway from Bartlett’s argument: not that FNC actually leads to candidates being misinformed, but that it encourages them to *act* misinformed, which becomes a liability.

    A good example of this is Romney’s own-goal on Benghazi during the 2012 debates. The FNC-informed attack was to call out Obama for being a coward and not using the terror/terrorist magic words. But it really only resonated with FNC viewers who had been primed with Obama = coward for years, and in the actual debate Obama was easily able to side-step it. A more informed line of questioning would have charged Obama with explaining why the systemic failure had occurred in the first place, and what he was doing to correct it (which, at the time, was nothing). But this doesn’t have the red meat appeal of calling Obama a coward, so Romney didn’t pursue it and ended up essentially burying the issue for the rest of the campaign.Report

    • Avatar Dan Scotto in reply to trizzlor
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      says:

      This is an interesting point, and one I will have to think about some more.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Dan Scotto
        Ignored
        says:

        As I recall, the systemic failure trizz aludes to may have resulted from cuts to embassy security appropriations by the GOP house.Report

        • Avatar Murali in reply to Stillwater
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          says:

          Unless, embassies were running security at reasonable levels of efficiency/cost effectiveness, I would be hesitant to blame a security failure on budget cuts. After all, it seems full legitimate to cut the budget of an agency in order to get it to reduce wasteful operating expenses. That is, we expect people who are supposed to be experts in the field to know which things to cut and which not to. If instead, they, for instance, skimp on the essentials and continue to use general funds to hire prostitutes, that is on them, not the people who cut funding.Report

        • Avatar trizzlor in reply to Stillwater
          Ignored
          says:

          The Dems definitely tried to push the budget cuts explanation, and maybe that would have worked. But I think there was ample room to ask questions about what role hard/soft power should play in US foreign policy ( e.g. along these lines : https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2012/10/17/consulates-are-not-embassies-and-other-musings-on-benghazi ). Do we want State Department diplomats in these countries if they’re in such risk? Are we comfortable with relying on soft power to the extent that Obama has chosen to? Romney even gets to use the whole “Obama coddles our enemies” thing, it just rests on a much firmer foundation.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to trizzlor
      Ignored
      says:

      This was my main takeaway from Bartlett’s argument: not that FNC actually leads to candidates being misinformed, but that it encourages them to *act* misinformed, which becomes a liability.

      Well, that’s the *start* of what happens.

      In reality, brains don’t really work that way. Candidates start acting, but end up honestly believing. You keep repeating lies, and eventually they become mostly true inside your head. If you stop and *really think*, you might remember they are lies, but ‘stopping and thinking’ is not actually how humans make decisions.

      A good example of this is Romney’s own-goal on Benghazi during the 2012 debates. The FNC-informed attack was to call out Obama for being a coward and not using the terror/terrorist magic words. But it really only resonated with FNC viewers who had been primed with Obama = coward for years, and in the actual debate Obama was easily able to side-step it.

      This is a perfect example. This was, almost certainly, a planned statement Romney was making.

      This statement got run by advisers, at least *some* of which had to, at some point in time, known Obama had called it an act of terror. Someone there had once known, had once been corrected somewhere.

      And while it’s reasonable to use a bogus talking point on Fox News and assume no one will call you out on it, it’s *really stupid* to use it during a debate.

      But by that point in time, the lies in their head had overtaken the actual truth. All the advisers *wanted* people to believe it was true for so long, and so hard, that they had come to believe it was true. So true that no one said ‘Hey, maybe we should look that up’.

      True and false isn’t some binary switch in people’s mind where information is tagged forever. It can erode over time, especially when people are careless. (In fact, we’ve seen some interesting recent examples of it eroding the *other* way.)

      All too often we accept ‘ignorance’ as an answer, but it’s not really what’s going on with partisan misinformation. Yes, some people hear some wrong information and that’s literally all they have heard, so that’s ignorance’…but that’s not the vast majority of the people. The vast majority are, in a way actively attempting to delude themselves, even if they don’t quite realize that’s what they’re doing. And this is usually successful.Report

  13. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    Ultimately, the assumptions inherent in the worldview aren’t generally falsifiable

    I think it could be demonstrated that, for instance, Lincoln debated Stephen Douglas, not Frederick.

    Report

  14. Avatar Patrick
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    says:

    Perhaps most importantly: seen in this light, these answers aren’t right or wrong. They’re value judgments or opinions.

    I profoundly agree with the second line, but I deeply disagree with the first.

    You may say that the stimulus or health care law were good things, but it’s perfectly reasonable to hold the opposite opinion.

    No, it’s perfectly reasonable to hold opinions for reasonable reasons.

    It’s perfectly human to hold unreasonable opinions, or beliefs that aren’t falsifiable.

    But it is deeply wrong to hold unreasonable opinions, or opinions based upon an incomplete understanding of the facts, under the idea that the facts are not relevant.

    Confirmation bias is probably the biggest impediment to clear reason that we have as homo sapiens. To discard uncomfortable data because it does not conform to our normative assumptions, instead of challenging ourselves to figure out a way to incorporate the uncomfortable data, somehow, either by altering our normative assumptions or doing the hard work of proving them not relevant.

    Lacking this, we can never, ever admit that we were wrong, and we can never change our minds.Report

    • Avatar Zac in reply to Patrick
      Ignored
      says:

      “To discard uncomfortable data because it does not conform to our normative assumptions, instead of challenging ourselves to figure out a way to incorporate the uncomfortable data, somehow, either by altering our normative assumptions or doing the hard work of proving them not relevant.”

      Um…did you forget the end of that sentence? Because I really wanted to know where you were going with that.Report

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