Once Again, The More You Watch Fox The Dumber You Are

As with Iraq and most other issues there has been one easy way to identify which Americans are misinformed–check who watches Fox. Poll after poll show that the more you watch Fox, the dumber you are. First Read notes that polling support for health care reform has fallen due to rampant misinformation:

One of the reasons why the public appears so wary about Obama’s health-care plans is due to all the misinformation out there. Majorities in the poll believe the plans would give health insurance coverage to illegal immigrants (55%), would lead to a government takeover of the health system (54%), and would use taxpayer dollars to pay for women to have abortions (50%) — all claims that nonpartisan fact-checkers say are untrue about the legislation that has emerged so far from Congress. Additionally, 45% think the reform proposals would allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care for the elderly, which also isn’t true. When you have nearly half of the public believing that the government is willing to pull the plug on grandma, you’re in trouble.

They further looked at who is the most likely to believe such misinformation. The numbers are highest for Fox, but many viewers of the supposedly “liberal media” also believe much of the misinformation:

Here’s another way to look at the misinformation: In our poll, 72% of self-identified FOX News viewers believe the health-care plan will give coverage to illegal immigrants, 79% of them say it will lead to a government takeover, 69% think that it will use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions, and 75% believe that it will allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing care for the elderly. But it would be incorrect to suggest that this is ONLY coming from conservative viewers who tune in to FOX. In fact, 41% of CNN/MSNBC viewers believe the misinformation about illegal immigrants, 39% believe the government takeover stuff, 40% believe the abortion misperception, and 30% believe the stuff about pulling the plug on grandma. What’s more, a good chunk of folks who get their news from broadcast TV (NBC, ABC, CBS) believe these things, too. This is about credible messengers using the media to get some of this misinformation out there, not as much about the filter itself. These numbers should worry Democratic operatives, as well as the news media that have been covering this story.

In this case we would be better off we we really did have a liberal media in contrast to Fox. The media typically presents true statements from liberals along with misinformation from the far right and believes this is the way to provide balance. Fortunately, considering how dishonest the Republicans have been during the health care debate, many objective sources have been posting fact checking to demonstrate this.

Steve Benen places the pattern of misinformation from Fox in perspective:

Matt Corley added, “As ThinkProgress has pointed out, Fox News regularly distorts the truth about health care reform. Last week, Media Matters found that over a two day period opponents of health care reform outnumbered supporters by a 6-to-1 margin on Fox.”

Let’s also not forget that this is consistent with recent history — in the midst of national policy debates, Fox News viewers routinely get key details wrong more often than the rest of the public. Six months into the war in Iraq, for example, the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland released a report on Americans’ understanding of the basics. PIPA found that those who relied on the Republican network were “three times more likely than the next nearest network to hold all three misperceptions — about WMD in Iraq, Saddam Hussein was involved with 9/11, and foreign support for the U.S. position on the war in Iraq.”

Fox News viewers would have done better, statistically speaking, if they had received no news at all and simply guessed whether the claims were accurate. Matters have clearly not improved.

Housekeeping Note

It seems like most of the summer has been spent either noting that I’ll be away or mentioning podcasts I’ve listened to while traveling. I’ll be gone again, but at least time the circumstances are better than most of the other recent trips as I’ll be off at a wedding in New York. Of course I’ll have my netbook with me and I’m sure I’ll still be on line intermittently, but posting will most likely be down.

Responding To The Nuts

On a blog we can simply use moderation to avoid having to waste time responding to all the nuts but that isn’t an option at a public forum. Barney Frank handled one nut well who echoed  a crazy lady on Facebook in Alaska who claims that health care reform will lead to “death panels.”

While Frank attempted to respond to all questions, he gave up when one woman compared health care proposals favored by Frank and President Obama to policies of Nazi Germany.

“When you ask me that question, I’m going to revert to my ethnic heritage and ask you a question: On what planet do you spend most of your time?” Frank asked.

“You stand there with a picture of the president defaced to look like Hitler and compare the effort to increase health care to the Nazis,” he said, adding such behavior demonstrated the strength of First Amendment guarantees of what he called “contemptible” free speech.

“Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table,” Frank said to the woman. “I have no interest in doing it.”

While the woman was echoing the same talking points as many Republicans, it turned out that she is a LaRouche supporter. John McCormack of The Weekly Standard claims she is a Democrat and wrote,”No one disputes that LaRouchites are on the fringe — but it’s indisputable that they are fringe Democrats. They oppose Obamacare because they want a single-payer plan.”  David Weigel debunked this claim:

This is misleading. The LaRouche cultists oppose Obama’s plan because they think he’s trying to euthanize old people and the infirm. They oppose it for one of the reasons that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) oppose it, and they’re providing a lot of the “research” for this smear. Instead of grappling with this or rebutting the smear, McCormack smears Democrats, who have repeatedly purged these conspiracy theorists from their party…

This is gibberish. Conservatives are pointing to town hall protests as evidence that the country is turning against Democrats’ proposals for health care reform. It means something that deranged political activists are showing up to these rallies and mouthing some of the same rhetoric as conservatives.

Weigel is right, but I fear that responding to conservatives like McCormack with the facts is like trying to argue with a dining room table.

Something Worthwile From Chuck Grassley

I don’t know what to make of Chuck Grassley. He has been working  hard to block health care reform, including repeating much of the misinformation being spread by the right. The compromise measure he’s working on in the Senate Finance Committee is probably worse than doing nothing. On the other hand, he has done some helpful things with regards to health care. As I’ve written before, he was instrumental in watering down the attempt by George Bush to destroy the Medicare program. The New York Times also notes another effort that has value to improve the credibility of medical research and stop a tactic used by the pharmaceutical industry:

A growing body of evidence suggests that doctors at some of the nation’s top medical schools have been attaching their names and lending their reputations to scientific papers that were drafted by ghostwriters working for drug companies — articles that were carefully calibrated to help the manufacturers sell more products.

Experts in medical ethics condemn this practice as a breach of the public trust. Yet many universities have been slow to recognize the extent of the problem, to adopt new ethical rules or to hold faculty members to account.

Those universities may not have much longer to get their houses in order before they find themselves in trouble with Washington.

With a letter last week, a senator who helps oversee public funding for medical research signaled that he was running out of patience with the practice of ghostwriting. Senator Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican who has led a long-running investigation of conflicts of interest in medicine, is starting to put pressure on the National Institutes of Health to crack down on the practice.

Humans In Danger of Annihilation From Global Warming and Zombies, But Life Possible Elsewhere


There are two news stories regarding potential danger to the human race. The BBC reports on methane escaping from the Arctic sea bed, which possibly could accelerate the rate of global warming. This danger sounds trivial when compared to yet another BBC report on how zombies can destroy the human race. I’ve feared that zombies were a real danger ever since they invaded the world of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

The above report on the dangers of zombies did come out of Canada. So much for the claims that socialized medicine stifles important medical research. From the report:

In their scientific paper, the authors conclude that humanity’s only hope is to “hit them [the undead] hard and hit them often”.

They added: “It’s imperative that zombies are dealt with quickly or else… we are all in a great deal of trouble.”

According to the researchers, the key difference between the zombies and the spread of real infections is that “zombies can come back to life”.

Fortunately there is a chance to fight them:

Professor Ferguson went on to joke: “The paper considers something that many of us have worried about – particularly in our younger days – of what would be a feasible way of tackling an outbreak of a rapidly spreading zombie infection.

“My understanding of zombie biology is that if you manage to decapitate a zombie then it’s dead forever. So perhaps they are being a little over-pessimistic when they conclude that zombies might take over a city in three or four days.

It appears that between global warming and zombies we might be doomed. Fortunately there is also some good science news today. The amino acid glycine has been found in a comet according to a NASA astrobiologist. Finding such a building block of life on a comet might suggest that such building blocks of life can be spread to many planets. This potentially could lead to the development of life on another planet which is free of zombies and Jane Austen novels.