Falsies and their equivalents: Part Two…
Posted December 4, 2015on:
Continuing to springboard from MB’s call for reestablishment of the Fairness Doctrine through a deep dive into false equivalency, we, as a nation, was just subjected to a prima facie display of just how intellectually vile false equivalency can be.
Yesterday, a vote was held on whether or not to subject those individuals on the Terrorist Watch List to a background check for gun purchases. The measure failed in the Senate.
All day prior to the vote, Republican candidates were asked what they thought about the measure. To a one, they said it was wrong and anti-Murican. Politically that is to be expected and is a policy position aligned with their hard-core base.
Here is where the false equivalency comes in. The reasoning these candidates advanced to support their position was this: We should enforce the laws on the books and if someone is on the Terrorist Watch List we should indict them and then they would not be able to buy a gun.
Let’s unpack that shall we? People are on the Terrorist Watch List because there is not enough evidence to indict, let alone convict them. That is why it is called a Watch List – same as it was when Dubya created it. Therefore, to make the logic of these people who would be President operative, we would either have to suspend habeas corpus or effectively dismantle the Terrorist Watch List.
That insanity was not challenged once by any interviewer – not ONCE! It was treated as a legitimate policy position – treated as a considered policy position right along with reporting on 14 deaths in San Bernardino. That, my friends, is false equivalency in its most powerful incarnation.
Since we know the “what” of false equivalency, how about the “how” and the “why”? There has always been, at some level, false equivalency floating about, but never has it been as rampant as it is in today’s political atmosphere. The reason of the insidious infection seems to be Fox and as you will see, that is not opinion, but scientific conclusion.
Before I begin, let me stress that the points I’m about to make are not opinion. They are points underpinned by pure scientific study – studies that are just as valid as if they came from a chemistry or physics lab. In some cases more so since they are meta-analytic studies – studies of studies that wring out the statistical noise making their findings even more robustly accurate.
I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears mentioning again – if you are a sole source news consumer, like 70% of Fox viewers are, you are better off if you watched no news than just watching Fox. Simply put, you are better informed by turning off your television than watching Fox. A myriad of academic studies have proved it, but this year a former Reagan and H.W. Bush official named Bruce Bartlett joined the chorus.
By restricting themselves to only one major news source, refusing “to even listen to any news or opinion not vetted through Fox” and accepting as truth information that appears on the channel, many Fox News viewers have become victims of “self-brainwashing.”
After the September 11, 2011 attacks, Fox News shifted farther right and transformed from a network set up to present news with a conservative tilt into one peddling misinformation and propaganda to the effect that Fox News viewers became the least informed among media consumers.
This answers the “how,” but not the “why” – and that answer seems to be as simple as this: Conservative brains can’t help themselves but be attracted to Fox like a moth to a flame.
In a 2009 meta-analysis, it was proven conservatives, i.e. Fox viewers, have a much higher psychological need for closure on a subject. In other words, there must be a concrete, simple answer for every issue.
Within this closure seeking group, there is also a group of right-wing authoritarians (RWA). These RWA believe authority figures must be obeyed and deferred to in all circumstances. They also “are more likely to select themselves into belief-affirming information streams, like Fox News or right-wing talk radio.”
There is a difference between no information and disinformation. Choosing to be uninformed is a valid choice in a free society, but actively choosing disinformation is a worrisome cancer upon democracy. For instance, actively denying climate change as a network policy or running 1,100 contrived stories on Benghazi in 20 months or agitating unhinged anti-abortion fanatics – all of which Fox did – is voter manipulation of the lowest kind.
One of the other insidious methods Fox uses to corner the market on close-minded conservative viewers is constantly reminding them that the rest of the media is against them. This is where “Fair, Balanced, and Unafraid” finds its genesis. In a 2011 study, 72% of conservatives said they trust Fox, but also say they strongly distrust NBC, ABC, CBS, and CNN. Liberals and moderates, in contrast, trust all these outlets more than they distrust them.
Simultaneously, Fox is both the deceiver and the enabler. It makes the drug and then peddles it – complete disinformation vertical integration.
Once hooked, there is a strong emotional attachment to a trusted news stream that psychologically allows conservatives to escape from the challenges presented by nuance as reported in the “liberal media”. It is only in this world where facts must be treated as criticism to advance the victimization narrative.
Personally I have no issue with this Mobius strip of conservative beliefs. It is a belief system based upon a reality of their own making and one in which they seem to thrive. It only becomes dangerously problematic when they confuse their world with the reality in which the rest of us must live.
Enjoy your Friday and take this conversation in any direction you might want.
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