According to a new study by Farleigh Dickinson University, Fox viewers are the least knowledgeable audience of any outlet, and they know even less about politics and current events than people who watch no news at all.Now, let's just reflect on this. Let's say you decided to make a little fort out of your couch cushions, crawl inside, and just stay there. No television, no newspapers, no contact with the outside world whatsoever. Let's say you only ventured out to hunt your own food in the backyard, so that your meals consisted mainly of crabgrass and possums. Let's say that, for companionship, you made a little stick figure out of paper clips, named him, oh, I don't know, let's say "Skippy," and devoted yourself to long, meandering conversations with him about nothing in particular. Then you got mad at him and broke his little paper clip leg, panicked and buried him in the yard.
Respondents to the survey were able to answer correctly an average of 1.8 of 4 questions about international news and 1.6 out of 5 questions about domestic affairs. “Based on these results, people who don’t watch any news at all are expected to answer correctly on average 1.22 of the questions about domestic politics, just by guessing or relying on existing basic knowledge,” said Dan Cassino, the poll’s analyst.
“The study concludes that media sources have a significant impact on the number of questions that people were able to answer correctly,” wrote Cassino and his colleagues. “The largest effect is that of Fox News: all else being equal, someone who watched only Fox News would be expected to answer just 1.04 domestic questions correctly—a figure which is significantly worse than if they had reported watching no media at all. On the other hand, if they listened only to NPR, they would be expected to answer 1.51 questions correctly.”
You'd still know more about the world than if you watched goddamn Fox News.
On Monday, Fox News CEO Roger Ailes was giving one of his patented "I iz so smart, Fox iz so great" college lectures. This one was filled with gems like "one thing that qualifies me to run a journalism organization is the fact that I don’t have a journalism degree" and that reporters for the New York Times were "a bunch of lying scum." Oh, and that everybody in the media is just outrageously liberal, everywhere, all the time.
You would think that having studies show that your "news network" actively causes viewers to know less about the news than when they started would put a bit of a damper on your ol' public displays of self-aggrandizement. Then again, if you're the head of Fox News, you probably just say those studies are figments of the imagination, or were commissioned by dirty rotten hippies, and get on with your day. Or maybe you just have Steve Doocy say that stuff, because you can't be bothered and because Steve Doocy will freaking say anything you put in front of him.
So given that public shaming is right out—I'm sure Roger would be first to tell you that the purpose of the news is not to inform people, after all—what's left? Maybe a truth in advertising law, so that if your viewers score abominably in tests of basic world events, you're no longer allowed to call yourself "news" anymore? Federal marshals come to paint over the "News" part of all your signs? (Say what you will, but I believe passing laws with hilarious consequences is just not something we do enough of—at least, not intentionally. Unintentionally, we do it all the time.)
At the least, I might politely assert here that if your "news" programs result in people not knowing the news, or believing false things about the news, it's not "news" anymore. It's propaganda. You can puff out your chest and talk about your patriotism and great business sense all you want, but the rest of us don't have to actually respect you for it. You're still just a huckster in a nice suit.