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January 19, 2012 2:55 PM Epistemic closure

By Steve Benen

A year ago, Public Policy Polling ran its annual “TV News Trust Poll.” There were plenty of interesting tidbits, but there was one line from the pollster’s analysis that stood out: “Democrats trust everything but Fox. Republicans don’t trust anything but Fox.”

A year later, PPP is back with new results, which point in a very similar direction. Kevin Drum put together this great visual, which I’m blatantly stealing borrowing, showing self-identified Republicans’ attitudes towards all of the major broadcast news organizations. GOP voters trust one outlet — and only one outlet.

And as was the case last year, Dems and independents trust every major news organization, by varying degrees, except Fox News.

Kevin added that while everyone is subject to confirmation bias, the right and left are simply processing current events in different ways: “Liberals don’t immediately dismiss as a conspiracy everything they hear from the news media that doesn’t fit their preconceived notions. They might downplay unwelcome news or even ignore it, but they’re still willing to listen to it. Increasingly, conservatives simply aren’t. They want to believe the world is a certain way, and they’re just flatly not willing to countenance anything that might challenge those beliefs. This is not a healthy development for a modern democracy.”

I couldn’t agree more. This isn’t just about pointing and laughing at the absurdities of Republican news consumers relying exclusively on a Republican outlet. There’s overwhelming evidence that these same Republican news consumers are dramatically confused, about a wide variety of important issues, most of the time. It’s not just because they rely on a deceptive propaganda outlet for information — it’s also because they don’t trust other outlets that might give them more reliable information.

The result is a large chunk of the American electorate that lives in an alternate political universe. It’s just not healthy.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • xpatriate on January 19, 2012 3:05 PM:

    Which news (in quotation marks) show scored the highest on the trust scale for Democrats? A healthy democracy is a hilarious democracy? Works for me.

  • SadOldVet on January 19, 2012 3:07 PM:

    The alternate universe that a large chunk American electorate lives in is not confined to the political universe!

    For many, if not most of the low information voters that form the base of the repuknican voters; they believe and they believe that belief outweighs fact.

  • June on January 19, 2012 3:11 PM:

    It's hard to know what to write in response to this piece. It seems the nation's hands are constitutionally tied when it comes to doing anything constructive about Fox News, so the 24/7 brainwashing will continue. And at this point, it seems that Fox is like crack for its viewers - what would happen if they couldn't get their fix anymore? "Zombies Attack!" comes to mind.

  • xpatriate on January 19, 2012 3:11 PM:

    Whoops, I guess the hilarious thing is my inability to read a graphic. PBS works even better.

  • T2 on January 19, 2012 3:15 PM:

    "Itís just not healthy." literally, on so many levels.

  • jim filyaw on January 19, 2012 3:19 PM:

    as a small town lawyer in the red state, bible belt, one of the satisfactions in life is seeing the epiphany when the light bulb goes for some limbaugh/fox news fans after he gets screwed. for years, the standard yuk-yuk for the nro types was that a neo-con was a liberal who got mugged the night before. its hard not to seem smug when one of these neo-libs begins to struggle with the realization that he's one of the non-productive leaches limbaugh laughs at.

  • Josef K on January 19, 2012 3:20 PM:

    The result is a large chunk of the American electorate that lives in an alternate political universe. Itís just not healthy.

    Exactly how many shootings committed by conspiracy-minded, right-wing 'lone wolves' have there been since 2009? I've literally lost count.

  • stevio on January 19, 2012 3:28 PM:

    Sweet baby Jesus.

  • Bill on January 19, 2012 3:33 PM:

    The stamina of the right's stupidity is robust; stupidima.

  • stormskies on January 19, 2012 3:39 PM:

    These Repiglicans live in a universe of utter delusions that are interlocking so as to not allow on fact of actual reality to penetrate. Their psychological stability is dependent on it. Thus, their have those delusions reinforced by Fox propaganda to the exclusion of anything else. I remember reading a study, and experiment, conducted by a social psychologist who had these types exposed to facts to counteract their delusions. And when the actual facts of something was presented to them the typical reaction was "well, I just don't believe it". And then they would go on to create even more delusions to reinforce the delusion that had just been exposed by actual facts.

    Imagine if you were one of these delusional Repiglicans that had to admit that even one fact was real relative to a delusion. To admit just one fact would then have the affect of destroying all the rest of their delusional universe. Then what ?

    So of course like cows herding to the trough line these Repiglicans herd themselves to Fox so as to necessarily have their delusional universe reinforced.

    These are the one's who will vote for any Repiglican just because they are a Repiglican. The nature of their dense stupidity does not allow them to have the capacity to understand what the actual policies are of say a Romney for example let alone the actual impact they will have to their pathetic lives.

    The corporate/Repiglican hierarchy itself is dependent on these stupid people. And they need to keep them stupid in order to have any chance of even existing.

    So of course they manifest a Fox "News" for these imbeciles.

  • Ron Byers on January 19, 2012 3:41 PM:

    Literally the only time Fox News isn't blaring at my brother's house is when I visit. They know I laugh at Fox News. The range of stupid ideas pushed by Fox News is breath taking. They also read and believe the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page as though they are reading the truth.

    By the way, not all of the people who are devoted to Fox News are poor, uneducated crackers or Tea Partiers. Most of my brother's friends are that way and they are 1%ers who attend $5000 a plat Republican fundraiser dinners. They are just as duped as the Tea Party.

  • Chris on January 19, 2012 3:42 PM:

    Thereís overwhelming evidence that these same Republican news consumers are dramatically confused, about a wide variety of important issues, most of the time.

    I have a perfect example of this from last weekend. My brother and I were discussing where our nephew, who moved out of state to go to college, should vote. I complained that some states were making it difficult for college students to execute their constitutional right to vote. In reply, my Fox News addicted brother exclaimed "Voting isn't a constitutional right! It's a privilege!"

  • DAY on January 19, 2012 3:45 PM:

    America is the most powerful- and dangerous!- nation in the history of the planet.
    And half of its rulers are Republicans.
    Sleep well tonight, my friends.

  • zandru on January 19, 2012 3:53 PM:

    Frankly, I like the way "Comedy Central" is listed as a "news source." Although you need to understand "satire" to take advantage of it...

  • TCinLA on January 19, 2012 3:59 PM:

    Stormskies said: I remember reading a study, and experiment, conducted by a social psychologist who had these types exposed to facts to counteract their delusions. And when the actual facts of something was presented to them the typical reaction was "well, I just don't believe it". And then they would go on to create even more delusions to reinforce the delusion that had just been exposed by actual facts.

    I have actually seen this in action. Over at the VA, I'm sitting there with my fellow Auld Phartz, and Fox is blaring on the TV in the waiting area. I go over and ask the clerk if they can't change the channels. He says he can't because the rest of the patients like it. I ask if he's aware that if Fox had its way, the VA would cease to exist and he would be out of a job. He tells me he knows that. I once got just pissed-off enough to confront my fellow vets and ask if they were aware that what Fox pushes is why kids they know get killed in wars that make no sense and that if Fox had their way, there would be no VA for these guys to depend on. At which point several get up and tell me I don't know what I am talking about.

    Oh well, if the morons weren't there, we'd have run out of cannon fodder long ago. As a young Ranger officer who is the descendant of my old commanding officer in he Navy (finest officer of his generation) who contacted me because he's writing a biography of his ancestor said, once he got in the military and was sent to combat, he realized that the majority of his fellow soldiers were idiots.

    I have to admit, I never ever saw as much stupidity in one place at one time than I did in the military. And the sad thing is that most of them stay that way for the rest of their lives.

    Although it is true that some of them do change when they get whacked over the head by the people they thought were on their side. And there is a moment when that happens where I laugh at them - just before I take the opportunity to start helping them re-educate.

  • MNRD on January 19, 2012 4:33 PM:

    I've got right-wing bloggers responding to my posts by claiming that I'm delusional for believing that President Obama took a conciliatory approach toward Congressional Republicans prior to the Debt Ceiling Crisis! I kid you not. They actually believe that President Obama has NEVER reached out to Republicans in any way shape or form during his entire Presidency!! They believe that the entire theory of President Obama's conciliatory approach is a delusion!

    Their reactions were so over-the-top that I assumed that they were being exaggeratedly noxious just to stick it to me. It turned out that they thought they were making "thoughtful" responses to my argument!!! I swear that I am not making this up.

  • Mitch on January 19, 2012 4:34 PM:

    Self-reinforcing delusions shared by one-third of the population is more than just unhealthy, it is deadly.

    Fox is "Party Media" and doesn't even try to disguise itself. As much as I may dislike the news media as a whole, they are generally only irresponsible; Fox is evil. Fox is intentionally misinforming people in order to influence our nation, and they do a wonderful job of it. That's why so many people picked "Socialist" to describe Obama; they have heard the word tossed around on Limbaugh and Fox for so long, that it has no meaning beyond "Republicans don't like it."

    I did not need to read this study to know that Republicans watch only Fox; I talk to enough of them to already know that.

    The narrative is nearly impervious; viewers are told daily to never trust any source of information beyond "Reliable Conservative Sources" - gag me. Any information that counteracts what they have learned is automatically a part of the Liberal Conspiracy to Destroy America. Whereas Liberals, in general, are far more likely to weigh multiple sources of info and try to pick out the truth themselves. Yeah, we've got zealots, too, but very few like the fact-averse rabble who watch Fox.

    Have you ever tried to explain the history of taxation in the 20th Century to Conservatives? They REFUSE to believe that taxes were much, much higher for the 1% during the "Golden Age" of the Post-WWII Years. They REFUSE to believe that St. Reagan ever raised taxes on anyone.

    As it's been explained to me, Fox is "Fair & Balanced" BECAUSE it takes the side of the GOP, while the rest of the media is "in the pockets" of the Dems. Nevermind that reality is very different. Nevermind that CNN & MSNBC were both rather servile to Dubya, and both question Obama much more than they defend him. Nevermind that most of the media is obsessed with the "Both Sides" fixation. To conservatives, there is only One Side. And anything that disagrees with that One Side is wrong, un-America, and probably treasonous.

    It's like this for their entire world-view. No matter how many fossils I show my father, he will NEVER believe in Evolution. No matter how insane the climate gets, my uncles will NEVER believe the immense amounts of greenhouse gases that we've pumped into the atmosphere has anything to do with it. Hell, they all still believe Saddam was hiding WMD and was probably behind 9/11. For God's sake, they defend Torture. They have total faith that everything Fox & the Repug Spin Machine declares is the truth. 100%.

    It's that level of Faith that is most dangerous. Millions of Americans place total faith in the GOP (while claiming to hate the government) and Fox, the GOP's mouthpiece. You can't fight Faith with Reason, not for the True Believers.

    The only hope that I have is that they are only a minority. Of course, a dark whisper in the back of my mind reminds me that the Commies were a minority in Russia, and Nazis were a minority in Germany, before they claimed total power. I try to ignore that whisper. It sounds too much like a conspiracy theory they'd have on Fox.

    Captcha: the factza

    Nothing but the factza, ma'am.

  • Hedda Peraz on January 19, 2012 4:35 PM:

    @TCinLA;
    Of course most of the military are stupid!
    Armies work best when its soldiers follow orders, without question.

  • exlibra on January 19, 2012 4:57 PM:

    What I find really amusing is... so much effort (including changes on the Bord of Directors) had been expended on making PBS veer to the right as much as humanly possible without actually saying that the Earth is flat and the Sun twirls around it. And what are the results? Repubs *still* don't trust it.

    "1765, hichinNP" You can't hitch R(epubs) to NP, to make NPR; even the Founding Fathers were against it.

  • SKM on January 19, 2012 5:26 PM:

    You guys had me laughing with personal stories about FOX viewers. At the same time it is rather scary as it just seems some of these people are like robots or something - I guess that explains why some say they thought Sarah Palin was winking at them on television (during the McCain-Palin election) or that they learned from the chalkboard of Glenn Beck, and the people who followed O'Reilly in re: the abortion doctors. Okay, here's the real question, are these the 'aliens' people have been talking about for a long time? I mean, isn't it true that some of these same people talk about being abducted by aliens? LOL!

    BTW, I stopped looking at CNN years ago - they are, in my opinion no better than FOX - they talk to the viewers as if they are children. I don't like how they used to have their so-called specials that wrongfully depict minorities - Latinos, Blacks, and Muslims - then report it as facts. It doesn't matter if they send a black news personality from CNN into a black neighborhood - it's all a sham. I will tell you what's real, when CNN went to the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) they went to investigate the Fountain Valley murder - and trust me, by the time the crew had dealings with the people that didn't want them there - CNN left and didn't go back. Anyway, when they do go in any neighborhood that they characterize as a not-so-good neighborhood, they do need permission, an escort and guarantee for their safety and equipment if they are not on a story with lots of police there.

    Every now and then I will catch MSNBC for Ed or Rachel, or PBS. But for regular news, I look to independent media. Here I don't have to listen to non-stop gossip about Lindsay Lohan, Casey Anthony, or the bashing of the President. This is a turn off, and a waste of time...Oh, and CNN pissed me off when they started hiring people like Bay Buchanan, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, and MSNBC Pat Buchanan.

    Okay - I know this is probably a poll.

  • SKM on January 19, 2012 5:31 PM:

    You guys had me laughing with personal stories about FOX viewers. At the same time it is rather scary as it just seems some of these people are like robots or something - I guess that explains why some say they thought Sarah Palin was winking at them on television (during the McCain-Palin election) or that they learned from the chalkboard of Glenn Beck, and the people who followed O'Reilly in re: the abortion doctors. Okay, here's the real question, are these the 'aliens' people have been talking about for a long time? I mean, isn't it true that some of these same people talk about being abducted by aliens? LOL!

    BTW, I stopped looking at CNN years ago - they are, in my opinion no better than FOX - they talk to the viewers as if they are children. I don't like how they used to have their so-called specials that wrongfully depict minorities - Latinos, Blacks, and Muslims - then report it as facts. It doesn't matter if they send a black news personality from CNN into a black neighborhood - it's all a sham. I will tell you what's real, when CNN went to the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) they went to investigate the Fountain Valley murder - and trust me, by the time the crew had dealings with the people that didn't want them there - CNN left and didn't go back. Anyway, when they do go in any neighborhood that they characterize as a not-so-good neighborhood, they do need permission, an escort and guarantee for their safety and equipment if they are not on a story with lots of police there.

    Every now and then I will catch MSNBC for Ed or Rachel, or PBS. But for regular news, I look to independent media. Here I don't have to listen to non-stop gossip about Lindsay Lohan, Casey Anthony, or the bashing of the President. This is a turn off, and a waste of time...Oh, and CNN pissed me off when they started hiring people like Bay Buchanan, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, and MSNBC Pat Buchanan.

    Okay - I know this is probably a poll.

  • bcinaz on January 19, 2012 5:42 PM:

    This survey goes hand in hand with last years revelation that FOX News junkies know less than people who watch NO news.

    Alarmingly hilarious, and quite dangerous for the only remaining superpower. Now I get why so many Republican legislatures are passing really goofy laws about Sharia Law, Creationism, Birtherism, and the like. In their Fox News Feedback Loop they do not know these things really aren't threatening our civilization.

  • bardgal on January 19, 2012 6:00 PM:

    Why would anyone with a functioning brain stem trust, let alone watch/read/listen to, any information outlet that has sued in the highest court in the land, the right to LIE?

    False information and lies when presented as fact ≠ free speech

    Tragic our SCOTUS thinks otherwise.

  • Doug on January 19, 2012 7:05 PM:

    Ok, I'm digging, but there IS a little bit of good in that all of the Fox viewers aren't co-located in just one area of the country (think ate-bellum South and slavery). If they were, my attitude towards secession just might change...
    However, since all Fox viewers aren't co-located, perhaps that explains a lot about their reluctance to change. They have to double down on their "belief" or the reality they face every day will finally break through. And then what do they have? The knowledge they've been played for suckers for years?
    People have killed to prevent less emotional/mental strain to themselves...

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