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Study: Fox News Viewers Less Informed…

Study: Fox News Viewers Less Informed…

Faux News ChannelAccording to a a new poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University, Fox News viewers know less than those who don’t watch any news.  The poll asked New Jerseyans about current events and confirmed what many consider to be the obvious: “Because of the controls for partisanship, we know these results are not just driven by Republicans or other groups being more likely to watch Fox News… the results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions than those who don’t watch any news at all.”

But the real finding is that the results depend on what media sources people turn to for their news. For example, people who watch Fox News, the most popular of the 24-hour cable news networks, are 18-points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government than those who watch no news at all (after controlling for other news sources, partisanship, education and other demographic factors). Fox News watchers are also 6-points less likely to know that Syrians have not yet overthrown their government than those who watch no news.

As for networks informing their audiences, this is where it gets interesting…

Only 55% of New Jerseyans are able to name correctly either Mitt Romney or Herman Cain as the Republican candidates most recently leading in the polls, with 37 % saying that Romney is ahead, and 18% saying that Cain is. Watching Fox News didn’t help or hurt respondents on this question. MSNBC, however, helped: Watching MSNBC was associated with a 10-point increase in identifying Romney as the leader, and a 5-point drop in the likelihood of identifying Cain compared to those who got no exposure to news at all.

“Given the amount of time and effort the media spent covering these candidates, the fact that only about half of the public can name one of the front-runners is embarrassing,” said Cassino. “The fact that Fox News, the preferred media outlet for many of the candidates, doesn’t do better in informing viewers is very surprising.”

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Propaganda Techniques Used by Fox News

Propaganda Techniques Used by Fox News
Fox News - Our viewers will believe anything

Fox News - Our viewers will believe anything

FoxNewsBoycott.com previously pointed out Bill O’Reilly’s use of propaganda techniques. Now, Dr. Cynthia Boaz at Truthout.org has doubled that list and have provided evidence of the techniques used by Fox News.

  1. Panic Mongering. This goes one step beyond simple fear mongering. With panic mongering, there is never a break from the fear. The idea is to terrify and terrorize the audience during every waking moment. From Muslims to swine flu to recession to homosexuals to immigrants to the rapture itself, the belief over at Fox seems to be that if your fight-or-flight reflexes aren’t activated, you aren’t alive. This of course raises the question: why terrorize your own audience? Because it is the fastest way to bypass the rational brain. In other words, when people are afraid, they don’t think rationally. And when they can’t think rationally, they’ll believe anything.
  2. Character Assassination/Ad Hominem. Fox does not like to waste time debating the idea. Instead, they prefer a quicker route to dispensing with their opponents: go after the person’s credibility, motives, intelligence, character, or, if necessary, sanity. No category of character assassination is off the table and no offense is beneath them. Fox and like-minded media figures also use ad hominem attacks not just against individuals, but entire categories of people in an effort to discredit the ideas of every person who is seen to fall into that category, e.g. “liberals,” “hippies,” “progressives” etc. This form of argument – if it can be called that – leaves no room for genuine debate over ideas, so by definition, it is undemocratic. Not to mention just plain crass.
  3. Projection/Flipping. This one is frustrating for the viewer who is trying to actually follow the argument. It involves taking whatever underhanded tactic you’re using and then accusing your opponent of doing it to you first. We see this frequently in the immigration discussion, where anti-racists are accused of racism, or in the climate change debate, where those who argue for human causes of the phenomenon are accused of not having science or facts on their side. It’s often called upon when the media host finds themselves on the ropes in the debate.
  4. Rewriting History. This is another way of saying that propagandists make the facts fit their worldview. The Downing Street Memos on the Iraq war were a classic example of this on a massive scale, but it happens daily and over smaller issues as well. A recent case in point is Palin’s mangling of the Paul Revere ride, which Fox reporters have bent over backward to validate. Why lie about the historical facts, even when they can be demonstrated to be false? Well, because dogmatic minds actually find it easier to reject reality than to update their viewpoints. They will literally rewrite history if it serves their interests. And they’ll often speak with such authority that the casual viewer will be tempted to question what they knew as fact.
  5. Scapegoating/Othering. This works best when people feel insecure or scared. It’s technically a form of both fear mongering and diversion, but it is so pervasive that it deserves its own category. The simple idea is that if you can find a group to blame for social or economic problems, you can then go on to a) justify violence/dehumanization of them, and b) subvert responsibility for any harm that may befall them as a result.
  6. Conflating Violence With Power and Opposition to Violence With Weakness. This is more of what I’d call a “meta-frame” (a deeply held belief) than a media technique, but it is manifested in the ways news is reported constantly. For example, terms like “show of strength” are often used to describe acts of repression, such as those by the Iranian regime against the protesters in the summer of 2009. There are several concerning consequences of this form of conflation. First, it has the potential to make people feel falsely emboldened by shows of force – it can turn wars into sporting events. Secondly, especially in the context of American politics, displays of violence – whether manifested in war or debates about the Second Amendment – are seen as noble and (in an especially surreal irony) moral. Violence becomes synonymous with power, patriotism and piety.
  7. Bullying. This is a favorite technique of several Fox commentators. That it continues to be employed demonstrates that it seems to have some efficacy. Bullying and yelling works best on people who come to the conversation with a lack of confidence, either in themselves or their grasp of the subject being discussed. The bully exploits this lack of confidence by berating the guest into submission or compliance. Often, less self-possessed people will feel shame and anxiety when being berated and the quickest way to end the immediate discomfort is to cede authority to the bully. The bully is then able to interpret that as a “win.”
  8. Confusion. As with the preceding technique, this one works best on an audience that is less confident and self-possessed. The idea is to deliberately confuse the argument, but insist that the logic is airtight and imply that anyone who disagrees is either too dumb or too fanatical to follow along. Less independent minds will interpret the confusion technique as a form of sophisticated thinking, thereby giving the user’s claims veracity in the viewer’s mind.
  9. Populism. This is especially popular in election years. The speakers identifies themselves as one of “the people” and the target of their ire as an enemy of the people. The opponent is always “elitist” or a “bureaucrat” or a “government insider” or some other category that is not the people. The idea is to make the opponent harder to relate to and harder to empathize with. It often goes hand in hand with scapegoating. A common logical fallacy with populism bias when used by the right is that accused “elitists” are almost always liberals – a category of political actors who, by definition, advocate for non-elite groups.
  10. Invoking the Christian God. This is similar to othering and populism. With morality politics, the idea is to declare yourself and your allies as patriots, Christians and “real Americans” (those are inseparable categories in this line of thinking) and anyone who challenges them as not. Basically, God loves Fox and Republicans and America. And hates taxes and anyone who doesn’t love those other three things. Because the speaker has been benedicted by God to speak on behalf of all Americans, any challenge is perceived as immoral. It’s a cheap and easy technique used by all totalitarian entities from states to cults.
  11. Saturation. There are three components to effective saturation: being repetitive, being ubiquitous and being consistent. The message must be repeated over and over, it must be everywhere and it must be shared across commentators: e.g. “Saddam has WMD.” Veracity and hard data have no relationship to the efficacy of saturation. There is a psychological effect of being exposed to the same message over and over, regardless of whether it’s true or if it even makes sense, e.g., “Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States.” If something is said enough times, by enough people, many will come to accept it as truth. Another example is Fox’s own slogan of “Fair and Balanced.”
  12. Disparaging Education. There is an emerging and disturbing lack of reverence for education and intellectualism in many mainstream media discourses. In fact, in some circles (e.g. Fox), higher education is often disparaged as elitist. Having a university credential is perceived by these folks as not a sign of credibility, but of a lack of it. In fact, among some commentators, evidence of intellectual prowess is treated snidely and as anti-American. The disdain for education and other evidence of being trained in critical thinking are direct threats to a hive-mind mentality, which is why they are so viscerally demeaned.
  13. Guilt by Association. This is a favorite of Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart, both of whom have used it to decimate the careers and lives of many good people. Here’s how it works: if your cousin’s college roommate’s uncle’s ex-wife attended a dinner party back in 1984 with Gorbachev’s niece’s ex-boyfriend’s sister, then you, by extension are a communist set on destroying America. Period.
  14. Diversion. This is where, when on the ropes, the media commentator suddenly takes the debate in a weird but predictable direction to avoid accountability. This is the point in the discussion where most Fox anchors start comparing the opponent to Saul Alinsky or invoking ACORN or Media Matters, in a desperate attempt to win through guilt by association. Or they’ll talk about wanting to focus on “moving forward,” as though by analyzing the current state of things or God forbid, how we got to this state of things, you have no regard for the future. Any attempt to bring the discussion back to the issue at hand will likely be called deflection, an ironic use of the technique of projection/flipping.

 

It’s an amazing, if not depressing, look at our society’s perception of news, politics and each other, manipulated by the marketing machine that is News Corp, parent company of Fox News. Many, if not all, of these techniques can be found employed by those working for any number of Rupert Murdoch’s properties around the world. Additionally, we’ve seen every one of these techniques used by Fox News fanboys defending Fox News, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, etc. Now that this list is being shared, be sure to keep an eye out for these propaganda techniques and be ready to call the fanboys out.

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Roger Ailes’ Secret Plan for GOP Propaganda TV

Roger Ailes’ Secret Plan for GOP Propaganda TV

Before launching Fox News Channel in 1996, FNC President Roger Ailes was a media strategist for Republican Presidents, Nixon, Reagan and H.W. Bush as well as a producer for Rush Limbaugh (see GOP Connections to Fox News page). It should be of little surprise to learn that Ailes would like nothing more than to push GOP propaganda onto Americans via a right-wing TV news channel, like Fox News.

A 300+ page cache of documents obtained by Gawker from the Nixon and Bush presidential libraries includes a memo titled, “A Plan For Putting the GOP on TV News.” The 15 page plan includes the opinion that “People are lazy. With television you just sit—watch—listen. The thinking is done for you.”

Today television news is watched more often than people read newspapers, than people listen to the radio, than people read or gather any other form of communication. The reason: People are lazy. With television you just sit—watch—listen. The thinking is done for you.

Knowing the differences between news and entertainment programming and the relative difference in rules, the plan was to circumvent the system and get GOP opinions into what they believed to be the “liberal media” and therefore delivered by who they saw as the enemy. Just as Fox News continues to claim to be the opposition to the mainstream media (of which they are part).

This is a plan that places news of importance to localities (Senators and representatives are newsmakers of importance to their localities) on local television news programs while it is still news. It avoids the censorship, the priorities, and the prejudices of network news selectors and disseminators.

The memo included handwritten notes from Roger Ailes, clearly stating his interest in making the plan a reality. Not only that, but using his media consulting experience to suggest changes and address possible repercussions.

Notes written by Roger Ailes in the margin of the memo.

Basically a very good idea. It should be expanded to include other members of the administration such as cabinet involved in activity with regional or local interest. Also could involve GOP governors when in DC. Who would purchase equipment and run operation—White House? RNC? Congressional caucus? Will get some flap about news management.

Ailes wanted in… here’s his note to Nixon Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman:

Bob—if you decide to go ahead we would as a production company like to bid on packaging the entire project. I know what has to be done and we could test the feasibility for 90 days without making a commitment beyond that point.

The first version of the plan was to be called “Capitol News Service.” After Roger Ailes was fired by the White House, he was involved with Television News Incorporated (TVN), seemingly the subsequent version. As reported by Rolling Stone, TVN was financed by the President of Coors Brewing Co., Joseph Coors, and “was designed to inject a far-right slant into local news broadcasts by providing news clips that stations could use without credit—and at a fraction of the true costs of production.”

The documents obtained by Gawker include other “dirty tricks” memos. A memo from Roger Ailes to Haldeman involves a scheme to infiltrate a political opponent’s organization – “I would like to see us get one of our people inside the Wallace organization immediately.” There was also evidence of a “news” piece to be directed by Ailes and financed by a pro-Nixon front group that would have used two pro-war Democrats, who he calls “dupes for the administration,” to respond to a CBS News special.

Ailes was working on as a response to an anti-war CBS News special.

As you can clearly see, these examples demonstrate a direct GOP connection between Roger Ailes (American President of Fox News Channel) and a plan to air GOP propaganda on TV, disguised as news, plus other dirty tricks involving media manipulation. “Fair and balanced?” Really?

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