I’ll Take Cognitive Dissonance For 200, Alex! The Fox News Alternate Reality Game
In keeping with the alternate reality created by Fox News and perpetuated by it’s minions like Rush Limbaugh, the anchors at Fox News are questioning the recent uptick in the number of jobs created in the private sector. They are pushing the idea that the books have been “cooked.” It is really astounding how obvious they are in their attempts to keep their alternate reality propped up. Alex Seitz-Wald at ThinkProgress spells it out pretty clearly.
If it weren’t improper to psychologically analyse strangers, one might think the Fox hosts are displaying a textbook example of cognitive dissonance here, a psychological phenomena in which people who hold a strong belief about something invent (sometimes far fetched) explanations for new evidence that conflicts with their existing views. Obama is bad for the economy, the jobs numbers show the economy is doing better, so there must be something wrong with the jobs numbers.
To illustrate how Fox News is selective in believing the job numbers, we only have to look at how they report when unemployment rises.
The Labor Department reported that employers added just 18,000 net jobs in June, the fewest in nine months. The jobless rate ticked up to 9.2 percent from 9.1 percent. The pace of job growth is not even enough to keep up with population growth — it would take about 125,000 jobs per months to do so — and certainly not enough to bring down the unemployment rate.
The article then goes on to quote extensively from the Labor Department’s report, while sprinkling in Republican talking points along the way. Not a single mention of any books being cooked or numbers being manipulated, because — you know — the bad numbers fit with the narrative.
What is disturbing to me about this tactic is that it works for their audience.They are feeding them exactly what they want and they really don’t care if their viewers are misinformed. In fact, I would argue that they count on it. Several studies of Fox News viewers have shown a huge disconnect between reality and the manufactured one that the right have been feeding them. Steven Benen wrote an excellent piece a while back on how disconnected Fox News viewers are from reality.
The quantifiable evidence is overwhelming. Eight years ago, just six months into the war in Iraq, the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland 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.” [...]
The problem is actually getting worse.
In December, PIPA published a report, this time on “Misinformation and the 2010 Election” (pdf). The point was to measure Americans’ understanding of a variety of key developments that news consumers would likely be familiar with. As was the case eight years ago, Fox News viewers were “significantly more likely” to be confused about reality.
It really scares me to think that viewers of the most watched cable news network live in a world where empirical reality has no place. They absorb only information that conforms to their beliefs and block any conflicting information, regardless of the source. And even when presented with clear evidence to the contrary, they either attack the messenger or just cover their ears and go “na na na, I can’t hear you.”
My theory on why they are successful at this tactic is that most of these uninformed viewers have a mindset that is based on emotion, fear and bigotry. Logic plays no role in their thinking and because of that, they are extremely susceptible to suggestions and selective facts they fit those biases and fears. Fox News only has to confirm those fears and play with those emotions. Fox News has made a science out it…except, of course, they don’t believe in science either.
Cross-posted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles
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