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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fox Covers for Mourdock

On the slim chance that you haven't heard about it, Indiana Republican Senate candidate and Tea Party whackjob Richard Mourdock found himself in hot water after comments Tuesday suggesting that maybe rape wasn't such a bad thing. "I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God," Mourdock said. "And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."

You'd think that after Todd Akin and Sharon Angle got in trouble for statements on the same subject, Republicans would learn to keep their opinions about the wonderful gift of rape pregnancies to themselves. It really doesn't seem to work in their favor.

Of course, when I say there's a "slim chance" that you haven't heard the latest GOP rape idiocy, I'm assuming that you're a serious news consumer and that you don't watch the worst news network in America, Fox News. If you're a Fox viewer, the odds of your complete ignorance of the subject is actually pretty damned good. As the chart above shows, Fox viewers have been exposed to little more than two minutes of not-very in-depth coverage of the controversy. So if you decided to make a sandwich, you probably missed it.

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And that scant coverage is despite the fact that Mourdock later dug in on his comments and that Mitt Romney continues to support him. This is an ongoing story, not a flash in the pan that was over before it began. The comments could cost Mourdock the race, which in turn could cost Republicans the Senate -- which explains why it's a big story and why Fox is trying their damnedest to ignore it. Reporting this particular story doesn't help Republicans. Fox News' entire reason for existing is to help Republicans.

Of course, the Mourdock story is typical of both Fox and the GOP, in that ignorance serves them very well. Over the years, seven studies have found that Fox News consistently churns out the least-informed viewers. In fact, one study from Fairleigh Dickinson University found that Fox News was actually worse than not watching news at all:

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; viewers of Sunday morning talk shows fare similarly well. And people watching only "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" could answer about 1.42 questions correctly.

And no wonder. As Fox's coverage of the Mourdock controversy demonstrates so well, Fox viewers aren't watching the news -- at least, not all of it. Fox News is literally keep stories from their audience, in order to maintain that audience's ignorance on certain subjects harmful to the Republican Party. If Fox had been around during Watergate, you wonder if their viewers would've known anything about it.

In the end, maybe the question isn't why Fox keeps their audience so poorly informed. Maybe the question is, why does so much ignorance serve the Republican Party so well?

-Wisco


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