Pew research findings on what media sources we trust

Conservatives love Fox News. A lot. And they trust it. No surprise there. Slightly more stunning, conservatives dis-trust virtually every other source of news. Can that really be possible? The Pew Research Center’s report — Political Polarization & Media Habits — finds it to be the case.

The Pew study placed individuals into one of five groupings from “consistently liberal” to “consistently conservative” based on their answers to 10 questions. The five groups were then analyzed with regard to news and information choices. Published this month, here’s one of many interesting comparisons appearing in the final report — what media sources are trusted and to what degree. Media sources trusted by less than 50% of group members are not shown.

Pew Research - Media Polarization-12


The incredible shrinking Sunday audience

davidgregory_chucktoddOh boy, after months of rumor, NBC drops handsome, gray-haired David Gregory as host of ‘Meet the Press’. Average-looking Chuck Todd will take over.

As everyone knows, this has nothing to do with the show’s supposedly noble public purpose. It’s just a matter of declining viewership and thus revenue. That’s of course what draws attention at corporate headquarters.

Will this reverse the slide? Nope. This 67-yr-old show (and, yes, it is a “show”) is for and about Washington spin. Replacing one multi-million-dollar “host” with a different multi-million-dollar host who will — count on it — continue the same dismal questioning isn’t going to make it interesting. The whole hour deserves to be ignored by anyone who isn’t hospitalized and without a remote control.

And it’s equally true of the other Sunday morning shows.

Commenter ‘marylou’ at Politico explains:

These Sunday shows are geared toward Washington insiders rather than the audience that wants accountability, ideas and solutions. You can always tell when spin is about to occur. Gregory asks a question and the guest (usually McCain, Cheney, Kristol or Graham) will immediately belt out talking points they’ve been fed ahead of time, and often their answer has little to nothing to do with the question. And Gregory doesn’t stop them, doesn’t say you didn’t answer my question, doesn’t give facts that dispute the answer, and doesn’t do anything but let them off the hook when he should just keep repeating the question until the guest either answers or is rebuked and then not asked back…


Madison Cap Times: Editor Fanlund fans on an easy pitch

Paul Fanlund — editor of the Cap Times (aka The Capital Times, aka CT…. Note to business office: too many brand names.) — pissed us off this week when he bungled what should have been a perfectly easy gripe about the sad state of our media information systems. And, hey, that’s our beat — “the incredible shrinking news”™! — but there’s plenty to go around.

Somehow, however, in mid-grumble, Fanlund lapsed into American journalism’s signature error! — pointless False Equivalence. In particular he seems to imagine that Fox News and MSNBC are similarly horrible. Has he ever really watched ’em?

Let’s look at a recent YouTube in which British comedian Russell Brand is watching Fox News. Now Mr. Brand has a particular look. Often (but not always) he tends to look like a borderline maniac, the kind of guy who gets on the subway and causes everyone else to think, uhoh…. Here, he’s watching an attractive lady who has her own show on Fox News. Can you guess which one of them will seem dangerously crazy?

There is nothing like that at MSNBC. Fanlund could search and search and search. He will never find. Now you could say — fairly — that both Fox News and MSNBC attract “tribal” audiences, right and left. That’s true. But that can’t possibly be a part of Fanlund’s gripe, can it? Fanlund is the editor of the Cap Times! (Here we will add, for the benefit of readers outside Dane County, the Cap Times is a distinctly and consciously liberal media operation which calls itself “your progressive voice”™.)

(Wait. “Your voice”? As in my voice? Well, not today, thank you.)

Look, Fanlund’s not always like this. He’s capable of good work. We can only assume he got some bad clams at lunch. Really bad clams, because he also held out PBS’s dismal Washington Week in Review  as commendable.

Jesus, he didn’t have stroke, did he? Well, no, we assume it was very bad clams. He’ll probably make a speedy recovery, but we’re keeping an eye on him, just to be sure.


Meanwhile, in actual news about why our news is pitiful, Rupert Murdoch — a man who has already done SO much to hurt so many — is hoping to add Time Warner to his gigantic portfolio of corporate media.

Why we know so very little

It’s one thing for an ordinary person to be wrong. It’s quite another for a public figure to be just spectacularly, famously wrong. On-the-record. And with disastrous results. Like the people who brought us the 2003 Iraq War.


Remember Dick Cheney?

  • “And he [Saddam Hussein] is actively pursuing nuclear weapons at this time.” (March, 2002)
  • “I think it will go relatively quickly. Weeks rather than months.” (March, 2003)
  • “My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.” (March, 2003)
  • I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.” (July, 2005)

Dick and daughter Liz are back, opinionizing in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal. Well, not surprising. It’s Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal.

There is no penalty for getting things wrong. 

And the famously wrong Bill Kristol (we “could have terrifically good effects throughout the Middle East.” September 18, 2002) and the equally thick Paul Wolfowiitz (“We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.” March 27, 2003) are back, too. They’re on the supposedly serious Sunday morning TV shows, discussing — believe it or not — what to do about Iraq’s current descent into sectarian violence. It’s very much like having the captain of the Exon Valdez offer advice on how to clean up oil spills. Except, to be fair, grounding an oil tanker is only a very small blunder compared to the colossal moral, military, planning and policy blunders advocated — insisted on! — by these wrong-way neocon blunderers.

The lesson? There is no penalty — in large swaths of our news media — for getting things wrong. Even calamitously wrong.

In real life, people do fail. They get fired. They’re effectively discredited. They lose reputation. After a big blunder, they never work in the same field again.

That’s real life. If you screw up, you will probably experience accountability. That captain of the Exon Valdez? He never captained another oil tanker. Probably he never expected to. And indeed he never got the chance.

Meet the Press and This Week weirdly operate with entirely different rules — the incompetents never need to leave. Observe, the incredible shrinking news.


Antarctic Ice Collapse: The Untold Story

Sometimes, the untold story is literally untold. It’s not reported. Doubtless many Americans live in a place — either physically or emotionally — where certain information will not likely penetrate. If you’re reading the Stinkvillle Weekend Advertiser and hearing occasional TV news, god only knows what you know.

For that matter, if you read our local daily or read on-line at, carefully, you may discover this listicle“10 Things to Know: This Week’s Takeaways” from the Associated Press, including at #5…


Two new studies show that the ice sheet is starting a slow collapse in an unstoppable way. Alarmed scientists said Monday that means an even higher rise in sea levels than they had feared. Scientists say that over hundreds of years, the ice melt that has started could eventually add 4 to 12 feet to current sea levels.

(The AP’s #1 “Thing to Know” was a tragic mine fire in Turkey. Is their list in any kind of order? Why is the eventual loss of many of the world’s great cities #5? The New York Times editors put it on page 1 above the fold, which is where it belonged, we think.)

Still, the week’s Antarctic Ice news wasn’t completely unreported in Madison, so that’s good. You could make a [weak] argument that Madison’s doing better than the mythical Stinkville. We hope it appeared also in the Wisconsin State Journal‘s print edition, but we don’t know. We just don’t see that anymore except for the Sunday giveaways over at Metcalf’s Sentry.

There’s no law that says adults living in an ostensible democracy need to inform themselves, and in fact many of us don’t. Less than half of us can name the three branches of government. About half of Americans can name one of their U.S. Senators; only a quarter can name both. Is this the best we can do?

Sure, it’s hard to keep up. It’s not just global warming; there’s also what’s up with the Kardashians, but it’s possible to follow both. What’s really grounds for pessimism is how many of us just really don’t want to know about certain important facts. Denialism is becoming a lifestyle. We remember when “denialism” wasn’t even in the lexicon, much less becoming a well-defined market. Now there are media outlets cashing in by ignoring certain facts or by sabotaging the facts when they cannot be ignored. It’s not just Fox News.

Polls show that climate concern goes up and down. Lately it’s down.

Gallop - environment trend It’s a particular problem among the usual suspects:

Americans are less worried about climate change than the residents of any other high-income country…. When you look at the details of these polls, you see that American exceptionalism on the climate stems almost entirely from Republicans. Democrats and independents don’t look so different from people in Japan, Australia, Canada and across Europe.

Toles - GOP Skates off the edge on climate change

Exploiting people’s ignorance

Interesting article at

Inside the Fox News lie machine: I fact-checked Sean Hannity on Obamacare

The article’s author is not — could this be significant? — a working journalist. No, the article’s author, Eric Stern, is a lawyer and a former senior counselor to the Governor of Montana (he’s also son of the NBA commish, not that that matters). He happened to watch the Hannity show on Fox News where 3 married couples were airing their personal “Obamacare horror stories”. Now Stern knows a bit about “Obamacare”. He thinks the stories don’t “smell right”, and so he just phones up those guests to learn more.

It turns out their horror stories are baseless! Who could’ve guessed?

Now does Hannity actually care that his guests were, at best, clueless and misinformed? What about the show’s young producers? What about Fox News management? The answer is unequivocally no. Misinforming is all in a day’s work. Bread and butter. Every day.

Only a consistently liberal operation like will bother to publish Mr. Stern’s follow-up, interesting and worthwhile though it is. The vast majority of the nation’s press ignores the daily stream of pretend-journalism that feeds the conservative base. It won’t be remarked on; that’s just a given. Fox News has been granted some kind of pass, some kind of immunity from the ridicule and distaste that professional journalism ought to shower them with.

This silence is not working out well for America.

It’s true that our press almost never tries to correct the mis-reporting of any other press operation. To do so would be very time-consuming, and it might provoke return scrutiny.

Yes, every once in a while, a reporter will be discovered fabricating a story. Said reporter will be fired, and the firing organization will issue mea culpas and re-narrate its history of unbending commitment to the truth. But it won’t fact-check an intensely biased propaganda operation that pretends to deliver journalism. For that matter, they will almost never fact-check the statements of regular political liars, both official and unofficial. They’ll print it. Then they’ll find someone to say something different, and print that, too.

The poor citizen is on his own to figure out who’s telling the truth. And unfortunately all the evidence is that a LOT of us are no good at that. A lot of us are gullible and exploitable. So we get significant areas of the country where people think climate change is a hoax, evolution is a lie, the President is a socialist actually born in Kenya who secretly prays to Mecca.  Nothing is beyond the pale if it’s heard often enough and not constantly debunked. This past week these gullible folks almost got their foolish wish about defaulting on the national debt, because they’re frightened about “Obamacare”. No, it literally makes no sense.

Find the fraud in this picture

It’s a simple, bedrock understanding — democracy only stands a chance when citizens vote. So what’s going on when obstacles are laid out to keep voters from voting?

And is anyone ACTUALLY confused by what’s going on?

voter fraud

Of course, we’re thinking about this now because the U.S. Supreme Court has just screwed up the Voting Rights Act, substituting its own (5-4) view for the view of Congress, making it easier for states to play anti-democracy games at election time.

Now, because of this latest decision, we will witness another wave of schemes boiling up in the various states, designed to restrict legitimate voters from actually voting. In fact, it’s already well underway These schemes will make voting harder in various ways — harder to vote absentee, or harder if you’re young, or harder if you’re poor, or harder if you’re going to school, or harder if you don’t own a car, and on and on.

And often times the cover story for restricting voting will be the supposed fear of “voter fraud” (voter impersonation), even when no voter fraud is to be found.

People understand that this is all malarkey. The game is not exactly “clever”. Yes, the game will uncover a handful of honest dupes, gullible and easily excitable, genuinely afraid that Mexicans are getting Obama-cars and free money to impersonate dead voters in Racine and Kenosha. Or whatever. But people in general understand what’s really going on. The Republican Party isn’t doing well with certain groups like young people, poor people, black people, brown people, yellow people, union members, and women (to name a few), and so they’re making it harder for those people to vote.

Certainly the politicians themselves know exactly what’s going on in this dirty game. And — except for a few hyper-credulous dupes as noted above — the vast majority of Republican voters also know that “voter fraud” is a stratagem and a canard, but they hold their noses, and they stick together, and the cover story of voter fraud limps on.

What about journalists? Can they find the fraud in the picture? Well, presumably yes, quite easily. But how will they report it? Will they avoid the obvious? That’s a recipe for slowly piddling away their own credibility. Most people get what’s going on, and why.

For the editorial page, it’s much, much worse. They have no need to be neutral. In fact, they’re expected to call things out. If they cannot recognize or discuss imaginary claims of voter fraud in honest terms, then the editorial operation simply hemorrhages credibility.

Of course, there’s more than two ways to flub up the voter fraud story. News operations can just ignore it. They can opine on the editorial page that it’s not important (even as the GOP is flying to get it done). They can mention it but quickly move on. They can blur the facts, calling it “partisan wrangling”. They can mis-weigh the evidence.

But eventually, flubbing up an otherwise easy “voter fraud” story WILL have a bad effect.