Left Clinging Bitterly to Jon Stewart’s Fox Bashing

Posted: June 22, 2011 by socklessjoe in Fun With Media, Funniest End of Civilization Evah, Lame, Liberal FAIL, Op/Sped

Lefty sniggering about Jon Stewart’s assertion concerning Fox viewers has been covered elsewhere by Ace and Verum Serum (among others, no doubt), but I found a new spin from the left I’d like to address.

Chris Mooney:

To rebut Stewart’s claim, Politifact relied upon irrelevant and off-point studies. Thus, the site cited a number of Pew surveys that examine basic political literacy and relate it to what kind of media citizens consume. E.g., questions like whether people know “who the vice president is, who the president of Russia is, whether the Chief Justice is conservative, which party controls the U.S. House of Representatives and whether the U.S. has a trade deficit.”


Thus, the bulk of the studies cited by Politifact have nothing to do with whether Fox viewers believe the truth, or falsehoods, on politicized and contested issues. I cannot stress how fundamental a distinction this is. Indeed, it is quite literally a separate issue from the perspective of psychology and neuroscience.

From the point of view of the political brain, whether 2 + 2 = 4, or whether Joe Biden is the vice president, is one type of question. It’s the type of question where there’s no political stake and anyone can agree, because it doesn’t require any emotional sacrifice to do so. It therefore likely engages circuits of “cold reasoning.”

However, whether global warming is human caused is fundamentally different. The latter issue is politicized, and thus engages emotions, identity, and classic pathways of biased reasoning. It therefore likely triggers circuits of “hot reasoning.”

Apparently it doesn’t matter if Democratic voters in 2008 didn’t even know which party controlled Congress, or believed any number of verifiably wrong statements. So as long as you’re dealing with COLD HARD IRREFUTABLE FACTS, it doesn’t matter how well-informed you are.  However, if you happen to disagree with the Powers That Be on something politicized or contentious, you are an ignoramus.  They’re called “contested” for a reason.

And of course, only conservatives are guilty of “hot reasoning”.  Not liberals.

I peeked at the studies Mooney cited, and a big problem I see is determining what qualifies as a “true” statement.  For instance, while it is true that we never discovered the treasure trove of WMD in Iraq that we were looking for, it is also a true statement that we did find WMD.  Busted, old, questionably effective WMD that we probably gave or sold to Saddam years earlier, but UN-prohibited WMD nonetheless.  One study cites a “false rumor” that Feisal Abdul Raul (of Park51/GZM fame) “is a terrorist‐sympathizer who refuses to condemn Islamic attacks on civilians.”  Well, if you just look at the Wikipedia page for Raul, you’ll see that this isn’t exactly as cut and dried as the study indicates. Does Obamacare, “cut benefits that were previously provided to all people on Medicare” or “allow a government panel to make end-of-life decisions for people on Medicare”?  Well, if you suck half a trillion dollars out of a program, and create an Independent Payment Advisory Board to make decisions about what types of care will be covered generally (if not individually), I think there’s a legitimate case to be made for a “yes” response on both questions.

But I could argue technicalities all day.  More importantly, these studies are biased by the very kinds of beliefs they question. The studies are designed to question beliefs held by conservatives, not liberals.  Where’s the study about beliefs surrounding Bush’s alleged complicity in the 9-11 attacks?  Where’s the study about misperceptions about what the Laffer Curve really implies?

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