October 3, 2003

Misleading Media

Variations of Misperceptions According to Source of News

Yesterday, the Program on International Policy Attitudes and Knowledge Networks released a study (PDF, 315KB) that correlates public misperceptions about issues relating to the war in Iraq with the media sources from which people get their news. One of the striking aspects of the report was the disparity between viewers of cable and network news television (specifically Fox News) and public resources like PBS and NPR.


Nick Runco

that’s what happens when journalism becomes so competitive that you have to create stories and dramatize events. it’s also what happens when the owner of FOX news decides that it would like to use it’s “news source” to publicize it’s own political biases, and hide it behind the transparent “Fair and Balanced” label.

and we wonder why there isn’t a riot to remove Bozo W. Clown from office. the smoke and mirrors called news seems to be really effective in anesthitizing the masses long enough for the rich folks to take every bit of democratic power from everyone else.

this is exactly why i am actually going to volunteer this year for someone’s campaign. i haven’t quite decided who. but whomever can convice me that they are an honest candidate (which is a tough task) who wants to work with honest people and treat the American people like citizens with power and not peons will get my support.

Sean Peisert

In brighter news, a Quicksilver review.

Walt: Wonder where the Beeb would lie.

Derek Gomez

Don’t you think that’s simply the result of the people who listen to that type of media, and not the other way around? That it’s due to the political leanings of the viewers, rather than due to the particular channel (which after all, can’t force viewers to watch)?

Point is — if the question were something like: “Frequency of Misperception: trickle-down economics work, life begins before delivery through birth canal, guns don’t kill people”, you’d probably see an exact reversal in the stats. Not due to the intelligence of the listeners or veracity of information — just simply because on average, their political leanings are different. Anyone who claims Fox has a conservative bias (which is does, editorially) cannot seriously claim NPR, and PIPA for that matter, don’t have a liberal bias. So is this really suprising?

Thanks for starting up the discussion, Walt. :)

Jessyca Wallace

I’ve also been thinking about getting involved in a political campaign for the coming presidential election. Problem is, I live in a state most likely to elect a democratic candidate for President anyway, so I feel like my efforts might be wasted in that department.

Instead I’ve been thinking of ways to create a website that presents political issues, real information about political candidates, their voting records, etc. Or working on a candidate’s website to try to reach the areas where Republicans run rampant.

I’m not actually a Democrat, but I can’t stand the thought of another 4 years of Bush…

Patrick Runco

It’s not simply a matter of viewpoint. In the report that accompanies the statistics Walt found, I read the following:

“Variations in misperceptions according to news source cannot simply be explained as a result of differences in the demographics of each audience, because these variations can also be found when comparing the rate of misperceptions within demographic subgroups of each audience.”

Fox News was designed for one purpose: to create media credibility for ideas that wouldn’t otherwise hold up to scrutiny. Conservative viewpoint or not, that’s not journalism ? it’s manipulation. It’s a brilliant and expensive way to give critical-thinking-impaired folks ammunition when they have to defend dumb ideas like trickle-down economics or the Patriot Act. And it’s never been done before because there’s never been a single person on the ideological fringe with enough cash or determination to so blatantly stack the deck with bullying reporters and unethical editors.

[Addendum — Well, I forgot about Hearst. So how about “hasn’t recently” been someone with that kind of cash.]

Nick Runco

This study is not about relative viewpoints. It’s audiences understanding of facts versus real facts. When they watched FOX news, 80% of the viewers got it wrong. That’s not good journalism, that’s not good communication.

I agree sources like NPR and PBS have a liberal bias. But what does that say when the “liberal” sources give people the right idea and “conservative” sources give most people the wrong idea?

Why would conservative media be inaccurate most of the time? Clearly, more accurate reporting, coming from PBS and NPR is very critical of Republican ideology. They are very critical of Bush. If they are very critical of President Bush, and they are accurate - what does that tell you?

There is just simply no denying that a strong characterisitic of recent Republican politics is a media blitz for their message. Why do you think the Republican chairman of the FCC is taking steps to allow media consolidation? So smaller, classically Democratic viewpoints get swallowed up by bigger characterisitcally Republican media giants.

This isn’t how democracy was supposed to work. You weren’t supposed to manipulate the system. You weren’t supposed to buy your elections, with billions in advertising. You weren’t supposed to feign criticism by pumping out inaccurate news.

Justin Magers

If you work for, or vote for, any of the Republicrats or Demopublicans, nothing will change. Vote Libertarian. Small, limited government. Truth: Austrian economics, gold backed currency. Lies: Keynesian economics, federal reserve notes.

Jessyca Wallace

I don’t know much about Libertarians, so I went to their website. Under Issues I chose Social Security.

They claim that the government takes 12.4% of your income for Social Security…well, if you work for an employer they take 7.65% and if you work for yourself, they take 15.3%. So they’re flat out wrong about how much Social Security costs each taxpayer.

Then, just two paragraphs later, they talk about retiring a millionaire with an annual income of over $100k…I suppose if you only live 10 years after you retire this may be true.

“Libertarians believe you should be able to opt out of Social Security and invest your money in your own personal retirement account.”

They do have a point here, but if they’re going to gain the support of Democrats and Republicans looking for alternatives, they’re going to have to be accurate and realistic…characteristics that will help create useful and effective legislation.

Doesn’t anybody just tell it like it is anymore?

“Libertarians believe you should be able to opt out of Social Security and invest your money in your own personal retirement account.”

The problem I have with this is that loads of people will be opting out of Social Security somehow, because they want their hands on the money now, they’ll blow it all - and then who’s going to pay for them to live when it’s all gone and they’ve blown it, or invested it very poorly? What will happen then? Will we execute them? haha!! And I know it sounds outrageous to some myopic thinking but educated Libertarians who would never do that, and really would invest it safely… But I know of people who have racked up over $100,000 in credit card debt alone! Do you really think someone like that is capable of managing their own retirement fund? And who’s going to police them so that they don’t do something stupid? I mean, people file for bankruptcy (costing the rest of us a bundle) every day, nobody’s policing them before they blow their money and get into credit card debt… So I hold little confidence in these Libertarian schemes. Unless, of course, there’s going to be enforced ‘euthanasia’ of elderly retired people who can’t look after themselves financially. LOL.

I agree sources like NPR and PBS have a liberal bias. But what does that say when the “liberal” sources give people the right idea and “conservative” sources give most people the wrong idea?

No, no, no… You’re missing it. NPR isn’t giving people the right information at all. Fox did give the right information. The liberal media, and liberal politicians, and the liberal people who did this study are trying to confuse you… There really is a connection between Al Quada and Saddam Hussein - you’ve just been liberal brainwashed to think otherwise! heh-heh. ;)

I worked with a guy who continually said that NPR was biased, and Fox News was the least biased news source around. I laughed. But he truly believes it’s true. Why? A lot of people discern bias this way - if the news doesn’t sit right with their attitude - it’s biased. The truth is - it’s all biased. And there’s probably no way to fix it, either… because the fissure between attitudes seems to be wider & wider all the time.

Nick Runco

yes, all news is biased to a certain degree. but 80% is not any margin of error. this isn’t random, and it’s certainly not human variation. it’s a concerted effort to misinform. trying to say it goes both ways is exactly what the study is proving incorrect.

Nick: I believe as you do, I’m pretty sure… I do think there was some shabby reporting involved, no doubt. But sadly, it IS true, that people have ALREADY been pointing out ways this report could be “liberal biased”. One example is that they think that other topics should be assessed too - and there’s no way to know, unless a study is done, if Fox News would come up as “more accurate” somehow, on some other topics.
So like it or not, this study hasn’t proven anything to the right-wingers, except that the study “surely must be” ‘liberal biased’. If you see what I mean? After all, I just think about how I heard a commentator on NPR say that Rush Limbaugh is saying there MUST be a liberal bias in the media, and there MUST be some truth in what he said about some black football player, if he lost the job over it - like the fact that he was admonished for his comment means it must be true. I mean, I even saw on a blog comment somewhere that just because there is no confirmed link between Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein… doesn’t mean there is no link - and the fact that people believe there is a confirmed link might mean that they just believe that there IS a link between them, even if it’s not proven… and maybe that’s what the study was showing… blah blah blah. I also saw somewhere that someone said something like “liberals believe Bush said there were nuclear weapons in Iraq - and he never really said that” You see what I mean? There’ll always be some tricky argument. There’s no winning this kind of thing, sadly.

hahaha!! That’s a good one actually. And totally logical. You just pointed out one of the big contradictions of Libertarians which has always bothered me. I mean, they would HAVE to have a political party if they’re going to take over the government and impose their draconian darwinian society on everyone. Though I think true Libertarians are dreamers (like John Titor- hahaha!) who long for circumstances to happen to force society into a Libertarian Utopia… which I suspect, if you played the scenario through, would turn out to be a nightmare Hell that would sort itself out eventually, but not before going through an extreme order that would also be a nightmare Hell. hehe. But that said, I actually agree with SEVERAL Libertarian ideas. I mean, obviously I’m speaking of the most extreme side of Libertarianism. I mean, I’m registered to vote as a Green Party member - and I voted for the Green Party candidate in the last election for governor… But I know some other Green Party members in the area who don’t believe in having anything with screens in their home (ie: TVs, computers, etc.).. haha. I mean, one can’t compare me with them, OBVIOUSLY. ;)

Derek Gomez

I think the main problem with the PIPA report is that it calls everything it disagrees with a “misperception”. And therefore, media outlets that proffer a different opinion of the facts, aren’t just doing that — they are deceptively causing a “misperception” of reality in their audience.

Regardless of how intellectual they try to make it sound, the main points of their argument (Iraq-al Qaeda ties, WMD found) have not been proved or disproved. This is just an attempt at ‘scientifically’ proving the correctness of one ideology/type of media over another, based on a faulty premise (i.e., that these things ARE misperceptions).

For example, if you believe there is credible linkage between al Qaeda and Iraq (not 9/11 and Iraq, mind you), because something they call the “intelligence consensus” says there isn’t — then you are experiencing “misperception” — not simply an alternate view of how things are. (A bunch of credible links have been exposed, btw — 1, 2, 3, 4). Sure you may call those sources more rightist than others, but well, then that would just prove my point made earlier in this thread.

It does nothing to further the debate to insinuate your opponent is just plain dumb, especially when there’s no lack of facts backing his side up. That’s what I see this PIPA report as trying to do.

Patrick Runco

The report explicitly states that demographic subgroups show the same variations, which means that the statistical differences have little or no correlation to a particular ideology. I don’t see how that could be any clearer.

Also, on the very first page of the report it’s instantly clear that PIPA didn’t ask people if they believe WMD do or do not exist in Iraq ? they asked people whether or not the existence of WMD has been proven either way; as Derek points out, this has not yet been proven or disproven, which means believing that there’s proof either way is…a misperception.

Also, on the very first page of the report it’s instantly clear that PIPA didn’t ask people if they believe WMD do or do not exist in Iraq ? they asked people whether or not the existence of WMD has been proven either way; as Derek points out, this has not yet been proven or disproven, which means believing that there’s proof either way is…a misperception.

Exactamundo… It IS a misperception if you believe it’s been proven that there are WMD or links with al quada.

But Derek’s argument is EXACTLY what I said would be people’s argument… basically Derek is saying that the study MUST be liberal biased to give those results. That’s their pat answer to anything! And maybe people who were asked didn’t care whether there was proof - they believe there are, and that’s that - they don’t care if there’s been proof - and if asked if there’s proof - they say yes, because they have their so-called proof - even if it’s no more than a belief.

Patrick Runco

Well, just to be clear, it’s a misperception if you believe that there’s proof EITHER WAY. That means if you’re a leftie and you believe we’ve already proven that there are no WMD in Iraq, you’re wrong. And if you’re a rightie and you believe we’ve already proven that there really are stockpiles of WMD, you’re equally wrong.

Nick Runco

basically, you can attempt to undo any “fact” of the universe with the “it’s just your perception” argument. to try and use that excuse for everything is silly and ignorant.

this isn’t a debate about whether there are WMD’s, it’s whether there is proof, and whether the survey respndents understood that. it is an agreed upon FACT both announced by “liberals” and the White House itself that makes very clear no proof of WMDs exists. there is no proof. the president suspects, CIA reports deny, Defense Councils are confident, but there is no proof. this is not debated by anyone.

the study shows that the people who responded in the study thought that, based upon FOX news, among others, there was proof. they would be wrong. they were not just of a different persuasion, not just from a different point of view, but plain wrong.

you would be correct if the study showed a differing opinion of an analysis, like “Davis is responsible for the California budget crisis: yes or no.” but that isn’t what the study did. if you read the study, they chose facts and compared that to viewers’ understanding of them. there is no room for bias in the study.

and i don’t want to hear that all facts are debatable. that doesn’t apply here, since no one is debating these.

“basically, you can attempt to undo any “fact” of the universe with the “it’s just your perception” argument. to try and use that excuse for everything is silly and ignorant.”

Yet it’s been used in politics since the beginning of time. heh. And that’s because politics are ALL about perception, I’m afraid.

“but there is no proof. this is not debated by anyone”

Um… “anyone” is a pretty sweeping term to use here. I was just watching Charlie Rose interview this guy who did the Frontline documentary on Iraq, and they showed a clip with an interview with that exiled Iraqi guy who was emphatically claiming he did indeed have proof… No, he didn’t present it. But he sure sounded like he was debating it to me. And anyone who believes he’s telling the truth about the proof is going to debate that there is proof. So yeah, I’m afraid it is still debated.

Nick Runco

when the President himself admits, as he has, that they have no proof… yet, the issue is not in debate. that’s why i can say that. as for the man on Charlie Rose, well, perhaps he is misinformed from watching FOX news.

Jessyca Wallace

I just wanted to go on record as saying, “I know nothing.”

I very wrongly flew off the handle about Libertarians, including falsely accusing them of incorrectly quoting the SS Tax percentage. Apparently I was mostly mistaken and they were mostly right.