Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Misinformation

On Sunday, John Stewart went on Fox News and claimed that Fox viewers are the "most consistently misinformed media viewers."

Politifact looks at some polling data and calls this claim false. (HT: Andrew Sullivan.)

I read the Politifact article and I have only one word: bullshit.

The devil is in the details, folks. While Fox viewers have demonstrated a high capacity for answering questions like "who is the Vice President," "who is the British Prime Minister," and "which political party controls the US House of Representatives" that wasn't the kind of thing Stewart was talking about.

These are all current events questions, and those only tell part of the story of viewers being misinformed. To gauge the true level of mininformed viewer, you have to go into the narratives.

Questions that may prove Stewart correct, on the other hand:

1. Barack Obama was born in what country?
2. What religion does Barack Obama follow?
3. Has Barack Obama increased federal income taxes?
4. Did Barack Obama sign into law the bank bailout, known as the Troubled Assets Relief Program?
5. Is the Dow Jones Industrial Average higher or lower than when Barack Obama took office?
6. How many women is New York Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner accused of having sex with?
7. Radical Islamic fundamentalists are planning to build a victory mosque at what location in the United States of America?
8. How many state governments operate under Sharia law?
9. How many United States Supreme Court Justices are Muslims?
10. True or False: The majority of United States Democratic office holders are members of the Communist Party.
11. In what Midwestern state did public sector union members riot when their Republican governor eliminated their right to collectively bargain in early 2011?
12. How many states have outlawed Christmas-themed displays on private property?
13. Which United States President famously included Death Panels in their proposed health care overhaul?
14. What foreign nation did Sarah Palin claim to see from her house?
15. Would a Federal income tax rate of 37% be an increase or a decrease for most Americans?
16. What year did the United States Supreme Court overturn Barack Obama's ban on gun ownership?
17. Earlier this year, Barack Obama sided with violent Muslim Brotherhood protesters to overthrow the pro-American leader of what Middle Eastern nation?
18. Operatives of ACORN were convicted of voter fraud in how many states?
19. Which former United States President signed a law granting amnesty to illegal immigrants if they entered the country before 1982?
20. In what year did Barack Obama sign a Presidential Order creating the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)?

.

1 comment:

Dante said...

I call bullshit of the whole misinformed viewer methodology. You can determine if a viewer is well-informed* by feeding information from a source and seeing if they can accurately recite it. If this test fails, it does not mean the viewer is misinformed. That implies a problem with the source material. Even in a fail case, the problem may not lie in the source. It may lie in the content filter we have sitting between our ears or even elsewhere. SO you can test well-informed or not well-informed. But you can't use the test results to determine misinformed.

* Even this only works for strict definitions of "well-informed" as Pat has already hit on. Personally, I would've failed the 3-question test in the article because I'm not good with names. I can't tell you who the current British PM is. I can tell you he's in the Conservative Party. I can tell you some of his accomplishments, including brokering a coalition government with some unlikely allies in the Liberal Democrat Party (which isn't working out so well for the Lib Dems according to recent polling and election results). But I don't know or care what his name is.