Friday, April 16, 2010

What Ailes Democracy in America

Nate Silver, delving into the cross tabs of the NYT/CBS Tea Party poll and noting that 59% of partiers have a positive impression of Glenn Beck (compared with 18% of the population as a whole), draws this conclusion:

Academic studies have found that FOX News in fact has quite a bit of ability to persuade voters and reformulate public opinion. That Beck (whose program debuted one day before Barack Obama's inauguration) has become one of its prominent voices may help to explain why the tea-parties have become so influential, and why public opinion appears to have shifted so dramatically within the past 18 months. FOX may, or may not, have a role in directly promoting the tea-parties. But its opinion programming has become the water-cooler around which the tea-partiers gather.
Perhaps there will always be a Father Coughlin (or a passel of them) to channel the rage of the paranoid and the ignorant, particularly in times of 10% unemployment, but I still find this disturbing.  Fox, like the Palins and Bachmanns it empowers, is a danger to democracy, a relentless amplifier of lies. And while I guess the U.S. had ample capacity to home-grow toxic political media, it still strikes me that Rupert Murdoch has managed to degrade political discourse on three continents (I assume he's done it in Australia as well as the UK and US). 

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