Approximately five years ago I began following Nate Silver's independent "FiveThirtyEight" blog. Not being a statistician capable of running thousands of computer simulations, I decided to trust a fact-based aggregator of polls whose very reputation rested on making accurate political predictions, rather than rely on a specific poll or the biased estimates of liberal or conservative pundits. Thus, I confidently told a worried African-American friend that, notwithstanding news reports of a tightening race between John McCain and Barack Obama, Mr. Silver was predicting a near landslide victory for Obama. Indeed, Senator Obama trounced Senator McCain in a near landslide.
As a consequence, Mr. Silver and his blog were hired by the New York Times, where he eventually directed his poll-aggregating model at predicting the outcome of the race between President Obama and mendacious Mitt Romney. Approximately two weeks ago I referred a modestly educated family member -- who seemed to favor pollster Dick Morris at Fox News -- to Nate Silver's blog. Presumably, he failed to take my advice, because, like so many other fact-free Republicans, his head nearly exploded with the news of President Obama's reelection.
Thanks to Silver's projections, I was confident that President Obama would win reelection, which enabled me to spend more of my limited, but mind-numbing, TV time watching the right-wing bloviators on Fox News -- Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren. Their self-important buffoonery was immensely enjoyable.
"Buffoonery?" Yes, consider that on the most important news event of 2012, the election of the President of the United States, all the "experts" at Fox News got it wrong. Yes, all of the good folks at Fox News (more appropriately called "Bullshit Mountain News" by comedian Jon Stewart) got it wrong. Bill O'Reilly got it wrong. Sean Hannity got it wrong. Karl Rove got it wrong. Ann Coulter got it wrong.
Dick Morris predicted a Romney landslide, 325 Electoral College votes for Romney and but 213 for President Obama. If that difference constitutes a landslide, then it was Obama who actually won in a landslide. In the fact-based world, Obama actually won by a landslide, 332 to 206.
Newt Gingrich got it wrong. So did Steve Forbes, who told Greta that Romney was going to win by more than 5 points and 320 electoral votes. And, all along, the pitiful true believers who live in the conservative media bubble swallowed their bullshit -- which explains their shock and dismay when the real world smacked them across the face.
People outside the conservative bubble know about the studies, which repeatedly demonstrate that Fox News viewers are the most misinformed of all consumers of news. For example, a University of Maryland study, conducted in 2010, found that "daily Fox News viewers, regardless of political party, were "significantly' more likely than non-viewers to erroneously believe: (1) most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses, (2) most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit, (3) the economy is getting worse, (4) most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring, (5) the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts, (6) their own income taxes have gone up, (7) the auto bailout occurred only under Obama, (8) when TARP came up for a vote most Republican opposed it and (9) it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States.
The renowned British philosopher, John Stuart Mill, was on to something in 1866, when he wrote: "I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it." Mill's observation suggests that stupidity drove conservatives to Fox in the first place and Fox rewarded them by making them dumber still.
Do you want an indicator that speaks volumes about Fox News? Simply compare the people who host the 9:00 PM shows for MSNBC and Fox. Rachel Maddow earned a degree from Stanford, won a Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford and earned a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in politics from that university. Sean Hannity is a college dropout.
Perhaps that absence of a formal education, rather than dishonesty, explains why, on April 3, 2009, Hannity truncated a quote from President Obama, in order to allege that Obama was blaming America first. In fact, as a reading of his entire statement clearly demonstrates, Obama did no such thing. Hannity misled his viewers and the only question is whether it was due to the incompetence of a college drop-out or due to dishonesty. You decide.
Bill O'Reilly is another purveyor of misinformation at Fox. Do you remember his infamous cheerleading for an invasion of Iraq? Do you remember O'Reilly's bold promise about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Mr. O'Reilly said: "If the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it's clean, he has nothing, I will apologize to the nation, and I will not trust the Bush Administration again, all right?"
Eventually, he did issue a weak apology. But, O'Reilly soon justified the illegal, immoral invasion of Iraq by claiming it was a good thing for the world that the U.S. got rid of Saddam Hussein. Really, wouldn't we all violate international law, torture Iraqi prisoners, send thousands of American soldiers to their death, kill more than 100,000 innocent Iraqi men, women and children and court the hatred of much of the world in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein?
When the war turned ugly, "Fair and Balanced" Fox reduced its coverage. In 2007, weasel O'Reilly attempted to defend Fox's reduced coverage, prompting CNN's Chief, Jonathan Klein, to observe: "FOX News were obviously cheerleaders for the war. When the war went badly, they had to dial back coverage because it didn't fit their preconceived story lines."
Just a few days ago, O'Reilly delivered another comforting message to his predominantly old, white audience: "It's a changing country," O'Reilly said during Fox News' coverage. "The demographics are changing. It's not a traditional America anymore. And there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff. They want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama. He knows it. And he ran on it."
Who, outside the conservative bubble, didn't know O'Reilly was pandering to white folks wallowing in white victimology. Who, outside the conservative bubble, doesn't know that a large segment of his audience -- namely white folks living in the South -- remain net beneficiaries of welfare provided to them by other states in the Union? They get "stuff" from the federal government.
According to a paper by Professor Dean Lacy ("Why Do Red States Vote Republican While Blue States Pay the Bills?"), in 2000 Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland paid less in federal taxes than they received in tax benefits from the federal government. In 2005, Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia, Louisiana and Alabama (all Southern states) benefited most from the unequal exchange.