With both houses of Congress and the President away on summer vacation, it’s been a slow news week. Unless of course you count the number of gaffs that regularly proceed from the lips of various GOP presidential candidates as they try to out-crazy each other for the wingnut vote in the primaries.
To better appreciate the challenge before such intellectual heavyweights as Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry, let’s take a peek under the hood of the Teabagger psyche. What better place to study them than in their (un)natural habitat, the alternate universe reality known as Fux News. Consider, for instance, the following article from yesterday’s Think Progress titled:
A new (supposedly) NASA-funded study postulating that aliens may attack humans over climate change had all the ingredients for a perfect Fox faux controversy — it bolstered their anti-science narrative, painted their opponents as clownish radicals, and highlighted wasteful government spending on a supposedly liberal cause. [sic] Fox reported the “news from NASA” several times…today, presenting it as official “taxpayer funded research.” A chyron on Fox and Friends read: “NASA: Global warming may provoke an [alien] attack.”
God, do I love the Fux News chyron team, a wholly under appreciated facet of the Murdoch/Ailes Rethuglican propaganda machine. But I digress.
But as Business Insider pointed out, they’re “wrong” — “That report was not funded by NASA. It was written by an independent group of scientists and bloggers. One of those happens to work at NASA.” NASA distanced itself from the report as well, calling reports linking the agency to it “not true.” Host Megyn Kelly finally corrected the record this afternoon, saying, “I was making that up.”
Oh, Megyn. How could you? Don’t you realize how many of your viewers take everything you say as gospel?
But before she did, she was so bemused by the study that she directed her viewers to complete a poll on her website which asked how we should respond to the study: “Immediately increase efforts to curb greenhouse gases,” “Develop weapons to kill the Aliens FIRST,” or “Gently suggest scientists research how to create job.”
Not surprisingly, most suggested they research something else. But more than six times as many respondents (19 percent to 3 percent) said we should focus on building weapons to kill aliens before curbing greenhouse gases.
Which is another way of saying that at least 22% of Lady Megyn’s viewers are cuckoo for coco puffs.
Fux News reports what you “decide”
Think Progress continues:
The poll is of course not scientific, but you can hardly blame the viewers who did respond, considering Fox’s constant misinformation about climate change. For instance, as she presented the poll, Kelly said of curbing climate change, “just in case, right?” — as in, “just in case” the science is right. She did not make a similar qualifier for alien invasion. Numerous studies consistently show that Fox viewers are among the most misinformed of news viewers, while at least one study has shown that — perversely — watching Fox actually makes people less informed than they were to begin with.
In a noble attempt to obfuscate the fact that Megyn was caught in the act of lying, her fellow Fux propagandist intones:
“Trust me folks, this story is hard to understand,” Fox and Friends host Gretchen Carlson said of the “NASA study.”
Helping its audience “understand” the Bizzaro World projected daily by its hosts is, of course, what Fux News does daily. Dictatorships like Communist China, North Korea, and the former Soviet Union had to rely on less sophisticated “re-education camps” to gain their subjects “trust.” But thanks to the creation of Rupert Murdoch’s 24/7 media empire, such primitive methods of manufacturing consent are no longer necessary. Doesn’t matter whether a lie is big or small, repetition is the cognitive key that allows one wholly fictionalized narrative to replace a real one.
But let’s go back to that 22% for a minute. In his book Conservatives Without Conscience, former Nixon White House counsel and Watergate conspirator John Dean quotes Robert Altemeyer, a Canadian researcher who has studied authoritarianism for the last thirty years, as follows:
“Probably about 20 to 25 percent of the adult American population is so right-wing authoritarian, so scared, so self-righteous, so ill-informed, and so dogmatic that nothing you say or do will change their minds. They would march America into a dictatorship and probably feel that things had improved as a result … they are not going to let up and they are not going to go away.”
A better description of Fux News’ core Teabagger audience would be hard to find. Though this interpretation of the classic Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man” is a good start.