Howling about Fox as all-powerful, the left ignores the rest of the media's leftist slant
Vox.com, the website associated with JournoList creator Ezra Klein, has an article out suggesting that Fox News is omnipotent, "more powerful than we ever imagined," powerful enough to swing elections.
It certainly has the whiff of the party line of David Brock's smear outfit, Media Matters, which has long placed Fox, above all other conservative media, in its gunsights, often as its exclusive focus, claiming the network is too influential and must be stopped.
So let's get into what Vox is claiming:
Emory University political scientist Gregory Martin and Stanford economist Ali Yurukoglu estimate that watching Fox News directly causes a substantial rightward shift in viewers’ attitudes, which translates into a significantly greater willingness to vote for Republican candidates.
They estimate that if Fox News hadn't existed, the Republican presidential candidate’s share of the two-party vote would have been 3.59 points lower in 2004 and 6.34 points lower in 2008.
For context, that would've made John Kerry the 2004 popular vote winner, and turned Barack Obama's 2008 victory into a landslide where he got 60 percent of the two-party vote.
So in other words, if there were no Fox News, America would be electing exclusively Democrats.
Maybe so, but there's a problem further up in the premise. Namely, that without Fox, the news would exist in a bias-free, utterly neutral environment and there's no such thing as a leftist slant coming from other broadcast news sources in contrast to Fox. That slant could just as easily affect votes and swing elections just as Fox's conservative slant may contribute to conservative votes. The study cites other cable news services such as CNN and MSNBC, but the alphabets should not be given short shift - ABC, NBC and CBS are also in the same game as Fox News.
In their cases, they have liberal or leftwing biases, some of them quite blatant. The bias is not just there in the slant of the wording from the newscasters, it's there in the stories they choose to cover or not cover, and in the analysts they choose to quote, as well as in how they read data and present it.
If Fox is so good at persuading voters to vote conservative, what of the influence of ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and MCNBC to persuade voters to vote leftwing? Hasn't that had a long-term cumulative effect?
Ah, but notes Vox - Fox is better at turning voters on to conservative voting than other stations are to turning voters on to voting leftwing.
The effects of CNN and MSNBC on centrist voters are mostly negligible; MSNBC, in 2000 and 2004, modestly increased odds of voting Republican, before it turned left in time for 2008. But Fox News increases Republican voting odds for centrists, for Democratic viewers, and even, in 2004 and 2008, for Republicans already strongly inclined to vote that way. Watching three minutes more of Fox News per week in 2008 would have made the typical Democratic or centrist voter 1 percentage point likelier to vote Republican that year.
“Fox is substantially better at influencing Democrats than MSNBC is at influencing Republicans," the authors find.
Maybe that's because Fox News uses more hard data and more recognizable reasoning that appeals to what voters might turn their votes on. The other networks often rely on emotion and sob stories, as well as the agendas of special interest groups. They also are cowed and intimidated by what Media Matters might say about their reporting should they dare stray from the party line, as Sharyl Attkisson notes in her new book, The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think and How You Vote. But Fox just does its own thing, and according to the Vox report, doesn't even do so in the interest of higher viewer numbers as CNN does, it just does its reporting at the slant that matches its political views. What used to be called integrity, actually.
What this smacks of is a new bid to shut down Fox News for being 'influential.' That would put it squarely in MediaMatters' universe. Vox's Klein did found the JournoList to beef up the leftist echo chamber. One wonders to what extent he may now be in league with MediaMatters, the Democrats' top attack dog.