NEH funds study on how liberals can be 'brainwashed' by Fox News

The National Endowment for the Humanities has more lives than my pet cat, Snowball.  Republicans have been trying to get rid of the federal funding agency for decades, and yet, here it is, wasting taxpayer money on totally frivolous and useless projects.

How about giving $50K to a goofball "philosopher" to convince us that believing in God is irrational and "odd"?  Or that liberals can be "brainwashed" by watching Fox News?

Washington Free Beacon:

"How can human beings, seemingly the smartest animals ever encountered, be so freaking dumb?" Mandelbaum muses on his "about me" page of his website, which he calls, "Thoughts about thoughts."

"We seem to acquire beliefs with the ease with which we catch colds, yet we also seem to learn nothing," he says.

Mandelbaum coauthored a paper in 2015, entitled, "Believing without Reason, or: Why Liberals Shouldn't Watch Fox News." In his beginning section, "Believing Badly," Mandelbaum lists believing in God as one of several "odd beliefs" Americans hold.

"[Seventy-four percent] of American adults believe in God, 72 [percent] believe in miracles, 68 [percent] believe in heaven, 57 [percent] believe in the Virgin birth," the article states. "Thus more Americans believe that Jesus was born of a virgin than that humans are part of the phylogenetic tree."

"As of May 2014, 22-28 [percent] of Americans believe that the Bible is the actual word of God, and is to be taken literally word for word," Mandelbaum emphasizes.

"People hold shockingly irrational beliefs," he writes.

I guess it depends on one's definition of "irrational." 

The thesis of the article – why liberals should stay away from Fox News – is that the crawl news feed at the bottom of the television screen can unconsciously influence viewers.

"[I]f the evidence previously discussed is correct, then merely attending to some element of the scene (e.g., the crawl) while suppressing attention to the others will induce load and trigger an unconscious passive acceptance of whatever you read, whether or not you consider the source to be credible," Mandelbaum explains.

"The reluctant liberal Fox News viewer, then, will not merely unwillingly accept information (e.g.,) embedded in the crawl, but will integrate that information with other previously held beliefs," he continues. "And this information – these new beliefs – will not only be acquired in an evidence-less fashion, but they will be acquired from sources the viewer explicitly rejects as trustworthy sources. These beliefs will then be integrated into the subject's future decisions and attitudes, unbeknownst to her and despite her better judgment. If the Spinozan model is correct, this proliferation of belief without evidence is real and serious."

Mandelbaum adds that viewers are not safe, even if they tell themselves, "This report is not credible and I should reject it."

"[O]nce parsed and understood, the report lies ‘sleeping' in central cognition, stretching its inferential tentacles outward," he writes.

"When you combine brute-causal belief acquisition with the constant attentional and behavioral regulation that we engage in, one can end up believing anything," Mandelbaum concludes.

Fortunately, Mandelbaum is one of the special few who can "resist" the pull of Fox News and tell us all how much better he is than the rest of us for being able to see through the "propaganda" spouted by Fox and warn us about the invisible waves that stretch Fox's "inferential tentacles" to ensnare unwary liberals.

Someone should send a package of horse poo to this guy.

Some will claim that we're taking this study out of context and that there is value in engaging in mind-reading.  But at $50,000, it's an expensive lesson to learn. 

Others might say, well, it's "only" $50,000 – just a drop in the bucket of a $4.7-trillion budget.  That fact is undeniable.  And there may be studies and papers put out by NEH that have real value.

But far too often, the NEH ends up giving money to kooks, crazies, and politically correct individuals and organizations whose purpose escapes "rational" people.  That's why, like the half-billion spent by Public Broadcasting, the $150 million doled out by the NEH defines wasteful government spending and should be eliminated.

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