The Conservatives’ Shrinking World

Putto Poised on a Globe, probably 1480, by Andrea del Verrocchio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Those Americans who identify themselves as political “conservatives” are losing their faith in both science and journalism. In other words, as liberals and progressives have suspected, the conservative realm of reality is becoming a small world, indeed, as recent research proves, “proves” being now a very subjective term.

The Tribune Washington Bureau reported on findings by the Pew Research Center, which, if you can trust it, found that when it comes to a trust in journalistic sources, the conservative-minded now primarily rely on Fox News (47%) and a mere handful of other media outlets:

“Among 36 news sources in the survey, including print, online and broadcast outlets, liberals rated 28 as more trusted than not, and conservatives trusted just eight, including Rush Limbaugh, the radio talk show host, and the online Drudge Report.”

Among those journalistic sources not trusted by conservatives are The NY Times, the Washington Post, and The New Yorker.  It is not a matter of disagreement with editorial positions; it is, amazingly, a matter of not trusting the reporting.

Which fine news gathering/presenting organization do confirmed conservatives trust the most? 88% trust Fox News. More disturbing is the fact that even among politically “mixed” Americans, Fox News is “more trusted than not.” Fox News consistently leads the other cable news channels in number of viewers, one of the more depressing statistics in American journalism.

On the bright side, conservatives do mostly trust the reporting of The Wall St. Journal, likely because they find the editorial positions of the paper more congenial to their view of the world.

The Pew Research Center report also found that, not surprisingly, progressives and hard-core conservatives inhabit very different media worlds, though differing opinions do sneak by the filters. The Internet now makes it possible to “follow” only what your biases allow and to construct an alternative online universe. Fortunately, the real, offline universe often invades the Internet and media caves we build around ourselves. Sometimes the power just goes out, the system crashes or is hacked, or your quick clicking leads you astray and, despite yourself, you learn something.

Journalism is only a “holy profession”, as the late, great Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee called it, when it strives, like art and religion, to cleave closely to the genuine universe and universal truths. Too often our journalists are beholden to ratings, irrational biases, approval of the powerful and the feeding of conventional opinion, which results only in propaganda and the “truths” of advertising. Such “journalism” shrinks the world and the minds and hearts of Americans; it is the opposite of holy.

Postscript:  See also this good New Republic piece on the “right-wing echo chamber.”

 

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