Be Careful What You Magnify, Ctd

by Conor Friedersdorf

Radley Balko hates cable news too. His whole post is worth reading, and it all sounds characteristically spot on to me save one line:

People don’t watch cable news to be challenged or to learn. They watch it to get the latest talking points that they can use in their next political argument at the bar, over the water cooler, or at the dinner table.

This is doubtless true of some cable news viewers. But one of the most pernicious things about the medium is that not everyone is in on the joke. There are indeed people who watch Fox News or Keith Olbermann in an earnest attempt to inform themselves for civic purposes. Scare mongering segments about sharia law in America or kidnappings of little blond children fill them with genuine anxiety. And it's difficult to blame these credulous viewers for their dearth of media savvy. They're mostly older Americans who spent their lives in an unrelated profession.Their main mistake is failing to understand how base, mendacious and cynical some of today's media professionals can be.

It isn't as if cable news networks fess up to the fact that they're just spoon-feeding talking points to their audience. Confront Roger Ailes with that accusation. He'll angrily deny it. Anyone who wants to fully appreciate how indefensible that man's career is need only locate the nearest senior center that broadcasts his network, converse with its residents after they sit around watching for a few hours, and appreciate how much misinformation and pessimism about their grandchildren's fates they suffer to make infotainment profitable.

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