Monday, September 26, 2011

Why Watching TV Makes Us More Stupid

Most times, we take everything we see on TV for granted. Typically, when an expert says something on TV, we tend to believe that it is true. But do you know the real facts? Here is how glaring the kind of misinformation that goes on on TV:
A Media Matters analysis of evening cable news programs reveals that just 4.1 percent of guests who discussed the debt-ceiling debate were actual economists. This lack of credible economic experts helped create a media environment in which political and media figures could spread misinformation. 
Many economists criticized the deal, saying that budget cuts would only weaken the economy and further drive up unemployment. But their voices were largely absent from CNN's, Fox News', and MSNBC's coverage of the debt-ceiling negotiations. 
These results are similar to a February 2009 Media Matters report showing that only 6 percent of guest appearances discussing the stimulus bill on cable news programs and network Sunday shows were made by economists. At the time, the lack of economic expertise on television helped lead to massive amounts of conservative misinformation, including the widely repeated falsehood that government spending wouldn't stimulate economic growth and employment. 
This misdirection apparently had consequences. An August Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 49 percent of respondents supported cutting government spending as a means to stimulate the economy -- far more than those who supported actual stimulative policies like extending unemployment benefits and extending the payroll tax cut.
If you push this a little bit further, it is more or less a self-reinforcing cycle. Because the masses watch TV, they get this really dumb ideas in their heads, and they vote for the politicians that convince them about the dumb ideas, and then those politicians appear on TV to present even more dumb ideas to even more people. The vicious cycle continues.

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