Tag Archives: Fox News

Does Fox News viewership correlate with racism?

In the wake of Dylann Storm Roof’s horrifying act of terrorism in South Carolina, many have pointed to the negative influence of conservative media in incubating right-wing extremism. Bill Maher, for example criticized outlets such as Fox News, The Drudge Report and The Daily Caller for presenting a “twisted view,” in which Black people were taking over the country. These criticisms are not new: Fox News has for years come under criticism for its racially-charged coverage. Just recently, in January of last year, Isaac Chotiner wrote that Fox News creates segments “meant to scare its white audience into believing that African Americans, or Muslims, are out to get them.” Meanwhile, Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow have both criticized Fox News’s coverage of the Ferguson murder last year.

New data suggests that their criticisms may be correct.

Using 2012 American National Election Studies data to test whether Fox News viewers have distinct racial attitudes, it can be demonstrated that, indeed, these viewers are more likely to reject the reality of structural racism and to endorse negative stereotypes of Black people.

I examine three areas of racial opinion. The first questions in the data measure racial stereotyping in particular. These questions ask respondents to say whether they believe that Black people are “hard-working” or “lazy,” “intelligent” or “unintelligent” and whether they have “too much influence” or “too little influence” in politics. The second set of questions look at more structural issues. These questions ask respondents whether they agree or disagree with these statements:

Work Way: ‘Irish, Italians, Jewish and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors.’

Slavery: ‘Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class.’

Deserve: ‘Over the past few years, blacks have gotten less than they deserve.’

Try: ‘It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.’

Discrimination: How much discrimination do Black people face?

And finally, I look at attitudes towards solutions: whether respondents support government aid to Blacks, think that the government should ensure fair jobs for Blacks. My analysis focuses only on non-Hispanic whites.

To begin, I examined only whites who identify as conservative, and compared the racial attitudes of those who watched Fox News regularly to those who did not. In addition, I examined specifically those who watched “The O’Reilly Factor,” the most popular Fox News show (there is obviously overlap here, about 67 percent of respondents who regularly watch Fox News also report regularly watching O’Reilly). On structural racial issues, I find a nearly 13 point difference on structural racial issues between white conservatives who do not watch Fox News with those who do, and 15 point difference between those who do not watch Fox News with those who watch “The O’Reilly Factor.”

The gaps on most questions are similar, but it’s worth noting that a stunning 92 percent of Fox News viewers and 94 percent of O’Reilly viewers agree “Irish, Italians, Jewish and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors.” Half of O’Reilly viewers say that there is little or no discrimination against Blacks today, compared with 45 percent of Fox News viewers and 40 percent of white conservatives who don’t watch Fox News.

On issues of interpersonal racism, I find that Fox News and O’Reilly factor viewers are more likely to say Black people are “Lazy,” but are only slightly more likely to say that Black people are unintelligent. However, white conservative Fox News viewers are nearly twice as likely to say that Black people have too much influence over politics. This question is not typically assumed to indicate racial stereotyping, but it should. In a recent study, political scientist Richard Fording and John M. Cotter of the FBI find, “the presence of black elected officials to be positively related to white hate group activity, even after controlling for the size of the nonwhite and Hispanic population, economic conditions, and other characteristics of the political environment.”


White respondents who watched Fox News are also far less likely to endorse government action to benefit Black people, saying that the government should not fair treatment in the workplace and that “Black people should help themselves.”

Obviously, there could be other factors at work here: Maybe people more predisposed to racist attitudes gravitate towards Fox News (though this is still an indictment of Fox News). White conservatives who watch Fox News tend have slightly lower incomes and less education than conservatives who don’t — this could help explain some of the effect. They are also older, though evidence suggests that young whites are no less likely to espouse racist attitudes than their parents. In addition, when I examined the racial attitudes of only white conservatives over 50, I still found large differences between Fox News viewers and non-Fox News viewers.

As the chart below shows, whether we compare all whites who watch Fox news vs. those who don’t, or vs. conservatives, or vs. Republicans, or vs. conservatives over 50, the result remains the same: those who watch Fox News are far more likely to endorse racial stereotypes and ignore the issue of structural racism. Those who watch “The O’Reilly Factor” are more likely to deny structural racism and oppose government action to help Blacks.

The Fox News effect is powerful: One study finds that Fox News boosted Republican vote share by 0.4 to 0.7 percentage points between 1996 and 2000. Numerousstudies find that Fox News influences viewers perceptions on key issues. Many of these studies focus on issues related to race, such as the Ground Zero mosque and undocumented immigration. One study finds that, “the Fox News audience is indeed more favorable toward Bush, and has greater hostility toward his opposition, even when controlling for party identification.” They may also be promoting harmful and negative stereotypes about African-Americans, poisoning race relations in America. While it’s impossible to prove that Roof was influenced specifically by Fox News, it’s clear that white conservatives who watch Fox News are far less likely to accept the realities of structural racism than those who do not. They are also modestly more likely to accept harmful racial stereotypes about Black people. Particularly worryingly, they are far more likely to believe that Black people have too much influence over politics. What’s clear, above all else, is that right-wing media are partially responsible for the fraught racial tension in American politics.

This piece originally appeared on Salon

Megyn Kelly gets Jesus really wrong, Pt. 2

Megyn Kelly said some pretty dumb stuff on Fox News about Jesus (dumb by Megyn Kelly’s low standard, not by Fox News’s geologic standards) yesterday. She claimed that he was “white” and that “just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change.” Which is ironic, because that sounds a lot like how Richard Cohen defended Clarence Thomas from sexual harassment accusations. But the factual inaccuracy of the comments (and the fact that Jesus’s skin color is now considered news) isn’t the problem. The problem is that this marks the latest iteration of a concerted campaign to turn the closest thing Roman-occupied Palestine had to Che Guevara into a banal, white, suburbanite.

This campaign was exposed earlier this year when Christians were astounded to find out that the Catholic Church is concerned about poverty. But anyone vaguely familiar with religion built around the man who said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God,” (Matthew 19:24) should be aware that Catholic teaching has always been skeptical of concentrated wealth and greed. In Rerum Novarm, Pope Leo XIII writes,

Justice, therefore, demands that the interests of the working classes should be carefully watched over by the administration, so that they who contribute so largely to the advantage of the community may themselves share in the benefits which they create-that being housed, clothed, and bodily fit, they may find their life less hard and more endurable.

G.K. Chesterton said, You will hear everlastingly, in all discussion about newspapers, companies, aristocracies, or party politics, this argument that the rich man cannot be bribed. The fact is, of course, that the rich man is bribed; he has been bribed already. That is why he is rich.”

And what of the story of Lazarus? Lazarus is a beggar who waits outside of a rich man’s house and begs for scraps. When both Lazarus and the rich man die, Lazarus ends up in heaven, while the rich man ends up in hell. When the rich man begs for water, Abraham says, “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.” (Luke 19:25) Yet when Republicans read the Bible (theology escapes them), they find only, Paul’s exhortation to Timothy, The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” (2 Thes. 3:10b) (I need not delve into a discussion of Pauline theology, but I would like to note that Lenin believed this verse to be the basis of a Communist society).

Christ was not particularly fond of the family, he kicked it with prostitutes and other unsavory cats, and was crucified as a revolutionary for undermining the priestly nobility. He said nothing about contraception, evolution, gay rights, climate change or nuclear weapons. Yet his followers have fought, in his name, against all of these things. Jesus, said “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” (Matthew 10:35 – 36) Now he is the reason Focus on the Family thinks you should make sure your daughters don’t have any sexytime before marriage.

It’s not just poverty. Christian thought on war, the environment, women and immigration have all been shaped by the conservative political agenda. As Cornel West said, “Christian fundamentalists want to get fundamental about everything but, ‘Love Thy Neighbor.’” Jesus fits very well the words of Eugene Debs, “I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” Today, we find him discussed by the very ruling class he denounced around lamb suppers once a year. Whitewashing Jesus is the least of Fox News’s problems. Give me white Jesus over boring Jesus any day.

Why Are Conservatives in Love With a Marxist Sponge?

Photo Credit: Conner Kennedy

SpongeBob SquarePants was once loathed by conservatives because he supposedly promoted the “homosexual agenda” and warned children about the dangers of global warming. But now he is one of the few Hollywood types conservatives can stand.

The Hollywood Reporter summarizes a “SpongeBob” episode that aired on Monday and has conservatives cheering:

One day [after being fired], SpongeBob is already a disheveled, wrinkled, unshaven beggar, and his friend Patrick is determined to show him the ways of “glorious unemployment,” which includes free stuff and lots of spare time.

“Being unemployed is the best gig I know,” Patrick tells SpongeBob. But at a no-charge, all-you-can eat meal, SpongeBob has an epiphany: “Unemployment may be fun for you, but I need to get a job,” he tells Patrick. At that moment, he’s instantly transformed into a sparkly clean, enthusiastic and energetic sponge again.

Fox News, Breitbart, the Washington Times and the New York Post see this as a denunciation of the welfare state;  Andrea Morabito writes in the Post, “Lest he sit around idly, mooching off the social services of Bikini Bottom, a depressed SpongeBob sets out to return to gainful employment wherever he can find it.” Fox News et al. based their analysis on this short clip, but if you watch the full episode (available on Amazon), a different story emerges.

SpongeBob arrives at work one day to discover he’s been fired from the Krusty Krab so that Mr. Krabs can save a nickel. “I love you like a son,” Mr. Krabs tells SpongeBob, “but you can’t argue with a nickel.” After being fired, SpongeBob does meet Patrick for “funemployment,” but the two don’t lounge on government benefits. First they anger Squidward who throws food at them — their breakfast. Then they participate in an experiment for Sandy that involves eating toxic (but free!) food. SpongeBob decides he needs a job, but, much like the long-term unemployed, finds his skills are no longer in demand. He tries to find employment at the Weenie Hut, the Pizza Piehole, the Taco Sombrero and the Wet Noodle, but he can only make patties. After being fired from each establishment he returns home dejected only to find he has no “Snailpo” to feed Gary. He cooks his own dinner, which both Gary and Patrick devour. Having realized that he should never have passed up SpongeBob, the owner of the Weenie Hut kidnaps him and forces him to work. Then the owners of the other restaurants fight to force SpongeBob to work for them. Finally Squidward begs SpongeBob to return because Mr. Krabs is a dreadful cook. SpongeBob rejoins the Krusty Krab and Mr. Krabs earns his nickel by installing a pay toilet.

The full episode has a different moral than conservatives imply. The fact that Mr. Krabs fires SpongeBob to make a nickel hardly constitutes a resounding endorsement of capitalism and the ethics of businessmen. And SpongeBob’s dilemma is reminiscent of the days before unemployment insurance, food stamps and welfare, when the unemployed had to depend on the unreliable compassion of strangers. Similarly, his struggle to find gainful unemployment is exacerbated by his unique skill set, which doesn’t translate easily to other jobs, emphasizing the importance of worker retraining. His kidnapping by the Weenie Hut warns viewers of the often exploitative nature of fast food companies. Given that the episode was released during the retail and fast food strikes, it could easily be interpreted as a sign of solidarity with the underpaid, overworked and insecure minimum-wage workers in the fast food industry.

How did conservative viewers get it so wrong? They have watched only one short clip of SpongeBob SquarePants. I’ve watched every episode numerous times, and have come to the opposite conclusion: SpongeBob is a Marxist. Here’s the evidence:

While classical and Austrian economists view the capitalist system as inherently competitive, Marx saw it as entirely uncompetitive. Bikini Bottom clearly resembles the latter. Competition doesn’t lead to innovation; there is no creative destruction, rather there is one monopoly firm (the Krusty Krab) and another firm (the Chum Bucket), constantly trying to siphon customers, not with a better product but by theft and through political manipulation. SpongeBob shows the capitalist mode of production, with its fealty to “competition,” to be entirely farcical. In Marxist economics, competition eventually leads to one monopolistic firm that exploits workers and customers. Sound familiar?

Speaking of exploitation, in SpongeBob’s world, production follows the labor theory of value that Marx predicts, rather than the marginal theory of value predicted by Austrian economists. SpongeBob is the greatest fry cook in the universe, yet he is paid almost nothing! The marginal theory of value predicts that a worker will be paid according to the value they add to the good. But SpongeBob, who can cook like a god, is paid less than minimum wage. His only attempt to obtain a raise ends in failure. This is what Marx’s labor theory of value predicts: Workers will be squeezed, they will never reap the full value of their contribution to the final product. Since the capitalist and the landlord input nothing, all their profits must come at the expense of the worker, and further, the more product the worker produces, the less value he has. Mr. Krabs definitely has enough money to pay SpongeBob more –  he’s a millionaire who at one point buys a massive hotel — yet he refuses to properly compensate his workers and regularly runs afoul of labor standards, like the 1920s robber barons and today’s megacorporations.

SpongeBob seems to inhabit an Oscar Wildean post-capitalist utopia. SpongeBob exemplifies  the “Soul of Man Under Socialism”: He loves his job and prefers cooperation to competition. He eschews a life of labor for a life of art, his “job” isn’t drudgery, but ratherbrings him joy. Rather than continuing to accumulate “long after he has got far more than he wants, or can use, or enjoy,” SpongeBob takes a job he loves and pursues a life of friendship, cooperation and love. This manifests itself in SpongeBob’s uncanny knack for art, which is juxtaposed with Squidward’s inability to produce art, presumably because his job is so draining.  In contrast to SpongeBob, Mr. Krabs is devoted entirely to the acquisition of money, to the point that he is willing to sacrifice his life and the lives of his customers for a cent.

SpongeBob is Ralph Nader, Naomi Klein and Eugene Debs rolled into one. In one episode, SpongeBob laments that corporate control of the Krusty Krab has led to a decline in the quality of service because the patties are made by machine, leading SpongeBob to wonder,“Where’s the love?”In another, SpongeBob protests a superhighway that will destroy jellyfish fields. The episode critiques the way corporations manipulate the political process (the plans are made in secret by Plankton to destroy the Krusty Krab), voter apathy (citizens were entirely unaware of the implications of the project, even Mr. Krabs votes aye) and the role of police in squashing dissidence (the police arrest SpongeBob numerous times on false pretenses when he tries to protest). SpongeBob makes a quixotic stand against corporate power: “Well all I have to say is that um, well, STOP THE MADNESS! We need to get Jellyfish Fields back to the jellyfish, which will restore their natural habitat so they will be in peace. So what do you say everybody, will you help me?” The crowd initially hesitates, then joins SpongeBob to prevent a tractor from destroying Jellyfish Fields. SpongeBob also dabbles in organized labor, joining Squidward on strike. The strike is largely ignored when Mr. Krabs brings in scabs, leading Squidward to note, “Nobody gives a care about the fate of labor as long as they can get their instant gratification.”

Nor is the show’s treatment of labor issues its only progressive element. SpongeBob’s inability to drive means he protects the environment by walking to work. Sandy Cheeks doesn’t stay home and cook for the kids, she defies gender stereotypes by being really, really good at science (she came to Bikini Bottom to study sea life). Patrick, by far the poorest member of Bikini Bottom, lives securely, yet has never been incredibly successful at holding a job. Conservatives should think twice before they make a kindhearted hippie-sponge their hero. Bikini Bottom is a liberal utopia where public transportation is the norm, women are free of ugly stereotypes and society adheres to the motto “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”