April 8, 2018

In 2012, Fairleigh Dickinson University did a study of television news consumers, asking them some fairly basic questions about both domestic and foreign policy.

Not surprisingly, those who identified as primarily/exclusively Fox News viewers did worse than any other group, including those who do not watch news at all. In the intervening years, we've labeled this lack of grasp of facts, despite watching news programs regularly, as the "Fox News Effect".

We've all seen it on social media. People who insist that empirical facts are a matter of opinion and shrugging off contradictory evidence. It's ubiquitous. In fact, Drs. David Dunning and Justin Kruger have named the phenomenon of a low-information person with the illusion of intellectual superiority as the "Dunning-Kruger Effect". It's horrifying to see in a voter.

Now imagine it in the alleged most powerful man in the Western world and leader of the free world.

When Donald Trump started fear mongering in tweets and speeches of a horde of illegal immigrants raping and pillaging their way to the US/Mexico border, insisting that we need to deploy the military to protect us, many of us--including those who work deeply in the immigration debate--had no idea what he was talking about.

They needed only to look at Fox & Friends, where the story was featured heavily but without respect to facts.

The truth is significantly more benign and would actually tug at whatever shriveled little heartstrings are left in a Fox News viewer.

But in TrumpAmerica (gilt signage pending), truth isn't what's important. As Brian Stelter worries, it's the fact-free Fox News reporting that's dictating policy:

I say this is a symbol of everything that's wrong with the Trump era. A lack of quality information, first of all, reaching the President, relying instead on his Fox friends, sometimes on the via TV, sometimes on the phone, sometimes in person.

Now, his addiction to Fox and to other pro-Trump commentators leads to impulsive actions. In this case he's clearly playing to his base, stirring anti-immigrant fears and even catching his staff off guard. Then they have to scramble that it looks like he knows what he's doing.

That's how we end up with the National Guard deployed to the border, in what I would argue is a PR stunt. Trump wants a PR victory. He wants to give his Fox friends something to celebrate, and as a result, we're all talking about the border – a manufactured crisis.

Someone like Sean Hannity or Steve Doocy should never be a source of intelligence.

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