Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Choosing Knowledge: How informed are you?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about not watching dedicated "political" news channels and sites too much. Then I found a university survey done in New Jersey. I also noted that a number extreme left sites announced things like survey proves "watching Fox makes you stupider."  It  doesn't.  It makes you less informed, and Fox News wasn't the only one that showed up as making its audience less informed.  I'm looking at you MSNBC. That's right, while MSNBC watchers were not as low in the survey as Fox, they were still lower than those who watch/listen to NPR, read the New York Times or USA today.

The survey was first done on a state-wide poll of New Jersey in 2011.  It was then expanded in 2012 to a national level with pretty much the same results.  Ironically, people who do not regularly watch or even read the news were more knowledgeable about current events than those who received their information almost solely from agenda driven, political TV and sites such as Fox and MSNBC.  Even guessing the answers, those who do not watch or read the news did better than those who watch agenda driven news. The most knowledgeable were NPR and The Daily Show.

I did not find a response from MSNBC about the survey, but Fox News put out this statement, according to the Hollywood Reporter: "Considering FDU’s undergraduate school is ranked as one of the worst in the country, we suggest the school invest in improving its weak academic program instead of spending money on frivolous polling – their student body does not deserve to be so ill-informed." Nothing like an ad hominem* argument to say, "We got nothing, so you guys' school stinks."

Let me give you a recent example that appeared in my time line.  This is a summary of the story from  regular news stations.  In Fort Collins, students at the high school protested that the school would not allow them to have 'Merica Monday during spirit week.  The reason the day was not permitted had nothing to do with not celebrating America and American values and everything to do with the connotation the word 'Merica carries.  It is true the ban could have been handled better by administration, but then again we do not know what was actually told to the student council and what actually happened leading up to the protest.  Local news reported the story and then pointed out that the Urban Dictionary defines 'Merica: "Hick: If you don't like they way things are here in Merica then you can git out." This is hardly the name you want associated with a spirit week which is actually titled "Spread the Love Week." The administration relented, and the day was simply renamed to America Day.  Well, duh.  Problem solved.

But this is what reported on its opinion page: " protest the school’s decision to ban a celebration of American patriotism. The student council had wanted to designate a day during Spirit Week to celebrate the red, white & blue. The young people called it '’Merica Monday.' But the school turned down their request." Later in the report, the story add the heavily loaded statement "But after a day of righteous Rocky Mountain outrage, the principal at Fort Collins High School reversed course and apologized."

After publishing the explanation letter sent out to parents, the opinion story turns into a true opinion piece pretty quickly even using its own statement as if it were a quote from someone participating in the protest in the lay out.  "It seems to me that a public school administrator got caught with his hand in the multicultural cookie jar. While the school should be commended for doing the right thing and allowing students to celebrate America, whoever would have thought that American teenagers would be treated as second-class citizens in their own country?" Is it me or does the statement about the "multicultural cookie jar" kind of baks the urban dictionary definition of 'Merica?

Sadly, it was this opinion piece that was posted on my timeline and quickly became a "news story" on other sites.  I doubt the person that posted it even realized that it was an opinion piece and not news. On the news tonight, both sides, according to 7 News, admit that the controversy was a result of bad communication. The students, being teens, probably simply thought the name was funny.

 You would never know this though if you read only the Fox story/editorial.  Whatever happened to fair and balanced?

I see these type of stories all the time.  This story continues as a group again protested that it was not 'Merica Monday.  In other words, they are protesting America Day not being named 'Merica Monday. They protest an issue that has been settled. They expected nearly 500 protesters to "surround the school with flags." In reality, only a couple of dozen protesters showed.  Maybe word is getting out, and the poor turnout to the second 'Merica protest shows that people are understanding that this is not news but agenda driven, fear mongering, divisive reporting.  

Is it any wonder the survey found what it found? Stop the hate.

*An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. Typically, this fallacy involves two steps. First, an attack against the character of person making the claim, her circumstances, or her actions is made (or the character, circumstances, or actions of the person reporting the claim). Second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument the person in question is making (or presenting).