Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Scientific, Peer-Reviewed Study: Conservative-Only News Consumers Ill Informed, Believe COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, April 28, 2020

No surprise there.

There’s a reason why Fox News is monikered Faux Noize.

The Republican party is NO LONGER the “Grand” Old Party.

It’s NOT the “party of Lincoln,” and hasn’t been for quite some time.

Since circa 1964, it’s been the party of the Ku Klux Klan, the John Birch Society, libertarians, and other radical elements. And, it was seriously ushered in during the Reagan administration when in his first inaugural address, the B-movie actor and longtime GE mouthpiece said in part that, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

It’s easy to understand that if “government is the problem,” the solution to that problem is elimination of it. And that is anarchy. And yet, in his carefully crafted address, that was precisely what he was intimating – the abolition of government. For in his next sentence, he said, “From time to time we’ve been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule…”

It’s not difficult to see that his slashing of the Top Personal Income Tax bracket for the wealthiest Americans from 70% to 50%, and then to 28%, in conjunction with reductions in Capital Gains tax rates, and the “Paris Hilton Tax Cuts,” also monikered as the “Death Tax,” which is properly known as the Estate Tax, which only wealthy Americans have ever paid, was purposely designed to eliminate government, rather than to refine its operations, increase efficiency, or reduce fraud, waste, and abuse at any level.

When he said, “It is time to check and reverse the growth of government, which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed,” it could not have been made any more clear that his was a “starve the monster” approach to an alleged, though imaginary, and non-existing problem, that government was too big and the “monster” was the government.” And that was despite what he said in that same address that “Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it’s not my intention to do away with government,”
because it couldn’t have been made more clear what his ultimate objectives were.

He again clearly identified government as being an evil monster when he said, “It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government.” Hardly anyone could have done a better job of setting up a Straw Man Argument, for afterward, he beat that government straw man to a pulp.

Again, it is beyond the scope of the pale to imagine that a more populous nation would need fewer laws, or fewer people to efficiently and effectively conduct operations to provide for the demands and needs of more people. For that would be an inversely proportional relationship, that somehow a larger (more populous) nation, with more inventions, more businesses, more works of art, science, and other forms of creativity, would need fewer laws to govern their behavior and operations, and at some point in time, would eventually disappear.

The contradictions in his speech were blatant, and his intentions were fully uncloaked. Bluntly stating that “It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the Federal establishment,” he set about using his skills as an actor reassuring the people in a grandfatherly way that he had their best interests at heart, despite what he said otherwise.

The notion of “self-rule” is one which is emphasized by the ultra-radical group headquartered in Auburn, Alabama known as the Mises Institute, which promotes a heterodox economic world view, which includes anti-government sentiment, and the belief in the idea of anarchy – a world without government – and a “free market only” solution to everything as a one-size-fits-all solution to all problems.

Again, while Reagan was a B-movie actor, he was an actor nevertheless, and in his years on the stump for General Electric nationwide, he honed his public persuasion speeches to a fine edge, and was able to parlay that into a run for the White House which he won twice being monikered as the “Great Communicator.” But the language he used, while delivered quite well, was “dog whistle” language for anti-governmental radicals, all whom he welcomed into the GOP’s “Big Tent.”

The ground had earlier been ploughed at the 1964 Republican National Convention at Cow Palace in Daly City, CA (immediately adjacent and SOUTH of San Francisco) when then-NY Governor Nelson Rockefeller was granted 5 minutes to address the delegates to request adoption of language in the official party platform which would “repudiate here and now any doctrinaire, militant minority, whether Communist, Ku Klux Klan or Bircher which would subvert this party to purposes alien to the very basic tenets which gave this party birth.”

He was booed for over 16 minutes.

The language was simple, and read as follows:

“The Republican Party fully respects the contribution of responsible criticism, and defends the right of dissent in the democratic process. But we repudiate the efforts of irresponsible, extremist groups, such as the Communists, the Ku Klux Klan, the John Birch Society and others, to discredit our Party by their efforts to infiltrate positions of responsibility in the Party, or to attach themselves to its candidates.”

It was not adopted.

Peter Cytanovic (nearest), a student at the University of Nevada, Reno majoring in history and political science participated in the “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA.

At the time, the Republican party’s sweetheart was Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, and the party was in jeopardy of being hijacked by subversive ideologues from the Ku Klux Klan, John Birch Society, Communists and others whom Goldwater and the party at large refused to repudiate. Appealing to racist elements, and Southern Democrats, Goldwater later became the party’s presidential nominee, only to be resoundingly defeated  in the November General Election by incumbent LBJ – Lyndon Baines Johnson – whom had become president upon JFK’s assassination. Goldwater’s defeat was one of the widest margins in American political history.

Governor Rockefeller’s simple request fell upon purposely deaf ears when he reminded the delegates that, “Precisely one year ago today on July 14, 1964, I issued a statement wherein I warned that: “The Republican party is in real danger of subversion by a radical, well-financed and highly disciplined minority.” At that time I pointed out that the purpose of this minority were “wholly alien to the sound and honest conservatism that has firmly based the Republican party in the best of a century’s traditions, wholly alien to the sound and honest Republican liberalism that has kept the party abreast of human needs in a changing world, wholly alien to the broad middle course that accommodates the mainstream of Republican principles.”

Participants at the “Unite the Right” rally, Charlottesville, VA, August 11–12, 2017

Presently, there is not even one Senator of color, and with the departure of Texas Republican Representative Will Hurd (23rd Congressional Distict) – a former CIA officer – there will be no people of color in the GOP in the House.

Today, it’s just the Stupid Tired Old  Party of Racists.

So again, the deliberate radicalization of the Republican Party is by no means a new thing, and has been years in the making. And conceivably, with the deliberate killing of innocent bystanders at a Charlottesville, VA “Unite the Right” rally about which the president said on Tuesday, August 15, 2017 that, “You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides,” it could be said that the movement is in “full bloom,” and capped with a Presidential blessing.

And the STILL, the GOP refuses to adopt language repudiating such groups.


People who rely on conservative media for COVID-19 news are less informed, more likely to believe conspiracy theories, study finds

People who relied on conservative media and social media in early March for information about the new coronavirus infection (COVID-19) were more likely to hold inaccurate beliefs about the potential seriousness of the illness and about how to prevent it from spreading.

They were also more likely to believe conspiracy theories about the virus, including the bogus belief that people within government health agencies were exaggerating the danger from COVID-19 in order to bring down Donald Trump’s presidency.

Those are the troubling findings from a study published last week by researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“Because both information and misinformation can affect behavior, we all ought to be doing our part not only to increase essential knowledge about SARS-CoV-2, but also to interdict the spread of deceptions about its origins, prevention, and effects,” says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, one of the study’s authors and director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, in a released statement.

“All forms of media should ask, Are our audiences better prepared to deal with this coronavirus as a result of our work or is their trust in us endangering them and their communities?” she adds.

Previous research has revealed that Americans’ political leanings appear to inform their views on COVID-19. A series of national polls taken in March found, for example, that Republicans were less worried than Democrats that they or someone in their family would be exposed to the virus, less likely to consider COVID-19 a major health threat, and more likely to approve of Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

The current study looked beyond political affiliation, however. It found a correlation between the views people held about the coronavirus and the sources of media they consume.

How the study was done

For the study, Jamieson and her co-author, psychologist Dolores Albarracin of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, analyzed phone-survey data collected from a representative sample of 1,008 Americans, ranging in age from 18 to 80-plus. Slightly more than half (52 percent) of the respondents were Democrats, while 34 percent were Republicans and 13 percent were political independents.

The survey was taken during the first week of March — just after the U.S. reported its first coronavirus death and a week before Trump declared a national emergency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended no gatherings of more than 50 people.

The survey’s questions were designed to test the accuracy of the respondents’ understanding about the coronavirus — specifically about its lethality compared to the seasonal flu and the need for hand washing and social distancing to prevent the virus from spreading. The survey also asked respondents for their opinions about misinformation about the virus, including conspiracy theories.

The survey then measured where the respondents got their COVID-19 information. On a scale of 0 (no information) to 5 (a lot of information), the respondents reported how much information they received from the following:

  • Mainstream print sources (the Associated Press, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal)
  • Mainstream broadcast sources (ABC News, CBS News, NBC News)
  • Conservative sources (Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Brietbart News, One American News, the Drudge Report)
  • Liberal sources (MSNBC, Bill Maher, the Huffington Post)
  • News aggregators (Google News, Yahoo News)
  • Social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube).

Key findings

The study found that people who relied mostly on mainstream print and broadcast media for news about COVID-19 tended to be better informed (and less misinformed) about the virus. They were more likely to say — correctly — that COVID-19 is more deadly than the seasonal flu and that regular hand washing and avoiding contact with symptomatic people help to prevent its spread.

People who got most of their information from conservative media or from social media were, on the other hand, more likely to believe that the Chinese had created the coronavirus as a bioweapon (there is no evidence of this) and that officials within the CDC were overblowing the health risk of COVID-19 to damage President Trump (again, no evidence).

They were also more likely to believe — wrongly — that taking vitamin C can help prevent the infection.

The study also found that people who used Google News or other web aggregators were less likely to believe in the effectiveness of hand washing and social distancing.

Significant gaps in knowledge

This survey was done in early March, so its findings may or may not accurately reflect how media sources affect Americans’ current views about COVID-19. Also, the study was observational, so it can’t prove that the news sources were directly responsible for the respondents’ knowledge (or lack of it) regarding the virus.

Still, the findings are disconcerting, to say the least.  Overall, the survey found that greater than one in five of its respondents (23 percent) believed that China had launched the coronavirus as a bioweapon. “This theory was floated by Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) on Fox News in mid-February, endorsed by Steven Bannon, former advisor to President Donald Trump, peddled in the conservative Washington Times, and touted by conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh who said, ‘It probably is a ChicCom laboratory experiment that is in the process of being weaponized,’” Jamieson and her colleagues point out.

Almost as many of the respondents (19 percent) believed that it was probably or definitely true that the CDC was using the virus to undermine the Trump presidency.

Also, an astounding one in 10 people (10 percent) said they believed it was probably or definitely true that the U.S. government had created the virus itself.

Correcting the falsehoods

“The gaps in the public’s background knowledge that we identified should alert public health officials to the ongoing need for effective communication of needed information long before a crisis,” write Jamieson and Albarracin.

Fact-checking needs to be done by health officials and others carefully, they add, because correcting misinformation and conspiracy theories “may do more harm than good by inadvertently increasing awareness of the problematic claim.” The researchers suggest that efforts to correct conspiracy theories be undertaken only when surveys show such ideas are believed by at least 10 percent of the public.

Jamieson and Albarracin also urge health officials to make sure accurate information about COVID-19 appears in conservative media, particularly since those venues tend to have older audiences who are at increased risk of developing COVID-19 related complications.

One way of doing that is to get credible health experts to do interviews with the conservative media as much as possible. “This strategy was exemplified,” the researchers write, “by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, who on March 11th on Fox News responded to Sean Hannity’s request to compare the seasonal flu to the coronavirus by noting, ‘The mortality for seasonal flu is 0.1 (percent)’ and the coronavirus is ‘10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu. You gotta make sure that people understand that.’”

FMI:  The Annenberg study was published in the peer-reviewed Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review, where it can be read in full.


Peer Reviewed

The Relation between Media Consumption and Misinformation at the Outset of the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic in the US

A US national probability-based survey during the early days of the SARS-CoV-2 spread in the US showed that, above and beyond respondents’ political party, mainstream broadcast media use (e.g., NBC News) correlated with accurate information about the disease’s lethality, and mainstream print media use (e.g., the New York Times) correlated with accurate beliefs about protection from infection. In addition, conservative media use (e.g., Fox News) correlated with conspiracy theories including believing that some in the CDC were exaggerating the seriousness of the virus to undermine the presidency of Donald Trump. Five recommendations are made to improve public understanding of SARS-CoV-2.

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