Two revolutions

Cogit Duck #4

You may have learned that “The Protester” is TIME’s 2011 person of the year.  This pronouncement strengthens a strange notion stretching as far back as the Wisconsin state capitol protests of February.  Back then, sleeping bag-toting proto-Occupiers were the first Americans to insinuate a connection between themselves and Tahrir Square.  In so doing, they cast their own struggle in the light of the French  Revolution.  But why would they trade the glorious vestige of the American Revolution for the deeply troubled tradition of the French?

The twin revolts left such disparate legacies because of the drastically different situations of their respective peoples.  We learn from an invaluable resource that the colonial Americans, under decades of relaxed British rule, enjoyed unparalleled prosperity and privilege.  On average, they were several inches taller, better fed, and enjoyed greater freedoms than their British counterparts.  Their corner of the New World was unencumbered by the class distinctions that hung over Europe.  The missteps of Crown and Parliment that soured Americans against the empire were insignificant and brief in comparison to the privations the long-suffering French endured under the direct rule of an inept and illiberal monarch.

The ball of class struggle started to roll with the heads of the French aristocrats over two centuries ago, but a different force was unleashed just a few years earlier in America.  That revolution was deeply conservative in nature.  The French in their revolt sought something new, unprecedented, and decisive, but the American rebels wanted to preserve the prosperity and privilege they had already gained.

Since those heady days of the late eighteenth century, the French model has been a catalyst for the radicalization of desperate masses.  The American project may have been the first decolonization movement, but the class dynamics we see in Old World power struggles are alien and tangential to the American experience.  No mind-numbing mantras should ever convince us that downtown Portland, Davis, or Des Moines is anything akin to the dire streets of Cairo or Damascus.

Much Ado About Fox

This past Thanksgiving, giddy media liberals parroted the fallacious conclusions of a Farleigh Dickinson University study.  Daily Kos crowed: “New public study: Watching Fox News makes you dumber.”  But it’s clear the poll was rigged merely to be smear fodder against America’s most viewed news channel.

The FDU researchers titled their press release “Some News Leaves People Knowing Less.”  In their misleading parlance, a news source (mostly Fox) “leads,” “leaves,” and “makes” the study participant dumber or less knowledgeable.  The language gives the impression that some active force shapes news consumers’ responses.  From this, one might conclude that Sean Hannity and Megyn Kelly emit brain cell-killing radiation when they appear on screen.  But this is not some lab rat experiment with tightly-controlled variables. The researchers stacked the deck against Fox from the onset.

Consider how the study collects data from its telephone respondents.  If one receives any news information from a given source over the past week, his responses count in favor of or against that source.  Now Fox News is a 24/7 telvision operation.  Any channel-surfing couch potato can tune into five minutes of “Fox and Friends” and per the pollster instructions report they got some news from Fox.  Meanwhile, NPR’s reporting, restricted to the commute hours and the less accessable radio format, is shield against association with casual news consumers.  Such people might even tune in during jazz hour and correctly report they had received no news from NPR.

Media Partition in the Age of Obama

Media Partition in the Age of Obama

On top of this selection bias, the FDU researchers share a liberal outlook with their favored media outlets.  As can be seen from the wording in poll question two, they place a premium on foreign news over domestic happenings.  Mainstream media like TIME and NPR devote inordinate amounts of time fawning over the “Arab Spring,” but conservative-friendly media like Fox tend to dispense with the rose-colored glasses.  Their viewers, having a vague awareness of continuing Egyptian upheaval, are not marinated in the feel-good pieces that liberal journalists keep producing.  This disadvantage magnifies when the pollsters fail to mention Mubarak by name in asking whether his regime was toppled.  For all we know, they are asking about the military transitional council!

Then, when the questions roll on to domestic news, the poll fumbles by asking who is the Republican front runner.  This is an especially murky proposition given the fluid nature of the field.  The results vary depending on when and by who the poll was taken.

All told, FDU stacked the deck against Fox, and packaged their study results a little too neatly for Kos, Arianna, and the rest of their progressive news friends.

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