Friday, December 17, 2010

As much as I wish it were true, Fox news makes you misinformed, not stupid.

"Study: Watching Fox News Makes you Stupid"

I love Business Insider, I must admit it. I have a big old Stat Girl middle-school-googlie-eyed-crush on Business Insider. That being said, since I'm a rational Stat Girl, I am afraid that I must be fair and skewer their reporting of studies too.
 The headline says, "stupid".   I don't know what study would ever say that. "Misinformed" does not mean stupid. It means being in possession and belief of information that is false or inaccurate. When you spew misinformation, you may SOUND stupid but your IQ hasn't necessarily changed.  If you didn't question your beliefs to begins with, well, that's another problem entirely.

What we find is that Mark Harwood's headline was even worse. It said, "Study Confirms That Fox News Makes You Stupid. He used "confirmed". GRRRRRRR. "Confirmed" and "causes" are as misused by writers as "I love you" is by that guy at the bar trying to get you to come home and sleep with him.

The study's flaw is not that it was run by a not-exactly apolitical organization, it is that it concludes that a causal relationship travels in one direction (let's not even get into whether there is a causal relationship at all). The HUGE problem with the study was that it tested the beliefs of FOX news viewers. It ASSUMES that their beliefs (as mistaken and idiotic as they may be) are CAUSED by watching Fox news. What if people with idiotic belifes are attracted to Fox news and watch it more and more? (Like depressed people taking mind-altering drugs). This is as likely as the reverse. Sorry kids, Fox news may have an audience more likely to be misinformed but we have NO right to say it's Fox's fault (AS MUCH AS I REALLY REALLY WANT TO).  Seriously, could a smart person really watch Fox news for more than a few seconds? Doubt it.
THERE IS A CORRELATION but that is not causality. And who knows if "stupid" or "watches Fox news" is the dependant variable in this case (then again, not sure it matters).

No comments:

Post a Comment