Fox News Is Still the King of the Wurlitzer

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Who is primarily responsible for the wide dissemination of crazy right-wing conspiracy nonsense? Facebook? YouTube? Twitter? Nope. It’s good old Fox News:

Two of the highest quality studies [found] that sharing of “fake news” was highly concentrated in a tiny portion of the population, was largely done by conservatives, and interacted with age—primarily driven by people over 65. In other words, the problem of online dissemination seems to be driven by older conservatives—precisely the demographic of Fox News.

Another thing that made our study unusual among studies of political propaganda is that we used case studies to also connect television with online. Again, consistent with what Pew has consistently found in its surveys of voters, television matters a whole lot, and in fact, we found when we looked that when Fox News on TV pushed a topic, it would explode online much more than when the initial efforts to push propaganda were limited to online. Television is still much more important than we understand.

That’s from Yochai Benkler, a professor of Legal Studies at Harvard and co-author of the recent book Network Propaganda. The craziest stuff might roil around and get its start in social media, but it doesn’t reach very many people unless Fox News decides to pick it up—which they do with lamentable regularity. It’s only at that point that social media starts to explode.

In other words: stop worrying so much about Facebook and Google and Twitter. Worry instead about Fox News, just like we always have.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

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ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

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