Fox “News” drives liberals crazy, no doubt about that one. Whether it’s watching Stanford- and Oxford-educated Gretchen Carlson pretending to have to google the word “czar” or watching Megyn Kelly hyperventilate over drones being used over American farmlands to montior water usage, we all love the unbridled dumbness of it. When it comes down to Sean Hannity repeating ad nauseum that the Obama administration shut down the investigation into the Kia hamster imitators who called themselves the New Black Panthers because Obama is their “supporter” (Bush DoJ shut down the investigation), we wish these liars couldn’t hide behind freedom of the “press” and freedom of speech, and that government officials could sue for libel and slander.
But are they really responsible for the hate speech, the entrenched misinformation, the set-in-concrete lies that dominate the right wing? Are they responsible for the words “libtards” and “libturds” or for the reference to our First Lady as “Moochelle”? I don’t think so. Fox may be biased and aimed at the less educated and “low effort” thinkers, but they stay away from silly, juvenile name-calling and most personal attacks. Besides, they don’t have that large an audience.
Fox News, which is available on basic cable, is viewed by 1,692,000 households per day. MSNBC, which is second tier cable, is seen by 674,000 households. CNN, which is also basic cable but dying an inglorious death by Twitter and Facebook, draws in only 389,000 households. It is the four broadcast channels, ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS, the ones that deal in more-or-less pure news with little or no commentary that are watched by 23,359,000 households five nights a week, eight-and-a-half times the audience of cable news.
Those are not terribly impressive numbers. There are 114,236,000 households in America, 99% of which have at least one television and 55% of which have cable or satellite. Only 4% of cable and satellite receivers watch cable news and only 23% of all American households with television watch any news.
So where does all the hate come from?
The top conservative/right wing radio programs are Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Neil Boortz, Glenn Beck, and Laura Ingraham. Together, they have 58,500,000 listeners, almost 35 times the number of listeners than Fox has viewers.
There is probably some overlap. Savage, Boortz and Ingraham all air during the “West Coast AM drive” slot, while Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck have unique time slots. Even if you assumed that the same people listen to Limbaugh and Hannity, you still have an audience 10 times that of Fox News.
For comparison, the audience for NPR’s top two daytime programs is 13 million each, one during AM drive time and the other during PM drive time.
Stuart Varney ranting about “poor people” having such luxuries as refrigerators and cell phones was a one-off. Glenn Beck intoning his dire warnings about the New Caliphate and the New World Order and mashing together socialism, communism and fascism and calling the Nazis socialists, well, that’s every day. That’s repeating a lie often enough that people believe it. Even at his worst, Bill O’Reilly only sticks to a topic for a few weeks, like his “war on Christmas” nonsense. But Limbaugh has raged against “revisionist” history for so long that Arizona felt comfortable banning Hispanic and Native American authors from their high schools, and the Texas School Board wants history texts that treat the leaders of the Confederacy as greater national heroes than Jefferson.
When I was around 10, on an evening drive home from Manhattan to our home on Long Island, my father tuned in to a couple of radio dramas. I date my raging arachnophobia to that night. Fifty-three years later, I still remember the description of what the detective found at the bottom of the stairs. Radio is very powerful. It digs into your mind even if you think you are not paying attention to it. It is nearly subliminal. These radio hosts, and local ones like Herman Cain, feed their listeners a relentless, repetitive diet of hate, fear, warped perceptions and lies. They are responsible for the people out there who believe every Democrat is a welfare-teat sucking, drug using, promiscuous, tree-hugging, America-hating communist. They have drilled in the idea that anyone who speaks against an unjust war is a Muslim-loving, Israel-hating traitor. And they, through the medium of radio, are far more dangerous to the political debate in this country than Fox News.