Monday, December 20, 2010

This Explains the 2010 Elections / Political Auctions Results

“The lowest form of popular culture - lack of information, misinformation, disinformation, and a contempt for the truth or the reality of most people's lives - has overrun real journalism. Today, ordinary Americans are being stuffed with garbage."
- Carl Bernstein
author, All the President's Men

If you watch Fox News, listen to Rush Limbaugh, or most other right-wing propaganda media and blogs,  you're DISinformed, by a deliberate and calculated pattern of inaccurate information and deliberate attempts to create moral panics.
- Dog Gone

disinformation (ˌdɪsɪnfəˈmeɪʃən) — n
false information intended to deceive or mislead
- World English Dictionary

Now one study has made official what I have been saying here for some time, particularly about Fox News as a source of information.  Here is the Maryland Study, "Misinformation and the 2010 Election, A Study of the U.S. Electorate", so you can read it for yourself.
There has been extensive coverage of the study elsewhere, including the New York Times.  There has been the de rigeur counter-attack from the right, particularly from Fox News - a rather limp and impotent attempt, for them, compared to their usual standards of snark:
So, in addition to providing the actual study, I am making the obvious link between inaccurate information and the 2010 election results.  The only explanation that makes any sense for the results of that election cycle is to understand the significant segment of a mis-motivated, disinformed electorate segment (see moral panic), and the calculated results of the right wing election-cum-auction purchase by the right with the efforts  of Fox News and the big media buys of the groups profiled by the conference, "Cash Attack 2010". The link of the Right Wing false messages to the outcome of the 2010 elections is also reflected in the 2010 Lie of the Year, the false claim that the Obama Health Care Reform passed last spring constituted a 'government take over'.

There is a clear link between the deliberate disinformation of the right, by the right, established by this study which charts the inaccurate beliefs relating to politics and economics that have resulted from that deliberate disinformation campaign.   We can see more local versions in the voter fraud hoaxes perpetrated by groups like Minnesota Majority, statewide, and Monty Jensen, more locally, in Crow Wing County, Minnesota.  In other states we have hysteria over voter frauds like that which was circulated by the fake Fox News segment about the Cincinnati High School Ice Cream Bribes for votes.  (Can anyone else find an update, or better, a correction by Fake News for this story?  I couldn't.)

The  real question remains for me, why does the right tolerate this from their media? Why do conservatives,  be  they Republican or Tea Party or non-aligned, not only accept this garbage, but embrace it, reward it, and seek it out, both in media figures like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, and in political figures like Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, the epically-inaccurate Michele Bachmann, or any number of others?  For these talking heads to be successful, people have to WANT to believe them, they have to go out of their way to avoid factual contradictions of them.

In contrast to that garbage from the right, I've provided the Maryland study, along with the steady stream of information from and  In direct opposition to it, my colleague Penigma and I will be releasing the 2010 Pennies, an award of our 2cents worth of opinion for certain completely arbitrary categories  (chosen because they were fun for us).

And, in a pushback against the Fox News response to the Maryland U. study, I will provide you more information about the organization and the researchers that conducted the study - which does not reflect the alleged party habits of students.  Let's start with their website, so Penigma readers can check them out for yourselves:

World Public Opinion. org is operated at the University of Maryland through: by the Program on International Policy Attitudes.
Program on International Policy Attitudes

"The Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) was established in 1992 with the purpose of giving public opinion a greater voice in international relations. PIPA conducts in-depth studies of public opinion that include polls, focus groups and interviews. It integrates its findings together with those of other organizations. It actively seeks the participation of members of the policy community in developing its polls so as to make them immediately relevant to the needs of policymakers. PIPA is a joint program of the Center on Policy Attitudes (COPA) and the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)."
To address the Fox News claims about the University of Maryland, which appear at least to me to be an attempt to discredit the study, here is a sample of the staff who oversee the program, and their reputations.  These are not exactly not-studious-partying-people, or experts that can be casually dismissed. These are not policy lightweights.

Steven Kull, director of and the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA). He directs the PIPA/Knowledge Networks poll of the US public, plays a central role in the BBC World Service Poll of global opinion and the polls of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and is the principal investigator of a major study of social support of anti-American terrorist groups in Islamic countries. He regularly appears in the US and international media, providing analysis of public opinion, and gives briefings to the US Congress, the State Department, NATO, the United Nations and the European Commission. His articles have appeared in Political Science Quarterly, Foreign Policy, Public Opinion Quarterly, Harpers, The Washington Post and other publications. His most recent book, co-authored with I.M. Destler, is Misreading the Public: The Myth of a New Isolationism (Brookings). He is a faculty member of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the World Association of Public Opinion Research.

Penigma readers who wish to explore the University of Maryland or the researchers and organization behind this study, to evaluate their criticism of Fox News (and other news sources) can follow the links. These are not slackers; these are not individuals, not an organization pushing a liberal agenda. This is legitimate criticism, and should be regarded as such, especially by those who find themselves consumers of conservative media and blogs.


  1. While I am no more tolerant of Fox News than you are, DG, I think that blaming the right wing misinformation campaign for the Democratic losses in this election is not quite entirely accurate. While there WAS a lot of disinformation, there was also a lot of apathy by the democratic party, or perhaps just a "resting on their laurels".

    As I said earlier, I am terribly, terribly disappointed with President Obama. I still think I voted for the correct person, but now its only because the thought of Sarah Palin being a heartbeat away from the presidency terrifies me.

    President Obama has turned out to be a spineless leader who was unwilling to stand up to republican bullies. He did not exercise statesmanship, he proved that he was so engrossed in the constitutional process that he forgot the political realities. He was forced, due to this weakness, to accept a tax bill which will ultimately lead our nation further into deficit, and there isn't the political will in Washington to do anything about it. This includes both democrats and republicans, by the way.

    The democrats are way too nice. When the Republicans were attacking them, they turned the other cheek, and offered it for a bite as well.. and the Republicans then bit them in the other cheek... (I'll let you decide which "cheek" I'm talking about) If the democrats learn anything from this, its that you can't roll over for bullies.. you have to stand up and prevent them from doing it again.

  2. Thank you for the out-loud-laugh at your analogy of cheek biting. The democrats got severely bitten on their icon. I'm sure you know which Icon I mean... it's the one that is a synonym for the cheek I suspect you meant.

    If you look at the findings of this study, and cross reference the study findings with the factcheck 'cash attack' numbers, and the lie of the year, they form a pattern that correlates to who turned out to vote, and what they believed when they voted.

    This is a larger pattern which is suggested by the results of this study, above and beyond the findings about Fox News as a source.

    That larger pattern is that the deliberate misinformation campaign worked, to the extent that people chose to expose themsleves to Fox News or Fox-news-like sources. These findings fit other sources that repeat the same mantra, be it talk radio on the right, or the right wing blogosphere, or the right wing politicians.

    The organization, the consensus on the messages, was both extraordinary, and frightening.

    We haven't seen big lies told this loudly know,that over used figure from 20th century world history.

    This study makes the connection between people voting in the last election, and this misinformation - specifically, FOX news.

    While the study also outlines left and centrist inaccuracies, those seem, to my understanding, to correlate less successfully in voting patterns to the messages -- I would argue that the left and center are less organized to deliver their messages.

  3. I have to agree with ToE, this isn't the reason for the landslide change. It may be part of the reason, or it may be, like some data, it reflected that people seek the news they want because disaffection pushed them in a direction.

    The Democrats got pounded in 2010 for one reason, unemployment, plain and simple. Barack Obama did a very VERY poor job (as did the Democrats) of recognizing how deeply unhappy and desparate the nation is. They didn't see that the Tea Party Movement was merely a reflection of voter anger and unhappiness at the plight of the nation, something the Republicans siezed upon and cultivated, thus shaping opinion. People didn't blame incumbent Republicans (though clearly they deserved the blame) in anywhere near the numbers they blamed Democrats. So, yes, Fox News did much to "disinform" the public, but ultimately it still came down to Obama's inability to use the bully-pulpit, his choices of political issues (and timing), and most of all, of is decision to start off negotiations right-of-center and move further right. He looked weak because he WAS weak. He'll likely get defeated in 2012, and in 2014, unless jobs are MUCH better and the debt much better, the Republicans will face the same sort of backlash the Democrats did.

  4. With respect, Pen and ToE, you are correct about who voted, and in part, Pen, you are correct about the why - the economy and the unemployment rate were important.

    But so were the other lies spread by the right.

    The study from U of Maryland is entitled specifically Misinformation and the 2010 ELECTION. I would suggest you read it more closely; it addresses how people voted as a result of deliberate misinformation.

    Not just people on the right either. The study addresses how the disinformation campaign changed the larger discussion of politics and assumptions, center and left, as a result of factual inaccuracy as well.

    Finding the facts, keeping everyone informed and in agreement on those facts, is the reason I so strongly support and They fact check EVERYBODY, not just Faux News.

    But it is also true that Fox News has the most egregious lack of usual journalism standards, the most overt and deliberate efforts at misinformation.

    What no one has explained to me is why so many people would accept the false information, and the equally false premises, that are being sold - being sold by Rush Limbaugh, Fox, Bachmann and others.

    The Tea Partiers may be the most misled, but they aren't the only ones fooled and conned.

    I'm fascinated by how people contrive to make an audience so WANT to be lied to; it has parallels to criminal con artists. The lies are within legal standards, but only because we have one of the loosest and most tolerant interpretation of our first amendment rights. You can say anything you want, malicious or not, evil intent or not.

    And I'd rather keep it that way than not..............but there is sometimes still harm done.