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Watching Fox News is officially worse than watching nothing

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FOX News pundit Megyn Kelly
On the Fox News Channel, opinion is presented as fact. Grasp that fine distinction and you're on your way to unlocking the whole tragic Rupert Murdoch enterprise.

Here's how it works -- last week Fox News pundit Megyn Kelly famously offered her opinion that pepper spray is a “food product essentially” on national television. Her host, Bill O’Reilly, nodded in agreement. In that way Kelly's opinion, with a cynical assist from O'Reilly, became a “fact” before our eyes.

Ricin poison comes from castor beans, and I suppose you could argue it's a food product too -- so why not go ahead and sprinkle some on your cornflakes Megyn? If you’re implying that we’re silly to be concerned about its effects, that is.

The subtext, the reason she apparently offered this lamentably craven nonsense, appeared to be an attempt to re-frame Lieutenant John Pike’s over the top assault of unarmed and peaceful students at UC Davis last week in the faint hope of repackaging him as a Good Samaritan.

He was just tossing a different kind of salad, Kelly inferred.  Go back to your sandbox, kids.

The Internet mocked Kelly mercilessly, as she richly deserved. “Mustard gas is essentially a condiment,” wrote one wag.

“Megyn Kelly regarding water boarding -- it's a shower, essentially,” wrote another.

Now there is an online petition heading toward 50,000 signatures requesting that Kelly back up her claim and consume as much (or as little) of the stuff as she can manage.

That's not a very nice request but it makes a worthwhile point -- the public is nauseated by the increasingly transparent Fox News house style.

Later, shocked by the unexpected public pillorying, Kelly clarified, “I think what happened was people didn’t watch the whole segment and assumed I was diminishing it. In no way did I mean to diminish what was happening.”

Then she added, “From a legal standpoint, I don’t know if the cops did anything wrong.”

But since when is pepper spraying non-violent protesting Americans at point blank anything but wrong? I must have missed the episode of The O’Reilly Factor when he decided we should emulate Egypt.

Speaking of Egypt, last week a non-partisan new survey of New Jersey voters compiled by Fairleigh Dickinson University came to an interesting conclusion -- Fox News viewers tend to be less informed about current events than people who don't watch any news at all.

Respondents to the university survey were asked whether opposition groups in Egypt had been successful in bringing down the Mubarak regime. Among the NPR listeners 68 percent correctly answered they had been, but only 49 percent of Fox News viewers answered the question correctly.

In fact it emerged Fox viewers were 18 percentage points less likely to answer correctly than those who watched no news at all, the survey found.

“The results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions than those who don't watch any news at all,” Dan Cassino, a political science professor at Fairleigh Dickinson, told The Los Angles Times.

That means that instead of being just benignly, passively ignorant, watching Fox News actually leads to active ignorance, ignorance that is manifestly detrimental to your understanding of national politics and world events.

That’s quite an accomplishment. I wonder how they’d caption it at the station -- the most uninformed name in news?

Accusations of biased reporting against Fox are nothing new. A while back a Fox staffer forwarded an internal email to the press requesting that pundits always present an opposing view to settled facts.
Fox claims there’s a controversy about evolution among the world's scientists (this is not true). They claim there is a controversy among scientists about global warming (also not true).

On occasion they claim there are controversies about Christmas trees, Chaz Bono and even the president’s birth certificate. They question the president’s patriotism, his commitment to countering terrorism and even to the U.S. military. No one anywhere is making these claims except Fox and its hired hands.

So if you don't mind being purposefully misled by the people that you trust to give you the facts, if you don't mind being the subject of a massive confidence trick, then by all means tune in.

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