Having failed to show that Fox News is the propaganda machine suggested in the title, the book turns its ire on Fox’s audience. Did you know that Fox News watchers are politically clueless idiots? Brock maintains that they are, asserting that “Polls consistently find Fox News viewers to be the most ignorant on a variety of issues.” No doubt this claim will warm the hearts of Brock’s liberal readers, but it has no basis in fact. What polls and surveys actually find is that Fox News viewers’ knowledge of current affairs is higher than the national average. Even worse for Brock’s theory, the Fox viewers that demonstrate the highest levels of political and current affairs knowledge, scoring well above the national average, are viewers of more polemical Fox News fare like Hannity and The O’Reilly Factor. Thus viewers of The O’reilly Factor, a regular target of Media Matters, have some of the highest levels of current affairs knowledge, placing them on par with listeners of National Public Radio. Liberals can look down on Fox News viewers all they like, but then snobbery is seldom cured with anything so banal as facts.
If you are a diehard devotee of Media Matters, you will likely come away from The Fox Effect more alarmed than ever by the ostensibly awesome power that Fox News wields over our body politic. But the dominant impression on those not predisposed to agree with Brock is not of Fox’s alleged journalistic flaws but of Brock’s own stalker-like fixation with the network. Brock reveals that in 2009, 33 percent of Media Matters’ work focused on Fox News. By 2011, it was 54 percent. Naturally, Brock attributes this to Fox’s increasing mendacity. But it seems more likely a product of Brock’s disturbed fixation with the network. Which is to say that there really is a “Fox effect.” And nowhere is it more menacing than inside the conspiratorial mind of David Brock.
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