Pew has released findings in a new study that show sharply growing mistrust of the media--results that will surprise exactly no one. Republicans, who have been fed the constant gruel of hatred toward the "liberal media," are far more critical of news sources--particularly national newspapers (the Gray Lady is the right's bête noire). And among Republicans, those who consume Fox News are far more mistrustful of news media, and consequently believe it has a malign effect on the country.
I have reproduced one of the charts from the findings (at right) so you can see some of the egregious things Fox-fed viewers believe. Predictably, they mistrust non-Fox news. But far worse, they actively believe other sources are in the thrall of the powerful (82%), are liars (81%), are too critical of "America" (71%), and most shockingly that they "hurt democracy" [!] (57%). Pause and consider the implications of the mindset of citizens who simultaneously believe that the news is both in the thrall of powerful people and also too critical of America. Or maybe it's all too horrible to consider.
You can actually see the malign effect if you take another of their charts and convert it to a line graph (as I have conveniently done below). The Pew numbers chart the growing gap between Republican and Democratic approval of the various froms of news media from 1985 forward. Approval among citizens of both stripes starts out pretty much even. But then the right-wing spin machine kicks in in the late 80s as Rush rooms and cigars become popular, and the gap widens. You can see the steadily growing mistrust of the GOP toward news between 1985 and 1997, when FOX was founded.
The trend does a funny thing, then, however. Fox-fed Republicans become more sated with their newsy offerings locally and on TV and the gap narrows for the only time. However, since they're being told incessently what a nightmare the New York Times is, the gap widens more precipitously than at any other time during Pew's study. Then the catastrophe that is the George W. Bush administration begins in earnest, news gets far more critical--reflecting reality--and the Fox viewers become raving lunatics.
These findings are a perfect example of how you can have state-sponsored propaganda in a free-market system. People who consume Fox News are roughly as well-informed as those who got TASS in the Soviet Union.