Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Chris Mooney’s book The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science and Reality.
In June of 2011, Jon Stewart went on air with Fox News’ Chris Wallace and started a major media controversy over the channel’s misinforming of its viewers. “Who are the most consistently misinformed media viewers?” Stewart asked Wallace. “The most consistently misinformed? Fox, Fox viewers, consistently, every poll.”
Stewart’s statement was factually accurate, as we’ll see. The next day, however, the fact-checking site PolitiFact weighed in and rated it “false.”In claiming to check Stewart’s “facts,” PolitiFact ironically committed a serious error—and later, doubly ironically, failed to correct it. How’s that for the power of fact checking?
There probably is a small group of media consumers out there somewhere in the world who are more misinformed, overall, than Fox News viewers. But if you only consider mainstream U.S. television news outlets with major audiences (e.g., numbering in the millions), it really is true that Fox viewers are the most misled based on all the available evidence—especially in areas of political controversy. This will come as little surprise to liberals, perhaps, but the evidence for it—evidence in Stewart’s favor—is pretty overwhelming.
Study leader Evelyn Talbott, a Pitt Public Health professor of epidemiology, explained why researchers decided to investigate the connection between autism and pollution: “There were three small studies that came out since 2006 linking ASD, autism spectrum disorders, with air pollution…I scratched my head and said, ‘Nobody’s ever looked at this, and when you don’t look at it, you don’t find anything.’ It is worth looking at it because we know so very little about what causes autism spectrum disorders.”
The children exposed to two substances were up to twice as likley as others to develop autism spectrum disorders. The first is styrene, which is used in plastics, paints and is also a product of gasoline combustion in automobiles. The second, chromium, is produced during the processes used in steel manufacturing and other industries.
This University of Pittsburgh study follows other recent studies which have found possible connections between air pollution and autism, as well as other ailments of the brain. A study by the University of Rochester Medical Center recently showed how exposure to air pollution early in life altered the brains of mice in ways that are linked to autism and schizophrenia in humans.
For a long time, scientists focused on the lungs as the main site of damage to the human body from air pollution. But now researchers are shifting attention to the brain. Some research, such as a recent Harvard University study, has indicated that male fetuses may be more vulnerable to air pollution in the womb than females.
The hot temperament consequently tends to dominate in the ranks of the media. And the media love nothing quite so much as a politician who shares their disposition. It’s not a coincidence that McCain is, on a durable basis, the media’s favorite senator.
He approaches his job as if you gave a Senate vote to a cantankerous but sharp newspaper columnist. But that path was never available to a young African-American liberal from Chicago. The alternative to cool and cerebral was “angry” and radical, a non-starter with white America.
But more than a political pose, an aversion to purely symbolic action has genuinely served Obama well at critical moments. Less cool heads would have abandoned Obamacare in January 2010. Obama persevered and it’s worked. Obama’s approach to the economy has been far from flawless, but it’s not a coincidence that the USA has performed better since 2008 than Europe or the United Kingdom and weathered its financial crisis far better than Japan did in the 1990s.
The Deepwater Horizon crisis passed. The American Ebola crisis will also pass. healthcare.gov got fixed. The Russian economy is reeling in the face of sanctions. Osama bin Laden is dead. The economy is growing. Obama hasn’t always been a very effective pundit-in-chief (acute crisis moments aside, his inability to articulate public anger at Wall Street has been remarkable) but that’s not actually his job. On the big stuff, he’s been effective. And that’s not a coincidence.
Whether one shares it or not, the chief’s perspective does display a certain moral nobility—an old-style determination that the state will never again engage in the “sordid business” of discrimination, no matter the clever arguments advanced for doing so. Proclaiming moral absolutes can be principled. It can also degenerate into preening. The test is applying the principle when it pinches.
Which brings us to Peasey v. Perry, the voting-rights case in which the Court issued its 5 a.m. order on Saturday. That order allowed Texas’ draconian voter-ID law, known as SB 14, to take effect for the midterm elections next month—the first general election to which it will be applied. It is customary to speak of SB 14 as a “tough” voter-ID law, but it might be better to speak of it as a discriminatory voter-ID law, inspired by the intent to disfranchise black and Latino voters.
That’s not my inference; it was the considered factual finding of federal district Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos. (Ramos is an Obama appointee, but one endorsed for the bench by Republican Senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson and John Cornyn.) Ramos based her conclusion on a nine-day trial in which both the state and the plaintiffs presented evidence about SB 14’s history and effect. That effect is startling—Ramos found that the law might disfranchise as much as 4.5 percent of the state’s eligible voters.
As the November elections approach, it seems a second-tier advocacy group run by a disgraced Religious Right icon is gearing up to make a major impact.
Politico reported this week that Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition (FFC) is planning an all-out blitz in states like Colorado, Iowa, Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Louisiana and North Carolina in the hope that Republicans and can take control of the U.S. Senate.
You may remember Reed. He ran TV preacher Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition throughout the 1990s. After leaving the group, he started a political consulting firm that became mired in the Jack Abramoff casino lobbying scandal. He also tried unsuccessfully to launch a political career and even wrote some political thrillers.
After those efforts flopped, Reed slunk back to the Religious Right. A few years ago, he formed the Faith & Freedom Coalition to push a fundamentalist agenda.
Politico reports that Reed has big plans for 2014.
His operation plans to “knock on roughly 500,000 doors” in key counties and distribute 20 million voter guides (which are surely biased) to some 117,000 churches. FFC will also send mailings to 6 million voters and make 10 million robocalls.
Reed also said he hopes to make a significant impact with a digital outreach, contacting 15 million “video viewers” through banner and video advertisements in several states. He told Politico he has a database of 33.1 million social conservatives, and expects to reach 6.2 million homes in battleground states.
Sungenis is an anti-science traditionalist Catholic who praised the infamously anti-semitic Father Coughlin and others. His film is produced by the same company that gave us Dinesh D’souza’s recent anti Obama film “Obama 2016”, “Expelled,” and other insanely wrong fundamentalist Christian movies.
The film’s executive producer is Robert Sungenis, a “geocentrist” who co-authored a book entitled Galileo Was Wrong: The Church Was Right. Sungenis is also a “radical traditionalist” Catholic, meaning he rejects that church’s liberalizing reforms of recent decades, who has railed against Jews for much of his adult life.
Sungenis, who started a group called Catholic Apologetics International (CAI) in 1993, is one of the most rabid anti-Semites of the radical traditionalist movement. He has questioned the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust, and cited the neo-Nazi canard that there were about as many Jews living in Europe after World War II as before, a plain falsehood. His CAI website has blamed Jews for starting a “New World Order” and referred to the alleged “Jewish origins of bolshevism, Jewish dominance of Hollywood and the media, [and] Jewish control of Congress.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, “The Principle” is being distributed in North America by Rocky Mountain Pictures, based in Salt Lake City. That is the same company, according to a fawning recent piece about the movie on christiancinema.com, that distributed right-wing favorites including Dinesh D’Souza’s “Obama 2016,” Ben Stein’s “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” and Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.Sungenis has frequently quoted the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia that “predicts the anti-Christ will come from Jewry.” He has been a columnist for the radical publication The Remnant, where he wrote a piece entitled “The New World Order and the Zionist Connection” that detailed a Satanic conspiracy to rule the earth and claimed, “Among the major forces in the ascent of the New World Order are the Jews, Judaism and Israel.” Although he once produced two series for EWTN, the Catholic TV network, that ended after he published a 33,000-word, anti-Semitic attack on an official Catholic Church statement on converting Jews. That 2002 attack praised vicious anti-Semites including Father Charles Coughlin, the “radio priest” of the 1930s, as “dedicated Catholic priests who lived impeccable lives.”
Will media actually challenge the politicians on their statements?
Right to that choice…have the choice…right to choose…the way I choose: Beauprez almost sounds like a Planned Parenthood activist. But his legislative record and past statements couldn’t be more at odds with his seemingly pro-choice comments.
In 2005, then-Rep. Beauprez cosponsored the Right to Life Act, a measure that guaranteed “equal protection for the right to life of each born and pre-born human person.” The bill defined life beginning with “the moment of fertilization,” and could severely restrict abortions. In Colorado Right-to-Life’s 2006 voter guide, he said he supported a constitutional amendment to “restore full protection to pre-born human beings.” That same year, he asserted—incorrectly—that the abortion rate for black women was an “appalling” 70 percent. (The actual rate at the time, according to the Guttmacher Institute, was 49 per 1,000—or 4.9 percent.) And in 2013, in a column on townhall.com, he urged all Americans to reconcile the “tragedies” of abortions just as they reconciled the mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado, and Newtown, Connecticut.
Officials are retracing the steps of a doctor who tested positive for Ebola Thursday, with the doctor in isolation at a New York City hospital and three others under quarantine, city and state officials said.
Dr. Craig Allen Spencer, 33, was placed in isolation at Bellevue Hospital Thursday after reporting a fever and gastrointestinal symptoms. He had been treating Ebola patients in Guinea - one of the West African countries battling an outbreak of the deadly virus - for Doctors Without Borders, officials said. Spencer left Guinea on Oct. 14 and traveled through Brussels, Belgium and arrived at JFK Airport on Oct. 17.
According to NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, Spencer had contact with four people - his fiancée, two friends and an Uber driver. His fiancée, identified by a family friend as Morgan Dixon, is under quarantine at Bellevue Hospital while his two friends are quarantined at home, Bassett said. None of the people under quarantine are showing Ebola symptoms. The Uber driver isn’t considered to be at risk for contracting the virus.
Ferguson Police Committed Human Rights Abuses During Michael Brown Protests, Amnesty International Claims
Police in Ferguson, Missouri, committed human rights abuses as they sought to quell mostly peaceful protests that erupted after an officer killed an unarmed black teenager, an international human rights organization said in a report released on Friday.
The Amnesty International report said law enforcement officers should be investigated by U.S. authorities for the abuses, which occurred during weeks of racially charged protests that erupted after white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, 18, on Aug. 9.
The use by law enforcement of rubber bullets, tear gas and heavy military equipment and restrictions placed on peaceful protesters all violated international standards, the group said.
Aereo Inc., the online video company found by the U.S. Supreme Court to violate broadcasters’ copyrights, was barred by a federal judge from streaming live television to subscribers.
U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan in New York today granted the TV networks’ request for a temporary injunction blocking Aereo’s service nationwide. She rejected a claim that a ban would harm the company, which is backed by billionaire Barry Diller.
“The Supreme Court has concluded that Aereo performs publicly when it retransmits plaintiffs’ content live over the Internet and thus infringes plaintiffs’ copyrighted works,” Nathan said in a written opinion. “In light of this conclusion, Aereo cannot claim harm from its inability to continue infringing plaintiffs’ copyrights.”