Fairly unbalanced at the speed of lies

For Your Consideration

Peter CavanaughFebruary 13, 2013 

It sometimes seems half my old friends are three-quarters nuts, but few of them watch FOX.

Given a career background in broadcasting and advertising from the late 50s onward -- "Mad Men" being outrageously authentic -- the first part of this observation might not come as a complete surprise, but I should offer further subjective commentary that these particular vocational endeavors did and do require a certain degree of basic smarts, however jaded.

And so it was I found myself not thoroughly mystified near the end of last year when a "press release" was released by an outfit identifying itself as "The Intelligence Institute," stating its researchers tested 5,000 people measuring everything from cognitive aptitude to common sense and found that people who identified as FOX News viewers and "Conservative" had, on average, significantly lower intelligent quotients.

The results of this "four-year study" were said to solidly establish that Americans who obtain their news from the FOX News channel have an average IQ of 80, which would represent a 20-point deficit from a norm of 100 -- not that far from special needs. But there was no Santa Claus.

Such dramatic testimony quickly turned out to be a fanciful hoax concocted as a pre-Christmas prank by who knows whom, but I am happy to report that investigation into the authenticity of such a delicious allegation did establish several unchallenged findings by the University College London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience.

It seems Conservatives regularly demonstrate their proclivity for accepting without challenge many outrageous falsehoods presented by FOX personalities and their foam-at-the-mouth counterparts in talk radio due to enlarged (and here's a word you don't often hear at the barber shop) -- "amygdalas" -- such condition being associated with greater emotional inflexibility and accelerated danger response.

Amygdalas are almond-shaped groups of nuclei located within the media temporal lobes of the brain in complex vertebrates. That includes us. Have you checked yours today?

This physiological variance would seem to account for many Conservatives displaying a greater susceptibility to conspiracy models of thinking, "They're coming for our guns" being a timely case in point.

Absurdly spun tales driven by anxiety and fear find immediate, almost pleasurable acceptance in the minds of our enlarged amygdalas brethren, perhaps making more understandable ready acceptance of such novel concepts as "FEMA concentration camps," "Obama otherness" and "enhanced interrogation."

An excellent book entitled, "The Republican Brain" by Chris Mooney (John Wiley & Sons - 2012) tends to strongly echo the idea of congenitally impaired cognizance, as does a Fairleigh Dickinson University study which reveals FOX viewers are the worst-informed media consumers in the America they profess to love.

PBS came in first, just ahead of "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart. How 'bout that? And the Colbert Report is right behind. Pun intended.

Mooney offers fascinating elaboration, but it pretty much comes down to ready Republican acceptance of only those thoughts, ideas and philosophies that offer comfortable conformity with established, often pre-conditioned beliefs.

Ultimately, it seems more a case of "nothing new" than "low IQ" -- Resurgent Isolationism -- the last mindset we need as, ready or not, we accelerate our collective slide through time.

Paraphrasing the late Bette Davis as she so brilliantly spoke of aging -- "The 21st Century is no place for sissies." And perhaps no place for FOX News without substantial changes in programming and presentation.

Check out this -- "Breaking news."

In January, FOX News had its worst prime-time ratings in the coveted 25-54 demographics since August 2001, and its lowest total day ratings since June 2008. And -- gasp -- MSNBC's Rachel Maddow beat "Studio B" and the 11 p.m. repeat of "The O'Reilly Factor" for the very first time.

Even many "Republican brains" have had enough. FOX's interpretation of the famous phrase: "fair and balanced," finally perceived as the hideously cruel joke it always was.

As for a concluding analytical summation -- I love the quote Mr. Mooney chose to open his book with -- and I'll close this week's column with it here: "Reality has a well-known liberal bias" -- Stephen Colbert.

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