Fox News Is Still the King of the Wurlitzer

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Who is primarily responsible for the wide dissemination of crazy right-wing conspiracy nonsense? Facebook? YouTube? Twitter? Nope. It’s good old Fox News:

Two of the highest quality studies [found] that sharing of “fake news” was highly concentrated in a tiny portion of the population, was largely done by conservatives, and interacted with age—primarily driven by people over 65. In other words, the problem of online dissemination seems to be driven by older conservatives—precisely the demographic of Fox News.

Another thing that made our study unusual among studies of political propaganda is that we used case studies to also connect television with online. Again, consistent with what Pew has consistently found in its surveys of voters, television matters a whole lot, and in fact, we found when we looked that when Fox News on TV pushed a topic, it would explode online much more than when the initial efforts to push propaganda were limited to online. Television is still much more important than we understand.

That’s from Yochai Benkler, a professor of Legal Studies at Harvard and co-author of the recent book Network Propaganda. The craziest stuff might roil around and get its start in social media, but it doesn’t reach very many people unless Fox News decides to pick it up—which they do with lamentable regularity. It’s only at that point that social media starts to explode.

In other words: stop worrying so much about Facebook and Google and Twitter. Worry instead about Fox News, just like we always have.

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TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

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