Not just preaching to the choir
July 9, 2013 10:48 AM   Subscribe

How the rise of Fox News helped Republican candidates Is Fox News primarily reinforcing Republicans or persuading Democrats?

"For researchers, isolating the political effects of media outlets is a tricky business. In 2010, the Pew Research Center found that some 40 percent of Republicans reported watching Fox News, as opposed to just 20 percent of independents and 15 percent of Democrats. The chief explanation for those audience demographics has to be that Republicans tend to prefer the coverage that Fox provides. But how might we separate out the influence of Fox News on the Americans who watch it from the factors that make some Americans more likely to watch it in the first place?"
posted by MisantropicPainforest (74 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is Fox News primarily reinforcing Republicans or persuading Democrats?

Ctrl-F Overton Window

Yet another false dichotomy from Big Media about Big Media's main role.
posted by DU at 10:56 AM on July 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


People like to live in an echo echo echo echo chamber.
posted by adamvasco at 11:09 AM on July 9, 2013


People like to live in an echo echo echo echo chamber.
posted by adamvasco at 11:09 AM on July 9 [+] [!]


"MetaFilter, where Liberals go to affirm their good intentions." - Me
posted by otto42 at 11:12 AM on July 9, 2013 [20 favorites]


It may not be helping Republicans who want Rush Limbaugh listeners. He's got a Fox News hate going on right now.
posted by bearwife at 11:16 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I see the idea of the Overton Window invoked ceaselessly these days, but I'm unaware of any serious political science research which supports the vulgar version of this idea as to how political ideas move from being seen as "radical" to being seen as "mainstream." The general notion that extremists automatically make the slightly less extreme seem "normal" by comparison seems to me pretty shaky. If I were trying to mount a campaign for the legalization of Marijuana, for example, the last thing I would imagine to be effective would be a false flag "legalize crack cocaine" movement. If anything, I would guess that the more such a movement looked like a real thing, the more resistance to the legalization of any currently banned narcotics would stiffen. Similarly, if you look at the massive shift in the Overton Window that has occurred with regard to social views of homosexuality over the last couple of decades, there's no evidence that I can see that what made that move was a massive "extremist" movement (promoting, I guess, poly-marriage and, what, sex with ducks?). In fact, it was quite the opposite, a massive "gays are just like everybody else, except for this one small difference" movement (gays just want to get married and serve in the military!) that really moved the window.
posted by yoink at 11:16 AM on July 9, 2013 [16 favorites]


Fox News is an echo chamber for Republicans and other narrow-minded conservatives. The know what they need to say to get their audience numbers up, so that they can sell advert spots.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 11:27 AM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


A good example would be how "everyone" knows Social Security is bankrupt
posted by thelonius at 11:29 AM on July 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


Yoink, wouldn't the Overton Window hypothesis agree with your observation of the evolution of the social views on homosexuality? People Just Like You are for gay rights.. People Just Like You don't think taxes should go up. Gee, I don't think taxes should go up, either! People Just Like You REALLY think taxes shouldn't go up, they should go down. Gee, I don't know if taxes should go down. People Just Like You think that we should abolish taxes and return to a feudal state. Well, I don't know about abolishing taxes and returning to feudal state, but maybe the taxes should go down.
posted by vibrotronica at 11:29 AM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Stephen Colbert's concept of truthiness contains more truth than Faux News ever has, or ever will.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:29 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


"MetaFilter, where Liberals go to affirm their good intentions." - Me

Fie!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:31 AM on July 9, 2013


I see the idea of the Overton Window invoked ceaselessly these days, but I'm unaware of any serious political science research which supports the vulgar version of this idea as to how political ideas move from being seen as "radical" to being seen as "mainstream."

That's because there is no serious political science research, or any time of research on the Overton Window. In practice, it isn't a hypothesis as much as it is a linguistic shorthand or a metaphor.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:34 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yet another false dichotomy from Big Media about Big Media's main role.

Care to elaborate? The people doing this research are academics, not journalists.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:37 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yoink, wouldn't the Overton Window hypothesis agree with your observation of the evolution of the social views on homosexuality?

Except that the usual form of the Overton Window hypothesis I see being touted around the place is that you move the Overton Window by deliberately advocating for an extreme position beyond what you actually hope to achieve, but that that normalizes positions somewhere between the extreme and the current norm. This argument is made on both the left and the right and is made by both about both the left and the right. I saw a lot of this, for example, about the Occupy movement; that what was useful about them was that they were moving the Overton Window in the right direction--even if you didn't necessarily agree with their specific aspirations (whatever the hell those were). This is part of an argument that the Right "gets it" and that the Left fails to get it: that the Right supports its extremist fringe because they recognize how powerfully effective the extremists are in moving the Overton Window where the Left is always caught saying "well, on the other hand" and therefore loses in the Overton Window Tug o' War.

I think it's an argument that too many people accept too uncritically.
posted by yoink at 11:40 AM on July 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


"MetaFilter, where Liberals go to affirm their good intentions." - Me

I'm not sure that citing yourself proves that other people live in an echo chamber.
posted by kewb at 11:41 AM on July 9, 2013 [26 favorites]


"MetaFilter, where Liberals go to affirm their good intentions." - Me

There's nothing wrong with having a viewpoint. Even if you are the media. The problem arises when you conflate viewpoint and capital-T-truth. Fox demonstrably lies to buttress their viewpoints. That's why (like mentioned above) everyone "knows" that SS is bankrupt, or the deficit is increasing, or Obamacare will destroy the planet. Etc., etc., etc.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:41 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's because there is no serious political science research, or any time of research on the Overton Window

There is a great deal of research on how public opinion is formed and moved. Whether or not the particular term "Overton Window" is used isn't really germane to my point.
posted by yoink at 11:42 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Except that the usual form of the Overton Window hypothesis I see being touted around the place is that you move the Overton Window by deliberately advocating for an extreme position beyond what you actually hope to achieve, but that that normalizes positions somewhere between the extreme and the current norm.

There is a massive amount of experimental support for the Door In the Face technique where the Big Ask fail makes the subsequent Little Ask more successful. Don't look for information on this in Political Science. Look to attitude research in psychology.
posted by srboisvert at 11:44 AM on July 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Here's what I think is the critical difference between the two sides in this issue: I watch Stewart/Colbert religiously, and align very closely with most of their politics. But at least once a week, one of them makes a point that is just too much of a stretch, and I find myself saying to the screen, "okay, you took that sound bite out of context and you know it." My "team" is wrong sometimes.

I may be wrong about this, but I can't picture most Fox News enthusiasts calling their team out.
posted by jbickers at 11:46 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think yoink the idea I've seen most expressed is that when mainstream political leaders publicly espouse extreme views, that can potentially have the effect of "shifting the window" as the Overton Window-as-tug-of-war metaphor suggests. So, if a prominent statesman publicly embraces what used to be considered a fringe view, it can have the effect of legitimizing and normalizing the view for many in the public.

But what srboisvert said is probably more helpful.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:47 AM on July 9, 2013


Whether or not the Overton Window is the correct model to describe what's happening, when Democrats are accused of being overreaching socialists when they pass the exact same healthcare reform plan Republicans had proposed as a conservative alternative twenty years ago, something in the mainstream our political discourse has shifted.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 11:57 AM on July 9, 2013 [31 favorites]


"MetaFilter, where Liberals go to affirm their good intentions."

Yes, good intentions like not discriminating against people based on things like their gender, sexuality, skin color. Christ, what assholes.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:00 PM on July 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Whether or not the Overton Window is the correct model to describe what's happening, when Democrats are accused of being overreaching socialists when they pass the exact same healthcare reform plan Republicans had proposed as a conservative alternative twenty years ago, something in the mainstream our political discourse has shifted.

I'm 52 years old and the political landscape in this country has shifted dramatically in my lifetime. If anyone can tell me with a straight face that this country hasn't moved (both sides) considerably to the right in the last 30-40 years, I would have to just point and laugh or sob uncontrollably.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:01 PM on July 9, 2013 [19 favorites]


Whether or not the Overton Window is the correct model to describe what's happening, when Democrats are accused of being overreaching socialists when they pass the exact same healthcare reform plan Republicans had proposed as a conservative alternative twenty years ago, something in the mainstream our political discourse has shifted.

Also: Eisenhower's labor policies, Nixon's environmental policies, Reagan's tax policies, Bush's foreign policies.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:01 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


There is a massive amount of experimental support for the Door In the Face technique where the Big Ask fail makes the subsequent Little Ask more successful. Don't look for information on this in Political Science.

Yes, indeed--but it's not clear to me that it is easily extrapolated into social and political attitudes. That is the trick of putting a $20 "luxury" can of Foo next to a $10 can of "regular" Foo can certainly work to make people think $10 Foo is a steal where they might otherwise think anything more than $5 Foo was a rip-off. But it's not clear to me that social attitudes on race, government spending etc. are exactly analogous to "price" calculations. Accepting gay marriage doesn't "cost" anyone anything. The objection to homosexuality isn't an "economic" one in that sense--it's not "I only have so much toleration to spend, and I can't afford to spend it on those guys." Love, in this, differs from gold and clay, / That to divide is not to take away--as P.B. Shelley put it.
posted by yoink at 12:02 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is Fox News primarily reinforcing Republicans or persuading Democrats?

Fox News generally persuades me to take the opposite opinion about anything they are blathering on talking about.
posted by freakazoid at 12:14 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is Fox News primarily reinforcing Republicans or persuading Democrats?

Ctrl-F Overton Window

Yet another false dichotomy from Big Media about Big Media's main role.


You know, this use of the Overton window is incredibly flawed. It assumes that the range of ideas members of the public can have is controlled by some outside force. It also weakens more radical types because it posits that some "force" controls people and makes them think a certain way. What would be the point of trying for social change in such a universe?
posted by Ironmouth at 12:15 PM on July 9, 2013


There is a massive amount of experimental support for the Door In the Face technique where the Big Ask fail makes the subsequent Little Ask more successful. Don't look for information on this in Political Science. Look to attitude research in psychology.

(1) where is the evidence? Please provide links.
(2) an experiment with humans is not the same as reality. Its not like measuring gravity or something.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:16 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


yoink, but look at the politics surrounding abortion and how Republicans are now suddenly turning the clock back fifty years and making birth control a controversial issue once again. That would seem to be a textbook example of moving the Overton Window.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 12:18 PM on July 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


But it's not clear to me that social attitudes on race, government spending etc. are exactly analogous to "price" calculations.

Wow, that's not even wrong, in the words of Dr. Feynman. I don't know where to begin to put that one back on the rails. Price is one metric of many in assessing value, and things can have a value without having a price. Things of value do not always follow supply and demand, and economics is not the study of zero-sum games.

It assumes that the range of ideas members of the public can have is controlled by some outside force.

So you don't believe in propaganda, marketing, semiotics or even the entire field of sociology?
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:24 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


"MetaFilter, where Liberals go to affirm their good intentions." - Me
posted by otto42 at 2:12 PM on July 9 [9 favorites +] [!]


MetaFilter, where people come to complain about the people on MetaFilter.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:28 PM on July 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


I see the idea of the Overton Window invoked ceaselessly these days, but I'm unaware of any serious political science research which supports the vulgar version of this idea as to how political ideas move from being seen as "radical" to being seen as "mainstream."

If we're talking about the creeping incremental normalcy of policies and attitudes which would have been met with shock and disgust when implemented all at once, I'd say the surveillance/rendition/torture/assassination apparatus put into place since 9/11 would count.
posted by stenseng at 12:29 PM on July 9, 2013


So, if a prominent statesman publicly embraces what used to be considered a fringe view, it can have the effect of legitimizing and normalizing the view for many in the public.

As it happens, this particular claim has been studied quite carefully in the particular case of the US President where the phenomenon is known under the title "the bully pulpit." There is a lot of research, however, showing that the "bully pulpit" does not exist; that when a President stakes out views that are out of step with broader public opinion the only effect is a loss of credibility on the part of the President, and no corresponding shift in wider public opinion on the issue.

This is, by the way, a good example of why we need actual research on these kinds of things because our "common sense" view of how they "obviously" work is so often wildly wrong.
posted by yoink at 12:33 PM on July 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


that when a President stakes out views that are out of step with broader public opinion the only effect is a loss of credibility on the part of the President, and no corresponding shift in wider public opinion on the issue

Has there been a study on the effects of having the leader of a caucus endorse an extreme view as the official position of their caucus? Because that's more of the kind of thing I had in mind--extremist positions gradually becoming part of the political discourse because they're legitimized among a group of influential people. The President is in a much more delicate, politically-exposed position than the chair of an important congressional committee, for example. But I still think you're misunderstanding the point of the Overton Window metaphor--the concept doesn't stipulate exactly how the boundaries of mainstream political thought gets shifted, it just provides a linguistic device for sensibly discussing the shifts.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:45 PM on July 9, 2013


Wow, that's not even wrong, in the words of Dr. Feynman. I don't know where to begin to put that one back on the rails. Price is one metric of many in assessing value, and things can have a value without having a price.

Um, you have your logic backwards. I objected to studies relating specifically to "price." If, as you say--and I entirely agree with you--price is one way of assessing value and there are values that are not adequately assessed by price then my claim that studies relating to price are not particularly relevant to social attitudes towards issues such as homosexuality is saying nothing at all about how those issues relate to "value" in the more general sense--only in the specific sense relating to "price." "Price"--as you yourself note--is a term that does imply an economy of limited resources; I must "pay a price" (i.e. give something up) in order to get at which I desire.

You'll notice that I said nothing about "value"--I spoke solely of "price."
posted by yoink at 12:48 PM on July 9, 2013


So, for example, when someone invokes "Overton Window" without further context (as in the original comment that brought this annoying digression up), I would take that to mean no more or less than someone is claiming that political positions that would have previously been considered fringe positions are now viewed as mainstream.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:49 PM on July 9, 2013


the concept doesn't stipulate exactly how the boundaries of mainstream political thought gets shifted, it just provides a linguistic device for sensibly discussing the shifts.

My objection is not at all to the idea of the Overton Window as a general (pretty commonsensical) metaphor for their being a range of "acceptable" public opinion on any given issue that undergoes continual redefinition over time. My objection was to one particular common hypothesis about how that process of redefintion occurs. I think that hypothesis is invoked without adequate scholarly support. This thread has not, so far, disabused me of that notion.
posted by yoink at 12:53 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, that's not even wrong, in the words of Dr. Feynman.

Wasn't it Wolfgang Pauli who proposed that no two attributon particles can occupy the same quantum statement?
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:55 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]



"MetaFilter, where Liberals go to affirm their good intentions."

Yes, good intentions like not discriminating against people based on things like their gender, sexuality, skin color. Christ, what assholes.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:00 PM on July 9 [1 favorite +] [!]


That is why I said "intentions" instead of "deeds".
posted by otto42 at 12:56 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would take that to mean no more or less than someone is claiming that political positions that would have previously been considered fringe positions are now viewed as mainstream.

Such a comment would be so utterly self-evidently true that there would be no point whatsoever in making it. DU was clearly suggesting that Fox News exists as a deliberate ploy to shift the Overton Window of US politics--which is a claim that is obviously far richer than you suggest, but which immediately raises the question--which is entirely on the topic of the thread and not in any way a derail--as to how we would know if Fox News in fact has such an effect and whether their approach is actually an effective method of achieving such an outcome. If Fox News did not exist, would the US's Overton Window on most broader social and political issues look very different than it does now? That is a question that is not usefully answered by sheer assertions on either side.
posted by yoink at 12:58 PM on July 9, 2013


DU was clearly suggesting that Fox News exists as a deliberate ploy to shift the Overton Window of US politics-

I think this is a stretch, because DU didn't make anything clear except snark, and most likely did not read the article
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:01 PM on July 9, 2013


No one I've seen here has argued that Fox News shifts the window by virtue of being more extreme. It shifts it by being a major mainstream media outlet and having a lot of power to put ideas in front of the public and to repeat them. It started out wearing a much less partisan disguise and went out of its way to brand itself as more objective, and more impartial than other news outlets ("Fair and Balanced"). Many of its viewers don't perceive Fox as "extreme"; they see it as sensible and mainstream. That's how it works to shift the window: By making a great big appeal to authority argument for far-right views. For better or worse, many people still look to mainstream media outlets to be arbiters of social norms and authorities on news events.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:04 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


(1) where is the evidence? Please provide links.
(2) an experiment with humans is not the same as reality. Its not like measuring gravity or something.


You're in luck. Door-in-the-face is super-well demonstrated stuff.
posted by Jpfed at 1:05 PM on July 9, 2013


MetaFilter, where people come to complain about the people on MetaFilter.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:28 PM on July 9 [+] [!]


For my part, I come here to complain about people on reddit.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:08 PM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


What I've learned from observing my peers who watch Fox and listen to talk radio is its power is that of simplicity. Abortion is killing babies, because how is it not? Rich people are job creators, because who else creates jobs? Taxes are bad because I can spend my money more wisely than some Washington bureaucrat can. It's just so goddamn much easier than actually understanding what is going on.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:14 PM on July 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


Yes George, that's exactly the appeal. Life is complicated; Fox and its kin try to simplify it. This is also the appeal of conspiracy theory—it's much easier to believe that Obama, for instance, is a foreign infiltrator than it is to accept the fact that the face of the US has changed forever.
posted by Mister_A at 1:17 PM on July 9, 2013


DU was clearly suggesting that Fox News exists as a deliberate ploy to shift the Overton Window

I thought that was suggested by Fox commentator, Glen Beck (and a team of writers)?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:18 PM on July 9, 2013


I had an amazing and frustrating experience trying to distill for one such colleague an explanation of why, when the ACLU defends someone indefensible, they are performing an essential and powerful service, even an act of supreme patriotism. It was an incredible effort, with many "I was so close, and then she got away" moments. Eventually I gave up. Even a statement as succinct as "when the worst of us loses his rights, we all do" was just that tiny little bit too complicated...
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:21 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


That is why I said "intentions" instead of "deeds".

Discrimination covers both.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:24 PM on July 9, 2013


DU was clearly suggesting that Fox News exists as a deliberate ploy to shift the Overton Window

As has been discussed on the blue before, it's well documented that that's certainly what Fox News' founders intended it to do, from the time they originally conceived it during the Nixon administration's scandal-ridden late years to the present-day.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:27 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fox News is a commercial TV network with a specific desired demographic profile that it sells to advertisers. (If you're not paying for it, you're not the customer, you're the product being sold - Blue_Beetle) And part of that 'desired demographic profile' IS simple-mindedness and gullibility. It's a LOT harder selling products to people who THINK. Which is why attempts at "Liberal" equivalent media (Air America Radio, Current TV) both fail to get advertisers AND end up ridiculed by their target audiences for dumbing down.

Related: News Media Critic Jay Rosen's recent proclamation that he's not going to bother criticizing CNN because it's no longer really a "News" Network. It, and FoxNews and MSNBC are clearly in the same "Reality TV"* category as TLC, TruTV, A&E, VH1 (didn't that one use to be a MUSIC channel?) 57 channels and nothing's on.

Meanwhile, the latest Gallup poll on the subject reports 55% of Americans SAY television is their main source of news - most of whom have a faulty definition of what "News" is.


*and I myself will never ever ever use the term "Reality TV" without sarcasm quotes.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:44 PM on July 9, 2013


Those are some pretty interesting numbers - it's kinda bizarre to think about how such a small change in percentage (.4 to .7 percent) can have such a major impact on an election.

As for why Fox News specifically influences this demographic - I tend to believe that it's not just "simplicity" but also because the style of Fox News fits things into a cohesive narrative. I know he's not a Fox guy, but when you listen to someone like Rush Limbaugh fill air for three straight hours, it's really mesmerizing for some people. He doesn't need to cite sources or check facts - he just takes whatever news he can find and figures out a way to explain it to his listeners and make it fit with his worldview. Fox News takes a similar approach (though the medium of television has different advantages and disadvantages).

To me, one of the telltale signs of this type of infotainment (as opposed to actual news reporting or analysis) is the tension buildup and release. If you've listened to Rush or watched Fox News, there's usually some point in a story where you pretty much know exactly where a story is headed; which part of the Liberal Machine is ripe for being torn apart for their involvement in the story. I think listeners/viewers sense this as well, and when the news personality finally gets to doing just that, there's this sense of relief, like scratching an itch or something. So watching Fox is like walking through poison ivy just because scratching those itches is so soothing.
posted by antonymous at 1:47 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]




Which is why attempts at "Liberal" equivalent media (Air America Radio, Current TV) both fail to get advertisers AND end up ridiculed by their target audiences for dumbing down.

My explanation for why my right-wing acquaintances suckle daily at the Fox news and talk radio teats and none of my left or centrist acquaintances treated left-wing equivalents as anything but an irritating waste of time is this. A lie, even if one wants to believe it, needs constant reinforcement, because it is so at odds with all the little details of the reality which surrounds one. You need to be continuously and almost hypnotically persuaded in order to go on believing it.

The truth, on the other hand, will bore ye senseless, and there's no need whatsover to be beaten over the head with it hour upon hour. I probably agree with Randi Rhodes on lots, but damned if I want to hear her bang on about it like a Bizarro Limbaugh; what is the point?
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:51 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


10th Regiment, Beck seized on the concept of the Overton window, but didn't invent it -- although his obsession with it arguably popularized the model.

I really don't know that there's any evidence for it, and there's scant formal study of it as of yet. For now, it's just a conceptual model.

I do find it fascinating that it's been turned into a criticism of FOX when its obvious intended targets were the "liberal media". I further find it fascinating that one would effectively assert that the lack of discussion of the model in an article about politics means, recursively, that the model explains its own absence from the discourse....
posted by dhartung at 1:56 PM on July 9, 2013


"MetaFilter, where Liberals go to affirm their good intentions." - Me
Metafilter is Fox News for Liberals.

I stick around for the frequent excellent FPPs describing web content that I would otherwise never see, usually involving the arts. It's totally worth it.
posted by sidereal at 2:31 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metafilter is Fox News for Liberals.

Oh brother. That's some lazy analogizing right there...
posted by mondo dentro at 2:38 PM on July 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yet another false dichotomy from Big Media about Big Media's main role.

You know, this use of the Overton window is incredibly flawed. It assumes that the range of ideas members of the public can have is controlled by some outside force. It also weakens more radical types because it posits that some "force" controls people and makes them think a certain way


It's called the two party system.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:41 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think what Fox News and talk radio gives conservatives is a sense of strength and power and influence. It is often easy to feel powerless in politics if your views aren't the views that are guiding the current government. Even when they are out of power, the airwaves are full of evidence that the conservative movement is alive and well and ready to strike back when the time comes. That the group has a sense that they are capable of changing things is a necessary step to begin actually changing things. Obama of course famously campaigned on change and won because he convinced people it was genuinely possible and that the power was in their hands.

Even when you are a minority, that sense of power can mean a lot. I look at Egypt where the current revolution may not actually have majority support. They certainly didn't come out on top after the elections. However, they knew they had power because they had already won this way once before. Even if they are a minority, their absolute refusal to tolerate the government any further was enough to topple it.

Liberals in America right now, for complicated and arguably justified reasons, are not willing to go into a mode where they will simply refuse to tolerate compromising or abandoning their goals. Conservatives are, maybe because of the constant assurances they are doing the right thing from their media. Liberals receive very different messages, even from the genuinely liberal portions of big media out there. There is plenty of power for change available from the left, a lot more than the right in my mind, it's just a bit harder to unify and direct and predict it.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:04 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


The true relationship between Fox and Republicans was nicely summed up by Republican strategist David Frum back in 2010:
Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox.
Murdoch is playing a deeper game-- or thinks he is, anyway.
posted by jamjam at 3:09 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metafilter is Fox News for Liberals.

I stick around for the frequent excellent FPPs describing web content that I would otherwise never see, usually involving the arts. It's totally worth it.


Not to mention the frequent opportunity for trolling. If you ever see ANYTHING on FoxNews equivalent to a single "excellent FPP", you'll let us know, OK?
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:09 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Not to mention the frequent opportunity for trolling.
Not trolling. There's nothing wrong with having a viewpoint.
If you ever see ANYTHING on FoxNews equivalent to a single "excellent FPP", you'll let us know, OK?
Those get deleted.
posted by sidereal at 3:15 PM on July 9, 2013


(1) where is the evidence? Please provide links.
(2) an experiment with humans is not the same as reality. Its not like measuring gravity or something.


Let me google scholar that for you. On second thought. No.
posted by srboisvert at 3:24 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


For the record, I would never post an analogy such as I have in a thread about ice hockey, a recent tragedy, watermelon eating competitions, or cute animal YouTube videos. I felt that it was germane to the FPP.

But while the Brown Bird of Derail has not seen fit to roost here yet, I see it circling and eying this thread covetously entirely due to my comment, so I shall drop this line of inquiry now and get out of its way. Carry on.
posted by sidereal at 3:34 PM on July 9, 2013


Examples of psychological effects that are related to the Overton Window include the aforementioned Door-in-the-Face (big ask followed by smaller ask); Anchoring Bias (people accept the first numerical estimate they hear as the reasonable baseline for judging later estimates); and pretty much any decisions that are affected by the decisions of a reference group -- eg, the so-called Bandwagon Biases, although in reality almost all judgments are made at least in partial reference to the judgments of others that one encounters.

Other reasons to strategically adopt extreme positions, related to the Overton Window argument, might be due to Attention, Availability, or Ambiguity Biases (ie, where more exaggerated, extreme, or striking information sticks more readily in the mind) -- and that's just the "A"s! See the excellent Wikipedia list of cognitive biases for more, although many of these so-called biases are less biases than just cognitive mechanisms which may or may not produce "biased" (ie, incorrect) results, depending on the context.

The upshot is, there are a lot of good psychological reasons to believe that the adoption of more extreme positions by a subset of the population can have long-term effects on mean attitudes, and thus, presumably, the window of "reasonable disagreement" around that mean.
posted by chortly at 3:36 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you ever see ANYTHING on FoxNews equivalent to a single "excellent FPP", you'll let us know, OK?

Those get deleted.


So you're saying that anything resembling one of MetaFilter's "excellent FPP"s is deleted from FoxNews by Roger Ailes? My point exactly.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:44 PM on July 9, 2013


A Redder And Bluer World
What is particularly striking to me is how each side now has a clearly different set of facts than the other... Soon, both parties create a different set of facts, as well as beliefs, about their world. Until they are barely able to communicate with each other at all... the more the fundamentalist forces recoil from a multi-racial, multi-cultural, sexually free society, the more secularists are tempted to move from condescension to outright hostility...

All of this is an epic struggle for meaning – and the possibility of meaning in any communal sense. That's why it's so intractable. That's why it is tearing countries and cultures apart. That's why reasoned debate, however vital, is so disarmed right now. Because pride, honor and identity are at stake.
posted by kliuless at 3:44 PM on July 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Though I suppose a strict interpretation of the Overton Window claim might be something that shifts the window of "reasonable discourse" (as decided, presumably, by everyone differently, though we usually talk of the Window with reference to the centrists who dominate the news) without actually changing the mean opinion.

That would maybe require a different mechanism, where people's views of the mean of opinion of their reference group didn't change, but their sense of the variance did. But if your reference group is defined by the X closest people to you, the shift in opinions far to the left or right might have no effect; the Window would only be shifted if those already deemed in your reference group started adopting more varied opinions (or if X increases).

But even so, the adoption of more extreme positions on the far left or right, while it wouldn't affect the Overton Window of centrists, might plausibly affect the Overton Window of the center-left (eg). And indeed, since the moving-more-extreme far-right would not be in the reference group of the center-left anyway, the effect of the moving-more-extreme far-left would be not just to expand the Overton Window of the center-left, but also to shift them leftwards, inasmuch as their views are affected by a reference group the mean of which has now shifted leftwards. And thus, if the far left and right each become more extreme, this could lead to a general polarization of the entire population -- and thus an expansion of everyone's Window -- without actually changing the mean. But if only one side is getting more extreme, we're back in our familiar world where everything slides gradually rightward.
posted by chortly at 4:07 PM on July 9, 2013


Social Psychology relevant to the Overton Window idea and Fox News:


Latitude of Social Acceptance
Anchoring
The availability heuristic.
False consensus effect.
Persuasion and Compliance Techniques
Pluralistic ignorance.
Selective exposure.

and on and on.


Seriously this particular question is huge part of social psychology, which had the rise of nazism as a major driving force behind the research in the post WWII era. I'd suggest doing a PhD if you are really interested or at least getting ahold of a Social Psychology PhD programs comps reading list.
posted by srboisvert at 5:59 PM on July 9, 2013


George_Spiggott: “The truth, on the other hand, will bore ye senseless, and there's no need whatsover to be beaten over the head with it hour upon hour. I probably agree with Randi Rhodes on lots, but damned if I want to hear her bang on about it like a Bizarro Limbaugh; what is the point?”
My sentiments exactly.

kliuless: “That's why it's so intractable. That's why it is tearing countries and cultures apart.”
Thank you sincerely for bringing this link in particular and this blog in general to my attention.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:45 AM on July 10, 2013


Seriously this particular question is huge part of social psychology, which had the rise of nazism as a major driving force behind the research in the post WWII era. I'd suggest doing a PhD if you are really interested or at least getting ahold of a Social Psychology PhD programs comps reading list.

Is there any political science research that uses these studies and approaches to look at shifting political consensus? Its not like there isn't an overlap between polisci and psychology.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:01 AM on July 10, 2013


I'm not a behaviorist. But.

Social psychology is what the Michigan model runs on. You can get sort of close to what you're talking about with Zaller's model, which looks in part about how elite discourse and lower-level opinion leaders can influence the opinions of others. If Fox News floods viewers with conservative considerations, it should be unsurprising to see more conservative opinion statements from viewers.

But my outsider's sense is that much of this research would argue that public opinion only rarely is coherent and stable enough for something reasonably called "consensus" to exist, at least for interesting topics*, and even when it seems to exist many people don't actually believe the clear implications of that consensus**. And an important part of how the Zaller receive-accept-sample model works is by driving a wedge between attitudes and opinion statements -- elite discourse isn't necessarily having a profound or even detectable impact on how people actually think about politics, because to a first approximation most people don't. Instead, it's influencing how people answer questions from pollsters by building their previously nonexistent opinion from whatever's at the top of their head.

*That is, everyone prefers prosperity to starvation, but that's not very interesting to study.
**For example, the studies showing that while nearly all Americans say that free speech is great, most would favor laws that legally banned $LEAST_LIKED_GROUP from making a speech or running for office, and most would favor exiling members of $LEAST_LIKED_GROUP from the US.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:31 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was also something in the APSR this past year about how, in the Middle East, anti-american attitudes are largely dependent upon how free the media is--because media elites will use their freedom to stir up anti-american attitudes.

Anyway, to the extent that IR people pay attention to public opinion, some are starting to recognize that it doesn't matter what people think.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:41 AM on July 10, 2013


>> And here's a telling quote from an AP Newswire story on the second anniversary of FoxNews' show "The Five", which replaced Glenn Beck and now gets better ratings than he ever did

Poor Bob Beckel. The man is a recovering addict and that appears to have damaged his ability to speak and recall information. So not only is he getting shouted at by four people at once, but he often stumbles trying to put together a complete sentence. You know that is why Ailes picked him to represent the liberal side.

Don't get me wrong, for the seven figures Fox is probably paying him, I'd be happy to sit next to Kim Guilfoyle for an hour and let Greg Gutfeld lob lame jokes at me. I just hope he's aware of how much he's being presented as a fool for the Fox audience.
posted by riruro at 5:13 PM on July 10, 2013


I suspect many Fox Viewers enjoy watching liberals get bullied. It's medieval style mob justice they crave. They feel bullied by liberals and minorities themselves because Rush Limbaugh and other Very Serious People keep shouting warnings to that effect at them, and many of them haven't had enough contact with liberals and minorities to know better.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:33 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


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